Monday, December 11, 2017

bink, Visible Mending Model

bink mended her favorite winter sweater with some of the turmeric wool from Uruguay that I'm using to darn my blanket. Here she shows off the visible darns.

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

Addendum to my mention of Franken's resignation: Sin Eating and Due Process

I'd rather casually remarked in a recent post that I thought it was good that MN senator Al Franken was resigning due to accusations that he had sexually harassed several women, though he said he hadn't, or not really, or not much, or, anyway, he was sorry if he had. 
Or something.

I wrote that it was good because I was happy––relieved––to see someone in power, anyone, choose to stand on some moral and ethical ground in this bubbling slough, to hear someone say that women are telling the truth and that there should be repercussions, even if that means they themselves take a fall.

It resonated for me theologically, that someone should be a ... a sin-eater. You know those? People who take on the sins of others, to serve the greater good of the community. 

Not to say Franken is a pure-white sheep. I don't know whether Franken is as not-guilty as he claims, but his accusers are not claiming he is guilty of anything like Roy Moore trolling malls for teenage girls. 

(I know the term "sin eater" from the British novel The Sin Eater, by Alice Thomas Ellis.)


In the movie Calvary (2014), an Irish Catholic priest (Brendan Gleeson) faces the choice of playing the role of a sin eater, accepting or not the burden of guilt for priestly child rape of which he is not personally guilty.

Calvary was directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother of Martin McDonagh whose recently released movie Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri deals with similar issues--collective guilt and collective responsibility---and contains a sermon (delivered by the excellent Frances McDormand, who makes you overlook just how very preachy it is) about how you are guilty of the reprehensible acts of your gang, whether you did the act or not. 

(May I just interject here that while Three Billboards tells a terrific story, the director's earlier film In Bruges is a much better movie, as a movie? 
However, Billboards has STUFFED ANIMALS in it!!!)

[End of Digression]

BUT . . . . 
First, I'm not sure Franken was choosing to make that sort of sacrifice. 
Looks like he was mostly bowing to pressure from his party, right?

And, politically & secularly more important,
I'm concerned that reports of sexual misbehavior from mild to horrific are taking effect willy-nilly.
This is bad.
There should be some due process for handling this flood of accusations of sexual abuse.

My default is certainly to believe the accusations of sexual misbehavior and abuse of power (because I know how normal such behavior is).
And yet, why should Franken resign when there has been no investigation?

His behavior seems to have tended toward sophomoric rather than criminal, while others who proudly wave their slimy paws blithely carry on---but that's not the point:

My point is, EVERYONE should get due process, whether I like them or not, and no matter how slimy and how believable the accusations against them are. 
Because that's how we get civilization to work.
Otherwise we're back to blood vendettas... And gratifying as those may be, they leave the ground slippery for everyone.

Due process is most important for elected representatives.
The entertainment industry does not represent me---if the muckety-mucks in Hollywood & Co. want to fire people, as if they're shocked by behavior they've ignored for decades, well... that's more of a... um...

Well, actually, I think there should be due process there too, but in Capitalism, business is a bit different than Political Representation. 

Uh, yes. So, while theologically and artistically I like the story of the sin eater, I don't actually want my civilization to run on those lines.
I want all that rational stuff the US Constitution set up: checks and balances and juries of peers, not bloody ruminants cast into the wilderness.

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:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Next Up... [Before and After Button-Eyed Bear]

Most of the stuffed animals I'm refreshing are guests--they intend to move along after their treatments, but I think this Bear may be here to stay.

I was photographing a couple things for eBay---that's why there's a measuring tape on the chair.  This Bear just came from eBay, but its seller hadn't taken very thorough photographs for its listing, so it wanted an official BEFORE photo:

Bear is in good shape--will just be getting a bath and new stuffing (because the old stuff is a breeding ground of wee microscopic beasties).

"AFTER" UPDATE (2 days later):

My eBay

I spent ALL afternoon listing 2 things on eBay. If I keep doing this, it won't take me quite as long in the future, but I had to read all of the instructions and everything. 
Have you done it? 
Turns out it's pretty easy--[a useful article for beginners]:
set up an eBay and PayPal accounts, and then click on "sell" to upload photos & write description--that's about it.

Then I futzed forever getting photos, doing research (!) and writing descriptions--a lot like creating a blog post, in fact. 
That won't get any faster, because I like doing it--both the visuals and the research. So much fascinating cultural history is tied up in things. I've never paid much attention before, generally being more into words.

eBay cracks me up though: you don't have to do ANY research, and some don't.
The description of the lot of Dream Pets and a vintage bear (I wanted the bear) wrote exactly this:

"this stuff looks pretty old to me"

And photos can be pretty thin on the ground too: a couple of beat-up bears were posed lying down on a piece of torn cardboard, and there was only that 1 photo.

I used up 11 of 12 allotted photos per list for this Spanish molded-felt doll. > > >

She was made by Barcelona doll-maker Roldan, who made dolls as souvenirs in the 1950–'60s.
 (There's a tag on her dress and I looked it up.)

She's dressed in the traditional costume of Segovia. (I looked that up too.)

I'd bought her at Goodwill for a dollar, intending to re-use the fabric of her dress for my toys, 
but when I looked closer, the skill and craft was too impressive to cut up. 

The tiny jewelry especially is exquisite: 
little faux-pearls set in gold cups for earrings, gold-wire necklace, beads-and-wire rosary. 
She's very expressive, as you can see.
I also listed one of the Dream Pets, from 1977.

I called it a "holiday reindeer fawn" >
because, you know, it's the holidays, right?

It's only $3.99 (plus shipping, which is sadly almost as much), 
so if it sells––
will it? I have no idea––
I will make... 
um, I guess a couple dollars, after eBay's cut and the dollar I had to spend buying it when I didn't want it.

Oh, the intrigue...! 

But it's fun,
considering there was nothing else I needed to be doing today,
if you don't count the Thanksgiving Day dishes soaking in the sink.

Which I am going to do NOW---or else there will be no room to bathe the new Bear!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

"My children..."; Mourning Art

I am overdue to post some mourning art for mass killings, as I'd intended to do. I can't keep up--I'd need a whole other blog.

I actually hadn't seen the news until I got here to the coffee shop and saw the front page in the newspaper box.
You know. The mosque bombing in Egypt [in the NYT].
"On Saturday, Egypt’s top prosecutor, Nabil Sadek, said in a statement that the death toll had risen and included at least 27 children.
"Mayna Nasser, 40, who was shot twice in the shoulder, drifted in and out of consciousness as he was rushed to a hospital. 'My children were there; my children were there,' he said, according to Samy, a volunteer emergency worker..."
So I went looking for some mourning embroidery, and found instead this Victorian-era painting of a little girl, Effie Elmer, with her doll and pet lamb and cat. 
She was dead when it was painted--it's a memorial, painted by her father, Edwin Romanzo Elmer, c. 1875. That's him and Effie's mother wearing mourning black, in the background. They're in Massachusetts.


ABOVE: "Mourning Picture" by Edwin Elmer, ca. 1875,  at Smith College Museum of Art

Pointy Points

The Stuffed Needy Animal Repair Project is all fun and games until someone gets tetanus.

I stopped to remember if I'd had a shot recently, when I scratched myself on a metal wire removing some old stuffing. And look at these prongs holding panda's googly eyes on:

I've removed these cloudy eyes to see if I can do cataract surgery on them, and also so I can soak panda overnite in borax & dishsoap--one of the recommendations for getting the yellow out. 
I'm dubious that anything will whiten these old polyesters, but I'm going to try everything of low-toxicity.

Panda has bravely volunteered to be the test bear for this.
If I can't clear its eyes, I'd like to replace them with the same kind, but, as you may not be surprised to hear, I cannot find any of these toy pronged eyes for sale.

Dream Boat

I went Black Friday sale shopping, on purpose––I think for the first time: it was a half-off day at Goodwill. 
I got a sweater for Red Bear for 50¢. I was going to cover over "NAVY", but she likes it, promptly declaring she is captain of the ship (the sieve-like basket).

Currently, the other toys on the boat are guests, here only temporarily, having come in an eBay lot with Macy bear. Most of them are Dream Pets (by Dakin) from the 1960s, made in Japan of velveteen, stuffed tight with sawdust.

The Dream Pets don't need any restoration, and they're too flighty for me (I prefer a more ponderous bear): 
my plan is to sell them individually on eBay, when I get up to speed with that, and before I get too attached to them. Because they are intriguing mid-century specimens, from the era of Star Trek, which had a lot of Dream Petting going on...

Friday, November 24, 2017

Terrier, Transformed (now with patterns)

BEFORE (I only bought this stuffed dog because it was being sold online with a just-as-beat-up old bear I wanted.)

Since it's mine now, and since it is some sort of terrier, I went ahead and gave it the spa treatment (bath in sink + vacuum fluffing + new stuffing). Turns out, it was once a bright blue.
The ribbon stank, and it shredded I washed it, so out it went.  I sewed the ears to provide definition (they were like one mountain range). 

AFTER: With its new eyes, it spies another terrier:

The idea is, both of these terriers ^ will go to the next online auction to raise money for Terrier Rescue (live terriers, that is).

Dating the Dog
This dog was handmade--you can tell by the hand-stitching inside, and there's no label either. Its original eyes were distinctly non-childproof: they are held on with sharp prongs (that puncture the cloth), like the pointy grips that hold a gem in a ring setting. 

I found a couple McCall and Simplicity sewing patterns for dogs that looks similar, from the 1930s–40s. The U.S. started making polyester after WWII, and the toy's blue plush is definitely some petroleum-based synthetic, so I'm guessing this terrier might be from the 1950s?