Sunday, 8 September 2013

Weird and wonderful V&A Museum of Childhood

I went in to London yesterday, I'll admit, with the primary goal of buying yarn at Loop. I decided to make a day of it and planned my route in advance - first stop the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, then a walk along Regent's canal to Islington, where Loop is located, then home again in time for dinner.

My main reason for visiting the Museum of Childhood was to see the dollhouses. My mother and I built a dollhouse when I was in my early teens, and I crafted tiny things and collected miniatures for it until I left home for college. I don't have space for a dollhouse right now, but someday I hope to be able to get back into the miniature collecting obsession. I would love a Tri-ang house from the 1930s - it is one of my favourite periods for architecture. A quick ebay search shows they are available, though often in a sorry state. However, another quick google search proves there are restorers out there, so if I ever get a craft room, maybe I should give it a go myself.

Ultra modern dollhouse (image from the V&A website)

It turned out there were some much weirder and more wonderful objects than just toys at the museum. Starting with a charming and not at all frightening frog-footed St George's dragon.

Information about the creator, but unfortunately not this puppet,
is available on the V&A website.

Things got even weirder in the Creative Gallery section, where they displayed objects, including homemade toys, constructed from a range of materials. I really question the logic of including this bizarre collection of jewelry made of hummingbirds' heads and monkey teeth.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, no information about these objects
is available on the V&A website

But I'm probably being inconsistent, because I was completely delighted with this little old fellow made from lobster claws. And the little guy in the harlequin outfit at bottom right is actually a wishbone.

According to the V&A website the clawman was made c1875,
no other information available

Children can enjoy the macabre and bizarre just like the rest of us, but I must admit to being surprised by the creepy nature of British weebles. You remember weebles - they wobble but they don't fall down. But I'm used to the anodyne American weebles; I found the British version to be vaguely sinister Tweedledee & Tweedledum characters. I'm afraid to think what he plans to do with that lollipop.

Creepy boy weeble. Knitters may like to check out
the knitting granny weeble 

Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, though all the stooping required to see the floor level displays was not particularly gentle on the knees and back, and the labels were a little basic. However, since the museum's primary market is little children with limited reading skills, I understand the display decisions they have made.

The rest of my London jaunt was a resounding success. I had a lovely stroll along Regent's canal, passing Boris Johnson on a bike (London transport was working that day - for once - so I didn't even have the urge to push him in). And I found the perfect skein of Quince & Co Sparrow organic linen yarn to finish off my last top of the (rapidly disappearing) summer. I was worried the cream would be too dingy, but I'm really happy with the result - I think it tones down the pink and gives a nice antique feel to the garment.

Detail from Scabiosa top