Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers

Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers
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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Spellbinding Witch ...

I treated myself to another sculpting class from my friend and favorite artist, Kathy Davis. This was her Candlestick Witch class. I took it with my other friend, Gloriana, who is also a doll artist. I'm just a wannabe. Sculpting clay is  good therapy for my sore finger so I'm going to try to do a little more when taking a break from sewing my bears.

As you can see we sculpted the top part of a witch on a candlestick ... so no legs or feet. I opted not to make her a traditional witch hat and instead gave her this cool spider web scarf to wrap around her head.

I had sooooo much fun ... and learned a lot too!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Work in Progress ... Custom Order #12

For Mary Anne:
2 teddies using pattern #1

A beautiful full length mink coat ...
more than enough for two of my little teddies.
Depending on how I cut out the patterns
there will be lots of pelt for other mink projects.

The strips of pelts are a little slimmer than I prefer but there is so much to choose from that I'm sure that I will find enough wide strips to make two beautiful heirloom teddy bears.

cutting the lining off the pelts

I found the leather belt in a pocket so I will be using the leather for the paw pads instead of the lining.
Well, after removing the lining I found the the pelt strips were thin thoughout ... from just 1 1/2 inches to 2 1/2 inches with fabric strips inbetween each pelt...

These are even thinner strips at the top of the coat ... no fabric but the strips are only about one inch
I'm looking for full pelts (as opposed to tiny little strips sewn together). You can see both examples in this photo.
I am finding small bits of full pelts like this one ... which is the front collar.
This is the back of the collar ... where they typically hide pelts pieces that are not the best so I probably won't be using this.
This shows why I don't like the thin strips ... my pattern pieces don't fit ...
and, as you can see, the fabric will show on the teddy once it is turned and stuffed.

I love the color ... it looks gray in the photo but it is a wonderful taupe. Taupe is considered to be intermediate shade between dark brown and gray, which shares similar attributes of both colors.

This will be the first Custom Order that I will be making since my hand injury in March. Even with all weeks of hand therapy my finger is still not 100% and probably never will be ... but I am soooo ready to start making teddies again. I tried to start this order earlier this month BUT my mother is 94 years old and I am her primary caregiver. She had a few issues that had to be resolved and taking care of her took most of my days. But things are pretty much "back on track" for her. She is now in therapy twice a week (this is more time away from my bears but mom needs me) and I signed her up for Meals on Wheels ... what a blessing! This service has done more for mom than all the doctors and therapy combined because she looks forward to having someone going to her house each day to bring her very good meals ... it makes her happy. Thank God.

I will be adding Work In Progress photos to this post as I am working so check back to watch the two teddies being created.

Luckily there was enough mink in the large sleeves and collar for both of the teddies! Neither the sleeves or the collar were constructed the same as the body of the coat (with thin strips of pelt and fabric) ... rather the collar and sleeves were mostly larger pelts.

Mary Anne, I will be sending back almost all of your coat, minus only the sleeves and collar ... there will be more than enough to make a nice mink lap throw!

So now the patterns pieces are ready for sewing ...

Bodies waiting for their heads ...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sasha repaired

This is "Sasha" (#1094) that I created in 1994.
She has lived in a loving home for the past 23 years.
Recently Sasha was briefly played with by a curious dog.
Fortunately there was not much damage other than having one of her vintage shoe button eyes pulled out.

This is Sasha ... before her repairs.

This is Sasha after her repairs and a little up-dating:
replacing her eye
a new nose (embroidered, waxed and sealed)
hand painted face
a good brushing
and more scissor sculpting.
And a heart necklace.

I only do repairs on my own mink teddies.
So please don't ask me to do repairs on anyone else's mink teddy ...
But don't hesitate to contact me if one of my teddies is ever in need of repair.
As you can see, I will gladly repair my own teddies and other mink animals.

Sasha has been returned to her owner and I just received a wonderful email from her ... I hope she won't mind me sharing it but emails like this just make me happy and remind me of why I continue to offer my time making Custom Teddies from your heirloom family mink ... because these little teddies are capable of enveloping treasured memories of loved ones (Linda inherited Sasha from her mother): 

Dear Kathy -- I received my sweet Sasha today -- she's adorable! I can't believe the extra time you put into her repair -- and with your finger injury to deal with! You are a woman with great integrity and an obvious passion for your creations. I will always remember your kindness and promise I will keep Sasha on a higher shelf away from my dog, Buddy. Thank you so much!!!!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Started these teddies in Feb ... finally finished in July

Finally finished Custom Order #11

Thank you to all of my collectors and everyone who has been patiently waiting for me to start work on your Custom Teddy Bears from the heirloom mink stoles that were sent to me. It has taken a long long time for my injured finger to finally heal enough to start sewing again.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hooray! I can start working on my bears again ... finally.

My unplanned hiatus (from my hand injury) is finally over.

I injured my hand in early March. In April I saw my doctor who sent me to a Hand Surgeon. Thank goodness he did not see any serious injury that would require his skills so he sent me to a Hand Therapy Clinic. OMG I wish I had known about this clinic years ago because my hands would be in much better condition than they are now.

I tried working on my teddy bears off and on but it was just too difficult and painful so instead I went to hand therapy twice a week for 2 months and did my hand exercises daily. I gave my hands a nice long and much needed rest (from March to now)

Last Friday was my final day of hand therapy. I still have a little swelling and pain (that may never go away completely but I will continue my therapy at home). The Hand Therapy Clinic even made me two custom splints to wear on my fingers while I work.

This weekend I finally finished and took photos of the two teddies (Custom Order #11) that have been patiently waiting to be completed since March. As you can see from the photo they turned out beautifully. I will be posting all of their photos soon. I was going to post the photos here today but I spent most of the day trying to get caught up with my emails because my finger also hurt when I tried to type... so if anyone sent me an email in March, April, May, or June and I did not answer you... I apologize because it probably got "lost" in the hundreds of emails that received and many that I missed opening.

I want to thank all of my collectors and everyone on my Custom Teddy List for their patience while I did therapy on my hand. A special thank you to my friend and collector, Laura in Canada, who was so wonderful when she took the time to actually call me. Bear Hugs.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

OUCH !!! I hurt my sewing finger ... over a month ago.

Oh yeah, it took me a month after I hurt my finger to go to the doctor to get it xrayed (no broken bones) but she does think that I messed up the tendons in that finger ... now I need to see a hand specialist.
Why didn't I go to the doctor sooner you may ask ... well, I won't repeat myself since I mentioned it in the post prior to this one (my WIP post)... but I had a good reason...pretty much the entire month of March was really awful for my family.

This is my hand right after leaving the doctor's office where they put my finger in a splint.
I quickly found out that your pointer finger is pretty important for doing everyday things ... your thumb is probably the only finger that is more important. So the splint comes off and on throughout the day.

After over a month of not working on my bears I gave it a try ...

trying to hand-sew with a hurt pointer finger is definitely not easy.

My bear-making was already slowing down because my hands were hurting more ...
sewing with this bad finger is really really difficult,
but these poor little bears have been sitting on my table for over a month without heads.
They need their heads so I am very slowly trying to get back to work.   

Update ... 

one month later
May 8, 2017
I tried to finish the teddies last month but my finger was just too painful. So the teddies are still unfinished. But the good news is that I finally saw a hand specialist and he looked at my x-rays and did not see any obvious damage that might require surgery. Hooray!!! but he did suggest that I get therapy for my hand. He also said that with therapy my finger should be back to normal in about a month. Even better news is that the pain is almost gone when I use my finger ... I still can't bend it completely but I'm working on that ...

I bought this awesome ball that was intended as a stress ball but it is also a great exercise ball for my hand. I love the little face on it!

So this week I am going to try to go back to working on my teddies (again). I have a feeling that I may get those poor little teddies finished ... soon ... finally!

Oh, I forgot to mention some bad news that the doctor gave me: in my x-rays he verified that I'm starting to get arthritis in my fingers. Which means that I will probably be working even slower that I have been (I usually stop sewing when my fingers start to ache)... but I'll still be making teddies for as long as I can. I will probably put a limit on how many Custom Orders I accept each year because I have a backlog of orders now and I have not been able to design or make anything new for the past year. I need to get back to making my one-of-a-kind creations.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Work In Progress ... Custom Order 11

For Connie

Connie sent me her mother's mink stole and requested a "Mother-Daughter" set, if possible.
Typically I can find two teddies "hiding" in a typical mink stole but I knew that this one would be a tight squeeze because this stole was smaller than typical, the mink strips were narrow, and the pelts were not in the best condition.  
When I was taking the stole apart the pelts started to shred ... but fortunately the shredding was along the stitching. So I just cut the pelt strips along all of the stitching and when I needed a larger piece I just sewed pelts together again ... hoping that they would be stronger since I line all of my pattern pieces with cotton material.

Since this is mink is fragile in many areas I will have to hand sew most, if not all, of both teddies because I can't risk making a mistake with my sewing machine because once the needle pierces the pelt it is just like cutting it with a knife (leather is NOT self healing).

Hopefully this fabric lining on each pattern piece will give the teddy enough strength that it will not shred when I have the teddies all sewn up and start to stuff them. Yes, that has happened to me before with pelts that have been in similar borderline conditions ... so fingers crossed!

These two teddies will take a bit longer to complete because of the extensive hand-work required.

Please note: Connie had requested that I add some extra personalized embroidered words on the foot pads ... sorry, I don't do that any longer on my Custom Bears because it is too time consuming and my hands are always sore (no surprise after almost 30 years of hand-sewing mink teddies).

UPDATE: posted April 5, 2017
Oh My Gosh!!! What happened to March ? I did little to no sewing. The photos below was work that I accomplished by the first week of March and after that, nothing. Why? Well, it was a month of Doctors visits (not for me but for the rest of my family, my daughter, my mother, and my husband ... and my son-in-law). I took a look a my March calendar notes and here is the final count: Doctor's visits: 18, Urgent Care visits: 2, late night Emergency Room visits: 3. My husband, who rarely gets sick, was the sickest one. He even missed 2 weeks of work. He is still not well but he has gone back to work and sometime soon he will be able to schedule the minor operation that he needs.

At this point I only needed to finish making the teddy heads, which is the most important part, so I never work on the heads when I am exhausted or stressed ... of course I was both for the entire month of March ... therefore, no bears were created.

Oh, by the way, I also injured my finger early March ... one of my sewing fingers! But I was too busy with my family to take myself to the doctor. Looking back a my calendar for the month of March: 18 doctor visits, 3 Urgent Care visits, 3 middle of the night Emergency Room visits to the hospital. Of course, none of these were for me ... my role was as caregiver and driver to my husband, daughter, and mother. Which left me no time to take myself to the doctor when I hurt my finger.

Of course, I thought that in time that the swelling would go away. Well, a month later my finger was still swollen and I was unable to bend it. My daughter made a doctor's appointment for me ...

Update April 7, 2017:
A finger splint! This is how I left after my doctor's visit. I apparently did more damage than I thought because she is referring me to a hand specialist. How long did the splint stay on once I got home? not long because I can't do anything with that on my finger ... not even typing (which I am doing now). I do have my finger wrapped but I only wear the splint when I do not have to use my hand to work.