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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.