Chouko

Chouko - a cloth doll made by Atelier Björkåsa

I have never told anyone else about the parcel. It was one of those gloomy afternoons in November. My sister and I were on our way home from school. And that day, we took a shortcut through the moor. We weren’t allowed to walk there at this time of the year. The fogs could get heavy and our mother was always afraid we might get lost one day. But we were already late that afternoon, so my sister, two years older than me, took my hand and said ‘Let’s go through the moor’.

And so we did, my sister and I.

Although the light was fading, we knew where to step and where rather not. We used to play in the moor all summer, picked bilberries and harebells and no one knew the paths better than us. Soon we were only a short hop away from home. When we passed the Seven Birches, we saw it – a small parcel, tucked between the tree trunks. We stopped, we took a closer look. I had just started in first grade that year, so my sister had to read for me what was written on the package:

To You
Björkåsa
Sweden

Who is ‘you’? I asked. And my sister, after a moment or two, replied ‘You is us’.
That made sense. No one else took this path through the moor at this time of the year, so clearly the parcel was addressed to us.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

We untied the string, we opened the box, carefully, and the first thing I saw was two very small feet. Then a measuring tape and what looked like a blanket. And then I saw the biggest grin I have ever seen:

Chouko by Atelier BjörkåsaChouko by Atelier Björkåsa

‘Fimps!’ Chouko said.

I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me.
What language is this?’ I whispered. And my sister said (with a very firm voice): ‘Japanese, you silly boy’. My sister spoke all kinds of foreign languages. Unlike me, she could count to three hundred already, backwards, that is.

‘Fimps!’, Chouko cooed.

‘What does it say?’ I asked. And after a moment’s silence, my sister declared: ‘Bring me a linen basket and snuggle me up in warm blanket, it is freezing cold’
I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me.
‘It says all that, in Japanese?’ I said, deeply impressed. My sister answered with an eager nod: ‘Yep. In Japanese!’

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

There we stood, by the Seven Birches, my sister and I, only a short hop away from home. Chouko looked at us, I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me. And although it was a gloomy afternoon in November and the light was fading and we were already late, I ran up to the laundry shed, quick as a wink, snatched the linen basket, a woollen blanket and a few of the clothes that hung on the line.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

Two minutes later, I was back at the Seven birches. Still a bit out of breath, I watched my sister how she dressed Chouko. First pyjama bottoms, then a jacket, then she put a pair of woollen socks on Chouko’s tiny feet.

Chouko by Atelier BjörkåsaChouko by Atelier Björkåsa

‘Shoup-shoup!’ Chouko said, with a grin.

‘What does it say?’, I asked. And my sister replied: ‘I am hungry’.
I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me, and both of us could hear how Chouko’s tummy was growling.

And although it was a gloomy afternoon in November and the light was fading and we were already late, I ran up to the kitchen garden, quick as a wink, and snatched a handful of lettuce. Half a minute later I was back at the Seven Birches.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

Chouko looked at the lettuce, than at me, than at my sister.

‘Örks!” it said, sticked its tongue out and made a face.

Unlike my sister, two years older than me, I didn’t speak any Japanese, but even I understood that örks meant nothing else but yuck. I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me.

‘Shoup-shoup! Shoup-shoup!!’

‘We should try it with mashed peas perhaps’, my sister said.

And although it was a gloomy afternoon in November and the light was fading and we were already late, I ran up to house and five minutes later I was back at the Seven Birches, with a bowl of mashed peas.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

Chouko opened its big mouth, gulped down the mashed peas all at once, burped pretty satisfied and fell asleep almost immediately.

I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me, and then we tucked Chouko in the linen basket, covered it with a warm blanket, said nighty-night, and then we went up to the barn and from there to the house where our mother was waiting with tea already.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

The next day, my sister and I were on the way home from school and already late, so we took a shortcut through the moor. Soon we were only a short hop away from home. When we had reached the Seven Birches, we could spot the linen basket. Chouko was already waiting for us, but when we came closer, we could see that it had grown by five inches at least since the day before!

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

‘Shoup-shoup-shoup!’, Chouko cooed.

I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me. And after a moment’s silence, my sister whispered: ‘Baked beans, quick! And more clothes!’

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

And although it was a gloomy afternoon in November and the light was fading and we were already late, I ran up to house and two minutes later I was back at the Seven Birches, with baked beans and with our youngest sister’s Sunday dress.

We dressed Chouko, we put the baked beans on an acorn leaf, Chouko opened its big mouth, gulped down everything at once, despite the acorn leaf, burped pretty satisfied and fell asleep almost immediately.

I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me, and then we tucked Chouko in the linen basket, covered it with a warm blanket, said nighty-night, and then we went up to the barn and from there to the house where our mother was waiting with tea already.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

The day after, my sister and I were on the way home from school and late, as usual. We took a shortcut through the moor, soon we were only a short hop away from home, and once we had reached the Seven Birches, we could spot the linen basket. Chouko was already waiting for us, but when we came closer, we could see that it had grown by seven inches at least since the last time we had seen it!

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

‘Shoup!’, Chouko cooed.

I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me. And after three minutes of silence, my sister said: ‘Spaghetti with ketchup, quick! And more clothes!’

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

And although it was a gloomy afternoon in November and the light was fading and we were already late, I ran up to house and ten seconds later I was back at the Seven Birches, with spaghetti and ketchup and with our mother’s blouse.

We dressed Chouko, we put the spaghetti on an acorn leaf with ketchup on top, tried not to make a big mess, Chouko opened its mouth, gulped down everything at once, despite the acorn leaf of course, burped pretty satisfied and fell asleep almost immediately.

I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me, and then we tucked Chouko in the linen basket, covered it with a warm blanket, said nighty-night, and then we went up to the barn and from there to the house where our mother was waiting with tea already.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

It was day number four, my sister and I were on the way home from school and late, as so often. We took a shortcut through the moor, although we weren’t allowed to walk there at this time of the year. Soon we were only a short hop away from home, but before we had even reached the Seven Birches, we could hear Chouko.

Chouko by Atelier BjörkåsaChouko by Atelier Björkåsa

‘Shoup! Shooooooooup!’, Chouko cooed from afar.

As we came closer, we could hardly believe our eyes. In less than twenty-four hours, Chouko had grown by sixteen inches!
I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me. My sister was speechless, so I said: ‘We need food, lots of food. And dungarees, big ones. Be quick!’

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

And although it was a gloomy afternoon in November and the light was fading and we were already late, my sister ran up to house and fifteen minutes later she was back at the Seven Birches, slightly out of breath, with lots of food and with grandpa’s dungarees.

‘Shoup! Shoup!’, Chouko cooed, eagerly.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

We put fifteen pancakes on an acorn leaf with apple sauce on top, Chouko opened its big mouth, gulped down everything at once, despite the acorn leaf.

‘Shoup-shoup!’, Chouko said.

We put three meatballs, a sausage, one carrot, a cheese sandwich and a chocolate cookie on the acorn leaf, Chouko opened its big mouth, gulped down everything at once, despite the acorn leaf, that is.

‘Shoup-shoup!’, Chouko said.

We put mashed potatoes, three Brussel sprouts, cooked spinach, old Christmas candy, two portions of apple crumble, five boiled eggs and a cucumber slice on the acorn leaf, Chouko opened its big mouth, gulped down everything at once, even the acorn leaf.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me.

After a little while, we could hear a loud burp. It was the loudest burp I had ever heard, it echoed over the moor and the birds flushed wild in the late afternoon sky. And with a snug sigh, Chouko fell asleep almost immediately.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

We tucked Chouko in the linen basket, although it wasn’t an easy thing to do. After all, Chouko had grown a lot in the past few days. We covered it with a warm blanket, albeit a bit too short, said nighty-night, and then we went up to the barn and from there to the house where our mother was waiting with tea already.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

The next day was a Saturday. My sister and I woke up early, we put each a warm coat over our pyjamas, opened the back door, walked through the garden, down to the barn, from there through the meadow to the Seven Birches.

It was one of those gloomy November mornings and the fog over the moor had just started to clear. From afar we could see the linen basket. But when we came closer, the basket was empty. No Chouko.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me.

And then we could hear a little chuckle. Behind the Seven Birches, in the high autumn grass, stood Chouko. It looked at us, I looked at my sister, my sister looked at me.

‘Kwapkwap’, Chouko said.

And although it was Japanese, my sister didn’t have to translate. We both knew what it meant.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

A butterfly, I said. My sister nodded her head.

Chouko turned around, waved one last time, then it opened its wings.

My sister and I stood by the Seven Birches, and we stood there for a long time until Chouko only was a tiny little dot over the moor in the November sky. Then we walked through the meadow, up to the barn, from there through the garden and then back to the house where our mother was waiting with breakfast already.

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

********

Chouko, a 17″/ 45cm tall doll, was created by me as part of a collaboration between Fabiola of Fig & Me, Winter of Winterludes Dolls and I.

As dollmakers, we got to know each other in 2009, all of us were fairly new in the business back then. We started to have contact as colleagues and soon we became close friends, Winter in France, Fabiola in Canada and me still living in Germany. Eight years later, Fabs now lives in Mexico, I have moved to Sweden in the meantime, while Winter still is in Paris – and we all have contact on a daily basis, talk about our work as dollmakers and follow each other on our creative journeys, give each other feedback and support each other with advice, odd jokes and encouraging words.

In Spring last year, we discussed the idea of doing a collaboration, together with another colleague and close friend of us (and the fourth leaf of our clover) – Jenny of Little Jenny Wren Dolls, who back then was busy with other projects, so it became only the three of us who decided to do a little project together. We sent each other fabrics (mine were vintage, used in the 1950s by my neighbour’s mother here in Sweden) so that each of us would have the same material to work with, we decided on a theme for our dolls, a red thread, and how we would like to introduce our three little characters to you.

Time was passing, spring turned into summer, summer into autumn – and we postponed our project again and again. Occupied with other work projects, busy with moving houses and with family life, struggling with illness and waiting for lost packages with dollmaking supplies – there were many reasons why it took us almost 1.5 years from the first idea to a finished doll. But good things come to those who wait…

I am excited and happy to introduce Chouko‘s two sisters – Thora by Fig & Me and Asta by Winterludes Dolls. All three dolls will be looking for a new family in the coming days (follow the links to find out more).

Chouko can be found in my webshop and will be looking for a new home on Tuesday, 14th of November at 10am EST (which is in the afternoon at 04pm Central European Time). My butterfly child travels with four sets of clothes – comfy pyjama bottoms and long-sleeve, a pretty blouse and dungarees, a short-sleeved dress with coordinating leggings, two pair of shoes made from soft merino wool, undies, a leotard with butterfly wings as well as the warm doll quilt seen in the pictures. As all my dolls, Chouko will travel to its new home in a matching tote bag, a repair set with detailed care instructions as well as a scenting lavender sachet.

Sending you all a fresh autumn breeze from Björkåsa!

Warmly,

Juliane

P.S. Chouko is a Japanese name and means ‘butterfly child’. I am not so sure about the given Japanese-to-English translations of örks, shoup-shoup, fimps and kwapkwap given in the story above, it could also be Portuguese or Dutch (anyone with proper skills in foreign languages, preferrably a native speaker, is welcome to correct me)

Chouko by Atelier Björkåsa

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

11 Comments

    • Juliane

      Thank you for the fun, Fabs (and for all the encouragement and wise words on the creative journey we took together with Winter 💕). Much love from Björkåsa

    • Juliane

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Susie (and I already saw/ read that you found your way to Thora and Asta, too ;-)

  1. Debbie Poole

    Absolutely wonderful!!!!! such a lovely story and so nice for all of you, worth the wait as you say “Good things come to those who wait” xxx

    • Juliane

      Thank you, dear Debbie! I wish you could pop in for a cup of tea and a chat. Four more orders to be finished before I can breathe out for this year ;-) Hugs to you and M.

  2. What fun! What a great doll! And the photos in the late autumn woods are perfect and beautiful!! Thanks!!

    • Juliane

      Thank you for your kind comment, Judy! Autumn is saying goodbye here and winter is around the corner (I long for snow, but I do love those crispy late autumn mornings)

  3. Marie M

    Ha ha! Chouko is adorable, outfits, languages and all! Isabella and I always enjoy your stories Juliane. Congrats and love on such a darling collaboration.

    • Juliane

      Thank you, Marie! I am glad that Chouko made it already from caterpillar to butterfly – the latter usually don’t eat as much, it started to look quite empty in our pantry ;-)

  4. Kristiina

    This is pure art… (all words seems to be too small actually)
    Thank You!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *