A place to come to see what's new at Heritage Spinning & Weaving – Lake Orion, MI

Jacque and Jai Jai

Jai Jai and Jacque


Grab a cup of tea.  This is a story in words and pictures of creativity and connections, comaraderie and the birth of Jai-Jai Bouclé Inselhaus (Jai-Jai for short).Sometimes I get overwhelming urges of creativity, silly-ness, nurturing. What’s really dangerous is when they are all rolled into one! Let me start in the beginning (that’s why you need a cup of tea – this is a long post!).

I’ve made many dolls in my lifetime, perhaps inspired by a big rag doll named Annabell that my grandmother made and kept at her house for when we visited. She was about three feet tall, wore toddler clothes with rick-rack trim and had yellow yarn braids. Then, came Barbie dolls and we made lots of outfits for them while sitting in the living room at the sewing machine and watching TV after school. In high school I made a pair of “normal sized” Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. There was a pause for a few years while I did some growing up and then came more Ann’s and Andy’s (five huge pairs one year for Christmas), tiny porcelain dolls that I hand sewed every stitch of their bodies and clothing and then large porcelain dolls (which were hand painted and machine sewn). Fun, but not original enough!

Then came the shop and there was no time, but I dreamed of making a really cool knit doll.

My next doll adventure was written up in a Heritage print newsletter in 2003:

Hungry Goats

I finally decided to bite the bullet and make the financial and time commitment to attend SOAR (Spin Off Annual Retreat) this fall in Shanty Creek. Hard not to, since it is so close to home – mom and dad live just 15 miles away – and I enjoyed SOAR 2000 so much.

This is Billy, the mini-van invading, pattern eating goat and his friend Summer.
This is Billy, the mini-van invading, pattern eating goat and his friend Summer (below).

I learned at my first SOAR that participants bring their handspun projects to put on display in the art gallery. This presented the perfect opportunity to use up some of my hand spun yarn. But into what? I finally decided to make a self-portrait doll because it is a class I have been wanting to offer at Heritage. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone. Have something for SOAR and have a class ready to go. Cool.

You know, of course, that Murphy’s Law says you never have what you need for your next project in your stash. So back to the spinning wheel I went. I made my first sample yarn and started knitting. Since I am Irish and stubborn, it had to be original so I was designing as I went, starting with the leg for a jointed body. I was really doing super, working from the top down and was just rounding the heel – on the home stretch. I was really proud of myself in that I hand written down every stitch so I could actually repeat what I did.

I am sure you are wondering where the goat enters the story. Well, we stopped at Stonehedge Fiber Mill and dropped off a van full of wool for processing, went in to visit for a while and then returned to the van. I heard Mark say, “What are you doing in there?” I wondered who he was talking to until I saw first one goat and then another stick their heads around the back of the open hatch of the van. Billy and Summer had climbed right in and eaten the only copy of my pattern! I really wanted to cry, but it felt better to laugh, so I did.

Needless to say, that doll never got any farther. I was sidetracked. No one signed up for the class (they probably felt my cloud of disappointment). The lone doll leg was thrown away in a cleaning binge a few seasons later. Evidence destroyed! Guilt expiated.

The next doll encounter came a few years after that when Janet, a customer from Alabama, brought in her interpretation of the dolls in the Interweave book called Knitted Babes. So  inspired, I set off to make a similar doll, but she’s not cuddly and she is pretty tiny to knit for. I had fun, but I wasn’t enthusiastic.

The cover isnt splashy, but the ideas are sound and the patterns inside are great idea starters.

The cover isn't splashy, but the ideas are sound and the patterns inside are great idea starters.

Then, a few weeks ago Bridget (from ” . . . have you any Wool?” in Berkley) and I were helping clean up Lyn Sippola’s yarn stash (you may remember, that Lyn passed away unexpectedly last month). In Lyn’s collection was a pattern booklet called “Knitted Shoebox Dolls.” It captured my imagination so I brought it back to the shop. Little did I know what it would start.

I ruminated on the pattern all the while knowing for absolute certain-sure that I did not have time to be doll-making. I had classes to prepare, patterns to write, a Masters course to finish. The pattern sat on the sock room table in the shop for several weeks. Just sat. No one put it away. No one moved it. Not many even looked at it because the photo on the front isn’t very attractive! But, the idea, ah the idea! Funny how ideas form. The book on the table, knitters around it, good conversation, sharing of life’s joys and sorrows, all complemented by the colors and textures of yarn and knitting. A fertile field for the creative mind.

Perhaps you visited our Fiber Art Show last fall, or maybe you’ve been in the shop when Anneliese has been wearing her double knit alpaca original vest that pictures the gates to her hometown in Germany. She worked on the project at many Tuesday night and Wednesday morning Sit & Knit sessions – as Jacque sat across from her teasing, “When are you going to finish my vest?”, “Almost done with my vest!” and then later, “I see you are wearing my vest again.”

After a year of hearing them go back and forth, I figured that Jacque should have her own vest but it would have to be a tiny one. And, wouldn’t it look cute on a Shoebox doll and how fun would Jacque’s dreadlocks be to put on a doll? Deb and Pat were there and we had a good belly laugh at the thought and discussed doing it at the island. Usually those ideas end with the belly laugh, but for some reason this one didn’t.

Front yard view from Insel Haus.

Front yard view from Insel Haus.

I took some of what I needed to the island (www.inselhausbandb.com) – just in case the mood struck. I figured I could always scrounge for the rest if need be. Well, I couldn’t resist. It was, after all, spring break. Everyone should be able to play a little bit, right? The more I thought about it, the more my fingers itched to get knitting. So, since I haven’t been bit by the double knitting bug, I asked Christa if she would be willing to recreate Anneliese’s vest in miniature (Anneliese is presently in Germany and couldn’t be called upon to assist) and, gee, would she have some yarn that would be suitable for the rest of her? Christa came through with flying colors: her first attempt at hand spun boucle became Jai Jai’s hair, her first attempt at a bulky wool became her undershorts and a medly of Mountain Colors Mohair became her dress. Her shoes and sock yarn were rescued from my Master Knitting yarns and the flesh color is Comfort that I brought from the shop just in case.

Jai-Jai is full of surprises.

From the miniature interpretation of the gates of Lubeck:

Lubeck, Germany

Lubeck, Germany


 To her handwoven knitting bag. It was made out of a piece of fabric from lace table runners that Holly (www.hjsstudio.com) was commissioned to weave for my staff Christmas gifts in 2007. I stopped at Holly’s home in Boyne City after I left the island. I did NOT want to come home with an unfinished doll.

Okay, so this has nothing to do with the bag, but these are all Shetland sheep that live on Hollys Farm. Mom, Dad and two babies.

Okay, so this has nothing to do with the bag, but these are all Shetland sheep that live on Holly's Farm. Mom, Dad and two babies. The sheep provide a good link to the knitting hanging from Jai Jai's bag - it is a Shetland lace edging pattern!


A joyful reminder of the promise of life!

Just steps from the sheep, another joyful reminder of the promise of life!

To her tote. Every good knitting bag needs a handle, and Mom Sheridan provided that. We dug through her box of trims and found a sparkly bit of cord that I braided to make thicker. Voila! A bit of East Jordan.

The girls took a break from their Easter egg coloring to help me pick out the cording for the purse handle.
The girls took a break from their Easter egg coloring to help me pick out the cording for the purse handle.

 To the time needed to knit. I was on a remote island with a 16 year old (who went willingly). It was during our Gilmore Girl marathons that I was able to knit much of Jai-Jai.

Theres nothing like a brisk walk on the shore of the Straits as the ice is going to get your blood running and even engender a bit of silliness. Mariah says our spring breaks at Bois Blanc (this is the third year weve gone) are better then Disney World. Life doesnt get much better than that in my world!
There’s nothing like a brisk walk on the shore of the Straits as the ice is going to get your blood running and even engender a bit of silliness. Mariah says our spring breaks at Bois Blanc (this is the third year we’ve gone) are “better then Disney World.” Life doesn’t get much better than that in my world!
When I gave the baby-to-be-named-Jai-Jai to Jacque, I knew it was exactly the right thing to have done. It’s been a rough month around Heritage. We lost our friend Lyn Sippola last month and Maureen’s battle with cancer is worsening. Add that to economic turbulence and Jai-Jai was good medicine for Jacque and for me. A little love goes a long way. Here’s some more photos of the two of them:
I still have itchy fingers for doll making. I’m thinking a little boy doll that looks like my grandson, Luke, might be fun!
If you live in the area, you may want to check out the doll making classes I scheduled so you can join the fun. Click here for the class schedule. Jacque said Jai Jai may just throw a party for the new babies!

Comments on: "Jai Jai Bouclé InselHaus" (4)

  1. Hello.
    I just had hand surgery so my typing isnt good with left hand finger and no right hand. But i wanted to tell you how much I like your knit doll. She is terrific.
    What fiber show do you attend? I attend Asheville NC show in October.
    Nice doll.

  2. I LOVE it!!!!!

  3. Jai Jai Boucle is fabulous and so is her inspiration/name sake. Cheers to the wonderful “Fab Dreadlocks Duo”, I’m sure Jai Jai’s heart is as full as Jacque’s. For Suzanne who asked what Art Show? The Fiber Art Show mentioned in conjunction with Anneliese’s vest is the annual Show sponsored and displayed at Heritage every year to raise $$ for cancer research. A wonderful exhibit and cause!

  4. Dolls.
    We start with them as babies in the crib.
    End with them as a source of handwork comfort and joy.

    I send voodoo doll ‘blanks’ and findings to friends that have idle hands while healing, waiting, mourning. Somehow it helps.

    Powerful positive vibes!

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