‘Tannie Annetjie’ helps sew 130 dolls of love
THEY are not made from a pattern, but from the heart.
That’s the message from 81-year-old Great Brak River resident Annie Thomas, known fondly as “Tannie Annetjie”, who is the force behind the Garden Route “Doll Project”.
The project will distribute more than 130 handmade dolls to children from poor communities when schools close and the festive season gets under way.
Former advocate Thomas and her dedicated team started making the dolls in June.
Each is uniquely handcrafted, with exquisite detail including lots of lace, ribbons and buttons ( and of course broekies).
Thomas said the arms were the most difficult part to make.
“The stuffing and positioning of the arms can be tricky. Adding to that, each doll has to have her own personality, so each facial expression and character has to be different.”
Not only does she create the doll’s body without any pattern, but each outfit is also individually designed.
“It just seems to grow under my fingers, with some lace here, buttons there. People have been so generous in giving us extra materials we needed for this project to succeed.”
Each doll’s hair is made from wool which has been wet, wrapped and dried in an oven.
The process is time-consuming, and Thomas has done much of the sewing on her faithful Elna sewing machine which she bought more than 50 years ago.
But she was quick to give credit to her team of women who also sewed for many hours, referring to herself simply as “one of the workers”.
Having spent her own childhood in “extreme poverty without any playthings”, Thomas said it gave her great pleasure to make dolls for little girls in similar circumstances.
“I love dolls and have made them for myself and friends just for sheer pleasure.”
And enjoying the girly things in life is a far cry from her years lecturing law.
“Starting out so many years ago, my LLB degree was hard work, and when I was registered as an advocate, the court system was completely male dominated, so I lectured for many years,” she explained.
With her late husband Lucien Thomas, she was one of the pioneers who set up a law faculty at the Bophuthatswana University (now North West University) in Mafikeng.
But when it comes to gifts over the festive season, Thomas hasn’t forgotten the boys.
At the start of the project, Thomas made a doll which was auctioned at a local coffee shop.
“From the auction, we raised enough money to buy a toy for each little boy at the three crèches where the dolls will be handed out to the girls,” she said.
Helen Coertze, from the Great Brak Tourism Initiative, said the Doll Project formed part of a series of events planned throughout the year.
“Part of our initiative is to reach out to the community. Handing out the dolls at the crèches will be the start of our Christmas events,” she said.