A Quick Review

The past 10 days have been a flurry of activities and lugging of the portable Olive Sparrow shop. I also got to meet with so many of you that have come and visited me at the fairs. 

Here is a bit of a recap to share with you.

Friday and Saturday (Nov. 16 and 17) I had a large booth at the Arts and Crafts Fair of the Toronto Waldorf School in Richmond Hill. On the way there, the front wheels of our beloved, yet ancient mini-van started smoking. Taking frequent breaks to let them cool down, I was determined to make it to the fair – which I did – just. I was so lucky to have my wonderful felting buddy Jan helped me with the set-up. Car-car (don't you name your car?) stayed there overnight, while Manon of Shoe Babou gave me a ride downtown and back the next day.

Here a quick look of the booth:


This was my third year at the show and I feel blessed to have seen many of my repeat clients again. I also got to chat with many new clients. 

On the Sunday after the show I took Huxley to see "the Man in red on his sled", and a visit to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). Since we didn't score even one candy cane, we treated ourselves to cake in their eatery that always makes me think of Switzerland (it's something about the layout, the colours and general feel). This time of the year is a challenge to my mothering role – my soul is torn between my duties on all fronts – as a mother, a creator of Olive Sparrow goods, a gardner, a housewife, an artist, the maker of all the baked cookies with gift clients with, taking care of me. Yet despite the challenges, I love the flurry of activities and even giggle at the state of the insides of our car – packed to the roof with show booth items.

Monday to Thursday this past week was spend sewing like a mad-woman at home and getting some painting done at the studio. I was able to finish up 3 more Olive Sparrow Children (they had still needed faces, hair and clothes) and sew shoes for all the larger dolls that didn't find their forever families at the TWS show. 

On Friday just before 2 pm I got on the road to Guelph (about 100 km's east of Toronto). I was able to visit my pregnant friend Catherine and her family there for half an hour before heading to the Trillium Waldorf School for the Cranberry market.

It was so relaxing to set up there, as I had given myself ample time so I didn't need to stress and do my usual heart-pounding, adrenaline pumping spiel of racing to be ready for opening time. There was a piano in my vendor room and a group of children played piano and the recorder for me. As a thank you, I let them have a rock fight. You read right. This year I am selling wet-felted rocks, originally intended to be used for nature tables, play scapes and decoration. Through interaction with the kids I realized they had a hoot trowing "rocks" at each other in play. What fun – and there are still some bags of the rocks left for my next fairs. The children commented on how interesting it felt to hold these textile stones in their hands. 

The booth set-up is different at each fair I attend – In Guelph, I had rented two tables, which is really what is needed to justly present all my goods. Luckily Catherine (not my pregnant friend, but a super-sweet and wonderful co-ordinator of the fair) was able to get me that much space.


Here some close-ups of each table:



Because I had some extra time before opening, here a few (pardon me for the blurriness) doll close-ups:


Alice 38 cm – available


Elsie – 38 cm – available

The Cranberry fair closed at 11pm. At 11:40 pm, my goodies where packed up and I drove back home to Toronto. After getting into bed at 1:15 am, I rose again at 4:30 am and was on the road at 5 am to arrive in Kingston (about 250 km's west of Toronto) by 8:30 am for set-up at the Mullberry Waldorf school for their Winterfair. (I did have a 15 minute nap at one of the rest-stops and arrived full of energy in perfect timing to walk my stuff up to the 3rd floor of a lovely old and large school house. The building reminded me strongly of my own primary school in Switzerland – must have had something to do with the size of the class rooms and the spacing of the stair steps.

Even though my attendance was confirmed only a week ago, I was still able to rent two table spaces. Lois and Patricia that coordinated the fair were absolutely lovely to work with. 


All the people I met at the school were strangers to me, yet I was made to feel completely at home and welcome by everyone that came to look and/or purchase my goodies.


As promised in my earlier post, I wanted to show you the 20 cm Olive Sparrow Child that I will be giving away in a contest I am holding at all my shows this season. I know that my dolls are not attainable for everybody that visits and gives me such lovely words for my work – I wanted to give something back.

Here is quick image of "Mimi". 


The contest will close on December 16. 2012, the day of my last show this year.

If you would like to put your name into the draw for a chance to win her,  visit me at one of the shows I will be doing over the next two weeks and fill out a ballot:

November 30 (Friday 6 pm – 9 pm ) – Westdale Children's School – Hamilton 

December 2 (Sunday 10 am – 4 pm) – Waldorf Academy (formerly Allan Howard Waldorf School) – Toronto

December 8 (Saturday 11 am – 3 pm) – London Waldorf School – London

December 16 (Sunday noon – 5 pm) – Rima and Friends – Wise Daughters Craft Market – Toronto (Junction)

Off to bed for me – I am planning on sewing more doll clothes and hopefully finish a couple more dolls until Friday.


Foraged Crabapple Jelly

During a bike trip with Huxley last year we came across a small public park in a nook of town where I didn't expect there to be one. At the edge of the park where two trees heavily hung with what I thought where plums. I didn't have a chance to excamine them at the time as I had a very tired, sad little boy on my hands. I did however, mark the spot in my memory with the intention of returning this year to harvest some of this "wild" fruit.

So this year, I drove by to check out how the plums where doing, just to realize that it wasn't a bumper crop of plums that was ready for the picking, but a wonderful variety of crab apples, yet just at the end of their prime. A couple of days later Huxley and I took a small step ladder and went harvesting/foraging.

I will have to make a note in my calendar to start checking on the fruit earlier next year, as it was really just the very end of the season, with the majority already having enterend the next stage of their purpose – to go soft so that they could distribute their seeds.





We still managed to gather about 4 kg.

After triming off the bad bits and using the really bad ones for tossing practice into the corner of our yard (which was a lot of fun for my 8 year old). I ended up with a large pot of usable fruit.



I washed the fruit and returned it to the pot, covering the fruit with just enough water to have it bop a bit. 


I gently boiled the fruit until it was mushy.


Transferring the fruit to a large cheesecloth, I hung it over a broomstick to drain all the juices overnight into a large bowl. (look at that lovely colour). 


I measured the resulting fruit juice and oogled its amazing colour. I used about 75% of sugar to the amount of juice and boiled it in a pot until it reached just about 220 degrees fahrenheit. Filled it into steriliesed canning jars and voila! My first ever crab-apple jelly. 

Note: I learned that it is best to make jams and jelly's in smaller batches, so I made the jelly in 3 batches of each about 1.2 liters of juice to about 800 grams of sugar. It jellied perfectly – thanks to the wonderful high-pectin content of crab apples.


The half-full jar in the middle was our immediate consumption jar. I love the slightly tangy flavour of the jelly. It is particularly yummy spread on a toasted bagel, then topped with extra old cheddar cheese.

I used some of the fruit mush to make a zucchini-crabapple bread. It tasted great and I will have to make note next time around to the exact ingredients. I started a bad habit of just trowing things together without exactly measuring them – so they are a tad hard to reproduce.

This time of the year I feel a kindred affiliation to squirrels. This year I've been able to put by Strawberry freezer jam and blueberry jam. There is frozen rhubarb and blueberries and a couple of bags of sour cherries to make swiss-type fruit quiche during the winter. I've made pickles for the first time and will be able to taste them in about a weeks time. I've also made elderberry jelly from foraged berries. Sadly when trying to make peach sauce, I ended up scorching a huge pot of them and didn't have the opportunity to purchase more peaches – lack of time. I've also dehydrated strawberries and peaches for use in nut less trail-mix for school snacks. There is a rum-topf downstairs awaiting some new fruits. 

Two bushels of tomates have been turned into frozen, ready sauce, as well as some frozen slow-oven roasted tomatoes. Last saturday I picked up another two bushels of tomatoes, although as it is at the end of the harvest, they are rather sad looking and I have to pick through them to pick only the nicest ones. My freezer is full, so I will put them by as whole bottled tomatoes and as passata (passata [pəˈsɑːtə] (Cookery) a sauce made from sieved tomatoes, often used in Italian cookery [Italian] – thanks wikipedia).





Show Pictures

The shows I did a couple of weekends ago went well. It was lovely to meet so many new people and exhibit my work. I "hired' our son to be my helper for the day on Sunday. He was amazing! I still remember when I was pregnant that I just thought that our son would come along to the shows, play quietly behind the tent, get used to the life of doing shows and start helping with little things. As I told him the day of the show, he was not that kind of a child when he was younger. Whereas I have seen the children of others be the perfect assistants and quiet companions, my son was always too active (although I did have him along at an art exhibition when he was a mere 6 weeks old and that was a wonderful experience). Now, at eight, he can help me unload the car, set-up the tent, watch the booth for a few minutes, and also, especially at a Waldorf fair, go about doing activities that he likes to do and enjoy him self too. 

Here are a few pictures of my show tent to share with you that come from far and away. 


Welcome to the lair of the Olive Sparrow (give me a shout-out in the comments if you spot the little birdy – he always travels with me). 


Fairy tote bags – sized just perfectly for children to use as their lunch bag, a carry-all to take ballet slippers to class, a toybag to bring just a few precious things along on an outing or for momma to use as a small handbag.



Playsilks – look soon in my etsy store for an update in colours and sizes.


Hats and pants for three sizes of dolls. I love seeing all the clothes laid out like this and ready to be combined with tops to every doll-mommas own tastes and desires. 


Dresses, tunics and skirts. I am already excited and inspired for the new clothes ideas in my mind.  


The doll table – with Olive Sparrow Children (11 in all, although one was hiding in this picture) – the plan is that early next week the dolls and I will go on a photo outing – there are a few lovely places I have in mind to take photographs. All in preparation to have them listed within the next 2 weeks. They are all very excited to find their future families. In this picture you can also see wet-felted flowers, hand-dyed dress-up crowns both for children and their dolls, as well as Floppy dolls, nature-table fairies and Mother Earth (from the previous post). 

Shows are a wonderful way to share my work and to inspire moms that make their own dolls for their children. I also enjoy setting up the displays and seeing the expressions in the face of children when they respond to a doll. It's always a tad sad too though, to see how some of the parents really love to get the doll for their child, yet simply can't afford it. That is also why I offer doll-making workshops. I had planned to hold one this coming weekend, but it seems that after the summer vacation will be a better time for it – summer is to be outside and enjoy the weather and time with our families – I love the coming of September and the return back to hand-work and preparing for the holiday markets. 

PS: If you would like to receive advance notice of the dolls becoming available for sale, please send me a message to: info@www.theolivesparrow.com and I will add you to my early bird list.                   



Of Kids and Lambs and Blue Eggs

These images – the second batch of our wonderful March break week, was meant to be posted a few weeks back. Yet looking at the pix and processing them for this here blog made me realize how seasonally appropriate they are. 





















At the farm of my friends co-worker and friend in Mount Albert, Ontario. 

Angora Goats and kids (2 days old), sheep (sorry I forgot the exact breed), wonderful medley of different breeds of chickens and their gorgeous eggs, lambs – a bit early this year, papa-sheep before and after his shearing, Huxley and the youngest daughter of the farm with a lamb. 

I did not notice how beautifully subtle and harmounious the colours of the animals where with the landscape until I started to process the images. 

Easter is such a wonderful festival to celebrate the re-awakening of life in nature! This has been the greenest celebration I have experienced in my almost 25 years here in Toronto. It is wonderful. I hope you have a chance to go for a walk outside and fill yourself up with reawakening life.

The Olive Sparrow Child – Baby Dolly

Aa dear client requested if I could possibly make a small baby doll in a sling for her daughter's birthday. Although the deadline was very tight, timing worked out wonderful to create this little as of yet unnamed baby. 

She is about 9.5" or 25 cm tall.


Cuddling in her sling.


Wearing teeny-tiny diapers that close with little snaps. 


The sling fits a 44cm Olive Sparrow doll with the baby snuggly cuddled around mami-doll.


Fluffy baby hair.


Wearing her itty-bitty hat.


Smilling and waiting for her pickup at the studio. 


My client and I discussed that they baby should be somewhat unisex in appearance, so that her daughter could pretend to either have a baby-girls or a baby-boy. I think that was successful, as both my husband and my son couldn't right out say which gender the baby is. 

While working on the baby, I also started another small doll. I just picked out the colours for her clothes and hope to work on her later today – now, I'm going to let Huxley create some bean bags on the sewing machine – a first for us and we're both very excited. 


Each doll is made up of the following materials.

Skin: 100% cotton (Swiss-made to Öko-Tex-Standard 100)
Stuffing 100% “green-processed” wool batt from Canada
Hair: 100% Wool, or a Mohair/Wool Blend
Clothing: 100% natural fibres (linen, cotton, silk)
Shoes: Recycled felted wool sweaters, or pure leather
Face: 100% cotton Embroidery Thread

Each doll is created individually by artist Monika Aebischer, the proprietor of The Olive Sparrow. She sources and uses only the highest quality materials in her creations – swiss-made skin fabric, Canadian green processed wool stuffing,  wool/mohair for the dolls hair (often hand-dyed by her). Hair for the Olive Sparrow Children is made by crocheting a cap that is sewn to the head, allowing for replacement should it ever become necessary (although most children will object to this, as it changes their doll dramatically). For the wispy hair, a special german mohair is used and a labour-intense technique, for the loose longer hair each strand of wool is individually knotted into the crocheted cap. This is the prime technique for doll-wig creation.

Doll clothing is made from up-cycled vintage and clothing fabrics, in either pure linen, cotton or silk. Up-cycled fabric is wonderful for doll clothes, as the cloth has been washed soft, gentle and free of textile manufacturing products. Monika also felts used woolen sweaters to use for doll shoes and clothing. She knits the doll’s hats out of prime quality knitting wool. Each seam on the doll’s body is sewn twice to allow your child to fiercely love their Olive Sparrow Child. Clothing is sewn with finished seams and some are fully reversible.