Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers

Vintage Mink Bears by Kathy Myers
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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.

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.