Monday, December 11, 2017

bink, Visible Mending Model

bink darned her favorite winter sweater with some of the turmeric wool from Uruguay that I'm using to darn my blanket.

She also models here the one and only knitting project I ever finished--the blue wool scarf I gave her seven years ago. 
Not forgetting her new blue eyeglasses!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I made my first stuffed animal.

A friend is becoming a grandmother in January. This week I made a stuffed animal for the baby shower. 

I asked a woman at the Treadle Yard Goods fabric store what toys her babies had liked. 
She said little babies like toys small enough for their tiny hands, with smiling faces in contrasting light-and-dark colors that they can see (we can't see very well when we're just new, you know), and loops and tags to finger.

So, I made this little animal (2 in./5 cm) with all that in mind. 
It's the first I've made on my own (no pattern) since I designed and sewed a stuffed cat in sixth grade. 
I think it's an otter?

It's a good way to start learning the basics.

Bears to Come

I got some bears.
They will come in a big box to my house next week.

The eBay auction on these bears closed this morning--I'm amazed I was the only one to bid on them. They were listed individually by an eBayer who doesn't know about bears, she told me when I messaged her for more info. She'd bought the lot at an estate sale because, she said, "I know some people collect them". 

Yes, indeed. 
I've been reading up on bears.  Bears with longer muzzles and front legs are usually older (pre-WWII), and old bears with jointed limbs and mohair fur (even threadbare) are worth more than the $6–$9 + shipping I paid.  

But I don't care about that. Well, I wouldn't have bought them if they'd cost much more, but. I mean, I'm not buying them for their monetary value,
I'm just happy to get bears I like, and I like these ones very much. With their expressiveness, they are the opposite of Beanie Babies. And some of them are quite small––barely 8 in./20 cm, seated, the size I like best.

What am I going to do with them?
I don't know...
Some of them might need a bit of repair, but I don't think I'd change any up much, they're so complete in themselves. I think I'll just learn from them, for a while.

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: Stephanie Metz's Unnatural History of the Teddy Bear

Here's the wonderful needle-felted sculpture "Fetal Development of a Teddy Bear" by Stephanie Metz, who also does teddy bear skulls, and more--her website:

Interview with Metz:
“I have kind of become known for the teddy bear skulls in certain circles…. Again, I love the way people steer nature. Think about a bear: A real bear could eat you, and yet we made it like an infant, made it cute and emphasized all the qualities that make it look like a human infant—a huge forehead, huge eyes, a little muzzle—and we dress them in clothes, and we give them little bowties and things. It’s a way to manipulate the natural world around us.”

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fry & Laurie on Language

Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry talk about "The Flexibility of Language" (on YouTube). Thanks, bink, for sending this to me!

From episode 1.2 of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, 1989––hilarious and real.
I think the 21st century has shown whether English in the UK is "capable" of supporting demagoguery now (not to say in the 1930s). (No one would have asked that of American English.)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

My Thimble: WCCO/CBS 1939 (Franken Resigns)

I found this thimble in a $3.99 grab-bag at Goodwill. I didn't want any of the other things, so I gave the rest back.
The thimble is imprinted with the date 1939 and the call letters of a still-broadcasting Minneapolis radio station, WCCO, an affliate of CBS since 1922.

Wow--I just clicked on WCCO's site and see Minnesota Senator Al Franken is resigning, though he says he is not guilty. Well, even if that's true, good for him for falling on his sword––since indubitably guilty parties who have no sense of honor or compassion will not.

But... shouldn't there be some due process for handling this flood of cases of and accusations of sexual abuse? I mean, why should someone like Franken resign while others of egregious behavior blithely carry on????
Franken said, “I of all people am aware that there is some irony that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape that his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party”.

Uh, anyway, I thought the thimble was a commemorative––maybe from 1989? But no, I looked it up: it is an aluminum advertising thimble, super common in the 1930s & '40s (like cardboard needle books too). Ones without dates go for around five bucks.

Amazingly, I found this blip, online (THANK YOU INTERNET): "Thimbles for All", in Broadcasting Magazine, September 15, 1939, reporting the WCCO radio booth gave away 30,000 such thimbles during the 1939 Minnesota State Fair–– at the same time Nazi Germany was beginning its invasion of Poland...
I was going to save this historic thimble, but then I thought--why not get the pleasure of using it? That's what it was intended for.
So I am.

I never used metal thimbles before--they felt so awkward--but I realized they work a lot better than a naked finger for pushing needles through thick seams on stuffed animals.

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: Found Photo, Boy, 1940s

This snapshot "Boy & Stuffed Animals, 1940s" was not, alas, found by me but is for sale for $7 here from RetroGraphique's Etsy site.
(I am debating buying it...*)

*UPDATE: I won the debate: I bought it:
I couldn't get over how the boy's
left hand is supporting his toy.
Also how the boy's feet don't reach the ground.
Also, many of the stuffed animals I'm working with come from this era.

Three Smalls

I'm restoring the face of this small (6 in. / 15 cm tall) stuffed animal.
What is it? 
It is itself!

I embroidered a replacement eye, and I rebuilt an ear, etc. 
This morning I'm putting that twist of wire back into the new ear, so it can bend.
(Because of toy work, I bought a wire cutter this past weekend.)

This face is 2 in. (5 cm) tall:

I think this was a carnival prize, probably from before the late-1950s when child-proof eyes came in and toy safety laws required them. Low-quality at the time, charming now.

This is my table this morning:

Yellow bear is probably another cheaply made carnival prize.
The black bear cub, left, which dried overnite on a spatula handle, was one of many (many) such bears sold at the Yellowstone Park gift shop in the 1960s. Also cheaply made, in Japan.

You can see it put a scrap from Art Sparker on its head while its ears dried on utensils beside it. (It's cold here: 9ºF (–12ºC) this morning.)

I'd washed its red plastic collar---sort of weird to me that they put collars on these wild bear toys---and then Marz dropped by and said just what I was thinking, that it didn't want the collar. 
So the collar went to be a belt for blue and white animal.
You can find lots on these Yellowstone souvenir bears online.
I paid $5 for this one, a bit much for one that was falling apart, but I like them falling apart, you know---then I get to rebuild them.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Chickens, Before & After

Repair on our father's stuffed chickens for my sister was held up because I had to go to the independent fabric store Treadle Yard Goods in Saint Paul to buy wool felt to rebuild the rooster's beak ––which I finally did yesterday (a bit of a trek on the bus).

Rooster Taouk BEFORE:

Hen Livia (rebuilt comb and eye) and Taouk AFTER:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: John Betjemin's Archie

The things I'm learning, among the stuffed animals.
For instance, E. M. Forster used his Oxford contemporary John Betjemin's stuffed bear Archie (Archibald Ormsby-Gore) as the model for Sebastian Flyte's bear Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited, which (the early '80s BBC version) riveted me when I was twenty.

“If it could only be like this always—always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper,” Sebastian says to Charles. 

(I dare not rewatch it for fear I would roll my eyes and start assigning the characters DSM mental disorders... Though I would understand the Catholic references now, which were entirely lost on me then.)

Betjeman had a stuffed elephant, Jumbo, too.

Archie & Jumbo are on display at St. Pancras station, London, which Betjeman helped save in the 1960s--where you catch the train for the continent now (via Paris Review).
So, I thought about staying at the St. Pancras Hotel when I'm in London this coming spring, but it's £250  *cough cough* per night.

Betjeman wrote an uncutesy poem about his bear, "Archibald", that ends: 
And if an analyst one day
Of school of Adler, Jung, or Freud
Should take this agèd bear away,
Then, oh my God, the dreadful void!
Its draughty darkness could but be
Eternity, Eternity.
I got half my literary culture when I was younger from British TV.
I first heard of Betjeman when David Brent (Ricky Gervais) hilariously criticized  his poem "Slough" in the British Office.
"And they made him a knight of the realm. Overrated."

The Full Bear

It cracks me up how Red Hair Girl photobombed the old bear I re-faced yesterday, Melchior* (for Advent). 

I made Melchior's front paw pads from a lavender wool sweater by Eileen Fisher. My sister and I found three of these sweaters, tags attached, in our mother's apartment after she died around winter solstice fifteen years ago. Presumably our mother had bought one for herself and one each for us. 

I wore mine practically ever day for the next five winters, until the sleeves started to fray. Then I felted it but have never used it till now.  

* Melchior is the oldest of the magi, and is supposed to have a white beard, but when I asked the bear which name it liked best, he chose Melchior---I think because of the association with honey (Latin, mel). 
Melchior needs a camel, I think. And a couple magi friends...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

This is the bear I was looking for.

I've been working all day, into the evening, remaking a stuffed bear's face [earlier post].

Modern stuffed animals aren't much like actual animals anyway, but this bear's original face was an atrocity of cuteness so perverse it had turned its nose upside down.
There was no way this bear could eat grubs, or anything else.

I really hated it, which gave me permission to finally change up a stuffed animal in a big way. Until now I've (mostly) liked each animal as it was and just mopped up things that needed it, and put in new stuffing. 

I reshaped this bear's nose and reattached it,
and I relocated the original eyes, with wool felt circles behind them. That left a muzzle-sized hole that I covered with a piece of Loden green felted wool that Art Sparker had sent me, stitched on with lavender floss.

This is the sort of transformation I'd envisioned bringing about but wasn't sure I could. 

I don't have good light to take photos at night, but I'm too excited to show how it turned out to wait until daylight, so here's a not-quiet-accurate photo:

Below L to R: Bear BEFORE& AFTER
The new old bear:

Re-Do Bear Face

This is the bear I posted inside-out yesterday. I actually disliked this bear's face (it had come paired w/ another bear I'd wanted). 
I decided to take a risk and cut out and reshape its features--my biggest challenge yet.
So far, so good!

This is the original face--with eyes close together, ridiculous eyelashes, and upturned snoot: 

P.S. And here's how it turned out: AFTER

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: Starsky and Hutch

My S/H supplier Mortmere sent me this screencap of a stuffed dog on top of Starsky's fridge, sort of like the one I rescued recently.
The set designers on that show put a lot of stuff around, including toys (the detectives have a piggy bank on their desk, for instance)--and Mortmere is a detective of it.  
The dog is never mentioned, it's just there... Starsky was born around 1943, so the toy could be from his childhood.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Inside Out

In general, my philosophy of stuffed-animal repair is Do the Least.

But I only apply it to toys I like just as they are, that have their own integrity. Others I'm wanting to re-form a bit... or even a lot.

These two stuffed animals that arrived from eBay today have an insipid 1960s mass-marketed look, right-side out. I think they come from a time when toys started to tie-in to TV and advertising.
When I turned them inside out to get all their stuffing out, however, they came to life. Depending on how they clean up, I'll experiment with remaking them, outside in.
(If nothing else, I should do a photo series.)

Lassie's Mrs. Martin on Julia Child

Michael at Orange Crate Art has written another Lassie fanfiction that marries subtlety and absurdity, "Bon Appétit", in which Julia Child visits Lassie's family and cooks with Mrs. Martin (June Lockhart).
Once again, I feel a photo might be a welcome addition.

After the visit, I'd warrant Mrs. Martin is invited to guest star on Mrs. Child's show. It seems she froze on camera, however, and the episode was never aired.

Photo collage ^ by me 
(and here's an earlier one with Robert Frost)

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: London 1945

Boy orphaned in a bombing raid on London holds a stuffed animal, 1945, photo by Toni [Antoinette] Frissell

Frissell said of this picture [via]:  
“I was told he had come back from playing and found his house a shambles—his mother, father and brother dead under the rubble...
This photograph was [later] used by IBM to publicize a show in London. The boy grew up to become a truck driver after the war, and walking past the IBM offices, he recognized his picture”.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

STOP with the Beanie Babies!

I have overdosed on eBay listings of stuffed animals:
93% of them LOOK THE SAME!!!

Every single Beanie Baby has the exact same expression, and none of them are worth more than $1.99 (if that)--they are just another '90s bubble. Even the value of the Princess beanie, much to sellers' regret, has not benefited from Dianna's death––because the Ty Corporation made 5 billion of them or something.
[H. Could they have taken their name from Blade Runner's Tyrell Corporation, which makes replicants???]

Here is my basket of mended old toys, in the process of getting outfits.
Aren't the pink glass eyes on the panda great? Along with the scraps of fabric, they came in the mail from Art Sparker! [her Etsy]
Panda's old eyes couldn't be restored, but now it has these new antique ones.
Panda is very happy and says the eyes provide night vision!

The faded blue terrier will have a matchingly faded ribbon to wear when it goes to auction tomorrow to raise money for terrier rescue.
(Putting new fabrics next to old fur often doesn't look so good.)

Marz picked up the basket and started to sing,
"We're on the island of misfit toys..." as if she were in Metallica.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: Orange Crate Creature

EBay is showing me endless stuffed animals designed to be as sweet and boring as marshmallows. But once in a while comes one that perks up your ears––sometimes simply because it's from another country.

Russian toys, for instance.
I just discovered Cheburashka---an animal of no known species. His name means tumbled or toppled, because he got into a crate of oranges in his unnamed home country, ate a bunch, fell asleep, and when a workman opened the crate up in Moscow, the little animal was so startled he tumbled to the floor.

This is a drawing of Cheburashka [Wikipeida] from the original book (1966):

There are many, many toy and media versions of Cheburashka, and he is often depicted with oranges:

I finally realized I did know this character---Russia used a  marshmallow-ified bear-like version as an Olympic mascot.

Scrubbed, Fluffed, & Stuffed

Not really "scrubbed"––gently swished in a sinkful of sudsy cold water––but definitely fluffed with a vacuuming and stuffed with new stuff, and the formerly rather squashed bear I posted a couple days ago is feeling like a whole new bear: