Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Making replacement Fox Head Slippers - Part 2

Goodness me, time is yet again slipping by and it's definitely time for me to carry on telling you how the Kids' Fox Head Slippers are made.

These are one of the completed pair,  but there's still a bit more of the production process to tell you about before the story is completed.
Both the outer and linings have been tacked together at this point, and I've got all the pieces of the Foxes together as well.  The heads have been sewn together, the ears are waiting to be sewn in place, as is the tail  - on each slipper.  Before going any further - because it can be easy to forget - I  put the eyes in.  With these two pairs, I used the last two brown plastic ones (with their plastic safety washers) and then - because I've run out of this particular size - I used a pair of brown glass button eyes, which I sewed in very tightly. (Normally I don't like using glass eyes - because being shinier than the plastic ones, they can prove tempting for little fingers to play with.)  But these were in stock,  and the next time I was likely to be anywhere near my haberdashery supplier in Warminster - Think Outside the Box - was  4 days away, so circumstance dictated this route. ( I think they came as samples from a supplier that I decided not to use after some unnecessary mix-ups and mis-understandings early on in the Coldham Cuddlies saga.)
Once everything has been turned inside out, the heads are stuffed with the polyester fibre  purchased in bulk from my furry plush fabric supplier - Fine Quality Feather Company from Frome, Somerset.  So, too, are the tails.  The outer plush sides of the slippers are then pinned and sewn to the leatherette soles - meeting at the toe end of the slipper.  Then I first sew the lining from the toe towards the top of the foot, with the seams facing upwards (outwards), followed by the plush outer layer.  The lining is sewn up to the ankle edge, but the plush layer is only sewn halfway between the toe and ankle - leaving the seam undone, but facing the lining (so basically you cannot see the seams).
The slippers are now ready for the heads to be sewn on - as shown in the above shot.  The Foxes' neck actually fits snugly between the half-way point and the ankle, so I sew the head onto the lining, with the head seam matching the centre of the upward facing lining seam.  (Again, there are no obvious seams showing). Once the head is fixed in place, I sew up the plush opening and match up the ankle seams behind the Fox Heads.  
Then the ribbon edging is sewn round, lining up with the back seam on the Foxes' heads.  The ribbon can match the plush, or, as in this case, be a contrast.  With children's slippers I think a contrast is more appealing - whereas when making adult versions, it depends on what the buyer wants.  They are given a choice when ordering - although most times they leave it to me to do what I feel like.  In the case of Ladies slippers, the contrast option tends to come to mind:  whereas, with the Mens versions, I tend to be  more conservative in my choice of colours.  The Fox Head Slippers all look like this little fellow at this point:
The ribbon is then hemmed into place, providing a tube through which narrow elastic is then threaded.  Usually this measures about 9" (20.3 cms) long - giving me about half an inch (1.3 cms) overlap to join the elastic ends.   I leave a gap where the ribbon seams join, so that if the elastic needs to be adjusted to fit the eventual wearer, it can be pulled through the ribbon tube and arranged to give a smooth edge to the finished slipper - as shown below.  (So far, there has not been a need, but there's always the possibility). 
The difference in the eyes is not really apparent in this picture - but the glass ones are in the pair on the right, and the left hand pair (shown at the beginning of this post) have the plastic ones.  The right hand pair look like this:
Finally, here is what all four Fox Head slippers look like from the rear, complete with individual tails
They have now been put away in the Slipper sack and await their eventual wearers!  Before they go to their Forever Homes, each slipper is brushed to make the appearance a smooth coated one.
All four of the 2014 Easter Bunnies have been listed and are happily settling in to the Coldham Bunny Warren, and Cy Bear will be posting about them in the next edition.  Meanwhile, I'm doing what was intended to be a replacement Mr. Brown Rabbit - but somehow has become a One of a Kind New Brown Rabbit.   I found some fabric that just begged to be used for this purpose.  I'll do the original replacement one when I've completed this one.  He's got his trousers and waistcoat on, the coat is almost ready to be sewn into place, but I've decided to experiment with his neck wear before completing the coat.  Then, it's forward into the battle of fixing the leather boots in place!
See you all soon.  Isobel
Coldham Cuddlies Clinic

Friday, 21 March 2014

How the replacement Fox Head Slippers are made

Good evening everyone:  sorry to have been absent for so long, but really I seem to spend so much time everywhere else on Etsy, Facebook (not as much as I should - because I've still not got it completely sorted), Twitter and the like, that alas, the blog is not getting as much attention as heretofore  The problem is not aided by the rate at which time seems to be passing either - I mean, here we are - the middle of March! Where on earth did January and February go?
Anyway, I did promise several posts ago to let you into the "secret" of how I make my slippers, so here we go.
The pattern I use was provided for me by the wonderful Laura Curtin who was the original inspiration for all the 2013 Cuddlies Novelty Slippers.  She found the kids slippers pattern - and ones for men - while she scoured the internet for patterns to get me going, and while I was making the first paid - our Yellow Rabbit Head Plush Slippers.  The ladies ones I worked out for myself, and am still amending as I go. 
The Kids' slippers come in Small (which tend to fit children who are just moving into the Children's shoe sizes - from those that they wear as babies and toddlers.  Here in the UK, that tends to be at aged 3.  The medium ones fit 4-5 year olds
The Leopard Head Slipper is our Medium Size
 and the Large ones probably 6-7 year olds, who by then are likely to be searching for small adult sizes.
Our current Tiger Head or Large Kid's Slippers
The Fox Novelty slippers are presently made for the first, small size - although, as with all the animal toys in the shop at www.COLDHAMCUDDLIES.Etsy.com. they can be swopped for whatever size and animal may be required (whether kids, men or ladies - or they can come without a head on if folks don't feel that adventurous!)

Every pattern piece is cut out twice - once for the lining (which is shown here) and once for the animal plush fabric being used at the time.  I join the back of the slipper, so I've got the whole slipper shape, and sew in the ColdhamCuddlies label in the middle (when I remember, that is!).  (If this stage is omitted, I sew in the label later on in the process, when the slipper is almost made.  It's a more fiddly job at that stage, so it's better I remember at this point.)
This picture shows the patterns for the soles, and there are four of them on this occasion, because I decided that in future I will make two pairs each time I replace a slipper model, so that I'm not constantly "selling out" an item when an order comes in.  In the picture the sole linings had been inadvertently tacked to the faux leather sole.  Because when making them, the outside of the slipper is tacked and sewn round - meeting at the toe end of each slipper.  Then I sew in the lining piece, using ladder stitch all round - and creating a reasonably invisible seam all round the side of the foot.
This picture is what looks like a left foot slipper - although in the end, they really do tend to look much the same, and it just depends on how the individual wearer feels most comfortable at the end of the day.
Here are all the outside pieces for each slipper - heads, ears and their linings, and tails for each slipper, two to each pair of slippers.  It's quite a complicated and time-consuming process, even when one does only one pair at a time.
Then it's a question of sewing each head, fitting the eyes into each head, sewing the ears to their linings and the tails together, leaving the straight end open for stuffing.  Once all of them have been done, the eyes are fitted in, everything  turned inside out and each head is stuffed.  The ears are then attached and the nose and mouth embroidered, using black double knitting yarn, on each Fox Head.

Then it's a question of sewing everything to make up a slipper.  That process will be covered  next time - which gives me some time to finish listing all our new Easter Bunny Rabbit Parade.  Three are now in our shop, and there's just one more to go.  That will be done tomorrow, but meanwhile, I have got to sit down and make a replacement Brown Dressed Gentleman Rabbit - the head, ears, eyes and white bobtail are all ready for stuffing and having their facial features sewn on.  Last evening was spent cutting out the clothing pieces. 
Everything is tacked ready for the machine stage.  But, I'm operating at a little under 100% capacity today, as I'm labouring under an attack of spring hay fever, but hope to pick up speed again soon.
Meanwhile, I'll close for this session.  Goodnight and God Bless!  Isobel
Coldham Cuddlies Clinic

Monday, 17 March 2014

An unexpected update - in conection with The Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic

A recent photograph taken at the request of Clare and Alan in Nottinghamshire
Hello  Everyone- Cy Bear calling in - at Isobel's request, because we thought you'd be interested.....
Our post on January 16 2014 was entitled: "More About the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic (the blog button is featured at the end of this post - which itself is also a development since January 16, incidentally.  In it Isobel tells about having a letter published under "The Lady and I" section of the Letters Page of The Lady Magazine, a UK weekly - which is supposed to be for the ladies, but is I understand equally often read by their husbands, once the wives had the chance to read each issue.  (I know Peter used to read it every week - before it was shared among other residents here at The Hospital of St. John.) 
Whilst understandably elated at the outcome, alas, our contact details were omitted - which did tarnish the excitement somewhat.  The Letters' Editor told Isobel:
  • Dear Isobel,
Thank you for your e-mail – I’m delighted you’re pleased with it, and yes, please do feel free to make mention of it.  Attached is a pdf of the page which you might find useful.

I’m sorry we didn’t actually include your name & town – I think we were so concerned not to seem to be promoting a business that somehow that got edited out altogether.
Whilst Isobel quite understood the Editor's dilemma, she was a bit disappointed - and the feeling was exacerbated during the ensuing days when her friends in the Village, who had been alerted to the possibiity of the letter being published, suggesed that "it was a real pity" that the omission had occurred, and what did they mean "fearful of being seen to promote a business!"?  Didn't they do it all the time?"  Their weekly book reviews as an example were an obvious "business promotion" etc. and so on.
Well in The Lady Magazine dated 28 February Isobel was surprised (and not a little delighted!) to see a letter from a lady in Israel, together with a picture of her bear, called Tim - named after her "maternal grandfather".  He's 70 years old and from his picture in pretty good condition (considering he's been played with by three generations of the lady's family - including 17 grandchildren, who are now all grown up).  The lady tells how she "could not understand what my family meant when they said his hair would not grow back - of course it would, mine did!".  Apart from that incident - oh and also losing both his eyes (what is it with Bears, that so many of them lose their eyes, I wonder?), all that is wrong with Tim from Isobel's viewpoint is that he could obviously do with a re-stuff - (he looks a little like my Friend Rusty - Philippa's Giant Bear, before he was treated in the Clinic)

 - and after 70 years maybe having a lukewarm soapy bath and having two new eyes. 
 She's written to the writer in Israel , via The Lady Magazine - who have acted as intermediary and have sent the letter to Israel - along those lines, and we await developments, with bated breath.
However, that is not all:  in her covering letter when asking The Lady to forward her letter, Isobel did allude to the comments received from our village friends - many of whom are equally devoted readers of The Lady - and the result is that in the edition which was published on March 14 (this week's edition, no less), there is the following item, at the end of the letters page:

Several readers have asked us how they can get in touch with the teddy bear repairer whose Lady & I story appeared in the 10 January issue.  Here are her details:  
Mrs. Isobel Morrell, 16, Hospital of St. John, Heytesbury, Warminster, Wiltshitre, BA12 0HW  01985 841006 www.coldhamcuddlies.etsy.com"

Well, that is a whole lot more contact detail than any other letters normally get - so Isobel is more than satisfied, very grateful to The Lady for acting so speedily to rectify the situation,  and we both now await developments (if any) with keen anticipation.
Rest assured - we will keep you informed.  Meanwhile, I'll close down this blog - until the next time.
Your friend - Cy Bear.
PS:  Isobel has been so busy responding in kind (i.e. making Treasuries) to the lovely folk on Etsy who have been treasuring Cuddlies with what seems gay abandon that blogging by her - with the story of how the Fox Head Slippers are made, and introducing some new Bunnies in time for Easter - has rather taken a back seat.  She hopes to resume communicating very soon. 
Coldham Cuddlies Clinic

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A bit of catching up - A Cuddly and his new Forever Friend + some replacement Cuddlies

Good evening everyone!  Cy Bear signing in just to begin with.  It's going to be a joint effort - just for a change!
At the very end of January, we received an order for  one of our Baby Koalas to travel to Hong Kong - at the specific request of MrGC.  When placing the order, he enquired if it would be possible for Koala to get to Hong Kong in time for February 14.  As Koala was already living in the Shop (actually in one of a series of plastic bags stacked in one of cupboards in Isobel's bedroom),  Isobel got him ready for his journey and he left the first time she could reach a Post Office capable of handling international postal packages.
When weighing the packet, she found that in fact MrGC had paid sufficient for Koala to be upgraded to an Airmail Small Parcel (which travels a lot faster - in fact, the journey only took 4 days!), so he arrived well in time for the decreed date.
Alas, the fates intervened in MrGC's carefully laid plans, and prior to that date, he found himself recalled to U.S.A.  for a week or two. So it was only last week that Koala was finally introduced to his Forever Friend, MsSL - and as proof positive of this, here is a photograph of the new friends.

Baby Koala looks very comfortable, methinks!  Let's hope all goes well and they enjoy their future together.
Now, Isobel is taking over.  While all this was happening, I've been busy getting on with replacements, learning how to do Treasuries (something I had not been able to fathom previously) and generally organising myself to spring clean the Shop (www.Etsy.com/shop.COLDHAMCUDDLIES)  for 2014.
 Thanks to an amazing tutorial compilied by Marilyn Rush, Captain of the Golden Rose Crafters Team on Etsy I can now claim to be the Curator (doesn't that sound grand?) of six Treasuries, which I specifically dedicated to members of the 8 Teams I belong to on Etsy.  Two actually relate to this blog, so in fact it's only 6 that have Treasuries as part of their activities.  Until the beginning of March ( 4 years after first starting on Etsy) I  had become addicted to the pastime of Following and Faving the Curators of other Treasuries and the Shops they featured.  The Team Leaders all patiently allowed me to carry on, but it's only since I did my first one at the beginning of March, that I realise what a potentially good promoting tool I have been missing!  As ever, it takes time for the penny to drop - but when it does, well then - LOOK OUT!  Except, of course, I do still have to find time to sew Cuddlies and restore Patients who arrive in the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic (Etsy Listing 79124186). 
(Incidentally I am a Leader - in charge of the Private Chat Thread - on The Golden Rose Crafters Team - appointed early in the New Year.  I wonder where Marilyn got that idea?)

Now back to blogging matters:  the first replacements done were two Baby Hedgehogs.  They've proved to be quite popular toys for www.Etsy.com/shop/COLDHAMCUDDLIES and the final ones were sold during our Christmas Present Bazaar which was held here at The Hospital of St. John at the end of October, 2013.  What with Wolf-creation (Etsy Listing #178799382 and #179170142) and Christmas, it's only been in the last two weeks that I've been able to replace them.
Etsy Listing 95653745

Baby Hedgehogs - rear view

New photographs replaced the original ones, and I'm intending to re-take every Toy's photographs as and when I have the time, and the weather/light etc. permits.
Another popular pre-Christmas seller were the Small Sized Kids Novelty Slippers, with  Baby Fox Heads on them.  Last night - having cut out two pairs and spent the evenings last week sewing them together (and preparing a story about how they are made for a future blog or two), these two were completed - and I plan to re-list them in the shop once I've finished creating this post.  
Etsy Listing #156563936

My animal eye supply is in need  of  replenishment.  When you are doing four foxes at a time, that's eight eyes at the same time!  So, I'm investigating Etsy sources, as there appears to be a wider colour chart available than from my normal internet suppliers - starting with the source MrsKN used for the Gold and Blue eyes for Nick and Agatha Buchanan Wolf (see the post on 16/02/2014 ).  I confirmed yesterday that she does ship to the UK, and that the heavier the package is, the cheaper the shipping cost!  Sounds an interesting idea! 

 Just so the Foxes don't feel left out - here are rear views of the two pairs of slippers!  All have little bushy tails, some of which are visible in this picture.  One pair have my usual plastic eyes, and the other pair is supplied with brown glass eyes, which I just happened to have had in stock - waiting for a suitable toy to be fitted with them. (There were only two left in the brown plastic variety!)  Colourwise, there is very little difference, but the glass ones are sewn in, while the plastic ones have the usual metal safety washer.  

Finally, all my Followers are very observant people, and will no doubt have noticed the addition of two buttons to this Blog.  The one appearing in the right side-bar is the blog button, and the one at the bottom of each post have both been provided thanks to the good offices of Angelique Ouellette-Tower  of http://www.godsgrowinggarden.com/ .  I've been participating in many blog hops arranged by her and her team for several months, and recently took ad space on her blog.  This required the creation of buttons, which I had not got the foggiest idea how to do!  Angelique obliged - and patiently  "held my hand" (over several attempts) before they appeared when/where they were supposed to!  While, so far, sales do not appear to have been affected,  the number of views for the Blog have increased to the point that we are now at 22,300+ when we were only scraping the 21,000 mark at the beginning of the year.  Thanks so much everyone for being such great Followers, and to Angelique for her superb help.

The button for the Clinic appears automatically on the blog when I begin to create every post. (It proceeds majestically down the page as I type.  The side-bar one seems to be a permanent feature.  Now, I've got to see how to properly capitalise on these new features - because, as ever, I've gone in for them without actually understanding what they are all about!!  (I think they are designed to make it easier for Followers and other Visitors to the Blog to reach it!)  One lives (dangerously at times I freely admit) and one LEARNS.  Which is really what LIFE itself is all about isn't it?

Until next time - Good night and God bless - from Cy Bear and Me!  (Isobel)

Coldham Cuddlies Clinic

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

An old friend returns - for refreshment therapy

Last week, following a meeting with his Forever Friend, Little Red Ted returned briefly to the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic (Etsy Listing 79124185) because his ears were causing concern to the whole family.

Little Red Ted is a Very Important Person in the Coldham Cuddlies story.  He is the reason for the creation of the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic.  His Forever Friend had seen Cy Bear when he was just made (well before Cy Bear became a co-author of this blog) and asked me if I could make a Red Bear for her grand daughter.  She had always had a Red Bear  and wanted one for her grand daughter to enjoy as well.   To be quite honest, I had never heard of a Red Bear before - but one always tries to meet one's customers' requirements, doesn't one.  So I set about trying to find some suitable fabric with which to undertake the task.

I was equally ignorant of the fact that one could get Red Mohair fabric for Bears.  Turner Bear, who is made with Red Mohair, came to the Clinic well after the treatments had become a feature of Coldham Cuddlies' life and I was by then familiar with what different colours of mohair fabric (as well as plush materials) were available for this purpose. My sewing skills have also improved over the months as well!

Thus I only looked for red plush fabrics for Little Red Ted (think I'll refer him to as LRT for the rest of this post).  It was only when I took the various swatches  I had found to LRT's Forever Friend that I was first introduced to LRT himself.  Now he was  then nearly 80 years' old and in a bit of a bad way.  He had clothes covering several patches that had been applied over the years but the overall Bear shape was still there - and he had obviously been recently given some chamois leather paw pads.  (He had been a "military bear" in his younger life, and wherever his Forever Friend had travelled with her husband and family, he had gone too.  He'd also had some "conclusions" with various family dogs over the years.)

Until that moment I hadn't even contemplated becoming a Bear Restorer, but felt I had  to make him look more like a proud Bear than he then did.  His Forever Friend bravely consented to that happening, chose the fabric she wanted for her grand daughter's Bear, as well as LRT - and I set off home, feeling slightly daunted at my daring idea.  (Their home is only a couple of houses away from The Hospital of St. John).

Being naturally cautious (a.k.a. "scared stiff"!), I decided to make the grand daughter's Bear first.  Then I did Little Red Ted and his treatment was duly completed.  Quite literally, the modus operandi I now follow for all Stuffed Animal restorations in the Clinic was honed with Little Red Ted.  I made a template from his shape, cut the new coat out with a quarter inch seam all round, and sewed those bits of LRT that were worth saving  to the matching pieces.  Satisfied with the process so far, I  put back his eyes (they hadn't suffered the fate that so many of my Bear Patients since have done!) and added his newish chamois leather paw pads, which I had carefully cleaned up!

Before I completed both the Red Teds, though, I had purchased a digital camera and had taken photographs of all the stages involved in LRT's rejuvenation, so that when he returned to his Forever Friend's home, the two of them looked like this

That was over two years' ago.  (Big Red Ted was intended as a Christmas Present).  As you will see from this photograph, his ears were rather large when compared with the rest of him, and over the months, they had definitely become a bit of a sore point for everyone in Forever Friend's family, who had known him in his previous incarnation.

Thus, after the January meeting of the Ladies Section of the Royal British Legion - at which I gave a talk on Stuffed Animal Restoration - LRT's Forever Friend evidently decided to ask if I could do something about them.  Looking at them, after the distance in time, he did look like a Bear with ears like the wonderful Dumbo - didn't he.  So, naturally, I agreed and he spent a night with me.

All that was involved was for me to remove his ears - I was somewhat ashamed of how his ears had been fixed on! - so that he looked like this for a short while.

The open seams of both ears, where they are attached to Bears' head were cut - between a quarter and a half inch.  Then both were sewn back on to his head - at a different angle from where they had been before so that he now looks like this - not that different, but more firmly attached and at a different point on his head:

Before he was returned to his Forever Home, LRT was introduced to Little Mohair Bear, or Little Ed Ted - who was made directly from LRT'S template.  The difference in size and shape is entirely attributable to the difference in fabrics involved.  The red plush of LRT is a lot thicker than the pile on the mohair used for Little Ed (the original fabric was used to restore Ed Ted - my first big Bear Patient, who is now living in his Forever Home in Sequals, Italy).  Also, plush fabrics have a lot more "give", so one can make a rounder toy when stuffing them, than when using mohair.

 So far, Little Ed is the only little Bear that I've made, but there is a stash of mohair fabric - left over from the treatments of Bears since LRT's initial restoration - which will eventually join the Coldham Cuddlies family.

Now, Little Ed Ted is back in his den - waiting for his Forever Home and LRT has been restored to his Forever Friend's arms with a very much more acceptable look than heretofore.

Another satisfactory end to a Coldham Cuddlies Patient treatment.

Until next time!  All the very best to my wonderful Followers.  Dare I say it - but Spring looks like it's on the way!