Seamstresses stitch up a hand-made toy

Seamstresses Hazel Adams, from Eastridge, Freda Davids, from Beacon Valley, Margie Constant, from Eastridge, Jane van Buuren – stuffs the doll, Aline Isaacs, both from Eastridge, and Silvia Bartlett, from Croydon.

During the national Covid-19 lockdown, retired film industry seamstress Hazel Adams, from Eastridge was called upon to try her hand at stitching up the character used in television advertising campaigns for Hippo.co.za

She had connected with Francois de Flamingh, founder of local design studio Creatarium, who contracted her and about six other Mitchell’s Plain seamstresses to create the hippo.

Ms Adams said the women were all meticulous and had to ensure that their stitching, stuffing, and placement of the toy’s eyes met expectations.

She had retired in January last year and took ill at the start of the pandemic.

“By the grace of God I survived Covid-19, spent eight weeks in hospital and then I afforded the opportunity to try my hand on this project,” she said.

The women work remotely and additional youth were appointed recently to help stuff the doll.

Her colleague Margie Constant, from Eastridge, said: “It’s rather exciting to be working on such a soft, special toy. All of our lives we stitched up garments.”

Freda Davids, from Beacon Valley, said expenses were increasing, especially the food bill and that this work had been a blessing.

“Things are going up all of the time but the money dries up,” she said.

She said the beginning of lockdown was the worst as they did not know how they were going to survive.

Ms Davids said: “Wow, I can now make a doll and it puts food on my table.”

Silvia Bartlett, from Croydon said the doll had lots of bits and pieces, which they had to put together.

Ms Adams said it was a privilege to work on such a project.

“It shows that there is talent in Mitchell’s Plain, although a lot of people look down on the area. A lot of good things have come from here and I am very proud to be living here,” she said.

“My mother said I would be killed here. But Mitchell’s Plain has fattened me up and I love Mitchell’s Plain. People care for each other. They look out for each other, which I have not seen in another community,” she said.

Hippo.co.za chief executive officer Bradley du Chenne said they enabled a local small business and team of out-of-work seamstresses to support their families through South Africa’s extended Covid-19 lockdown.

He said there were many requests for a toy.

“The next logical step was to give people their personal toy as a reminder to make good choices,” he said.

The first production run of 1 000 toys will be used in a brand campaign for Hippo.co.za’s online comparison platform, set to launch this month.