Monday, 25 February 2013

Making the Buchanan Foxes - Part Two

Well, hello there - after a few days away from Heytesbury, during which a family memorial was attended - I'm now back again at base, and ready to pick up the action once more.  (It was so cold here that Philippa (elder daughter) decided she would accompany me and drive me there. although I had been prepared to travel by train).

 Despite the best laid plans - to draft this post, and some others that are brewing in my mind, while away from home - this is the first opportunity I've had to compose Part Two of the Buchanan Foxes' story, so here it is:

Having collected all the various pieces of each Buchanan Fox and "collated" them, the next step was to dress the calico torso.  The order in which the items are put together is - pantaloons (which have their legs gathered at the ankle and attached firmly to each leg):  followed by the waist being gathered and sewn in place, with the gathers evenly arranged around the body.  Then the skirt is attached.  As this is the first time I've made a skirt with a woolen fabric, and because we are dealing with a plaid here, I decided to pleat the skirt first,  and then gather it to fit (reflecting the traditional use of plaid for kilts).  This actually worked rather well, as it enabled the skirt to get some bant and hopefully to result in the toy becoming a stand-alone (if needed).

Then the bodice, to which the arms had been sewn first, was pulled over the gathered waist line of the skirt and sewn in place in it's turn.  Having worked with the first Fox, the other two soon followed.

The printer (under the orange cloth - originally a curtain), which usually performs the function of being the photographic platform while I'm making up the Cuddlies, proved to be a bit small on this occasion, but you get the drift!.  At this stage, all three of the headless torsos did stand alone.

Before going any further, we thought you might like to see the name of the mill from which these offcuts originated.  This label was attached to one of the pieces I originally discovered when opening up the off-cut haul  received earlier this year, and which was alluded to in my previous post (Part One). The reverse of the label, indicates that the cloth in question is the Buchanan.  I did take a picture of that side, but for some reason or another it has got mislaid between camera and file!  Not concentrating - in the rush to get at least one post published before leaving on my break is the reason, I suspect!

The next step in the fabrication process was to sew on the white felt collar.  Now usually I decorate the edges of the Cuddlies' felt collars with some embroidery;  but on this occasion felt that the RicRac around the hemline, together with the multiple colours in the plaid, were sufficiently eye-catching - and that a plain collar would actually make the wholedressed toy stand out better.  Accordingly, plain white collars were each stitched in place - and then the three Foxes got their heads.

Their bonnets are made with some felt material (again an off-cut from my Frome, Somerset source) which is lime green on the outside with a white lining.  (The fabric first was used late last year as the body for the Green & Orange Frog - Etsy Listing #116285186).   The bonnets are edged with  primrose seam binding attached with a machined zig zag stitch in the same green cotton used to sew the dresses and shoes.  They are now tied under each Fox's chin with a primrose yellow satin ribbon (used for baby layettes normally, but equally applicable here, don't you think?)  Each Fox has a different length of ribbon - just to differentiate them from one another - as well as the different RicRac decoration on each toy's skirt.  Another departure:  the bonnets are detachable.

( Normally, all dressed Cuddlies have their entire outfits attached to the calico body.  Apart from the fact that the pattern calls for this, I do feel that it confirms the concept of the Cuddlies being Collectable Toys, as opposed to just being a plaything:  although, of  course, playing is the primary reason for their being made.)

The Buchanan Foxes were about to be listed, when I suddenly discovered that none of them had their tails!  Now that would have been a criminal omission:  so, without more ado, three tails were cut out, sewn up and stuffed - and rapidly attached. with the following result:

Etsy  Listing # 65456642
This multiple approach does have its drawbacks!  However, the longer I am involved with the Cuddlies, the more I am finding it is easier in the long run to cut out and work with more than one model.  That's for now:  one never knows how things will develop, because this is not how I was originally taught to make toys or how the process was carried out until recently!

That's all for this post:  another will follow shortly, and this time Cy Bear will take over.  His custodial performance while I've been away, has been impeccable, and deserves to be rewarded:  he does like to take the limelight whenever possible!

Good night and God Bless!  Isobel

Monday, 18 February 2013

Making of the Buchanan foxes - Part One

As regular Followers (now 300 - the magic number has been surpassed:  finally!) of this Blog will recall, whilst I do purchase fabrics for the manufacture of the ColdhamCuddlies, I do try mostly to use off-cuts where they are available.  I am lucky to have a ready source of such materials from an upholstery factory in nearby Frome, Somerset (about 10 miles from where I live here in Heytesbury, Wiltshire).  If I did not take these off-cuts (and they tend to be mostly the unusual furry fabrics  used for my Teddy Bears, Wombats and Hedgehogs), these unwanted pieces of fabric would end up on local land-fill sites and land for such rubbish is not unlimited (especially in a small island like the United Kingdom!)

I also purchase my supply of polyester fibre used for stuffing all the ColdhamCuddlies from the same factory (at trade bulk prices, rather than the retail charges  normally available to crafters).  It was when I was picking up 4 one kilo (nearly 9 lbs in all) bags of the fibrefill just after Christmas that I also found a large plastic bag (the same size as the 4 kilo bag illustrated in my penultimate post on Transforming TW Bear - Part Two- 08/02/2013) of choice off-cuts too.  Among the furry fabrics on offer was a separate bag of tartan offcuts, of which the Buchanan plaid was most prolific.

There were three large pieces available - just the right size for the Foxes' skirts - plus several smaller pieces which were used for the bodices and will be just the thing for shirts for the next batch of Gentleman Foxes that are on the "To Do" List.  So, I set about making three versions of the Lady Foxes - and here is a description of the production process.  (There are several other, very colourful , plaid fabrics to be used - but there are no hard and fast plans on how they will be used at the moment!)

First of all, I made the three skirts - and decided to decorate them with different coloured RicRac trimming.  I loathe hemming with a passion - always have:  so, using the RicRac enables me to create a hem  and decorate the dress at the same time!  Always like to find ways of cutting the production process time if possible. The trimming is attached with embroidered French Knots in a contrasting yarn.   These three Ladies have taken me about 8-9 evenings in all - with blogging and other Etsy marketing activities having to be fitted in between (as well as general living chores to undertake!)

The Dress Skirts, decorated and ready for use

All the dressed toys (with the exception of the Coyotes) are usually started by cutting out the bodies in calico (using the sheeting material in which the polyester fibre is supplied - I abhor waste of any kind, so everything that is useable is utilised when I make my Cuddlies).  When I travelled to Normandy in October, I actually took some cut out bodies with me.  The aim being to keep my mind from the English Channel's swell on my return journey, as well as to keep my arthritic fingers moving.  While visiting my family in Normandy and on the return trip back to the UK, I sewed up three Lady and three Gentleman toy bodies.

One of the latter was used for a Coyote that is now living happily in Edmonton Canada, and was a custom order from my younger daughter, Clare who is God Mother to the Coyote's recently arrived Forever Friend, AndyB.  The three lady bodies now comprise the Buchanan Foxes and there are two Gentleman's bodies waiting to be utilised!

Having cut out all the pieces required to make three different versions of the Lady foxes, the the process of putting them together began.

Fox heads, ears, shoes, bodies,skirts and arms x 3

All the bodies pieces for lady Cuddlies have two seams made at the top of the legs. One straight across from left to right (or right to left - if one is that way inclined) and the other starting from one side, making an arc to the orther (with about a quarter of an inch between the two sewing lines).  This enables the toys to sit all the time, whereas the Boys are expected to stand upright!  Once stuffed (from the bottom upwards for the legs and from the top downwards for the body), the shoes are stuffed and added to the body.  Then, the pantaloons are sewn and edged with lace or other appropriate trimming.  In these cases, I had some pretty white cotton edging to hand, and decided to use that instead of lace for a change.

Body, with shoes, pantaloons ready 

The next stage is for the head, and arms (with plush paws attached before stuffing) to be made and sewn on to the bodice for each Toy.  One has to remember that one needs to put the eyes in before one stuffs the head (something I have been known to omit! - with the resulting need to de-stuff and start again!).  Then the ears are made up (lining piece and plush sewn together, turned inside out and then over-sewn at the bottom.  I find this makes it easier to sew the ears on upright when attaching them to the head).  Ears can be a problem for me sometimes - but on this occasion, all three went on first time, which was a pleasant change!

This post has now gone on long enough, and there is a need for me to end anyway as I have to prepare a meal for both Philippa (elder daughter) and myself prior to my returning to High Wycombe (home to Philippa for a few days' away from base.)  While I shall be checking my emails while away, I may not be able to do another post  - but will endeavour to do so if at all possible.  I have sufficent material for at least another three more posts and I may have computer time at some time during the week.  As Philippa works from home, her needs take priority, as I am sure you will all understand.

Cy Bear is therefore on guard duty over the ColdhamCuddlies family, together with providing company to the latest Patient in the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic - one Turner Bear, whom Cy Bear is most anxious to tell you about as soon as possible, even though his treatment has not yet begun, and he has news to impart about Golden Teddy and Ben, the Barn Owl, who have safely reached their respective Forever Homes.

(This is going to be posted off Philippa's computer, as I'd hoped:  the other posts will need to wait until I return, because obviously (at least to all those computer literate Followers of mine) my pictures are filed on MY OWN hard drive, and not on Philippa's!   I will be able to draft, minus illustrations, though, so will prepare the posts alluded to here, and post them after I return to Heytesbury  - on or after February 25).

Until the next time, then.  Keep safe all of you - and may the weather be kind to everyone.  We've all had some awful experiences in that sphere in recent weeks and months, and it's about time the omens changed, methinks!  Isobel

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Meet the Three Foxes in Buchanan Tartan Dresses

Just listed at Limited Edition Collectable Chestnut Plush Furry Foxes
These Three (of Three) Limited Edition Chestnut Plush Furry Foxes, are dressed in Buchanan Tartan fabric - upcycled offcuts which would otherwise have been consigned to a local landfill site.   Each have two separate lines of RicRac trimming at the lower edge of their dresses - one in Orange fixed with embroidered Green French Knots, one with Yellow and Green French Knots, and the third with Dark Green RicRac and Yellow French Knots - illustrated below.

They each have a detachable Lime Green Felt Bonnet, edged with Primrose trimming, all measure 17 inches or 44 cms from the tip of their ears to the soles of their shoes and are meant to sit down. They weigh 260g each (circa 10 ounces) so, if travelling singly will be treated as a Standard Small Packet and charged as such by United Kingdom Royal Mail, both for international or within the UK journeys.

Assembled before being sewn together

They all have the same coloured Dark Green Felt Shoes and White Satin Pantaloons edged with white Cotton trimming. They all have a plain White Felt Collar Their bodies are made separately with calico and stuffed with polyester fibre meeting all international safety standards Their heads, paws, ears and tail are all made with chestnut brown plush furry material, with the ears being lined in fawn satin lining. Their eyes are plastic with a glassy surface and safely attached with a plastic safety backing.

Please note that I no longer drive a car, and am thus dependent on rural 'bus services in order to reach a Post Office capable of handling Parcels (because of their bushy tails, these Lady Foxes will be regarded as such). I usually access these outlets on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday of any one week, so if a specific deadline has to be met, Buyers are asked to take this restriction into consideration when placing their order.

Two further posts featuring these new additions to the ColdhamCuddlies family, which are renewals for our original Lady Fox dressed in a green candy-striped poplin dress, will be posted here shortly. ( Another Lady Fox  dressed in Green Candy Stripe is planned for production shortly).

Friday, 8 February 2013

Transforming TW Bear - Part Two

Hello Everyone - Cy Bear  back again, to take over the story of TW Bear's transformation.

There's not a lot of room where the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic normally operates - from the Lloyd Loom Chair next to Isobel's bed.  The sitting space is currently filled by two plastic bags in which the remaining Christmas Teddy Bears are resting - until we can find space for them in one of our cupboards.  Here's a photograph of said Chair, together with a Kilo (2.2lbs) Bag of Stuffing waiting to be used, balanced on the back of it,

because there are another 4 Kilo Bags of Stuffing balanced on top of another cupboard the other side of the bedroom!  We operate in a relatively small space!!

Thought you'd be interested in this information - before I get back to the subject matter in hand.  By the way, the Bubble Pak box has the bubble wrap in which all the ColdhamCuddlies get packed before they set off to their Forever Homes, and underneath that is the pile of chemical free tissue paper which is put round them before they get bundled in the wrapping.  The whole travel preparation process takes place ON Isobel's bed!

Now - back to TW Bear's transformation:  once the old Bear pieces have been dried, they normally require to be lightly pressed.  In TW's case this was not needed, so Isobel was able to proceed to the next stage.  Because some of TW's pieces were rather ragged (as mentioned at the end of our last post), each piece was placed on cardboard and Isobel drew around them.  That way, she was able to get a better idea of his eventual shape.  For example, the gusset piece to which TW's side faces is attached needed a bit of guesswork on Isobel's part.  Had we thought about it, we should perhaps have asked to see a photograph of what he had originally looked like - but in the event, MrsAW, TW's Forever Friend is quite satisfied with his final look.

Here are TW's new shapes already to be put together, with his original bits tacked on to the new mohair coat fabric.  The black wool markings indicate where eyes and ears need to be matched, and his ears are already made.  His original ones had disappeared, so Isobel used the pattern for Edward Bear's appendages - since they were roughly the same size, shape and age.

The bits have been sewn together, turned right side out,  and TW's eyes have been put in place.  Now he's ready to be stuffed!

TW's head has been stuffed and attached to his body..  He's got a knitting yarn cone stuffed inside him so he can stand up for this photograph, but that is somewhat shorter than TW's whole body - which is why he looks a little odd at the bottom end!

Now TW's arms have been stuffed.  His new paw pads are made with soft beige leather (as opposed to some sort of felt that had previously been used) - and attached to his body.  The legs have been attached in their respective spots, but still need to be stuffed.  In TW's case, because the fur was thicker than Edward Bear's, Isobel decided to stuff his legs after she had attached them to the body.  She decides on which pathway as and when they arrive!

Here is TW, with ears attached, nose in place - the shape of the gusset called for an oblong nose this time, rather than the arrow-shaped one Isobel usually puts on us Bears (again, it's "horses for courses", as the saying goes - Isobel) - and he is  ready to be re-united with MrsAW, his Forever Friend.

That took place a few days ago - and here are two pictures of TW sitting on one of the armchairs of his Forever Home.

He looks great against an apricot coloured background, doesn't he?  We've been invited to call round anytime to see him - because he only lives across the road from the front of The Hospital of St. John here in Heytesbury (our apartment is at the back of the complex).

There we are then - the next patient in the Clinic is expected to arrive sometime later this week.  His Forever Friend seemed to get cold feet about bringing him in on Tuesday.  He was her mother's bear, and she was never allowed to touch him, so for years he has just lain in a drawer.  When his Forever Friend went to pick him up, apparently some of his stuffing fell out, and when they met at their  Zumba class earlier in the week, she wondered if it was going to be worthwhile giving him to Isobel at all.  Fortunately, RevJS, Edward Bear's Forever Friend you will remember, was standing next to them, and she provided the requisite assurance that Isobel would certainly be able to bring her Bear back to life.  So....... we await his arrival.

 Rumour has it that he's another Red Bear!  (Little Red Ted was the very first patient in the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic (Etsy Listing #79124185)- nearly 2 years' ago - posts about him and his big Brother, Big Red Ted appeared on 30/04/2011, 04/05/2011 and 05/05/2011).

Finally - Edward was re-united once more with RevJS - who is now completely satisfied with Edward's "happy look"!  

Good night and good-bye for the time being.  Cy Bear

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Transforming TW Bear - Part One

Our last post (February 4, 2013) included mention that TW Bear was re-united with his Forever Friend after a somewhat prolonged stay awaiting treatment in the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic (Etsy Listing 79124185).  The delay was caused, not by any difficulty involved with his therapy, but merely the fact that we had some difficulty in establishing a fabric source initially, and then we had three other Bear Patients (see the posts regarding the Treatment of the Wagstaff Bears) who all needed to be back with their Forever Friends in time for Christmas.  In addition, there were no time constraints or demands in the case of TW's transformation, nor that of his good friend Edward Bear, who had arrived in the Clinic a few days earlier than TW himself.

Thus, once Edward's New Nose Job was successfully accomplished (see post on 31/01/2013), TW's transformation started.  With the result looking like this

the first stage of treatment, as ever, began with an attack with the "Quik Unpic" - in close proximity to a large garbage bin.  The combination of wood chippings and kapok stuffing that many Bears of TW's vintage (some where between 80-100 years old.) results in a lot of waste needing to be carefully collected.  TW's Forever Friend, Mrs. AW admits to being over 80, but she's not sure if he was a hand-me-down, or arrived new, but he's been with her since she can first remember.   Even so, there always seems to be stuff to be vacuumed up as well, no matter how careful one is in the deconstruction process.

The deconstruction, and much of my restoration work, is undertaken on my trusty ironing board - hence the need for some covering to collect the detritus created as one works through.  The ironing board is also the surface on which many of the photographs get taken!

The stuffing on the right was extracted from the top half of  TW's body and his head (Far R.).  The latter being totally wood chippings, and the body mostly Kapok, with a bit of wood chipping around the neck area - presumably to provide a bit of stiffening.  (The more I get involved with toy restoration, the less I understand the mindset of those involved in yesteryear!  Also, the more I dislike the thought of wood chipping - so dangerously inflammable!)

TW's total internal contents!
Once all the stuffing and joints had been removed, there was still some stubborn Kapok needing removal before TW could be immersed in a bath to remove the accumulation of dust from several decades.

Given the length of time that the dust/dirt had collected,  the left-overs in the bath shown in the lowest picture really shows how well TW had been cared for over the years.  Apparently, as he got progressively hairless, MrsAW's Nanny had become correspondingly embarassed by his appearance.  So she provided him with a knitted vest and knickers to keep him covered.  These, alas, now no longer fit - but MrsAW requested they be returned with TW, for totally sentimental reasons.

Once the total immersion had been completed - TW stayed underwater all night just to make sure he was completely clean - the usual drying procedure was commenced.  So, I'll close this post with TW's vital pieces being hung out to dry (with  great care you understand:  not in the normal sense of these words!)

The piece in the middle of the front row is the gusset - the central piece of the head.  It, and the two pieces on either side, (TW's face) were the most damaged and frayed.  My questionable artistic talents were thus needed when it came to the next stage of the transformation!

Until the next time.....Isobel

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Clinic is empty - for now: so here is a catch up

This morning, TW Bear was reunited with his Forever Friend, Mrs. AW - leaving the Stuffed Animal Restoration Clinic (Etsy Listing #791241850) without a patient (for the first time since October 2012).  There may well be another patient coming in shortly - his Forever Friend (a fellow Zumbette - that's what our Zumba Leader calls us!) may well be introducing us at this week's Zumba session tomorrow.

Edward Bear joining in the traditional Farewell picture

This means I've got a breathing space in which to create some replacement Foxes (Ladies and Gentlemen), Coyotes (so far only Gentlemen have featured) and Gentlemen Rabbits, a Frog or two and maybe some new Cuddlies which are lining up in the background.

The new TW Bear
TW Bear when he arrived in November 2012

However, before I set to with scissors, needle and thread, perhaps this is a good time for a post catching up with overall developments in the ColdhamCuddlies world of Shop and Blog.  Our Followers (293 of them when I checked earlier today - let's see if we can get it to 300 before our second anniversary arrives early in March!) - may recall that in our final post for 2012 (December 31, 2012) I mentioned the offer of help to heighten our profile on Etsy from Joel Barnett ( of Boise, Idaho.  True to his word, early in January we got together and the first task he set me was to increase by Etsy Circles. He also suggested I took a good look at some of my photographs in the Shop.   As usual, I didn't have a clue where to begin with the Circles, but with some guidance I set off - and have definitely become addicted to this form of marketing!  It is terribly time-consuming however - but it's keeping me well occupied.

On the photography side:  well I found a Photography book - The Crafter's Guide to taking Great Photos on line and sent away for it via Amazon.  It arrived when I was well involved in the Circling adventure, and it has so far just sat on my desk waiting closer inspection.  I will do something about the pictures:  but at the moment, am having too much fun elsewhere!  As the days go by, I realise just how important good, crisp, clear pictures are for selling on line and INTEND to do it properly - soon!

My modus operandi is to choose Shops that are already in a goodly number of Circles - after all, it is all about spreading the world, is it not?  There are so many Shops involved, that I've set myself the task of adding those with 200 or more Circles to begin with.  At the beginning of this particular exercise, I was in something like 136 Circles;  as of today, the number is 472, so there is a result!  I think it is working - because I am being added to many more circles than of yore, without me adding them first.  I'm finding that  Circles with less than 200 members are now adding me to their Circles, (as well as those I've approached first) and I reciprocate to them ALL (and tell them so).  I've responded to EVERYONE who has been kind enough to add me to their own Circles, and invited them to visit this blog.  Many have - which has resulted in another 20 or so Followers here since the beginning of this year!

 Last week also,saw Cuddlies included in 3 different Treasuries curated by folks other than fellow Etsy Team members, which is where the Cuddlies have been treasured  before.  Now I have to admit that Treasuries have defeated me to date, but doing the Circling has opened my eyes up to how one can add fellow Treasures to one's Circles, so am seriously telling myself to sit down and have a go.  Just need another 24 hours to each day, maybe, but I'll really have a go - SOON!

The best thing as far as I am concerned is that I've discovered some truly amazing crafts being offered all over the world, met some fascinating people and been given some truly useful links which may lead to an expansion of the ColdhamCuddlies activities.  One of my new Circle friends suggested I should visit two book publishing sites which are involved with childrens' publishing.  Now this is something I've been minded to explore - but only once I've got more blogging material on record.  Have considered 250 posts as a good starting point:  we're currently at 184 with this post.  One of these publishing links is actually The Society for Childrens' Book Writing and Illustration - headquartered in the USA, but with a regional branch in the UK.  Really sounds promising, and I've filed it (and the other one away for future research and development).

Edward Bear  and Cy Bear - before Edward goes home
Carrying on the theme of new friends and potential publishing developments, at the week-end, one of my new Circle acquaintances mentioned that she found the contents of our blog ( "engaging" and that it had made her smile.  She also added some other nice compliments - to the point that I wrote back and requested permission to quote her as and when I do decide to go ahead with the publishing venture.  McKenzie and Ricky Cook Petersen operate from and are located  somewhere in Missouri!  Ricky is the person who has been so encouraging and helpful:  what's more, she doesn't blog - so can truly be described as an "independent supporter" when I quote her kind words.  Family and friends' views are important, but on such occasions can be regarded as being biased, possibly!

So, the last month has been engaged in proving what a friendly and helpful bunch folks can be on Etsy - and I've tried to behave in similar fashion when Newbies have added me to their Circles.  I know how difficult I found it to begin with, and just hope they will be as lucky as I have been in finding their feet and guidance from similar, such widespread, Etsy sources.

I'll be back, with Cy Bear in tow, shortly with a description of TW Bear's treatment - probably in at least two installments - but in the interim would encourage everyone who has read this to visit the two Etsy sites  mentioned here.  They have some unusual articles on offer and a visit will not be an unproductive venture!

Final Picture of the Threesome before Edward goes home tomorrow
 Bye for now.  Isobel