Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Treating Bernard Bear - Part One

Goodness me - it's Wednesday afternoon, and several days have passed since I posted about Pooh and Brown Bears' Happy Endings.  I've been very busy with one thing and another, and although the photographs have all been prepared for publication, I've just not had the time to sit down and write the story about Bernard and his particular problems.

 So... with no more ado, here is what happened to Bernard Bear, who spent some time in the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic (Etsy Listing  79124185) before treatment could begin - because a decision needed to be made as to whether he should undergo the full  Coldham Bear Therapy, or merely a partial one.

His arrival actually coincided with that of Pooh and Brown Bears, but as their needs were more easily tackled, and Bernard's treatment was dependent on a decision on his future looks, he remained sitting in the Lloyd Loom chair in my bed-room, which seems to have become the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic's waiting-room.

His requirements were pretty obvious:  he'd lost both his ears, he only had one eye, his nose was somewhat disfigured, his mouth needed attention and he had some pretty large holes in his body and head which either required total coverage, or patching.  While a decision was awaited, closer inspection revealed the need to replace all his paw pads - which had become very hard and  needed to be removed, together with separating his limbs from the body, so that the holes could be adequately treated - which ever route was taken.

Given Bernard's age - approximately 40-50 years we believe - and the fact that he'd not been played with for a very long time, spending the time in cupboards, he was not really in too bad a shape.  But the mohair fur definitely showed signs of the loving attention he had received when his Forever Friend, MrGS was playing with him.  It needed to be matched if possible, and a price for the fabric obtained.  Once that had happened, the decision was taken to go the partial restoration route, and so his treatment began.

As usual, with the "Quic-Unpic" - without which such operations cannot happen - at the ready, his head seam was undone from the back, as far as ear level and all the wood chip stuffing removed.  In the head and limbs, the wood chips were mixed up with disintegrated cotton wool.  This often  happened during the period I suspect Bernard was made - because I've had to deal with similar concoctions in some of my previous treatments.  It came away quite cleanly, and I was able to remove the stuffing adhering to the seams with my hand held vacuum, although the cotton wool rapidly fell to bits, and became very dusty.

Then came the main piece to be treated - his body. I decided to try and keep the body as intact as possible, because patching the holes would be easier to achieve.  So, it was the main back seam that was unpicked from the neck to his bottom.  The stuffing here was all wood chipping, and it came away quite easily.

 However, one thing was striking:  the way his seams were created.  Where the seams were clearly visible, they had been machine-stitched.  However, at the extremities, the fixing was very rough and ready. The seams seem to have been held together and string used to wrap it round very casually. then gathered to form a roll,  and then the ends sewn in to the body near the seams. The joins were hidden by the head and limb joints!   I've tried to show this in the following photograph of the seam towards his legs:   the same happened at the end of all the limbs, themselves.

It's not the first time I've come across this way of completing a Bear's seams, but it was particularly noticeable in Bernard's case.   Which makes me wonder if Bernard was originally a hand-made bear, rather than  a mass-produced bear.  All the others where this phenomenon occurred were mass-produced, but the string was only used for a short time.  One will never know - but this is one of the fascinations for me of restoring old,  much-loved bears.  Speculating on how, when, or where they originated, closely followed by their very individual stories.


Once the wood chip stuffing had been removed, I then could remove the cotter pin joint discs.  Three (out of a total of five) of them are shown in this photograph, together with the pliers and screw driver with which I tried to open the pins, which had been very firmly fixed, with very thick steel.  (All of the joints were 2-1/2" inches in diameter - perhaps explaining why there were holes near the joint edges in Bernard's coat!)  Two of them defied all my efforts - my arthritic fingers could not cope - so in the end, I had to resort to seeking help from one of my gentlemen neighbours.  Even he had a problem  (which did make me feel slightly less useless!)  He had to resort in the end to using a small hand saw to separate the two layers of cardboard discs by cutting the pins so that we could get the discs out of Bernard. The pins had broken while he and I had tried to twist them undone with our respective pliers and other tools.   In so doing, two of the discs - which are made with very thick cardboard, which had hardened over the years of being in place - were damaged beyond photography!  You can also see the paw pads which had been removed: they, too, were as hard as I suspected and definitely needed to be replaced.   (In all, the removal of the cotter pins took the two of us nearly two hours from start to finish, because we were both anxious not to damage Bernard's remaining coat any more than it had already been).

Once this tricky operation had been successfully completed, Bernard was immersed in luke-warm soapy water to remove the dust that he had accumulated, and spent the night soaking in the bath.

 Next morning, Bernard's pieces were firmly wrung out, carefully shaped and hung up  on the clothes maiden in my work room. His head is in the middle of the back row, next to the body:  his two legs are in the front, and his arms are on the right of the photograph, one behind the other.   You can see that he is a Big Bear!

This seems to be an appropriate point at which to end this post - the next installment will follow shortly, and will probably be handled by Cy Bear.  He does like to be involved at least once in the Bear treatment reports!

Hope everyone is having a good week!  We're looking forward to a Bank Holiday this week-end, the last before Christmas!  Where on earth has this year gone?

Good night - and God Bless!   Isobel