Dolls n things

Today is Tuesday, 26 June, 2018

This long post is about my hobby of dollmaking. Thanks for looking!

I used to make dolls a long time ago – in the 70s and 80s – but fell out of the habit. I wasn’t a doll kind of child, though. My sister liked them but I didn’t really get the appeal. One day I got a Sindy doll – it was the British Barbie equivalent. First thing I did was take off all her clothes and start creating new ones for her. I loved the Sindy doll, though, and thought her far more fashionable than the Barbie. She came about, after all, when Britain was the centre of fashion.

Sindy doll - not mine!
Sindy doll – not mine!

My dream of being a fashion designer, then a fashion artist, fell by turn. I made a few dolls many years ago and then I just stopped. Life took me in another direction. The early dolls were made entirely from whatever materials I could find in the remnant bins, whatever clothes I could cut up from the dollar bags at Goodwill and other charity places, whatever leftover wool I could find there… and this continues till today. My first place to look are in the remnant bins, and on local searches for donations, and even my old clothing that is too far gone to pass along. There’s a satisfaction in that.

Here’s a photo of a very early doll that I made for my mum. Not the first, but maybe the second or third. There are a couple of old ones at Robin’s place if they haven’t been thrown away – I’ll check. Looking at this one now, I see that it’s far too long, that the head is way too small (although maybe I should return to that shape of head) , that the details are sparse. But I also see that it held promise and I’m pleased I’ve evolved. I rescued this doll after mum died – she’s a good memory.  And I’ve stuck to more or less what I created way back then.

Very early doll
Very early doll – notice the thumbs are pointing in different directions – oops!

I had thoughts of starting again a couple of years ago. My first one was clumsy and I thought I must have lost it completely. I’m a bit ashamed of those first attempts and I’ve shoved them to near the bottom of this blog entry. They are getting better. I’m terrible at sewing, always have been, but I have ideas. Because I’m not a good needleworker, I concentrate on the details – lace and such cover a multitude of sins. After looking through Etsy, I see what others do and I know I could never produce those commercial-looking dolls but I think mine are quintessentially me – moving through life as I do, making the most of what talent I have, what materials are on hand, and what occurs to me might work.

I start with an idea and as I sew, the doll reveals herself to me. She often has different thoughts for how she needs to be than I do.  (Well, I am called ‘slightly weird,’ after all!)  When someone requests one, I want to know first if they’d like one that crowd my bookshelf and then, if nothing works, I want to know hair and eye colour, preferred colour palette, style, and the new owner’s personal interests.

I have a lot of them now. I won’t sell them, although it’s been suggested. I prefer to give them to people who need or want them, in exchange for knowing what their names will be and receiving a selfie of them with their newly adopted doll. Surprisingly, not many comply.

Another thing I’ve made over the years are hearts. I started when I was married and I’ve begun again. I want to start making more of these so I’ve included a couple that I’ve made and photographed.

Some dolls are missing, not all the photos are here. I’ll add any that show up. My bad cataloguing skills mean I can’t find all the selfies. But there’s enough.

And more to come!

Buckle up – photos galore.

Sophistique
Sophistique
A bit serious
A bit serious
She seems quirky/scatty - maybe a bit like me
She seems quirky/scatty – maybe a bit like me

Butter wouldn't meltButter wouldn’t melt

She's so posh
She’s so posh
Ruth's doll
Ruth’s doll
Sophisticated
Sophisticated
Chinese New Year Doll
Chinese New Year Doll
Witch doll for Joanne
Witch doll for Joanne
Esmeralda's doll
Esmeralda’s mini doll
This Italian girl is now Fiona's
This Italian girl is now Fiona’s

Debutante
Debutante
Coy
Coy
Elfin
Elfin
Rock Chick for Jenn
Rock Chick for Jenn
Mizpah's doll
Mizpah’s doll – the first selfie. She called her Dolly.
Lisa's suffragette doll
Lisa’s suffragette doll – not the best photo, must find one better
Styling
Styling
Bollywood
Bollywood
Townie
Townie
Traveller
Traveller
Self confidence
Self confidence

Party girl
Party girl
Tea time
Tea time
Zen
Zen
Confidante
Confidante
Schoolgirl
Schoolgirl
Clubbie
Clubbie
Ingenue
Ingenue
Cutie
Cutie
Prim'n'Proper
Prim’n’Proper
Scarlett Pumpernickel
Scarlett Pumpernickel
Heiress
Little Heiress
Valentine heart for Krish
Valentine heart for Krish
Mini heart for Allison and Joe
Mini heart for Allison and Joe
The quads are at home
The quads are at home – Italy
Gaggle of girls
Gaggle of girls
Trio
Trio
Country girl
Country girl – early doll
Teacher
Teacher – early doll
A shy one
A shy one – early doll

Quiet days

June 11 to 17, 2018

Nothing new and exciting last week but I did manage to get out.

We decided to attend the Dalston Pasta Festival. It had been advertised as having food, drink, music and demonstrations. So off we went.

Ridley Road Market
Ridley Road Market
Kingsland High Street, Dalston
Kingsland High Street, Dalston

Sadly, the festival didn’t look so good once we got there, although it was well attended. There were a couple of pastas on offer. One with a tomato and pork sauce, and one that was with ricotta and zucchini. Neither one looked very good. Krish asked if the pasta was homemade and was told it was, although we could clearly see the commercial packets stacked nearby. We decided not to have any. There was a small stage but no acts were up and no sign of any demonstrations.

Dalston Square Pasta festival
Dalston Square Pasta festival
Pasta festival
Pasta festival

We left the pasta festival and headed off to Gillet Square.

Gillett Square has been 25 years in the making.The idea, which began in 1993, was to make a new town square. In fact, when you walk into the square, that’s exactly how it appears.

There’s an open area and several kiosks (added in 1999). There’s also a ‘culture house’ and the Vortex Jazz Club.

In November 2006 Gillett Square was opened as the first of the London Mayor’s programme of 100 new public spaces for London. It can be a very lively area and seldom empty.

Real community spirit at Gillet Square
Real community spirit at Gillet Square
A brunch place in a yard off Gillet Square
A brunch place in a yard off Gillet Square

We were sitting here last week and heard a really loud thud/crush. A small car had somehow mounted onto the traffic island, knocked over one of the markers and the beacon had been completely laid flat. There the car sat, leaking petrol, while a woman and a small child were helped out of the car and onto a chair from one of the cafes. And there they sat.

The tow truck arrived but had a lot of difficulty getting the car up onto the flatbed truck. Eventually, they managed to move the car diagonally away from the markers and beacon, which were stopping it from moving. Almost immediately a crew arrived to start cutting and welding and putting things to rights as best they could. That was enough excitement.

The car knocked down the island. The driver is sitting on a chair looking on
The car knocked down the island. The driver is sitting on a chair looking on
Hard at work taking care of the beacon
Hard at work taking care of the beacon

There’s been quite a bit of sun and on one sunny day I remembered to photograph one very pretty house not too many lots away.

Along Amhurst Road, not so far away
Along Amhurst Road, not so far away

Mostly, though, it’s been a homey week, not getting too far away. Next week might be a bit busier, but not as far as I know!

A lazy dim sum lunch with a good dish of kai lan
A lazy dim sum lunch with a good dish of kai lan
Taken on 11 June. The tree coming back to life
Taken on 11 June. The tree coming back to life

Old Street and Palatino – in pictures

Thursday, 14 June, 2018

Thursday, I went to the doctor to get another blood test. I was relieved to hear the phlebotomist I didn’t like the last time was away. The replacement nurse was great. Blood taken and off I went.

I was meeting my friend, Tom, at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time, Palatino in Clerkenwell.

Old Street is a nice Shoreditch street with a lot of interesting things to look at and some good cafés. There’s also some cool architecture and street art (which I’ll photograph when I’m not rushing off to a meeting. However, the station and the roundabout aren’t very nice.

Along the way to Palatino, which was a longer walk than expected, there was a lovely little garden.

Palatino has a great Instagram feed. All their food looks great. Every time I see something like that, I’m curious to see if they can live up to the photography. The space is on the ground floor of a new block of flats. As you walk inside, there’s a desk for residents and the co-working space on your right and the restaurant is on the left. It’s a bright and modern place so it’s easy to sit and relax and wait for Tom, who has to come from South East London.

The food was very nice, not spectacular. I started with the Anchovy, stracciatella, toast followed by a tender Pappardelle with a pork and beef ragu – half size. Finally, we splashed out on dessert. Mine was an Apricot, Hazelnut and Rosemary tart. Tom thought there was too much rosemary but I quite enjoyed the combination. His panna cotta with strawberry was also delicious. The service was friendly and efficient. It’s a good place for lunch with friends.

On the way back in the bus, I came across this shopfront. I was tired and actually fell asleep for a stop or two. The next bus was packed to the door and I was happy to get home.

Mare Street for plants, Bump Buddies event, and Pasta!

Thursday 7 June, 2018

We want to put plants on the windowsill now that we are opening the windows up. It feels like a lengthy process. So far all that’s happened is talking about it. Such is life with a perfectionist. Let’s make this so!

Plan: herbs on the kitchen windowsill – parsley, basil, rosemary…so far. I think also thyme, oregano, and sage, perhaps coriander – not sure. In the living room a  mix of green plants and wildish flowers plus lavender. Instead of a box, we will have pots grouped together.

There are some nice plant shops on Stoke Newington Church Street and I can go there today or tomorrow and pick some things up. But I’ve also noticed from the bus a place called Hackney Flower Warehouse so I decided to pop along there in a quiet time to see what they had to offer.

The shops are at Victoria Park Road right by the Regent’s Canal. It’s old school Hackney in this neighbourhood.

The flowery plant here really makes a difference to the old building front
The flowery plant here really makes a difference to the old building front along Mare Street

Regent’s Canal stretches from the Grand Union Canal at Paddington in the West to the Limehouse Basin and the Thames in the east It’s 13.8km (8.6 miles) long. It also runs parallel (just a dozen metres away) to the house I grew up in so it’s an old friend. While the Grand Union Canal can be wide and surprising with its greenery and wildlife and majestic views, Regent’s Canal is like an everyday Londoner. There are factories, derelict stretches, ordinary homes – modern and old, and walkers, runners and bicyclists along the way. Building began in 1812 and the first stretch was open in 1816. The part that runs through Hackney opened in 1820 so almost 200 years ago.

On the Regent's Canal Bridge at Andrews Road
On the Regent’s Canal Bridge at Andrews Road

It can be very picturesque along the canal, with its greenery and barges but not everywhere. Going through Hackney Wick it can be a real mess with the expected graffiti everywhere. This section is a mixed bag.

Somewhat picturesque to the west
Somewhat picturesque to the west
Somewhat neglected to the east
Somewhat neglected to the east

There’s a fair bit of construction on the east side. I wonder what they’re planning.

I see there’s a plant warehouse on my side of the street so I wandered around that a bit. Some really nice big plants and containers, a bit on the pricey side. I headed over to the flower warehouse and look around. It’s a nice feeling that everywhere in the world, when you step into a florist, the warm damp smells are the same. It’s quite heady.

Entrance to the warehouse
Entrance to the warehouse

Nothing blew me away here. I walked around a few times, seeing the options and making mental notes of what might be nice. The prices here are pretty good. In fact, they are about on par with Columbia Road Flower Market – three or four small plants for £10 – and it’s a lot less crowded! Noted! I’ll see what I can get along Stoke Newington Church Street and perhaps return to fill in some gaps.

Enough flags? Along Mare Street
Enough flags? Football frenzy along Mare Street

Continue reading “Mare Street for plants, Bump Buddies event, and Pasta!”

Hackney Downs Park, Upper Clapton

Wednesday, 6 June, 2018

I’ve been making two dolls in sarees for Shahanaz. It was a real challenge but I now know how to wrap a saree, not that I’d like that headache too often! And to be really honest, after making so many cute dolls, I didn’t like them very much at all by the time I’d finished. So I asked Shahanaz to meet me so that we could rip out a few stitches and re-sew until they were right.

The saree sisters!
The saree sisters!

We were meeting on Hackney Downs since it’s halfway between us. I don’t go there so often these days.

Tennis courts at the Bodney Street entrance
Tennis courts at the Bodney Street entrance
Mosaic, a mental health social enterprise inside the park
Mosaic, a mental health social enterprise inside the park
Seating at the centre
Seating at the centre
It's a big park!
It’s a big park!

Luckily, Shahanaz didn’t want too much to change. We changed the position of the shoulder areas and pleated the back a little and then we took a photo of them on the bench with their optional head scarves. Usually, we go for coffee – She’s discovering coffee! – but it’s Ramadan so I hope our next visit together is a bit more delicious.

The finished dolls ready for delivery, and my feet!
The finished dolls ready for delivery, and my feet!

Krish has had a bad back ache for about a week. This is from an old injury that every now and again flares up. The usual announcement is a loud yell from the bed when he can’t move or get up from lying down. He’s reluctant to talk to doctors about anything and it might take a while to book an appointment, attend it, and get attention. So I suggested he try the Osteopaths at Core Clapton, where I went last year for a nagging shoulder pain. You can book online and there are often same-day appointments. I booked one for him for Wednesday, when I could go with him.

It’s a ten-minute bus ride away in Upper Clapton on Northwold Road so we headed up there and went inside.

Reception area at Core Clapton
Reception area at Core Clapton
Somewhat minimal but flexible space at Core Clapton
Somewhat minimal but flexible space at Core Clapton

Several squinty minutes with the registration form later, he was in there while I waited and wandered around a little. Core Clapton is designed for accessibility. They have a range of pay what you can services and the atmosphere is casual but definitely not amateur. The fact that a smiling Krish emerged 45 minutes later and booked another visit was a huge relief! And it was a lovely day so we walked home.

Ghost sign on Northworld Road
Ghost sign on Northworld Road
Northwold Road outside Core Clapton
Northwold Road outside Core Clapton
The Crooked Billet Pub, Upper Clapton Road
The Crooked Billet Pub, Upper Clapton Road
Clapton Station, one stop away from my nearest station
Clapton Station, one stop away from my nearest station
Slice of a building - looks flat from the front!
Slice of a building – looks flat from the front!
Heavy Jewish population in Clapton
Heavy Jewish population in Clapton
Tram Store, cafe and shop
Tram Store, cafe and shop
At the Lea Bridge roundabout
At the Lea Bridge roundabout
Clapton Pond - not sure why it's called a pond!
Clapton Pond – not sure why it’s called a pond!
Heading along to Lower Clapton Road
Heading along to Lower Clapton Road

Along Upper Clapton Road is The Round Chapel. The impressive building as we know it today opened in 1871 but it began in 1804 when it was a nonconformist, congregationalist church in 1804 at the nearby Old Gravel Pit Chapel. The Gravel Pit Chapel was in turn a breakaway group from the Ram’s Chapel in Homerton.

Hackney has had a lot of groupings and regroupings since the 17th century, since it was always a nonconformist area. These churches didn’t conform to the rules of the Church of England. Abney Park and Bunhill cemeteries, for example, were nonconformist burial grounds – both within Hackney. There were also three nonconformist academies – Homerton, Newington Green and Hoxton – which produced nonconformist figures like Daniel Defoe, and  hymn writer Isaac Watts.

By 1868 the population had more than tripled and the much bigger Clapton Park (“Round”) Chapel was built. The population of the area grew massively and more houses sprang up.Then at the turn of the century, the congregation dwindled as people moved away to the outer suburbs.

The Chapel is a Grade II building, in the top 4% of protected buildings in the UK. This is in part due to its architecture – the unique round shape and its cast iron columns, controversial since they were typically used only in music halls and railway stations. Today the Hackney Building Trust has taken over the main auditorium and some rooms, while the adjoining Old School Rooms are kept by the church. The building was refurbished and is used as an event and workshop venue.

The Round Chapel
The Round Chapel