Sunday, 25 June 2017

Grey Cat Puppet is on its way to a Forever Home.

Good afternoon, Everyone!

Cy Bear here once more - with the good news that the Grey Cat Puppet ordered by MsSD of Conway, South Carolina duly began its journey (as promised) on Friday morning.  The actual dispatch deadline was 23rd June - so we just made it, despite the problems encountered in the creative process!  (Having been kept updated along the way, we had been told by MsSD that Isobel was not "to worry about timings", but we do like to keep to our deadlines as much as we are able.)

This is one of the photographs taken by Isobel prior to the Grey Cat Puppet being wrapped up and posted to South Carolina.  This was taken on Thursday evening, just after the final stitches had been applied.

As described in last week's bulletin, it took rather longer than expected to be achieved:  not because the pattern is complicated, but the fabric - while lovely to feel - is so fluffy that Isobel had difficulty in undoing her sewing on the couple of occasions she DID have to unpick her work:  but because she had actually found a really good match when choosing the thread she used for the job! Also, she's forgotten to put "letters" on the cardboard templates used for cutting out the puppet (because the original pattern didn't have them on either! The missing information is duly in place NOW!). Normally, we always transfer such useful (and necessary, in this case!) information when we are doing the cutting out for the first time.

Anyway, between last week-end's post and the final preparations for the journey, Isobel finished the second puppet's head (you saw the first one in last week's post) and then took photographs of both before placing each over the finished body (hand/arm puppet).  These pictures were then emailed to MsSD - and they looked like this:

These photographs were taken of the Puppet Heads resting on the storage heater beside Isobel's arm chair - in which she sits while making up the Toys.  She then placed the Hand/Arm section of the puppet under each head, to give an impression of how they might look when completed.

MsSD decided on this head, which is the second version of  the Grey Cat Puppet heads.  Isobel decided not to include the felt nose shown on the first version last week  (and on the left of the first photo of the puppets here).  She decided to actually sew the nose on the second head, and agrees with MsSD that the "look" required is better achieved with the second version.  The second version also had shot silk ear linings, instead of the same fabric as the rest of the body, used for the first Puppet.  

When she completes the second Grey Cat Puppet later this week, she will therefore be sewing (using Black Double Knit wool) the nose on - and will then keep the mouth the way it is shown on the first photo in this post today.  Equally, when the nose is completed, she may decide to make it look like it's sad - as MsSD's version does.  The second puppet will then be listed as a new Coldham Cuddies Activity Toy once the work is complete.

Isobel has just checked on the Royal Mail Tracker Service website, and has discovered that Grey Cat Puppet 2 has arrived at Kennedy Airport, New York and is "being processed for delivery".  By posting it early on Friday morning in our local Post Office in Kirkby in Ashfield, she was evidently able to catch an aeroplane headed towards the USA as she had hoped.  Sometimes, if matters intervene at this end, and she can't deliver a parcel until the afternoon - it can take several days longer to get to its intended destination.  Whilst delivery is now entirely in the hands of the US Postal Service - hopefully, Grey Cat Puppet can reach its Forever Home by the end of next week.  Either Isobel or I will let you know as and when we can.

Meanwhile, here's another farewell photograph of Grey Cat Puppet 2 and I:

It's a bit difficult to have a Hand/Arm puppet straight without an actual finger in the finger guide that is provided!.  But the picture does show just how fluffy Grey Cat Puppet 2 is!!

See you all again soon.

Your Friend, Cy Bear.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Updates - for the Previous Week's developments.

Hello again -this time it's Isobel writing, since I've been undertaking most of the activities this week.

As for the Grey Cat Puppet: it has proved to be somewhat more difficult to create than I had originally anticipated.  The pattern template (copied from a book of Animal Patterns provided as a birthday present to me by daughter Clare - entitled "Soft Animals A to Z", by Carolyn Vosburg Hall and originally published in 2003 - so not as old as many of my other COLDHAMCUDDLIES) for some reason best known to its author does not include those magic LETTERS at specific points in any creation which allows a crafter to match template pieces together when actually making an object!  I had forgotten to add my own when originally making our Black Cat Puppet

Cat Arm Puppet Cat Activity Toy Cat Hand Puppet Black White Cat Toy Made to Measure Toy Toy for All Ages Activity Play Toy Present for Kids.

Alas, when it came to making the Grey Cat Puppets, I've discovered that my memory for making this Toy previously is not quite as good as I'd like to think:  with the result that I've had several sessions of sewing seams around the muzzle together - and taking them apart - before reaching the eventual correct siting of the pieces to reach my intended final solution!!  Last night, I finally got somewhere - and already, the second head is almost done.  Progress forwards should now not be as prolonged as it has been this last week.

When going to bed last evening, the Cat Puppet project was looking like this.

The hand puppet pieces are pinned together with the top coat fabric on the left:   the calico lining is cut out, but requires a brief pressing with my iron before being put together and fitted to the body. The head of the first Cat has facial features, which I'm not entirely satisfied with, but it will do for this post.  There will be two versions, as I think Cy Bear told you last week, so I've got some wriggle room yet - although the dispatch deadline is growing close!

I know the lining is not visible when the puppet is put together, but I don't like presenting ANYTHING in a untidy state - whether it is ultimately visible or not!  I shall be machine-stitching the hand/arm areas on both pieces - which is less time-consuming than doing it all by hand. 

Here's the first Cat Puppet's head, upside down (you can just see the gap - waiting for the finger-tube to be inserted and sewn in:  with some of the polyester stuffing sticking out of the space.)  One of the problems I've also encountered in this project has been the actual fabric itself.  It's beautifully tactile to touch - but  a real "horror" to work with.  It's SO fluffy and SO thick and curly that at times I've had difficulty in picking out my stitching!  As already stated, I've needed to unpick my first (or even second attempts) and that's taken some time - because,  for once, I've been able to get a pretty good match between sewing thread and the actual fabric!  You can see (below) what I mean about the fluffiness and curly-ness, can't you! 

This is how far I've got with the second Cat Puppet - the back of the head is already sewn on, and I just need to sew round the muzzle and do the facial features, before sewing the front face to the head back - to create the finger tube gap for this Puppet too.  (The new scissor investment I made when buying this particular fabric a couple of week' ago is just what I needed:  they have slightly curved ends, and are very sharp - so "shaving" excess furry bits to create the ultimate face should be a lot easier than it has been recently!)

I'm almost at the end of this particular tunnel, and looking forward to being able to complete the project by midweek - or Thursday evening at the latest.  That will give me the chance to have selected Grey Cat Puppet on its way to its Forever Home on Friday - hopefully. 

MsSD is based in Conway, South Carolina - and previous experience of shipping to the US Eastern Seaboard has been that it pays to get a package onto a Saturday aeroplane - because it seems to avoid hold-ups once it reaches US territory.  However, all our Cuddlies travel via the Royal Mail International Airmail Tracked programme, so tabs can be kept on the Toys' journey quite easily. Thus, if there is an unexpected delay in travel arrangements, the intended recipients can be alerted - if they've not tracked the package for themselves, of course!  Have to say, I find it rather interesting to keep up with my Toys in any case.

Here's a close-up of the first Grey Cat Puppet's head - I think the face is not quite right, in that the vertical line is too long from the middle of the nose, and the mouth does not convey the look for the puppet MsSD is particularly attached to.  Now I'm not doing to create an exact replica of that model, so that there are no copyright or other issues involved.  But I think I can make it look a lot more like the original - and intend to do so, if the second one - which still needs facial work on it - doesn't get nearer the mark when it reaches the same stage as the first example.  As Cy Bear said earlier, the one MsSD rejects, will become the next New COLDHAM CUDDLIES Toy in our online shop -

Before updating you about our recent Railway Trip (as the heading here implies) - and resultant decisions made by my fellow residents - here's a final close-up of the two Puppets' heads:

They both have green glass cat-eyes, but the ones on the second puppet are still somewhat "buried" in the surrounding curly plush!  Also think the scissors need to be applied to our first example - just to tidy it up a bit.

Now to the proposed Railway trip:   a decision was taken by my fellow residents that we should indeed book a day-trip to include the Duffield-Wirksworth Ecclesbourne Heritage Railway. Uninterested fellow travellers were happy to consider the garden centre option, although one of two of them did feel the cost of that part might be a sticking point.  After discussion, it was suggested that I now get a price for the 16 seater mini-bus to take the entire party to Wirksworth (end of the journey described in our last postand for the railway enthusiasts to get off the 'bus and travel back to Duffield on the train.  (It won't be a steam engine pulling the party, but one of the two diesel locomotives, as the steam engine doesn't operate during weekday trips).  The 'bus would meet us at that end of the track - having given the remainder of the party a mystery tour around the beautiful Peak District countryside between the two villages.  (I've yet to do this bit of research - but I can't see a problem.  A decision will need to be taken as to whether "The Bridge Inn" visit takes place before or after the 'bus/train experience - and is obviously dependent on train trip timings!)

The decision to include a Rail journey among the Summer outside activities enabled me to go to the transport provider (a local council-supported outfit called "Our Centre" which provides these facilities for local residents of a "certain age" at slightly subsidised prices).  Having created a suggested programme - with a 6-week interval between outings - prices for the 'bus journey were obtained and the Residents given the suggested timetable.  Needless to say, changes were immediately needed (isn't that always the way, when one creates a "list" - for ANYTHING? Changes almost always are required ere long!!).  In this case, our Resident volunteer member of the Ecclesbourne Railway Company pointed out that the day I'd chosen for the October visit would not be practicable:  as the trains did not run during week-days after the end of September!!  I don't think that this is an insurmountable problem - which will be discussed with Our Centre - the transport provider - on Monday, as I am due to visit their premises in person (to pay our dues for our last outing, together with the Old Chapel Close Tenants' Association Treasurer -  two signatures being required for the payment.!!)

So with that, this somewhat lengthy blog comes to an end for this week.  Good to be back with you again:  hopefully, we'll have some photos of Cy Bear and the completed Grey Cat Puppets to show you this time next week.  Until then - here's wishing you all a really good week:  wherever you happen to be when you read this post.  

Thanks for being such loyal Followers!  We're nearly at the 400th post by the way!!

Your Friend, Isobel.  

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Update on the Grey Cat Puppet - and change of scene.

Greetings everyone - Cy Bear here with another post from the World of the Coldham Cuddlies.

The update mentioned in the title:  after a battle (on Isobel's part - because she'd forgotten passwords and user names she uses to get in touch with Mohair Bear Making Supplies) contact was established and the fabric for MsSD's Grey Cat Puppet ordered.  It arrived safely in a couple of days after the order was placed, and it has now been cut out.

This first picture shows all the items assembled ready for Isobel to start the sewing process:  pattern template (in the manilla envelope on the left of the chair) and the instructions for putting the Cat's Head together on the white sheet of paper.  Scissors, measuring tape - to cut the hand puppet bit to match the measurements given us by MsSD.  Both versions of the proposed Cat Puppet will be made to those criteria - and the all important stuffing needed for the Cat's Head.

The second photograph shows the two Puppets cut out and ready to sew - and shows the fabric required to make a COLDHAM CUDDLIES hand/arm puppet.  Calico for the lining of the arm area, the furry fabric for the Cat's Head and body pieces, and the light Grey plush fabric needed for the Cat's muzzle.  Isobel is hoping to get around to sewing it later tonight - or definitely tomorrow. The body of both puppets will be machined - making it a much quicker process than if it was all done by hand.  Then the Cat Heads will be sewn individually - and the facial features created.  (Isobel actually treated herself to some special scissors from Mohair Bear Making Supplies which she will keep for using when shaping future Toys' facial expressions.  They're slightly curved at the ends, and very sharp - and should be easier for her to use in making Bears, Monkeys and other Toys that need these special features).

Sewing operations have been interrupted a little this week because Isobel has had other things to attend to - outside the COLDHAMCUDDLIES' World, one of which is that she's found herself being asked to organise some outside visits for fellow residents and herself to various sites of interest in the surrounding Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire countryside.  The lady that did it previously is now no longer with us, and there was no one else prepared to do it. Also, there were problems with Banks not co-operating, and the need to change their arrangements, as well as coping with the departure of the previous Trip Organiser, resulting in no outings taking place for the whole of 2016. 

Thus, Isobel has been busy getting prices for hiring the motor vehicle to transport between 10-16 residents (and their families/friends), and on Saturday - together with three gentlemen residents, she went on a train ride.  The objective of this exercise being to see whether such an event would be practical - with some residents needing "walkers" to aid their movements, and two of them relying on wheelchairs for access to such trips.

The gentlemen involved had been keen to arrange a trip for themselves to sample (and revive) their long term interest in the Steam Railway era - and their youthful preoccupation with "train-spotting". But one or two other residents, including Isobel, had expressed an interest in going along too.   A short distance away, there is a Heritage  railway - the Ecclesborne Valley Railway - offering a trip through beautiful Derbyshire countryside which begins at the village of Duffield, a circa 35 minute-drive from our home.  So, off the four residents went yesterday - and fortunately, the rain held off, and although it was windy, otherwise conditions were good.  (The UK offers a number of these Heritage Railways, around the country, staffed mostly by volunteers - some are bigger and cover longer distances than others.  Apparently there are at least two others in the nearby vicinity to our home, but this one was selected, because one of the "scouters" is a member of the Ecclesborne Valley Railway, and so was able to guide us in this aspect of the proposed outing.  He also gets "special rates" himself, but they discovered rates for parties can be negotiated as and when required.  Isobel will need to get her bargaining skills honed as a result.)

The other objective of the day out yesterday was to find somewhere to have a "meal out". Everyone living here enjoys the prospect of eating a meal that they've not had to prepare for themselves.  One of the company had suggested The Bridge Inn at Duffield, so that was where the party headed to begin with, having decided to eat first and ride later.  However, the drive had taken less time than envisaged. The hostelry did not appear to be open to outside visitors when they arrived, so having scouted the outside area(s), the party decided to proceed to Duffield Station, and take the first morning trip scheduled to begin some 20 minutes later.

The intrepid travellers - outside The Bridge Inn, Duffield

Part of the outside eating area.
The Bridge Inn has the River Derwent flowing beside the outside eating area.

So, off to Duffield Station they went - and this was the sight that awaited them upon arrival. 

An empty station platform, but obviously with a train expected shortly, as people were walking from cars and gathering at the station office to get their tickets. This cost Isobel £12.00 ($15.30 USD) - and it enabled her to travel for as long as she liked all day Saturday.  

Very shortly after they'd got their tickets, the train arrived, and because it is largely a single-track facility, the engine was uncoupled and shunted backwards towards the day's arriving passengers, so that the points could be changed to enable the machine to travel back along the short piece of second track - to the other end of the train, where the process of point-changing could take place, and the engine be re-coupled to the other end of the 4-carriage train.

Engine being shunted back to enable the points to be changed.
Waiting for the point change to take place
Travelling back to re-join the train at the front end.
On the way to getting on the train prior to departure, Isobel and company were able to have a quick glance at a noticeboard with the history of the railway.

The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway is celebrating it's 150th year since it opened and they are holding a series of events to commemorate this landmark between April and October this year.  The map on the left of the board shows the stations en route  and the rail journey takes about 20 minutes.  In addition to the steam engines, they also have some diesel locomotives that are used to convey visitors during week-days.  Steam travel, given that the railway is entirely staffed by volunteers, takes place on Saturdays and Sundays - because, for obvious reasons, it takes more time to ready the engines to get sufficient steam to propel the trains using coal as fuel for the trips.

The Derbyshire countrywide was looking very spruce and green, since the trees have only recently acquired this year's leaves - and the party was particularly struck by the view between hedges of this field - absolutely covered with buttercups:  really a sight to be seen.

On the way to Wirksworth, this view caught Isobel slightly unawares, and the nearby hedge butted in before she'd had time to get her camera ready in time to show you the absolute carpet of buttercups on the scene.  However, on the way back, she managed to get it a bit better - it really is a wonderful sight, isn't it?

At the other end of the track, we found this little steam engine complete with it's own truck.

This enables those so inclined to pay a bit more and be transported to the top of a nearby land mark - where the Derbyshire countryside opens out looking towards the Higher Peak District westwards. The trip takes place during the time that the engine does the track-switching operation which delivers it to the rear of the train, for the journey back to Duffield - which also enables the other travellers to buy and enjoy a quick snack offered in a Buffet housed in converted old railway carriages.  Our party decided to leave these bits for another time, and just enjoyed breathing in the fresh Peak District air instead.

 On Saturdays and Sundays, there are three trips a day under steam, and there are a similar number of journeys on week-days - with choices of travel while being hauled by a Heritage Diesel Locomotive - pulling the steam rail cars, or days when the Diesel Locomotive hauls Rail  Cars of a similar vintage to itself.  

From their perspective, Isobel and her friends decided - while enjoying a light lunch back at The Bridge Inn after they'd arrived back in Duffield - that a visit could well be arranged for their walker-aided friends.  The wheel-chair travellers needed to be consulted (and appropriate arrangements laid on) about whether or not they'd be prepared to travel for the duration of the trip in the Guards Van, which does have access via a ramp provided.  (There is a window in the railcar).   The access via the normal doorways was definitely not wheelchair friendly.  If they were, Isobel would need to ensure that the rail car with the Guards Van was on hand on the day any trip were to be booked.

Isobel and Co. also discovered that there could be an alternative to offer those residents who might well enjoy seeing a Heritage Railway in operation, but not necessarily be that enthusiastic about participating in the journey itself.  There is a handy Garden Centre - complete with cafe and other shops, all under cover - which they could repair to, while the rail enthusiasts undertook the journey to Wirksworth and back.

The findings are to be offered to the Residents next week - and arrangements put in hand as a result of decisions taken at that time.  More of that anon - and of course, hopefully, finished photographs of the Cat Puppets too.

See you all next week, Folks.  Hope you all have a good one!

Your Friend, Cy Bear.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

In Waiting Mode

Hello Everyone:

Cy Bear back again, with some tit bits to share about my new Friend, Hairy Bear12 - whom you saw in pieces last week, while Isobel was in the process of making him for our Etsy Shop, www.

He was finished over last week-end, after all the limbs had been added to the body and head (the state Hairy Bear12 was in when you saw him last week-end).    You can see, he's had his face created too - by Isobel carefully cutting the fabric pile around the eyes, nose and mouth areas.

Having done that, Isobel's thoughts moved towards the creation of the Grey Cat Puppet for MsSD from Conway, South Carolina, USA.  When she left you last week, she had described how she might make up the Puppet - if she was unsuccessful in finding fabric that might better resemble a previous Cat Puppet she'd made for another of our US Customer Friends in 2015 -

The previous Grey Mohair Cat Puppet
Accordingly, on Monday she sent the above picture and a request to our "go-to" mohair bear making supplies Shop - Mohair Bear Making Supplies Limited of Telford, Shopshire, UK.  As we suspected the fabric shown here was not now in stock - we had, after all, been given a roll end when we bought it for the 2015 project (but replacement supplies might have been sourced in the interim).  However, they did come back with a photograph of the "only grey curly" they had in stock - which looks like this:

I gather that it's not actually a mohair fabric, but more of a plush one - and rejoices in the name "medium-pile-faux-fur-fabrics/silver-bear-20mm-ratinee-pile".   The above picture was duly sent off to MsSD, who replied "I love it" - so Isobel duly returned to Mohair Bear Supplies and told them she'd like to buy at least half a metre (that will be more than enough to make at least one version - if not two of these Grey Cat Puppets. ).  Isobel suggested she would do two at the same time, not to only give MsSD a choice of finished product, but also so we could then list the remaining one as another new COLDHAM CUDDLIES Toy.

Spring/Summer is always a busy time for our suppliers - because not only are they the largest mohair bear making fabric supplier in the UK,  but this is often the busiest period for them with lots of Bear Festivals all around the country.  The proprietors of the business (Darren and Lanie Capps) not only operate what sounds like quite a large business unit on a Business Park in Telford, but they also go to the Bear Festivals too, taking lots of samples with them - and this week (just our luck!) would appear to be one of those occasions.

So, while we've "ordered" the fabric, Isobel has had to bide her time in beginning to sew the Grey Cat Puppet.  Telephone contact is not actually encouraged - they admit it takes them time, sometimes, to get to a call!  So, we're going to send a copy of this blog post to them, once we've finished it today - to see if THAT gets a response.  Isobel will also try ringing them when they open on Monday morning - in the hope that one of them will be near the telephone (if only because of the need to check on what has happened in their absence).  Another reason, too, may well be that Isobel is not nearly their best customer - although she'd like to be, because their fabrics are so lovely to handle.  Alas she can't justify it while we retain our existing stash of faux fur and other Cuddlies fabrics!!  (Our storage space alone is the main reason.)

However, during the mid-week visit to spend time with GransonE, Isobel did take a series of outdoor photographs of Hairy Bear12 - and here are a few to tide you over (as well as make this post a little more photogenic and interesting).  They were taken, as most of our outdoor pictures are these days in Daughter Clare's back garden - and "supervised" by both GransonE and Grandog Dotty:

Sitting in the Flower Border - with a Red Poppy for company

Hairy Bear being steered by GrandsonE in his Dinosaur Car

(Interestingly, when I sat in the car a couple of weeks before, GrandsonE was not quite sure about me being there!  Not sure what to make of that I have to say!)

Enjoying the bright sunshine on offer that day

Sitting in the sunshine, and getting a bit blown about too

Showing he can stand on firm ground as well as grass

With a "Windmill" bird scarer in the background

With that string of photographs of Hairy Bear12, I'll end this week's post.  At least, now, Isobel has some choices when she decides to change the look of  Hairy Bear's listing in the Shop in the next few weeks and months.

Either Isobel or I will be back soon with the next bulletin from the World of the COLDHAMCUDDLES.  In the meantime, here's wishing you all a splendid week - wherever you are, and what ever you happen to be doing or planning.

Your Friend, Cy Bear