Monday, February 24, 2014

The Green Man and the Alien Egg

Well, it's been a strange few days. 
On Friday evening a storm blew up out of nowhere, yanked the roofplates around a bit, found its way into the studio, and dumped a pool of chilly water in the attic.  The bookshelves and area around the clay table in my workroom was flooded.  Having a wooden floor is romantic, but not so much when trying to contain a spontaneous waterfall.  Soon there was a musical pattering as the water made its way downstairs, directly on to my computer.  Murphy sure knows how to aim.
On Saturday I was trying to mop up and dry up indoors as best I could, while serving customers in the shop.  Dear husband decided to go onto the roof to see what could be done about the damage. 
Next moment there was a resounding crash and the world outside turned green.
After witnessing this event I can tell you that it's a scientific fact - if you drop a bucket of paint from the roof the splatter area will be several meters in all directions.  Did I mention that this happened right in front of the open studio door?  With Siegfried and three unsuspecting dogs at ground zero.  I'm still busy cleaning up.

This afternoon, after a trip to town to replace drowned computer parts, I took a walk in the veld with my green dogs to steady my nerves.  We  came upon an egg.
It's 10cm long and pointy on one end, with a rough and porous surface. The shell feels as though it is very thick and hard.  Whatever animal laid this egg must be of a significant size.  I did imagine that I saw one of the neighbours walking an Emu the other day, but I believe their eggs are blue.  Maybe it's a dragon or a dinosaur egg, or maybe we had an early visit from the Easter bunny.   But this is a fenced area...
I'm not taking any chances.  It's going in a straw basket and staying outside.  With the kind of luck I'm having lately, a mohair eating lizard will hatch from it and devour my teddy bears!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Five More Random Teddy Bear Making Tips

Today I marked out on fabric the arms and legs for Panda. 
The longer I looked at the legs, the less I liked that tiny footpad.  This bear is going to have sculpted toes.  A bit of extra width on the footpad will be useful.
A bigger footpad means that a bigger foot is needed for it to fit in.  We have to make the foot first.  Here you can see how much bigger I made the foot.  Do you see how the bottom of the foot is curved and not straight?  This also gives more space for the footpad to fit in.  When bears have very big footpads I usually curve the bottom line of the foot.
Here's the much better bigger footpad.  All parts of the bear should be in proportion.  When I made the foot bigger, I made the arm slightly bigger as well.
How do I know that the footpad is going to fit into the foot?
Tip 1.  Measure the distance half way around the footpad, and compare it to the distance available at the bottom of the foot.  Take into account that the foot will have seams already sewn.  In the photo you can see where I have drawn in the seam allowance.  The green lines represent the two areas that will correspond when you sew the footpad into the foot.  You can use a rubber band or piece of string to measure.
Then of course, I had to re-mark all the pieces on the fabric since I already had it done when I changed my mind about the foot.  Fortunately I did not start cutting yet!  I was too lazy to get up and find another pen, so I just used the same one to mark over my existing pieces.  The result was a maze of lines that hypnotized me.  Even as I thought I should be careful not to make a mistake, twice while I was cutting I started following the wrong line!
Tip 2.  If you need to re-mark pattern pieces on the fabric change to a different colour pen!
Tip 3.  Make a small hole in the template plastic where arm and leg joints are indicated, and be sure to transfer the markings accurately on to the fabric.  This will prevent your bear from having one arm or leg higher than the other.  Be sure to mark the spots clearly, once the limbs have been turned right side out, it can be very difficult to spot the dot... If you are scared that you might lose them, use a strand of brightly coloured thread to sew an X over the joint position.
The footpads for Panda are cut from mohair.  I have something special in mind for the footpad detail.  Notice the green arrows that are pointing to small lines at the toe and heel of the footpad. 
Tip 4.  Always mark the centre of the heel and the toe with a small line, and stay stitch these two points into the foot before you start sewing in the footpad.  Not only will it make it easier to sew in the footpad, but the foot will be perfectly symmetrical when you are finished with it.
Tip 5, for dummies.  Which is the heel and which is the toe?  The wider part of the footpad is always the toe, unless you are imitating an early Steiff bear.  With your bare feet, step in a puddle, then on  to a dry surface.  See your footprint?  Toes are the wider part!

This is as much as I'm going to do today.  It is overcast and sewing black fabric when the light is not good causes eye strain.  That's my excuse anyway.  I found the elusive Easter bunny from yesterday, and we are playing on the clay table.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Panda Progress

Panda is shaping up!
Head is sewn and stuffed.  Body halves are sewn, and darts sewn.  Do you see how the darts are going to help the panda to have wide shoulders and a round tummy with solid hips?
Close-up view of the stuffed head.  Nice and round.
Panda heads are large in proportion to their bodies.  I think this body is going to turn out just the way I want it.

Panda ears are positioned high and far back on the head.  Do you see the eyelid detail?  This was done with polymer clay.
And this is as far as I'm going to get today.  I'm searching for a bunny last seen three Easters ago...

Yikes!  A panda abduction? 
Read the story here:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Five random teddy bear making tips

No, I haven't made it through a day this week yet without falling asleep.  But when I woke up this morning I thought it's a good day for designing a panda.  This is not really digressing from my intentions to work on Angus and the Polymer Clay Noses tutorial.  I'm at a point with the noses tutorial where I need a live sample to take pictures of, and I don't have a work in progress that will work as a model. 
By lunchtime I had a workable set of templates, and found mohair that I like.  While I was working on the head, I thought of teddy bear making techniques, and the small things that make life easier.   Here are five that came to mind.
1.  Make your templates from sturdy material.  I use old x-ray sheets that have been cleaned with bleach and hot water.  You can also buy template plastic at a quilting shop.  Sturdy templates give a much more accurate result when tracing on to fabric, and you can use them many times over without wearing them out.
2.  When tracing pattern templates on to dark coloured fabric, a metallic gel pen works really well.
3.  Darts and small parts.  My panda has many darts.  With small bears I often don't cut out the darts, I just pinch and sew them.  Cutting out darts can weaken the structure of the fabric.  On the other hand, this bear is not so small and has dense fur.  Not cutting out the darts might make the seams chunky.   Sewing in those eye patches is going to be a challenge.  Another option would be not to cut the white part, and to ladder stitch the black patches on to the right side of the fabric.  
4.  Phew I made it.  The eye patches fit in, and the darts are sewn!  When sewing together different colours of fabric, always choose a thread that matches the darkest colour.
5.  Pandas are chubby creatures.  When selecting a pattern for a panda, choose one that has many darts, this gives roundness in all the right places.  Now that the darts on the side head and gusset are sewn, one can already see that the cheeks will be nice and fat, and the top of the head domed.

This was a good spurt of activity.  Maybe tomorrow I have a finished head to show you.

Monday, February 17, 2014


I have three aims for this week.
1.  Don't fall asleep in the middle of the day.
2.  Finish the clay tutorial that I'm busy with for much too long already.
3.  Get started with Angus, the miniature bear Project 52 that I promised last year.

Yesterday I started taking photos for the steps to make paperclay.  Got all the ingredients together, pulped the paper and started kneading in flour.  Only to realize that the recipe also calls for Polyfilla, which I don't have.  Yargh.  On my way to the hardware store to get some now, then I will start over. I realy don't like this half-wit person I've become!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Anaemia is a Weedy Word

There was a child, a pale skinny waif, often listless and prone to fainting spells.  Wearing a pair of glasses, braces on her teeth, and with an obsession to grow the few hairs on her head into a ratty pony tail.  Paint on a bookish streak and extreme shyness, and you've met me as a teenager.   

If I was a plant, I would be some rangy weed, grown tall and translucent for lack of light.

Anaemia is described in the dictionary as a condition resulting in pallor and weariness.  Suggested synonyms for 'anaemic' include colourless, washed out, sapped and peaky.

At some point I outgrew anaemia, as our wise GP suggested would be the case.  I swapped the glasses for contacts, shucked the braces and cut my hair.  But I'm convinced that it was finally being a grownup that made me feel great.

Lately I've caught that weedy teenager looking at me in the mirror.  Depressed, lacking energy and enthusiasm, crying at the drop of a hat.  I speculated that I'm either going crazy and need to be institutionalized, or dying of some incurable disease.  At the very least I must be having the worst case of mid-life crisis ever recorded.  So off to the same (and much older) wise GP.
He took one look at me and said "Young lady, you have anaemia!" 

Oh relief.  Just the young lady part made me feel better already.  So, I'm fixing the problem with an iron supplement and eating lots of green veggies.

Soon I will overcome my weedy condition, and this blog will no longer look so peaky. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Vintage Toy Auction

On Saturday the 1st of March there will be an auction of vintage toys at the St Martini Kindergarten in Capetown.  Teddy Bears and other Steiff animals, as well as hard plastic dolls from the 1970s, an astounding number of vintage Lego sets, sewing notions and more.
Visit the St Martini website for more information and pictures.