Blog Changes

On 8 September 2015 the URL for Megan's Tiny Treasures changed from www.meganstinytreasures.blogspot.com to www.blog.creativeme.co.za This will not affect readers in any way, and saved links to the old URL will be redirected. In the near future the name of the blog will change to Creative Me. This is in line with the direction in which my business is growing. Thank you to my loyal readers!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Project 52 - Miniature Bear Making - #12A

String jointing a miniature bear
  
I cobbled this lesson together in a hurry when I heard that I would be away from the studio for a while.  Did you notice the number of this lesson?  Who says that you shouldn't tread lightly around Murphy and black cats???

There was no time to make sample bears for the techniques as I originally intended.  Today we will make do with diagrams, and you will get to meet bears that have been living in my studio for about fifteen years.  They graciously offered to be models for the techniques.  Please make allowance for the dust they have gathered in time, and my early attempts at facial features!
The bear with the blue waistcoat is the original Angus!  One of the first patterns I ever produced, and after all these years still my favourite.  The ballerina, clown and bee are variations on the Angus pattern.  They were all string jointed.

When bears are tiny, say less than 15cm (about 5 inches) tall, it is possible to string joint them rather than using split pin joints.  Although string joints are sturdy, it is not a good jointing method for teddies that will be played with.  I prefer to string joint my very tiny bears.   The thread running through the body of the bear pulls the arms and legs close to the body, giving the bear a nice compact look. 
On the left is Chloe.  She was split pin jointed.  You can see how the discs make the limbs stand away from the body.  Although she's a little smaller than Angus, she appears much fatter.  I believe the term thunder thighs is not inappropriate here!  Angus is much more streamlined and compact.  String jointing pulled his arms and legs snug to the body.

What tools will you need?
A needle that is long enough to easily pass through the body of the bear.  Sometimes I use my 9cm sculpting needle, but often I prefer to use a long darner because the needle is finer. Small sharp scissors.
 

What thread to use?
You should only use teddy bear floss or waxed upholstery thread for jointing your bears.  Most dental floss these days is biodegradable.  It will become brittle and disintegrate after a while.


Where to place the joints?
The joint position for string jointing is the same as for disc jointed bears.  If the joints were indicated on the pattern, you can use the marks for string jointing.  
If there are no joint positions indicated, first hold the limbs to the bear in a ‘standing upright’ position and look at the bear from the side.  The top of the arm and the top of the leg should be in the middle of the body, i.e. an equal amount of the back and tummy showing.
Next, turn the limbs so that the bear is sitting.  It should sit on its tummy, and on its legs.  If necessary, adjust the position of the arms and legs.  You can pin the arms and legs to the body.

Thread a long needle with waxed thread.  For string jointing we use a single strand of thread, and do not put a knot in the end.  Run the thread through the bear’s body at the arm position, leaving a tail at least four fingers long.
Take a stitch through the inside of the arm, scooping stuffing as you go through.  Check that your needle goes through the arm parallel to the seam over the top of the arm.  If your stitches are skew, the arm will turn in or out, and not lie neatly against the body.


Put the needle through the body, try to stay as close to your original stitches through the body as possible, without snagging the tread inside the body.  Sew through the second arm.
Pull firmly on both ends of your thread and test the joint by turning the arms against the body.  They should turn easily, but stay in position when you let go.  If the jointing thread is too loose, you can sew through the body and arms again and pull tight as you go.  Once the joint is tight enough, knot the thread ends together.    Lose the thread ends through the body before snipping them off.  Repeat for the legs.

My book page for Lesson 12A.
In this miniature bear making series, we are using the Angus pattern, which you will find in my Etsy Shop, and on the Tin Soldiers Website.
Some of us are making a book or a set of note cards with techniques for miniature bear making.  I have made page templates if you would like to copy mine, but it could also be fun to make your own.  Every week, you will find printable templates for Project 52 HERE .

Monday, May 26, 2014

Until I'm back, this message will pop up on the blog every Monday.  Thank you for your patience while I take time out to get better. 


If I was a teddy bear, the story would read like this:
Last week the doctor checked me over and found some lumps.   
On Monday 26 May I’m going to hospital where they will split my seams and pull out my stuffing to take a closer look. 
Then they will put me back together again.  I hope the doctor has been reading his lessons and practising ladder stitch!  
They will probably send me home after a week.
I’m going to be very tired and will need to sleep all winter. 
While I am hibernating, Tin Soldiers Studio will be closed.
In the real world, this is the plan:
NO SEW ALONG, no workshops and NO SHOPPING at Tin Soldiers until August.
Mail order and online classes will resume in June.
Until the second week of June I will be out of contact.  After that, if you need me, email megbear99@gmail.com, or send an SMS to 083 305 5954.  I will respond when I can.
I have written lessons for Project 52 up to Week 14.  They will post every Thursday.  If I don't feel better in a few weeks, we will continue where we left off when I am better.  
Other blog posts are also scheduled for the next three weeks so check back once in a while.
Thank you for all the get well wishes I have received already!
Megan
Here's a little bit of fun:  How to care for a sick teddy bear



A poem forwarded to me by a friend.  Thank you B, it says everything I could not express in words.




A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness
By John O'Donohue 
Now is the time of dark invitation
Beyond a frontier you did not expect;
Abruptly, your old life seems distant.
You barely noticed how each day opened
A path through fields never questioned,
Yet expected, deep down, to hold treasure.
Now your time on earth becomes full of threat;
Before your eyes your future shrinks.
You lived absorbed in the day-to-day,
So continuous with everything around you,
That you could forget you were separate;
Now this dark companion has come between you.
Distances have opened in your eyes.
You feel that against your will
A stranger has married your heart.
Nothing before has made you
Feel so isolated and lost.
When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance,
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.
May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Toward what is difficult,
Painful, and unknown.
May you learn to use this illness
As a lantern to illuminate
The new qualities that will emerge in you.
May the fragile harvesting of this slow light
Help to release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
Through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
Until you feel a rising within you a tranquility
Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.
May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:
Ask it why it came. Why it chose your friendship,
Where it wants to take you. What it wants you to know.
What quality of space it wants to create in you.
What you need to learn to become more fully yourself
That your presence may shine in the world.
May you keep faith with your body,
Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
Which can bring this night-wound gradually
Toward the healing and freedom of dawn.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Getting ready to heal

For a long while now I have felt that life has lost its sparkle. Or maybe I lost my sparkle. I thought that my mind was telling my body tales, telling it that I'm tired, telling it that life is too much effort. We all know how our minds play tricks on our body.
All the time my body was trying to tell my mind that something evil has taken root, and that I'm not well. It was almost a relief when medical science pinpointed the disease a week ago. Even now that I know where the lumps are, and can imagine them lurking there like glow-in-the-dark monsters, the signals from my body are of discomfort, not pain.
My mind on the other hand, is shrieking in agony and cowering in a corner. As though someone suddenly shone a blinding light in my eyes. After the scars on my body have healed, it will take a long time to smooth the ripples in my spiritual calm.
Right now I need to concentrate on the physical world. Surgery, recovery. Setting aside the needs of others to look after myself.
This last is very difficult for me. I feel helpless and swamped with guilt. Leaning heavily on my partner, my family and friends. Letting down my customers. Depriving my household of income.
Later will come a time when I have to deal with the emotional impact of what has happened to me. No escaping the fact that this is a life altering experience.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The teddy bear teacher is ill






Dear Friends

As you know, I’ve been complaining for a while that I don't feel quite  like myself.  Turns out I’m sick. 
If I was a teddy bear, the story would read like this:
Last week the doctor checked me over and found some lumps.   
On Monday 26 May I’m going to hospital where they will split my seams and pull out my stuffing to take a closer look. 
Then they will put me back together again.  I hope the doctor has been reading his lessons and practising ladder stitch!  
They will probably send me home after a week.
I’m going to be very tired and will need to sleep all winter. 
While I am hibernating, Tin Soldiers Studio will be closed.

In the real world, this is the plan:

NO SEW ALONG, no workshops and NO SHOPPING at Tin Soldiers until August.

Mail order and online classes will resume in June.

Until the second week of June I will be out of contact.  After that, if you need me, email megbear99@gmail.com, or send an SMS to 083 305 5954.  I will respond when I can.

I have written lessons for Project 52 up to Week 14.  They will post every Thursday.  If I don't feel better in a few weeks, we will continue where we left off when I am better.  
Other blog posts are also scheduled for the next three weeks so check back once in a while.

Thank you for all the get well wishes I have received already!

Megan


Melodrama

Something dreadful has happened to me.
One of my best ways of working through things is to write in my diary. That often becomes the blog that you read. I also whine a lot to my friends and family. Until they roll their eyes. Then I go back to scribbling in my diary.
When I write something in the throes of emotion, often I read it again when the dust has settled and think, wow, that a load of melodrama!
To help deal with my panic, over the last few days I have written some real melodrama pieces. Frequently I lost my sense of humour.  And I do carry on. I will probably carry on for a while until I've worked through this.
When I started writing the blog, I thought that I would keep it impersonal. It is mostly about my studio and the things I create. Then an amazing thing happened. Some of my readers became  real friends and I discovered that they don't only read my blog posts because they want good teddy bear tips, they want to know what's happening in my life.
In order to give my friends some more eye rolling opportunities, and because I really will have a hard time working through this and I want someone to hold my hand, I decided that I'm going to post the personal melodrama pieces.
Be warned, melodrama posts scattered on the blog over the next while.

Project 52 - Miniature Bear Making - #12

Make a wobbly neck joint 

Wobbly neck joints are easy.  But why would you want to make one?  For fun, and pose-ability.  Wobbly joints work especially well on  tiny bears.
 
When people pick up a wobble jointed bear in my studio, their first reaction is often one of shock.  When the head flops sideways, they think it's going to fall off any  moment.  As soon as they hold the bear for a minute, and see how cute it is with the head tilting in all directions, they fall in love.  The bear on the blue blanket is Inga, a little sister for Angus.  The tilted head adds lots of expression to her pose.

To make a wobble head joint, you will need two discs, and two split pins instead of the usual just one.
To make sure that the wobble joint 'wobbles' properly, the split pins need large round heads.  I usually bend open the split pin, and enlarge the head with chain (round) nose pliers.
On the left you can see the result.  Nice big round head.  Do the same with the second split pin.
Hook the two split pins together.
Slip a split pin through a disc and use needle nose pliers to curl its ends.
Keep turning the curls until they fit snugly against the disc.  There must be no play between the disc and the curls of the split pin.  Wave the joint around and check that the split pin that is hanging moves freely.  In the picture you can see that mine is swinging nicely.
Now we are ready to insert the joint into the head.  The disc with the curled split pin is inserted inside the neck opening.  Gather the neck opening closed and end off securely.  Note:  Because the neck will be able to tilt sideways on the body, the underside of the neck will be visible.  The neck opening should be closed very neatly!  If you usually have trouble with this, refer to the lesson about using a fabric circle to close the neck.  
I did not use a fabric circle to close the neck this time, but I did gather up the fabric very neatly.  You can see that the head of the split pin that is inside the neck is nicely embedded in the fabric. 
Attach the head to the body, using a disc and the second split pin.  Keep curling the ends of the split pin until they fit snugly against the disc.  When making a wobbly neck joint, the eyes of the split pin might be visible in the neck area of the bear, espeially with tiny bears.  Try to tighten the split pins really well, so that they are not too obvious.  If the eyes of the split pins were large enough to start off with, the neck will still wobble quite well.
You can see how the head tilts from side to side.  This little Angus is ready to have his arms and legs jointed, and facial features added.  We will do that in a future lesson.
My book page for Lesson 12.  
In this miniature bear making series, we are using the Angus pattern, which you will find in my Etsy Shop, and on the Tin Soldiers Website.


This is Phillys' Project 52 book.  She is laminating her pages.  It looks so sturdy and neat, I'm impressed!

Some of us are making a book or a set of note cards with techniques for miniature bear making.  I have made page templates if you would like to copy mine, but it could also be fun to make your own.  Every week, you will find printable templates for Project 52 HERE .

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Project 52 - Miniature Bear Making - #11

Closing neck openings with a fabric circle

Before I designed my own patterns, I made scores of bears from patterns that I found in books and magazines, and patterns and kits that I bought.  One of the things that I often found frustrating was trying to close the neck opening neatly.  It took me a while to figure out that some designers did not leave enough fabric at the base of the neck that one can gather it closed after inserting the neck disc.  Sometimes the neck openings were so huge and gaping around the disc that gathering up all the fabric left lots of unsightly puckers.
Now that I'm designing my own patterns, I always make sure that there is enough fabric in  the neck to close over the disc, and I make the neck opening small enough that the disc will fit snugly, eliminating the need to gather too much fabric.
I don't really like to improve other designers' patterns, also called messing with, I guess everyone has their reason for doing things they way they do :-)   But sometimes a bear is so cute that you just have to try the pattern, even if you can see that there are pitfalls.
Angus doesn't need it, but I'm using his pattern to show you how to eliminate the gaping neck problem.
A neat way to close the neck is to add a circle of fabric over the opening.  You will need to create your own template for this.  Check to see how big the disc is that you will insert in the neck.   Place it on the teddy bear fabric.  Draw a line around, then add a seam allowance and mark the centre of the circle with a dot.  Cut out the circle with the rest of the teddy bear pieces. 
Sew the head as usual.
Before you turn the head right side out, sew the fabric circle into the neck opening half way around.
 Now turn the head right side out and stuff it.
When you are ready to insert the neck joint, use an awl to make a hole in the centre of the fabric circle.
Insert the joint through the hole.
Close the last little bit of the opening with ladder stitch.  We discussed ladder stitch in Lesson 9.  Here's an opportunity to practise ;-)
Neck opening closed over the disc.  How neat is that?
This way of closing a neck opening can also be very useful when making wobble neck joints.  More of the neck area is visible when the head is wobble jointed because the neck can swivel.   Let's talk about wobble joints next week!

My book page for Lesson 10.

A close up view of Gerda's book cover and inside pages.  I love the little polymer clay bear!  The inside pages are covered with hand made paper containing botanicals.

In this miniature bear making series, we are using the Angus pattern, which you will find in my Etsy Shop, and on the Tin Soldiers Website.
Some of us are making a book or a set of note cards with techniques for miniature bear making.  I have made page templates if you would like to copy mine, but it could also be fun to make your own.  Every week, you will find printable templates for Project 52 HERE .

Friday, May 9, 2014

Project 52 - Miniature Bear Making - #10

Make your own miniature teddy bear joints

The smallest size joint discs that are commonly available are about 6mm in diameter.  This is fine for most miniature bears, unless they are really tiny.
Two discs work together with a split pin, or T pin, to make a joint. 

But what to do if you have trouble finding a shop that sells joints, or you need discs that are smaller?
It is easy to make your own joints that are sturdy enough for miniature bears.
You will need plastic that is not too thin but still pliable .  I like to use food packaging such as margarine tubs and ice cream dishes.
You will also need a jewelelry pin or a similar piece of wire, wire cutters, needle nose pliers, chain nose (round nose) pliers, and a hole punch.
I use a 5mm office punch, but you will find various diameter punches at a scrapbooking shop.
Punch circles out of the plastic. You can see that the punched circles are just about the same size as the bought discs.
 To make a hole in the centre of each disc, use a darning needle.
If the plastic is too thick to push the needle through easily, you can use a needle that has been heated in a candle flame.  Caution:  be careful to avoid burns when working with flames and heated metal.  Work in a ventilated area, fumes from melting plastic are not healthy when inhaled.
To make sure that the pin can not pull through the disc it needs a large head.  If you are using wire or a pin with a small head, turn a little circle in the wire.  This has the same effect as the head of a split pin - to stop the wire from pulling through the disc.  There you go, a joint in a jiffy, ready to use!
This is what an assembled home made joint looks like.  Crafters are creative by definition, I'm sure if you think about it, you will be able to find many more items (such as metal washers from the hardware store, buttons, flat beads etc.) that would make an acceptable joint in a pinch.
Remember, if you are making a teddy for a young child, all parts of it should be safe. 
In a future lesson we are going to learn more about joints, and various jointing methods.  
My book page for Lesson 10.


Here are pictures from Lynne in Smithfield.  She says her husband helped her to design her book  pages on the computer.  They are so neat and pretty.  Thank you for sharing, Lynne!
 
In this miniature bear making series, we are using the Angus pattern, which you will find in my Etsy Shop, and on the Tin Soldiers Website.
Some of us are making a book or a set of note cards with techniques for miniature bear making.  I have made page templates if you would like to copy mine, but it could also be fun to make your own.  Every week, you will find printable templates for Project 52 HERE .

Weekend, at last!


It's a good feeling when my work is up to date on a Friday afternoon. 
In a few minutes I will post Lesson 10 of the miniature bear making series.  After that I'm going to send out this week's online lessons, answer some emails, and then I'm going to celebrate the start of the weekend with chocolate.  Thanks, Kleintjie, I've been looking at that KitKat all day...
It looks as though cold weather is heading our way.  A perfect excuse to gather up an arm full of books and crawl under a blanket to catch up on reading.
Wishing you a front row seat this weekend.