Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers

Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers
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Saturday, February 9, 2019

Custom Order #18 ... Work In Progress

For Cathy

I have two mink garments to work from. While they are both brown the jacket is just a little lighter shade of brown. The original request was for two teddies but the pattern choice was left up to me ... of course, if you leave it up to me I will make one of each. So I need to verify with Cathy if she has a preference on the pattern and if she wants me to use both minks or just one. If I use just one I prefer to use the stole because the pelt is solid which is gives a smoother look to the teddies. 

I'm starting on the fabric pattern while I wait for Cathy's reply ....

I got a quick reply from Cathy and she decided that she would like two teddies from Pattern #2 and if possible to use the stole for both.


I cut up the stole 
and I was wrong ...
it isn't a solid pelt afterall.
As you can see it is a lot of little strips of mink sewn together.

It is a small stole so, at this point, I'm not sure that here is enough pelt for two teddies.

When I lay out the pattern I have to be aware of the direction that the hairs grow.

I can't hardly believe it but I managed to get all the pattern pieces on the stole's small pelt ... just barely. I had to switch some pieces in order to make everything fit. It was like putting together a puzzle.

Next, I have to cut out each piece. Then I have to trim the edges around each piece. This can be very messy ... I work over a trash-can to try to catch most of the scraps.

each piece has been cut out

I cut the seam allowance around each piece.

Now I can start sewing.

Just a side note: I was hoping to work on this order on a regular schedule (hopefully daily) ... but life gets in the way ... recently both my daughter and son-in-law were very sick with the flu. Fortunately, they both had their flu shots this year so my son-in-law recovered in less than two weeks. Unfortunately, since my daughter has Cystic Fibrosis she ended up with pneumonia and is currently on strong IV antibiotics. Since she has a port-a-cath in her chest she did not have to go into the hospital ... so I put on my mommy-nurse hat and I help with her infusions 5 times a day. And if that wasn't enough, my cat, Gypsy, got sick! I've spent the last two days in the vet's office. She had to have a procedure where she was sedated. She had labs that showed that she has an infection but they were not sure where. So she had to have an ex-ray today that showed that she had kidney stones. Well, $800 later, I finally went home with Gypsy, new cat food to help dissolve the stones, and antibiotics.  Whew!!! Sorry, if this order is taking longer than I wanted but ... life gets in the way.

Lots of hand-sewing! Both teddies are sewn and now I have to clean up the seam lines, turn the pieces, prepare the armature, and stuff each piece ...

one bear body ....

two bear bodies ....

two bear heads ....

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Custom Mink Twin Teddies

For Debra (order #17)

to see lots of photos of these teddies

The see me making these teddies just take a look at the post below.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Work in Progress ... Custom Order #17

For Debra M.
from her family's vintage blond mink stole
to be transformed into 2 custom teddy bears
using pattern #1

(I will also use the name in the lining to make a sitting pad/quilt for the teddies) 

I had intended on starting on this order a month ago but I was having trouble with my vision. After several trips to the doctors and a variety of treatments, I am able to see what I am doing again. After 30 years of bear-making I could probably make a teddy with "my eyes closed" but since I am using someone else's mink stole I did not want to risk making a lop-sided bear. So now ... back to work!!!

This is Debra's family mink stole.
I don't have a lot to work with because it is on the small size
with a small collar.

Debra wants to save the embroidered name
so I will make my usual little sitting quilt to display with the teddies.

Unfortunately this mink stole was not the in best condition BUT
fortunately the stole was only falling apart along the seam lines.
The pelt, for the most part, seems to be holding up pretty well. 
Of course, the real test comes when the teddy is all sewn together
and I start to stuff it ... I've actually had borderline condition pelts SHRED APART when I start of stuff. Now THAT is frustrating to say the least.

The fur is a very pretty blond color.

Before I lay out my pattern pieces I have to figure out the direction of the hairs.

What I really like about this particular mink stole is that the pelt is solid, as opposed to a lot of little pieces of mink sewn together.

I've deconstructed the mink stole and laid out my pattern pieces. And as I expected I have NO room for error ... there is JUST enough mink pelt for the two requested teddies.

These are the pattern pieces cut out, there about 60 pieces.

Each pattern piece has to have the seam line trimmed about 1/8 inch all around.

Here are all the pattern pieces, organized, trimmed, and 
ready to start the hand-sewing.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas and New Year holidays ... the holidays definitely got in the way of my sewing schedule. Well, to be honest I did very little sewing over the Holidays ...

But now I'm getting back on track:

all sewn up ... finally

cleaning up the seams

These are the steps that I do next to complete each arm and leg:

  1. stitched arms and legs turned to outside
  2. cotter pin joints added
  3. wire armatures added
  4. stuffed
  5. opening stitched closed with a hidden ladder stitch
  6. turn body to outside 
  7. attach completed arms and legs to body with cotter pin joints
  8. stuff head
  9. attach neck
  10. stuff neck
  11. complete head by scissor sculpting face, add glass eyes, embroider nose then wax nose and seal it, finish scissor sculpting face
  12. attach completed head to body
  13. stuff body and close opening with hidden stitches
  14. sew on ears
  15. hand-paint face
  16. do final detailing

Thankfully everyone on my waiting list is very patient ... as you can see each and every mink teddy that I hand-make is very very time consuming.

Well, back to work ...

eyes and nose attached
starting to scissor sculpt the face

This is one little face ...

this is the other.

Now just have to attach the bodies and
do the finishing touches.

All finished!
I also finished to little quilt from the stole's lining with the original owner's name.

Now I just have to finish the final photos of the teddies and I will introduce them in the next post ...

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Teddy has a companion puppy ...

Custom Teddy #15 finally has a puppy as a companion:

It has been a few years since I've made a Teddy-Puppy set and I'm remembering why I designed them ... because they are absolutely ADORABLE!!!!

Someday I'm going to have to make myself one of these sets ... someday.

To see more photos and a description of this wonderful pair please

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Puppy for Custom Teddy #15

I had originally (before I restricted my Custom Work to teddies only) promised a companion puppy with Custom Teddy #15...

They did not have a contrasting colored mink stole to send me for the puppy so I will be using one of my light colored mink stoles.

"Companion Puppy"
As you can see in the photo above, 
I designed my puppy to be smaller than my teddy bear.
Due to the small size I need to find a mink with short dense hairs 
and a full pelt (and not the typical mink with pelts that are
sewn together in tiny strips)

This is the mink that I found in my supplies ... it is beautiful!

it is a very pale beige ... or possibly an ivory color.

it has beautifully dense hairs.

and best of all, it is a full pelt.

I have to mark the direction of the growth of the
mink hairs on the back of the pelt ...
then I have to lay out the pattern accordingly.

I have no doubt that I purchased this mink stole with the intention of it becoming a series of pandas ... or polar bears ... and with the remainder of this stole, after this puppy, I will be looking forward to finding some time to making more pandas or polar bears or mice or bunnies with this beautiful mink stole.

*** Update ***

30 little pattern pieces, cut out and trimmed
 ... ready for hand sewing ...

Teddy is patiently waiting for it's puppy to be finished. It is getting closer: it is in 3 pieces now (rather than 30). The head, the body with legs, and the neck. The adorable white dog watching me work is my daughter's sweet dog, Tenley ... actually she wants me to STOP working and play ball with her instead.

I forgot how much work my little dogs and teddies were to create because I can only sew them by hand (the seam allowance is about 1/8 of an inch). Every seam has to be precise or the puppy or teddy will not look symmetrical. It a challenge! I'm pretty sure that is why my teddies started getting larger as I got older. Not that an 11 inch teddy is large but it is large for me because in the 1990s the typical sizes of my mink teddies was between 3 to 8 inches!!! 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Custom Order #16 for Pat

Laughing Dog

To see more photos and details 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Challenge ... AKA: Custom Order #16

Work in Progress 
Custom Order #16
(this should be an interesting WIP to watch progress)

Custom Order #16 comes from my long time friend-collector, Pat. She may live on the other side of the world from me but she has always taken great joy in continually challenging me with her Custom Order requests. And Custom Order #16 is no exception. While I am currently limiting my Custom Order to teddy bears only. Pat personally handed this mink to me way back in 2012 while she was visiting Laguna Beach. My long time friends know that they can request anything (not that I will agree to make it but they can ask). For example, Pat just asked me for a dog ... with teeth. I've never made anything with teeth and don't plan to, so I agreed to make her a dog with an open mouth.

This is what I have to work with:
I have scraps. Originally she gave me a mink stole and asked me to make her a bunny. Which I did but she didn't like the bunny. So someone else adopted it and I kept the scraps until she decided what else she wanted.
It's unlikely that there is enough usable mink scraps for a larger dog so I will use some of my mink.
I won't be able to match the color exactly but hopefully it will be a close match.


This is my pattern of my larger dog
Standing size: 10 inches
Sitting size: 8 inches

Pat wants her dog with an open mouth, 
this is an example of one of my smaller (6 inch) dogs.
So I will have to make some adjustments to my 10 inch dog pattern.

These are the scraps that I have to work with from Pat:

I cut out my liner pattern pieces:

In my mink supplies I found a mink that is just a little lighter in color.
As you can see ... I have one of Pat's scraps across the front of my mink.

This is the main reason that I want to use some of my mink ... the pelts from Pat's scraps are little strips of mink sewn together while my mink is a solid pelt.

A solid pelt is much easier to sew by hand. I will use my mink for the head and Pat's mink for the rest of the teddy.

I've got the head cut out and ready for sewing.

It's been a few years since I've tried to make a dog ... even longer since I tried to make one with an open mouth.

So far, so good ...