Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Back to School - now for Halloween!

It’s not just Back to School time:  it’s Back to the ColdhamCuddlies Shop on Etsy.com as well!  After being unofficially closed over the summer months, it officially opened September 1, and I’m pleased to inform you that we have our first order - for a Baby Brown Bunny, which  is off to its Forever Home in Spring, Texas, USA shortly. Let’s hope it’s an omen of things to come!

And to celebrate this auspicious occasion, I have a new White Plush Bunny who has joined Family, and is ready to be introduced to you, our wonderful Followers, as well.  She’s been listed in the shop for some time, and was made just before/and immediately after my dear Peter left us in May.  Needless to say, she was not completed until I got back to Heytesbury in June and I’d just listed her (and meant to back it up with a special blog about her) when, you may recall, I had to dash off to Nottinghamshire again to look after daughter Clare after she’d broken her leg.  Now Clare is well on the way to recovery, I’ve been back some weeks and begun to make new toys and replace others, and suddenly recalled that Hayley, the Hallowe’en Bunny needs to be properly introduced.

At the time I began to make her, I did not intend to label her as a Hallowe’en Bunny, but as I cut out her dress and worked out her decoration, it occurred to me that Black, White and Orange are very traditional colours for this particular season - and the rest, as they say, is history.  So, as Hallowe’en itself is now not that far away, perhaps this is not such an inappropriate time to tell you about Hayley, after all! 

As always, once the pattern has been applied to the fabric I’ve chosen, and it’s been cut out, I begin with the basic body stage.  Here is Hayley with her legs stuffed, and complete with her felt shoes, but still not stuffed in her body.

The next stage, once the upper body has got the polyester fibre inside and sewn up, is to make her pantaloons, which in Hayley’s case are made with white satin nylon, edged with some pretty lace which I found among the goodies I picked up during my last trip to my plush/tweed supplier in nearby Frome, Somerset (The Fine Quality Feather Company)

I’m due to visit them shortly to renew my stuffing stache and, hopefully, pick up another bag of off cuts.  It’s always a bit like Christmas-coming-early on these visits, because there is a huge big plastic bag waiting for me, which I then go through upon my return home and pick the bits I want to keep and discard the rest.  There are not often too many of the latter I have to say, but, because they are off cuts, some pieces may just not be suitable for me to attack on behalf of the toys and I don’t have the space for any “just in case I might need it later” decisions!

Toy pieces ready for assembly
 But, I digress:  once Hayley’s knickers are in place (I gather them at the ankles and waist and sew them to the legs and body respectively), then the dress top is put together, the arms are made by sewing the furry paws to the arm pieces and then both of them being stuffed and sewn in place each side of the dress bodice.

The skirt is then made.  That bit is easy, as it’s a piece of material 36” wide by 18” long, which is gathered at the waist, hemmed, and added to the body over the fitted pantaloons.  One has to adjust the gathers, so that they are evenly spaced round Hayley:  otherwise, the dress does not lie properly when she sits.  (Sometimes, the off cuts are not as wide as 36”:  that’s not necessarily a spoiler.  If I can make a skirt with material up to 28” wide, I have been known to do so - the skirt does not begin to look as though there’s not enough material there!  Any less than 28” though, and the resulting dress can look skimped.)  Once the skirt is satisfactorily fitted, I add the bodice/arm combination, fit it carefully (matching stripes, floral patterns if desired).  This join is actually covered by the apron waistband - but my conscience won’t allow me not to try to match things as I go along.  (Blame my needlework teacher of long ago:  she was a dragon of a lady, who used to make one undo all one’s work if she did not think it was done to her standards!  Habits learned in that way do die hard).

Now we’ve got the head to make:  that normally doesn’t take me too long to do, and I make up the ears at the same time.  Fitting the ears to any of the toys, but particularly the rabbits, can take me quite a while - I often find that one goes on quite easily:  getting the other one to match is another matter.  I used to have a similar problem with the eyes:  however, as I go along, that seems to have eased, as I make up my own techniques to achieve my aims.  Ears though can sometimes be a real problem - but the beauty of plush is that it can be taken apart quite easily, brushed with a wire brush, and then one begins again.

Before stuffing, one gets the eyes in place, making sure that they are firmly fitted.  Then, just recently, I’ve found it easier to embroider the nose and mouth, because one can get one’s hand into the head cavity and control the fabric better.  Then the polyester fibre is stuffed firmly in place, while at the same time, I adjust the shape of the head.  Then comes the ear fight and the head and body are ready to be put together. 

This apron is actually the last one to be made with this particular, opaque fabric.  Until now I've used this remnant from Clare's wedding dress (which I was privileged to be allowed to make), but alas, it has now run out!  Henceforth, all aprons will feature a muslin background, on which decoration - as I fancy at the time - will be applied.

All in all, my dressed Lady Toys take me about 5 days from start to finish:  the Gentlemen, with their complicated stocks and leather boots, jackets etc. take me a day or two longer.  I’m quite pleased with the way Hayley has turned out and as I’ve got enough material to be able to make three versions, I’ve described her as a Limited Edition (No.1 of Three) in Etsy Listing 103038453.  Do hope you like her!