Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers

Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Work in Progress for Custom Teddy #14

For Diane

From her mother's mink jacket ... at least 2 teddies (pattern #2)

I'm looking forward to making ... polar bears!
This lovely ivory mink will become beautiful polar bears.

The pelts look like they are in great condition.

The wonderful wide pelts will be a pleasure to work with.
This is what I found printed on the leather side of the pelt. Sometimes I find handwritten notes from the furrier when it was a custom-made mink garment, that is always fun to find, but no notes on this pelt although it was nice to see these markings. In 1999 New York's last remaining dressing plant, Meisel-Peskin, has closed its doors after nearly 70 years in business.

I'm going to prepare linings for 4 teddies so I can get an accurate estimate as to how many teddies are actually hiding in this jacket.

Update: Saturday Jan. 20, 2018:
Okay, I finally found the time to update my work on this order after a very eventful week that included my husband's surgery on his arm on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday  I was making sure that everything went smoothly on my 94 year old mother's fence demolition and installation of a new fence, also doing her grocery shopping ... topping the week off with rushing my husband to the ER last night because his arm and hand was too swollen and discolored. He was in the ER from midnight to 6am so I got maybe an hour or two of sleep. They checked my husband for a blood clot and changed his bandaged wrapping from surgery which were definitely too tight. At the moment he seems to be doing well. OMG, it's amazing that I can get any work at all done on my teddies!

The jacket is cut apart. Here is the main body of the jacket.

Here are the sleeves, collar, and the front pocket areas

I laid out the pattern for the two teddies requested. And to answer the inquiry: "is there enough mink for 4 teddies?", I then laid down more teddy patterns on the remaining pelt. The result? Hooray! There is exactly enough pelt remaining for just two more teddies ... for a total of 4.

Update: Jan. 22, 2018

I cut out two teddy bears:

This is one of the mink pieces that I cut out,
my next step is to trim the sewing line around each pattern piece. 

Here is the same piece with the seam allowance trimmed.
While this is a very time consuming step, it always makes sewing easier 
and, more importantly, it gives the finished teddy a smoother appearance.

And now I have to trim each pattern piece. I think that each teddy has about 30 pattern pieces. So it will take a little while to trim 60 pattern pieces ... 

Sewing is the most time consuming step. Finally all finished with sewing both teddies.
Now time to assemble ...

First headless teddy.
So far, so good.

First two teddies ... almost finished ... still need the final detailing (waxing nose and hand painting).

Now working on the next two teddies for this order .....

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Custom Teddy #13

(finally finished)
For Janis

To see detail and photos of this teddy

Monday, November 13, 2017

Custom Order #13 (problems with mink)

Custom Order for Janis

one teddy using pattern #1

I notified Janis when she sent me this mink stole that it was definitely not in good condition but since she only wanted one teddy that I would try to salvage what I could to try to make one teddy.

This is my adventure of trying to find a teddy hiding in a mink stole that is already falling apart, as you can see from the first 3 photos: 

These are the markings on the pelt skins.

I cut my patterns first using a dense cotton fabric.

If the pelts were in good condition I would be very happy working with this stole because they are full pelts rather than little strips of mink sewn together.

The pelts are all shredding at the seam lines.

shredding ...

and some pelts are shredding in the middle of the pelts too

I tested this pelt with a needle to see if it would shed ...

you can see the different colors on the pelt cause by heat variations and moisture which weakens the pelts

testing this pelt ...

it shed throughout ...

this is the unuseable shed pile

totally useless and went into the trash ... this is more than half of the stole that was unuseable.

this is the pile that did not shred when I tested it (by pulling) ... yes, it is enough for one teddy

I glue my cotton pattern pieces to the pelt. I usually use only enough glue to hold the pattern on to the pelt but for this problem mink I used a stronger Leather Cement and I applied it to both the pelt and the pattern. While this makes the pelt stiffer I am hoping that it will also prevent the pelt from shredding after sewing and stuffing.

I trim the sewing line of each mink piece

I need to hand sew the entire teddy because the pelts are so fragile. The true test will come when I turn a stuff this leg. If it starts to shred then there is no point in trying to complete this teddy ... so "fingers crossed" that the pelts will not shed.

UPDATE: Dec. 22, 2017

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas

Happy New Year

Where has the time gone???

Some of you may think that since I have not updated this post for so long that I must have fallen over the edge of the world ... nope, I'm still here ... "everyday life" just gets in the way of me finding time to work on my teddies.

My "everyday life" includes focusing all of my energy and time in helping my daughter, who has Cystic Fibrosis, when she gets sick and has to go on IV antibiotics at home. Recently I had to devote several weeks helping my daughter which meant I had no time to work on my teddies, or truth be told, I had no time for much of anything else. The good news is that my daughter has recovered nicely.

I did some work here and there on this teddy and it is actually almost finished:

Poor little teddy is waiting patiently on my work table for me to finish it.

I am determined to make this little teddy my last teddy of 2017 ... so I will be working on it during the rest of the Holiday Season.

By the way, if you remember I was concerned about this teddy because the pelt was very fragile. Well, it seems like the precautions that I took worked and (as you can see) I was able to sew, turn, stuff, and joint this teddy with none of the pelt having a problem. Since I covered the entire pelt with glue to attach the lining, the pelt is a little stiffer than my usual teddies but this makes it stronger. I did not give this teddy any wire armature (which is standard for my teddies) because the pelts should not be bent.

My next post should be a new one with photos of this finished teddy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Finally finished Custom Order #12

For Mary Anne

This was my first completed custom order since I injured my finger (and was diagnosed with early arthritis in my fingers) in March.

It took a long long long time to complete this order because I stopped working whenever my finger started hurting again ... there was a lot of stopping ... well, I finally finished these sweet little twin teddies:

To see the Work In Progress creation of these teddies 

To see more photos and details of these completed teddies

On a personal note, I am hoping that my next custom orders will be completed more quickly as time goes on and my finger continues to heal. To my surprise I recently have been instructed in some basic qigong by one of my Tai Chi teachers ... after which I was stunned to realize that I no longer felt the constant pain in my finger (for at least a full day). So I have added qigong to my daily Tai Chi practice. It's all good!

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 ...

To see the completed twin teddies 
Please CLICK HERE  to see details and photos
... or CLICK HERE to see the post on this blog.