What Does Hiraeth Mean to Me?

It’s so exciting to finally release my Hiraeth and Cwtch Welsh Doll peg ladies! Of course, there’s more about them at the end of this post! But knowing that lots of my customers aren’t Welsh, I thought I will talk about what Hiraeth is, and what does Hiraeth mean to me!

Hiraeth is the welsh word for a deep longing or wistfulness for days gone by, for your homeland. For a place from your past that may have disappeared and can’t be returned to. It is felt deep in your heart and soul. It’s a small word that encompasses so much nostalgia and deep feeling!

What does Hiraeth mean

It’s something that even I must admit I didn’t really understand until recently. Owing to my Dad’s job, I had the privilege of growing up to my mid teens in a special, historic location. With it’s red brick and grey window frames, our little bungalow almost looks fashionable again! We had no neighbours, 12 square miles of woodland to play in (including a beautiful waterfall) as well as 14 acres of gorgeous maintained gardens to ride our bikes around all weekend. Childhood bliss! The site was previously a mansion belonging to a prestigious Victorian family who were pioneers in botany and photography. The observatory from were they took some of the first photographs of the moon still stands there today. I loved where we lived, and appreciated both the beauty and the heritage of the site.

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Above: My sister and I, in traditional Welsh Costume, outside our childhood home.

But times change… Local council boundaries were redrawn, the offices that my father was caretaker of on the site eventually became disused, and we moved. The site remained unused for years, until a housing developer eventually bought the land. They bulldozed the offices and built houses there – not without controversy.

Of course, in the process my old home of 15 years was razed to the ground. The place where I grew up. Where I passed many of life’s important early milestones. And where I still enjoyed visiting for a walk every so often. A place that held such a huge part of my heart, that my soul felt forever attached to. Gone forever.

I genuinely felt a loss, and a longing to be able to go back to how it was years ago.

This is the essence of Hiraeth.

I recently “plucked up the courage” to go and drive through the new houses. The observatory has been kept owing to it’s historical importance. But otherwise I found it hard to orientate myself and work out where things (including my old home) once were. It was highly emotional and took everything I had not to be moved to tears!

So…this is what Hiraeth means to me, and why it led to me creating a hiraeth gift! I’d had a plan for Welsh Dolls for over three years, but this recent experience made me think about how it would be lovely to create something that would be the perfect way of sharing a piece of Wales with someone who is perhaps further afield from their native soil.

Both the Hiraeth and Cwtch gifts are packed with lots of well-researched details.

The Hiraeth Welsh Lady Doll is wearing a more modern traditional Welsh Costume, with many details heralding from the 20th century. She has a black skirt underneath a heavy, full length, red gown, which historically would have been made of flannel woven in a local Welsh wool mill. Her neat, white blouse has balloon cuffs.

Her black and white checked apron is almost full length, and would have protected her gown from dirt.

She wears a pretty red cotton shawl printed with daffodils; something that would have been reserved for special occasions. As with all of my peg dolls, the details are running all around the doll; here’s a closer 360° view:

I also have another Welsh lady available.

Proudly holding her bunting, my Cwtch Welsh Doll is the perfect way of showing a special someone just how much you care about them, as Cwtch is the Welsh word for hug. There is nothing warmer and more comforting than a great big Welsh cwtch!

The Cwtch Welsh Lady Doll is wearing a traditional Welsh Costume. She is has a black and red checked bedgown, which historically would have been made of flannel woven in a local Welsh wool mill. Underneath this she has a red woollen skirt and white blouse.

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Her fringed shawl is grey – a typical colour for a traditional Welsh shawl of this style, however I gave her a more modern polka-dot pattern to give my design a fresh edge. On her head she is wearing a cockle-style Welsh hat, with a lace-edged mob cap gently peeping out from underneath. These hats were traditionally woven from straw, but are now usually made from felt.

The black and red checked gown and cockle shape hat were predominantly worn by the women of Swansea and the surrounding Valleys.

Here she is in all her glory:

Both of these lovely welsh dolls are available in limited stock in my shop

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I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Hiraeth, and about the lovely place where I grew up….

Lot’s of love from this now-grown-up Little Welsh Girl…

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The Innocent Wife Personalised Peg Doll

 My first peg doll commission of  2018 has certainly been an interesting  one! I love taking on something different, and this was a really special project!

I received an email asking if I could make a peg doll based on the cover artwork of a book, The Innocent Wife, by Amy Lloyd. Amy’s aunt is extremely proud of her niece and wanted a special gift to mark the publication of her first novel.

Amy’s psychological thriller about a British woman who falls for a prisoner on death row won the Daily Mail’s First Novel Competition in 2016, and since being published in just December has already been listed in the Sunday Times Top 10 Bestsellers. She has even been approached by a film company who want to take her novel to the big screen.  So to be asked to create something marking such a momentous occasion for this exciting new author is quite an honour!

When I saw the art work, I could see this would be different to any peg doll I’d made before. As you’ll know I’m usually all about the details – but there weren’t may here to go on. A real mystery with lots of gaps to fill- quite fitting!

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I really enjoyed working with the monochromatic colour scheme. Turquoise is one of my favourite colours.

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 I didn’t have anything to go on for the body. Therefore I “dressed” her in a plain gown with flowing sleeves in order to complement the mysterious atmosphere of the book cover.

The Innocent Wife, literary peg doll, personalised peg dolls

I added the book title and authors’ name to complete the personalised peg doll.The Innocent Wife, literary peg doll, personalised peg dolls

Mr T and I are massive true crime fans, and have binged our way through all the usual television suspects like Making a Murderer, The Keepers and The Confession Tapes. A typical evenings’ viewing usually includes an episode of Criminal Minds and The Forensic files. So it’s no surprise that The Innocent Wife is on my to-read list! Here is Amy reading a short excerpt from her novel to whet your appetite:

If you’d like to find out more about Amy and her book, you can follow her on Twitter.

If I can make a special or unusual commission for you this year, get in touch!

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Boho Wedding Cake Topper: From Across the Miles

I love receiving emails asking me if it would be possible to make a Peg Doll Wedding Cake topper. It is truly lovely to be involved in someones special day in a little way.

So imagine my delight when an email from the other side of the world asked if I could do just that! a  wedding cake topper set of five peg dolls, for a beautiful family in Hong Kong who would be returning to Wales for their beautiful boho Wedding, was required.

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My lovely customer Asher was thrilled with the finished results. In fact, she sent me these pictures of the cake toppers on their gorgeous cake. My goodness it makes my mouth water just looking at that. I am indeed a bit of a buttercream fan!!

peg doll wedding cake topper

Of course, Asher sent me lots and lots of photos to work from giving me a good idea of how they would look on the day. There was a really beautiful boho feel to everything. Dreamy lace dresses and loose, cottage style flowers the order of the day. Her amazing dress was an absolute joy to recreate. The bodice had a contrasting lace pattern to the arms, which was such a fun detail to work on. The satin sash called for my very special pearlescent finish, which is reserved for very special occasions!

boho bride wedding cake topper

The groom was to wear a smart navy suit. This is paired with a lovely shot of colour in the form of his yellow tie! The bouquet is a posy of gorgeous wild flowers, hand tied with lace.

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The three beautiful little bridesmaids played an important part in the cake topper arrangement. Simple, elegant matching dresses, and beautiful rustic bouquets for the eldest two girls. This elegant simplicity is exactly what is key to the boho wedding style.

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They look so pretty together.  Just lovely  – or “hyfred” as we say here in Wales.

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And a moment of quiet admiration for that heavenly cake again!

peg doll wedding cake topper

As always, we welcome enquiries for personalised Peg Doll Wedding Cake toppers. I currently have availability for July 2017 onward. However MY ORDER BOOKS ARE BUSY AND TURN OVER IS AROUND 6 WEEKS. with this in mind, Please enquire in plenty of time to avoid disappointment.

Additionally, for more information see our dedicated Peg Doll Wedding Cake Topper page.

Finally, if you’re a Bride to Be, and haven’t said “yes to the dress,” you must check out the styles from Bridal Fashion Week. Brides.Com have comprehensive coverage of their favourites for 2018. It will be interesting to see what filters through for real world brides. Certainly, there’s a few interesting looks! High-necked styles, pale blue and BLACK are being tipped as gown colours we could be seeing at Weddings near us soon! So I wonder if I’ll have any requests for peg doll wedding cake toppers in black wedding dresses as a result?!  We will see, I’m sure!

Cwtch ♥ Mawr

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Meet the Peg Doll Maker – Part II

Welcome to Part 2 of my Meet the Peg Doll Maker series, helping you to get to know us a little more. It’s based on the prompts provided by Joanne Hawker for the month long Instagram challenge March Meet The Maker. For more information, see my last post.

day 7: How it’s made

peg doll gifts UK

These pictures are almost 2 years old. My work has improved since then but they still give a good insight into how I make my dolls. Most people presume they are just painted like the majority of peg dolls you see. However mine are a bit different. My lines are etched into the wood using pyrography. Then I colour them using artists pencils. This enhances the lovely wood grain rather than covering it up. It’s a lot of work and a long process (I’ll show you a bit more later in the month). Nevertheless it’s one that I relish and think is worth it 💕

Day 8: Where.

peg dolls made in wales

peg dolls made in wales

I work from our lovely little Victorian semi on the side of a little Pine-covered Mountain in the Welsh Valleys. The meaning of “Gwynfa” is paradise or heavenly in Welsh. So we knew this was exactly the place our hearts and minds need to be as soon as we saw it. Every day my breath is taken away by the beautiful views of the mountains from our lovely home 💕🏡

Day 9: Work in Progress

peg doll in progress

This is a very special little spoon peg doll on my desk right now. She is a special make for the lovely Sharon at Daisy Lions, who makes the most beautiful textile art featuring her wonderful little liberty fabric birds. The spoon peg doll has been pyrographed and is now being coloured.

Day 10: Recommend a Maker

peg doll silver charms

Yikey Mikey! Instagram is so jam-packed with amazing talent how can I pick just one? I mentioned some of my faves last week when I did my Stories video of my little studio, but one super lovely maker who didn’t come into that bracket then was @onelittlehut . Emily is a super talented silver smith and truly lovely to boot. She creates her jewellery in the most swoon-worthy shepherds hut that I’m a tad jealous of 😍 So if you don’t like pretty shiny things (say whaaaat?!) her feed is worth checking out for her interior design!

 I am still flawed by the amazing detail she packed into my beautiful bracelet that my husband had commissioned a few Christmases ago – the teeny tiny peg dolls are just like the first ever ones I made of Mr T and I – how she managed that I have no idea. I would have gone blind/loopy/all of the afore mentioned working so much detail on such a teeny weeny scale. Her customer service is also exceptional. Thank you Emily for rocking IG with your lovely work 💪🌹🌻🌸💕

Day 11: Post/Mail.

A post shared by Natalie (@pinkelephantcrafts) on

Our local post office has been closed all week for a refurb. So I have to drive over to the next village and today theirs was closed too 🙈 I wonder if they’ll be fitting a tv in the new PO, because whenever I go down I seem to be tearing the Post Mistress away from her daily dose of Loose Women in her lounge. Anyway, I eventually found one open this week and was able to get my parcels off to their forever homes.😂✉ 💕

Day 12: Brand

pink elephant crafts peg dolls logo

pink elephant crafts peg dolls logo Silly little story for you today! When we first thought about a logo, I scribbled my idea on a scrap of paper and clever Mr T brought it to digital life for me. I wanted it to encompass the various skills I brought to our products at the time, including embroidered and appliqued hoop art, illustrated cards and chalkboards.

Over time we have became focussed on the peg dolls and have considered rebranding to “Pink Elephant Pegs” to reflect this, but it would be a bit of a headache with all our packaging/cards/stall banners/website/domain and emails all needing changing 😪 We did however try changing the logo about 18months ago to represent our current work.  We settled on replacing the tools with little polkadot pegdolls. We launched it on Facebook and it got lots of 👍 until someone commented that they looked like…erm…willy warmers!!!🙈🙈 Needless to say I immediately reverted to the old one and haven’t really looked back since! I’ve managed to find it deep in our dropbox so have added a pic of it for your amusement 😂💕xxx

And that little giggle rounds up Part II of Meet the Peg Doll Maker. We hope you are enjoying finding our more about us! The next installment will be here soon.

Cwtch ♥ Mawr

peg doll family

Meet the Peg Doll Maker – Part I

Welcome to Part I of my Meet the Peg Doll Maker series, helping you to get to know us a little more. It’s based on the prompts provided by Joanne Hawker for the month long Instagram challenge March Meet The Maker. It is designed to help small business owners and creatives to tell the story behind their brand.

 Each day of the month has a different prompt, which participants can interpret freely. Over the series of posts I am sharing the images I chose for each daily prompt, along with the caption I wrote for each one on Instagram. Hopefully you will learn a little more about myself, the peg doll families and cake toppers that I lovingly create, and about what goes on behind the scenes in our studio!

Day 1: you

peg doll artist Natalie Thomas

This is me, Natalie. I’m not usually fortunate enough to be sipping on cocktails! However this was my 35th birthday in the Lake District over the weekend. I’m not at all ready to be a grown up yet though! I live on the side of a mountain in the Welsh Valleys with my lovely hubby. His presence keeps me (an introverted, tea-drinking creative gal who wants a quiet, uncomplicated life; likes staying in and her own company) just about on the right side of the “Crazy Cat Lady” line.  We have 3 cats; Dexter, Cookie and our kitten Pearl, who really are the apples of my eye. Pearl is completely deaf and I am teaching her sign language, thus validating the almost crazy cat lady status 😹. Really looking forward to finding out more about my favourite makers and meeting lots of new inspirational and talented lovelies too.

DAY 2: Favourite to make

Peg doll family of five

I’ve really had to think long and hard about this. I really love EVERY set I’m commissioned to make. So much love, time, and effort goes into each doll I make that I become attached to each one. I almost posted some Wedding Cake toppers as it’s always such a huge honour to be asked to make something which is such a focal point of someone’s special day. It’s also an extremely nervous process – particularly between sending them from my little studio to their new recipient! Will the dolls be what the customer envisaged and hoped for? Have I got the details just right? So it’s very stressful but so rewarding when I get lovely email feedback!

However, after a bit of reflection, I realised that my favourite sets to make are in fact the ones that involve lots of colour and pattern. It’s such a satisfying and therapeutic process to translate them to my little wooden dolls. So I picked this picture as an example of my favourite sort of work to undertake- bright, colourful and patterned! 😍💕 Does colour or pattern play a big part in your work?

Day 3: Workspace

peg doll artists studio, wales, uk

Here’s my little studio. We haven’t lived here long so we haven’t decorated in here (brown carpet anyone?) but I love my room anyway. My desk is under the window so gets lots of natural light. The deep windowsill is perfect for our 3 moggies to curl up on while I’m working. It looks over our little terraced garden and up to the pine trees on the mountain we live on. I love watching them sway hypnotically in the wind. Of course this is rather fortunate because we get a lot of wet and windy weather in the Welsh valleys!

The room is home to all my special little trinkets and treasures from my dearest family and friends, and favourite makers, so it’s an ecclectic but inspirational environment for me. It’s also got a bank of built-in storage which is crammed with my years of arts and crafts materials. It’s the main reason I bagged this room as my studio when we bought the house! If I’m feeling brave enough to reveal my scratchy little Welsh accent, I might show you around on Stories later! 🙈 Do you have anything special to you in your studio? Looking forward to seeing everyone elses creative spaces today

Day 4: Tools

peg doll artists tools

Here are my essential tools for making my peg doll families and wedding cake toppers. I usually work in my studio. Of course this is a necessity when I’m burning the dolls. Sometimes though, in the evenings, I like to pop my pencils and drawling tools in to a basket and work curled on the sofa up next to Mr T. There’s usually a cat or two on my lap too!

Day 6: Raw Materials

peg doll families and couples

Here are my little wooden peg dolls before I work my pyrography and pencil magic on them. I keep an easy to grab “working stock” handy in pretty glass jars on my pretty turquoise Raskog trolly next to my desk. The rest of my raw stock is in a big box. I keep track of how many I’ve got with little chalk labels on each jar – high tec baby! 😂 💕 Do you have any clever ways to keep track of your raw materials?

 Stay tuned for Part II of my Meet the Peg Doll Maker Series for the next 6 snippets into our little business.

Cwtch ♥ Mawr

peg doll family