Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers

Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers
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Saturday, February 8, 2020

Work in Progress for Custom Order 20

For Donna

This is the Family Heirloom full length very very dark brown mink coat.

It is beautiful!

It has wonderful detailing, like these buttons.

The teddies from this coat should be exquisite.

The lining has beautiful velvet ribbon detailing.

I LOVE the buttons! 
They will definitely go home with the teddies to wear.

The only problem with very very dark colored mink is that visually some of the details that I traditionally do on my teddies, like the hand-painting and the black glass eyes, won't be as noticeable. In fact, on these teddies I won't hand paint their faces because you would not be able to see it. 

This is the backside of the pelts and they look to be in great condition.

Hopefully I will be able to find 2 Mother-Daughter sets and 3 - 11 inch teddies hiding in this coat. That is a total of 7 bears. I am not anticipating any problems with finding that many but I won't know for sure until I cut out and then lay out the lining-pattern pieces for all 7 teddies.

Feb 15 UPDATE:

Each teddy requires 31 pattern pieces
I have prepared 217 pattern pieces for all 7 teddies

Next step is to:
 (1) take the coat apart
(2) lay out all of the pattern pieces on the mink pelts
(3) gently glue each pattern piece down

I plan on cutting out and completing one teddy at a time.

APRIL 29, 2020

Well, here we all are ... in a PANDEMIC !!!  

So it should come as no surprise that I have been totally distracted from making teddies.  

My daughter has Cystic Fibrosis and while she is doing quite well at the age of 32 there is no question that her lungs are fragile and this virus would definitely be fatal to her. And since both my husband and I are seniors we are also high risk. We live in Los Angeles county which has been a hard hit hot spot for Covid-19 with over 1000 people dead and many thousands testing positive including some of our neighbors. So we have been staying home and having all of our groceries and other essential items delivered. We wear our masks and gloves when we do HAVE to go out. We even wear our masks to walk our dogs in the neighborhood. We have resigned ourselves to this being our life style for the next year or two ... fortunately we are all very happy Home-bodies who love being home! We love to read, work around the house and garden, and we all have hobbies. I have been enjoying getting back to my first love of drawing and painting. Being home is our Happy Place, so my little family is content.

Now the update on this large custom order:

I had to wait for a warm sunny day to work outside because this part is very messy.

The photo above is the coat cut open and the lining removed.

It took a couple of days to glue the pattern pieces of all 7 teddies to the pelts.

Then I started cutting out each mink pattern piece ... that took another couple of days.
Then the weather turned bad again with wind and rain but I managed to get everything cut out before I had to stop working outside.

I will be working on two teddies at a time. 

This is the box full of the rest of the pattern pieces ... 5 more future teddies.

I think I managed to get all this completed by the end of March. And here we are now at the end of April and I have not touched the teddies yet this month because everyday living just got in the way.  My cat got sick and required several trips to the vet and daily treatments 5 times a day. She is fine now. The great sunny Southern California weather has finally arrived which means that I spend most of my time in my beloved garden where there is always something that needs tending to. And then there are the masks that are now required here in California. Of course, I started making them for every member of my family. I tried several different patterns until I found a couple of styles that we all liked. Now I am making a wardrobe of masks for my family since we will be mask wearers from now on ... during the pandemic for sure and then during the annual flu season ... from now until forever because it just seems like common sense to us now.

 I am making masks from whatever fabrics I could find around my studio so the masks are quite colorful since those are the fabrics that I collected over the years.

I have 3 dogs and a cat and I will be doing a portrait of each during my time of home isolation. This is a portrait of Marnie our crazy Jack Russel-mix who is our three-legged wonder dog. Our family has a soft spot for "handicapped" dogs after living 19 years with a poodle that was born without eyes.

Okay, that my update on both myself, my family, and this current order. What's next with this order?
  1. I need to trim the seam allowance around each and every pattern piece.
  2. I will machine sew the large pieces like the body and arms and legs
  3. I will hand sew the smaller pieces like the head, ears, paw pads.
  4. Turn the pieces inside out
  5. insert the joints

I will post photos of these steps as I go along ... I will be working on the teddies 2 at a time.

May 6 Update

1. I hand-trimmed a 1/8 to 1/4 inch seam clearance around each pattern piece

2. I clipped together each piece to prepare for machine sewing. I used to completely hand sew each and every teddy that I made because that gave me the best control over the all important stitching. But now that I have arthritis in my fingers I machine sew the larger limbs and hand sew the head and smaller pieces.

3. machine sewing finished.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Finally finished Custom Order #19

For Mary Jo

I appreciate Mary Jo and all of my collectors who are so patiently waiting for me to complete their custom teddies.

To see lots of photos of these teddies

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

WIP Custom Order #19

for Mary Jo

This custom order is for 3 teddies. This is a long shawl and it looks like I should be able to find three teddies hiding in it. One from Pattern 1(mother bear), the next from Pattern 2 (mother bear) and the third from Pattern 1 but this last teddy will have to be my smaller version (daughter bear).

It was requested that there be an initial from the shawl on each teddy foot pad and I will see if they fit.

I will be updating this post with my Work In Progress photos of this three teddy order ... so please check back to see as the teddies are being created.

My first step is to finish taking the shawl apart.
Next, I will make my cotton pattern lining for each teddy.
Then, I will lay out and attach the lining to the pelt ... it is at the end of this step when I will know for sure if I have enough pelt for two mother teddies and one daughter teddy.

Right now,  the only thing I know for sure is that I will have absolutely no room for error. I will have to double and triple check my teddy layout before I start cutting out the mink teddy pieces.

********************UPDATE ... OCT 22, 2019********************

cut out pattern & lining

prepare mink pelts

attach lining pattern pieces

at this point I've cut out the two larger bears
and I'm hoping that there is enough pelt for the smaller bear

I cut out the small bear pattern & lining

Hooray!!! there was enough pelt for the smaller teddy.

Now I have all three teddies cut out.

The next steps are: 
(1) to cut out the seam lining on each pattern piece
(2) to clip the pattern pieces together
(3) to sew the pieces together ... mostly by hand but thanks to arthritis in my fingers I'm going to try sewing also by machine
(4) to clean up the seam lines
(5) to turn each pattern piece

Nov. 6 update
halfway through step 3 (sewing) ...
this is the most time consuming and tedious part
due to the large amount of hand sewing that is required

Dec 8 update

turned and stuffed

jointing together

first teddy with head attached

😟😟😟  Sorry, I was delayed again from my bear-making because my poor sister had to go in for surgery. So I spent a couple of days at the hospital with her. Happy to say that her surgeries were a success but she will be recovering for at least 2 months so I will be helping her when needed. 

In the meantime, I can get back to these teddies who are near completion: they need to have their bodies stuffed and sewn up, their ears sewn on, and the hand-painting on their muzzles. I used a different  heavier embroidery thread on their noses so I will not be waxing their noses. Last I will see if I can get the initials to fit on their paw pads.

😫😫😫😫😫😫😫😫 Update: Jan. 21, 2020 😫😫😫😫😫😫😫
Obviously I did NOT finish these teddies before Christmas ... or before New Years. What can I say? It was the Holidays and I just didn't find any time to work on the teddies. I had high hopes at the beginning of the year that I would be able to get back into my teddy routine. But then my dog suddenly got sick and even with several tests they could not find a reason. After a week or so of medications he was better. But I still wanted to know why he suddenly had tummy troubles so I did some research and I'm convinced that he accidently ate some toxic plants (that I had no idea were toxic if eaten). So I spent the next few days changing my garden (thankfully I have all my plants in containers). All of my toxic plants are now out of reach of my pets.

At this point I expected my problems were out of the way. Nope. Now it was the cat's turn to go to the vet. She has kidney stones. Smooth sailing yet? Not a chance ... now a cold virus is knocking off the members of my family. Not all together but one by one. As soon as one person starts feeling better another gets sick. Last week it was my turn. 

As luck would have it just as I was starting to feel better the plumbing in our old house decides to become a major problem. AAAUGH!!!!! Well, we are currently in the middle of a major plumbing overhaul with old pipes going out and new pipes coming in. I won't mention the expense because its all too depressing.

Believe it or not, I did get some work done on these teddies, despite the chaos. I need to take some photos but they are finished except for the final detail painting and seeing if I can put the initials on the paw pads. Wish me luck.

This is a quick photo of the bears, all completed except for their final detailing. That is our little 3-legged Marnie who thinks that she always needs to be the center of attention. She saw me putting the bears on the chair and just had to join them.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Custom Order #18

Well, this Custom Order took a long long long time to complete due to my home renovations ... I am still not finished with my house "To Do" list; nevertheless, I am trying to get back to working on my teddies. Of course, trying to find the time to get back to my Bear Making Routine is harder than I ever expected. I am also trying to find the time to get back to my First Love of drawing, painting, and sculpting but there just isn't enough time in the day.

To see more photos of these teddies

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

NEVER leave your dog in a hot car !!! I just watched 2 dogs die...

I was on my way home from the art supply store and had no plans on stopping by my favorite thrift store (to look for things I could use on my hummingbird water fountain) but I thought I would make it a fast stop. It's a small store so I was only in there a few minutes but just as I was leaving a frantic woman came rushing into the store screaming that she had left her dog locked in her car while she was  shopping and she could not get into her car. I just happened to be parked next to her so I ran to her car window to see a pit bull obviously dead from the heat. I don't know where her keys were but she picked up a huge rock and started throwing it at her window to try to break it ... it wouldn't break. I went to my glove box in my car and found the "window breaker" that my daughter had given me at least 15 years ago ...

to my surprise, one hit with this little thing and her window shattered! The woman came and pulled her dog out of the car (right onto the broken glass ... it had been dead so long that it's legs were already stiff). I'm screaming at her not to pull her dog into the broken glass. Next thing I know she is going into the back seat of the car and pulled out another dog (I had only seen one dog so I was surprised to see a second pit bull). She pulled it across the pavement and tossed it onto the grass (poor dog hit it's head on the big rock that she had tried to break the window with ... so I'm screaming at her to stop). Then she runs back towards the thrift store and I'm trying to give the dog chest compressions because I can see that it is not dead yet. So the woman comes back with a garden hose and starts spraying the dog with water ... I'm screaming at her again to stop because I was afraid that the dog would go into shock. She did stop, so I had her do the chest compressions and talk to the dog. The police arrived (3 or 4 cars), a police officer took over the chest compressions and another woman came to help him but the dog died. Animal control arrived. And the paramedics arrived, the woman was a complete wreck by now and needed medical attention.

I was there for about 2 hours since I was the main witness, I broke her window, and tried to revive the dog. I had to give my information to several officers. The woman told the police that she was only in the Thrift Store for 20 minutes and she swears that she left the air conditioner on in the car for the dog (all the windows were up and the car was locked). She was blaming the dogs by saying that they must have turned it off somehow. The store volunteers that were outside watching told me that she was in store about 2 hours (yes, they told the officers the truth about the time). The animal control officer told me that they could do testing on the animals to see the temperature that they died from and then they would be able to charge her with a crime depending on what they found.

Two beautiful dogs lost their lives in a horrible painful way ... for no reason.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

I have a studio!!! I'm finally getting back to work ...

Well, after my last post ... way back in May ... I found that I was much too optimistic about finding the time, space, and supplies to work on my mink teddies. It has taken me this long to finish building my storage cabinets, unload and sort through my supplies (bear making supplies, drawing and painting supplies, sculpting supplies, airbrush supplies, silk painting supplies, wood burning supplies ... and other various arts and crafts supplies). Then I had to organize a space for each and label their location. Of course, after filling all of my storage spaces I then had to decorate the doors. Yes, my studio is full but it is organized.

I had maybe 3 or 4 times as much before the reorganization. I made multiple trips to make donations. And I filled 11 trash bags ... yes, eleven ... full of scraps of mink that I had been holding onto for the past 30 years. Even with getting rid of all that I still have a closet full of mink stoles and coats for future teddies.

The arthritis in my fingers has been bothering me from the stress of building and moving things. So I decided to get back into teddy making gradually by finishing some mohair teddies that I found in my old storage boxes (working with mohair is so much easier than mink pelts).

I also need to figure out a new place to do my photo shoots ... this is my first attempt at a new location indoors with two lights set up:

 These are the mohair teddies that I have completed recently. They range in size from two inches to eight inches. The two light colored teddies in the middle are my designs and the others were unfinished bears from teddy bear conventions ... I would sign up for classes taught by other artists but I would spend most of my class time socializing instead of bear making. That resulted in a box full of unfinished teddies but I always had a good time because it was something to do until the showroom opened and I had to go to work selling my teddies.

One wall of my studio

The opposite wass of my studio

My desk with the same two custom teddies from my last post still waiting to be finished.

I share my studio space with my cat, Gypsy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

My unplanned hiatus from teddy bear making...

Fortunately, unlike my previous unplanned breaks from making my teddy bears (those were for illnesses or injuries), this hiatus was due to ... if you are a homeowner you will understand when I say "home renovation". I had no idea that it would be a total disruption to our normal routines and a major decluttering of our house. Well, if it was "just" a house it would have been easier but it is also my studio/work area.

Needless to say home renovations are exhausting. After a day of decluttering, making many trips to my favorite Thrift stores to make donations, cleaning, painting, repairing, and reorganizing I typically fall asleep as soon as I sit down. We had some minor construction done to our house so our decluttering was on a deadline, so I had to stop working on my bears and start moving furniture and lots of clutter away from our walls before the professionals arrived. Since we live in sunny Southern California I brilliantly moved half of the contents of my workroom in the backyard ... so, of course, we are getting rained on ... rain!!! we used to be in a drought. Anyway, I could go on and on but I finally found the supplies I need to finish the detailing on these two teddies. I actually got them to this point over a month ago and they have been patiently waiting to be completed ever since. My sincere apologies to their future owner for the very long delay.

To be  perfectly honest, all of this home renovation has become so stressful that I am really looking forward to carving out some time to work on my teddies because I find it calming and relaxing.