‘Tan­nie An­netjie’ helps sew 130 dolls of love

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - TANYA WATER­WORTH

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.

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