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My Zwergnase Dorte doll from their Junior range for 2010

Lindy – Design a Friend

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Portrait of Lindy

Not all 18″ play dolls need to be expensive: despite my preference for the Gotz and Kidz n Cats level of doll, I’ll never turn down a pretty face. Back in 2011 Argos spotted a market niche and came up with the Design a Friend range, made by long-established toy manufacturer Chad Valley. The clever marketing idea (which still applies today) offered you a doll, outfit and accessory pack of your choice for a discount on the individual price, and dolls with blonde, brunette and red hair, along with the Alesha doll with her darker skin and cascading dark curls.  Each doll has its own name and a different outfit, though based on a simple tunic and leggings idea, with shoes. The range also includes new fashions introduced each season, and new accessories such as a bed, a carrying case, even a make-up set.

So, meet Lindy – here she is newly unboxed in her original outfit of long cerise tunic, black leggings and pink shoes. Also shown are the various boxes for her extra outfit which was a blue striped jumper, leggings and beige knee high boots and the accessory pack of underwear:

Lindy Unboxed

Its a great example of how to emulate the expensive dolls like American Girl but on a budget, and despite only costing £20 for a doll they are very well made. The dolls come in a cardboard box, in candy-stripe pink with the Design a Friend logo on the outside and the doll wrapped in a single sheet of tissue paper within. The box is quite thin card but sturdy enough to be re-used for keeping the clothes in, for example. I also like the way the outfits are packed, in their own pink candy-stripe boxes and wrapped in tissue paper, like high end fashion choices –  such a clever and attractive way of doing things rather than a blister pack or some other toy-like packaging.

Design a Friend clothes box

Each doll comes with a charm bracelet for the new owner to wear, and each outfit includes a charm to add to said bracelet, thus encouraging collection.

The dolls themselves are the ubiquitous soft body with vinyl limbs type – jointed at hips and shoulders, the head also moves from side to side though does not tilt, and the plastic eyes are fixed, not sleep-eyes. The body is shaded the same as the skin tone of the limbs. The stuffed body is not as firm as other cloth-body dolls, probably to give the doll some shape – in the image below you can see she has a clearly defined waist, rather than being a solid up and down shape as is more usual. It has the added effect of making the doll quite cuddly, but means she doesn’t stand up too well on her own.

Deisgn a Friend doll unclothed

She’s s little out of proportion, with very slender limbs compared to the head size, and quite skinny legs, though this is less obvious depending on the outfit. Some of the pants/tights therefore are a bit tight on other 18″ dolls, though in the main she can share clothes with them all. The doll is suprisingly well made for this price point and should stand up to a decent amount of play from a child, the outfits too are generally of good quality, attractive designs, well cut and securely sewn.

There are several Ebay sellers creating clothes specifically for the Design a Friend range (which will also fit Gotz, Kidz n Cats etc) which makes them a good choice for a child – new outfits won’t break the bank!

Lindy Posing

Here Lindy is wearing a dress from one of the Ebay designers, along with tights and shoes from Frilly Lily.  I love the hair on this doll, its full and luxuriant and just flows down so well, and looks good loose or pulled back by a head band (that’s actually a pearl necklace doing double duty). Its perhaps the hair that makes this specific doll look so good, the other Design a Friend dolls generally have straight hair, great for styling but not as eye-catching to my mind.

The Design a Friend outfits work well on the more expensive dolls – as shown in the photos below.

Lindy & Jessie in Design a Friend Outfits (with dog!)

Lindy’s blue spot dress, cardy and sparkly shoes set was in the original range of outfits from Design a Friend, while Jessie wears the jumper/leggings outfit I got along with Lindy. Flat cap by Nellie Rose.

Katy in a Design a Friend pink gown & wrap

I think Katy looks quite glamorous in this long pink satin dress with white wrap and silver sandals. There’s usually a ball gown type design in the Chad Valley range, in varying colours each year.

Helene modelling a Design a Friend red cocktail dress

This red cocktail dress with sparkly sandals and matching satin hairband didn’t look quite right on Lindy but suits Helene a treat. Her escort in back is Alex in a Nellie Rose suede jacket and his original outfit jeans and boots.

Lindy and the Girls

For me, she straddles the  line nicely between “doll” and “little person” and doesn’t seem too out of place with the other girls, especially when dressed nicely. That’s Katy (Gotz), Helene (Kidz n Cats) and Jessie (Zwergnase Junior) with Lindy above, all of them costing 3 or 4 times as much.

(Katy & Helene wear Nellie Rose, Jessie a dress from My Doll Best Friend and Lindy’s brown frock is from the Serendipity collection)
(The instrument is not a guitar but a tenor ukulele..)

Bree and Lindy

Lindy posing with Bree from The Dolls House.

I think the Design a Friend dolls and clothes are a triumph of budget design, and as they are still going strong after several years it seems other people agree with me. This year, Chad Valley introduced a boy doll, Josh, to the range, and also two little sister dolls – and both Josh and the youngsters already have avid Ebay designers sewing away to provide a wardrobe of clothes, there being as yet no offical outfits for same.

I’d not swap Lindy for Katy or Maru but she fits in nicely with the gang, and holds her own against them, despite the price difference. And I love this snap I took of Lindy with Alice (Gotz Happy Kidz) and Katy.

Trio

 

Images of pink boxes © original owners (found at random via google)

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The Girls, Tall to Small..

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GIven that the standard size of the play dolls I love is technically 18″, there are of course variations, which isn’t always clear when showing the dolls by themselves, and a simple height reference given in a review post doesn’t give away much. The girls obliged me by lining up in order tall to short to demonstrate the different heights of:

Karito Kids (21″), Maru & Friends (20″), Zwergnase Junior (19″), Gotz Hannah (18″) and Kidz n Cats (18″).

Girl dolls, tall to small

They are, of course, Fei Li, Maru, Jessie, Katy and Helene.

And as they’re wearing their posh frocks, it was a good chance for a wee fashion show also!

Fei Li (21")

Fei Li wearing a Gali Girls asian-style dress, and satin slippers from My Doll Best Friend.

Maru (20")

Maru wearing a white broderie dress from My Doll Best Friend, boots by Maru & Friends

Jessie (19")

Jessie wearing a white frock with purple dots available from My Doll Best Friend, shoes and tights from other sources

Katy (18")

Katy wearing another fabulous Nellie Rose creation, a traditional Austrian dress, shoes by Gotz

Helene (18")

Helene in the luscious lilac party dress from The Dolls House, shoes from My Doll Best Friend

Let’s hear it for the girls!

Girl dolls in height order

Piper – Sigikid Die Puppe

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I love the dolls in my “gang”, just the sight of them each day brings a smile to my face, all those cute little characters gazing up at me, so sweet. Not all the dolls I own have that effect, however, and I suppose given I have written such positive reviews about each doll up to now, its time to look at the ones that gain a rather less enamoured response.

Portrait of Piper

So, here is Piper, she is a Sigikid doll from their Die Puppe range, introduced in 2011. I’m familiar with Sigikid from their weird but wonderful Beasts range, and the stuffed horse I got for my Katy doll to ride a few years ago. Piper was a cheer-up present from my parents in Spring 2012 when I was ill in hospital and feeling very fed up with the world: the doll was on my wishlist and I picked her as a gift from my doll wishlist because she was cheaper than the Kidz n Cats etc dolls. At the time she was very welcome – picking her out, getting excited about her arrival, having her turn up in hospital re-dressed in the purple outfit they also treated me to, getting to hold her.. Yes, she was much adored.

Its rather a shame then that she’s spent much of the ensuing months tucked up in a box in the cupboard. I just don’t like her that much.

The Die Puppe range (the name means “the doll” in German) consists of 6 cloth bodied dolls with vinyl heads, arms and legs, rooted hair and painted eyes. They have a variety of hair and eye colours and all are dressed in extremely bright outfits – too bright for my tastes, hence the quick change into the purple clothes shown in the photos.  The one I chose had brown eyes and what looked on the image to be rich auburn hair, though in reality its more brown than red. Rather oddly, the dolls haven’t been given names, merely code numbers, so Piper here is officially Sigikid Die Puppe nr-26031. Her original outfit consisted of a red tunic with yellow swirl print over a red and yellow striped top, with red shorts and yellow slippers (with red dots).

Die Puppe 26031 original outfit

My first issue once I was home and thinking a bit more clearly, and the “ooh doll, let’s cuddle” stage had worn off (she is wonderfully cuddly, I do admit..) was that she doesn’t look that much like the product photo.  Her face is less rounded, and I’d love to know how they got the dolls to stand so straight and tall because she don’t stand up. She is a floppy doll.

Piper Posing

All the dolls thus far have been photographed standing against this background, but I only just managed to lean Piper up long enough for a couple of shots before she toppled over. The reason for this is clear when she is undressed – rather than the standard cloth body with full length vinyl arms and legs jointed at the shoulders that we see with American Girl, Design-a-Friend, Gali Girls etc her limbs begin past the expected joints, giving her very floppy flexible shoulders and hips, which are oddly flat:

Piper Unclothed

She has quite a chunky body also – although she is 18″ tall like the Gotz and Kidz dolls, she is much broader in the shoulders and cannot share clothes with them. She’s too big for even American Girl clothes, but not quite the right size to wear newborn baby clothes either. And her feet are too small to wear Gotz etc shoes, strangely enough. I had great fun today double checking all of this, as I’d hoped the loose AG dresses I have might work, but no.

Luckily, Trisha at KR Bears & Dolls was well aware of this and recommends on the Die Puppe page the outfits designed for another Sigikid doll, named Quendy – I’m beginning to see why they stuck to numbers with naming ideas like that! The purple outfit shown, which consists of beige corduroy trousers, a long-sleeved purple top, the beige and purple loose jacket and purple slippers is from that range and fits perfectly, and there are several more outfits along similar lines.  The clothes are of quite simple design, and very easy to put on and remove – Piper’s floppy limbs help with this also, suggesting the thinking behind this body shape.

Piper's Hair

She has a mass of long brown hair, coming down in waves, which looks great and feels soft to the touch, and is easily styled. It needs a lot of styling mind you, I ended up brushing her hair between almost every shot here, which isn’t something I normally need to do, but it was getting so messy and flyaway with just moving her around.

Piper Seated

The doll and clothing are very well made, good quality fabric and material, nicely sculpted arms and legs. She does sit down well, at least. And she is very cuddly indeed. The soft body, floppy limbs, easily changed clothes and bright colours in the original outfits are definitely all designed with a younger owner in mind, in fact I think she’d be a very good choice as a first doll for a youngster, bearing in  mind the clothes issue of course. She’s more substantial than the Design-a-Friend dolls which are about the closest comparable doll at a reasonable price, and having been made aware of some of the issues faced by children with limited hand/eye co-ordination in my post about the Dolls for Downs dolls, would be an excellent alternative for someone needing simpler fastenings and fabrics.

Its just the face I’m not keen on. And those eyes. I do tend to prefer glass (plastic) eyes but my Zwergnase doll Jessie has painted eyes which are lively and engaging. Piper’s are just dull.

Jessie's Eyes

Piper's Eyes

Jessie’s eyes and then Piper’s. The Zwergnase Junior dolls are more than twice the price so clearly that plays a part but its a disappointing result all the same.

Close-up of Piper's Face

Its rather a plain face and the eyes lack life, this is a doll rather than a little sculpted character – I’ve been spoilt by the other dolls in the “gang” thus far, and have higher expectations. She’s sweet, she’s just not as special as, well, name any of my dolls really!

I finally came up with a solution for the dull eyes, and Piper now wears purple shades, which obscure her eyes somewhat. I really don’t think its a good sign that a doll only looks attractive with its features hidden, mind, but they do at least add the character she was sorely lacking.

Portrait of Piper in Shades

She was ideal for me at the time, company and a cheering thing to distract me whilst in hospital, and gave good cuddles when I needed them but overall Piper is destined to go back in her box once more. She deserved this outing though, and hopefully the Die Puppe dolls are delighting a younger (and less picky) audience than myself.

Official doll product image ©Sigikid

Jessie – Zwergnase Junior

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The sheer variety of dolls out there is astounding, and although I’m more focused on play dolls I’m very aware of the various limited edition collectors dolls available, hand-scuplted by talented doll designers, usually in small quantities and with a price tag to match. One of the most unusual doll ranges is the Zwergnase dolls, created by Nicole Marschollek Menzer. Her dolls have odd, yet appealing faces, rather fey in look, or cheeky faces with freckles or buck teeth, wild hair – once you’ve seen one you won’t forget them. Nicole studied design and toy creation in her native Germany and founded the Zwergnase company in Sonneberg in 1994, with a range of dolls of varying sizes and prices released each year. I love the way she seems to capture the essence of a child in each sculpt, a moment in time or in a life, that really draws the attention and the heart.

Lckily for me, Nicole also has a range of play dolls, the Zwergnase Junior collection, with new designs each year both 50cm and 35cm tall, with the outfits available separately.

Jessie posing

Which leads me to Jessie, who is a 50cm Zwergnase Junior Dorte doll from the 2011 collection. She has the instantly recognisable unique little face, in the this case with red hair and freckles and a curious expression. Her hair is shoulder length, with two braids, and though good quality doesn’t easily lend itself to styling.

Jessie has jointed arms and legs and a very poseable head joint, and is slightly taller than the other play dolls. The height is mainly in the legs, she has long legs and the body shape of an older child, with a slender waist and alittle pot belly, though she can share clothes with the other 18″ dolls, apart from them occasionally being too short in the legs. Her arms are long and graceful.

Dorte (official photo)

Her original outfit consists of a long, sleeveless cotton dress with a bold print in dark red, purple, blue and brown, with a dark red net underskirt designed to show below the hem of the dress. Included are a pair of soft beige knickers and beige suede lace up boots with white socks. I love the look of the Zwergnase Junior clothes but the quality of this particular outfit didn’t seem quite as good as what I’ve come to expect from the Kidz n Cats dolls, which has put me off getting any of the other outfits thus far. She arrived in a cloth bag rather than tied into a box, which is unusual but pleasing as a packing option.

Unlike most dolls available, the Zwergnase Junior dolls do not have glass eyes but rather hand painted ones. Now sometimes this can look rather dead and unnerving (the eyes on the Sigikid Die Puppe dolls sometimes have this fault), but as you can see with Jessie, her eyes are lively and interesting, great care has clearly been taken with the paintbrush to ensure the eyes add to her character.

Portrait of Jessie

Jessie is one of those dolls who looks very different depending on what she is wearing, and her expression gives great scope to the imagination. She looks quite the mature young lady in the above image, wearing an outfit from an Ebay designer which you might recognise from the post about Alice.  In the  first image below, she’s wearing a white broderie sun dress with matching shoes from Frilly Lily, contrasted with the next shot of her in a boyish outfit from the Argos Design-a-Friend range.

Jessie in white

Jessie in jeans

The dolls are more expensive than the Kidz n Cats and the lower ranges of Gotz dolls, on a par with Gotz Classic Kidz however, and I think are definitely worth the extra price for the unusual look – I think quirky is the best word to describe them, and any of the Junior dolls would make a good friend for a slightly older child, Jessie is certainly one of my favourites and I’m sure there will be another in the range joining my collection at some point.

Thus far in the UK the only supplier I know of is Trisha at KR Bears & Dolls, who has many of the Junior dolls in stock, and can easily order past dolls and outfits. I note she has an exclusive limited edition Junior doll being made specially, which is sure to be worth a look. She also stocks the collector dolls from various years as well as the current range, well worth browsing, if you can resist the temptation that is!

Jessie in b&w

Image of Dorte in original outfit © Zwergnase

The gang’s (almost) all here

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Having done introductory posts for nearly all the dolls in my “gang” I thought I’d share this cool group photo I took the other day – absent are Héléne and Jamie as they were too busy giggling together in the other room to take part.

Gang of Dolls

From left to right standing:

Grace (Gotz Hannah at the Ballet)

Katy (Gotz Hannah and her Dog 2010)

Maru (Maru & Friends)

Jessie (Zwergnase Junior Dorte)

Alex (Kidz n Cats Alister)

Seated:

Alice (Gotz Happy Kidz Emily 2012)

Ariane (Kidz n Cats)

Some of the clothes were made by Nellie Rose, exceptions being Ariane’s blue petal dress, Katy’s white broderie dress and the pink t-shirt that Maru is wearing which are all from My Doll Best Friend. Jessie’s outfit is from the Argos Design a Friend range, Alice’s dress was made by an Ebay designer and Alex is wearing the jeans, legwarmers and boots from his original outfit.

I think they look pretty good together, despite the varying looks of each brand they make a fun bunch of friends (and of course there was the usual argument about who got to wear what, all the girls reckon Ariane has hogged that lovely blue dress way too long by now!)

The gane in b&w