Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A Busy Year - Why I've Been Away So Long...

I don't write a post for MONTHS, then suddenly two posts come along - a bit like buses - I thought it might be a good idea to explain why I've been quiet for so long.  Little did I know when I wrote that post in March, that within a matter days, I was going to be offered the chance to move at VERY short notice!

I've been trying to move for 16 years so you would have thought I'd have been ready for the opportunity - but no - despite having a bit of a de-clutter every now and again, I was completely unprepared, especially when I only had a couple of weeks between being offered a new home and moving in.

I'd lived in my old two bedroom flat with large loft space for over 22 years, so despite finding the loft difficult to access myself, that didn't stop others from popping boxes up there for me over the years and of course it all had to come down and be sorted through - sigh.

My new home is a lovely one bedroom flat with level access, so while I miss the extra bedroom/craft room as a place to store my crafting stash, I'd rarely actually crafted in there, preferring instead to craft in the living room... and here my new living space is noticeably bigger.

My cat on the other hand has had "issues" since we moved and the only way of keeping him chilled out seems to be a constant supply of Feliway - you really don't want to know what happens if I forget to buy a new refill for the diffuser!

 It didn't take Marley too long to discover which cupboard contained the cat food!

Life is very different for both of us here, there's a lot more activity going on around us than we're used to, and while I'm enjoying the sense of feeling more connected to the world, Marley doesn't seem to appreciate it as much - he hates dogs with a passion so I don't suppose being able to watch them trot along with their owners, probably no more than 12-15 feet from our window, is likely to do much for his peace of mind; and watching me occasionally fuss said dogs on my way in or out isn't likely to help either.  But he's gradually learning to cope and he seems enjoy having little conversations with neighbourhood cats, especially Milly Mogs from next door, who is a very pretty tortoiseshell.

I made Marley some extra hidey holes on the advice of the vet

The one thing I'd hoped for when I moved was my own garden, I would have loved a little outside space all to myself but it wasn't to be, but I am lucky enough that there is a flower bed under my front window and I've bought some spring bulbs to plant in there when I'm feeling up to it... and when I have a trowel to dig with - I forgot that when I bought the bulbs!  I was so excited when the first flower bloomed in the garden a few months ago - I have no idea what it was but it was very pretty...

We've had a few hiccups since we moved - including two months without a cooker, phone or internet but the move has been a good thing.  However none of it would have been possible without the help of my family and friends, who pitched in to help with the loft emptying, packing and unpacking and who all deserve the biggest Thank You!

I also had a great removal crew who put up curtain rails and curtains for me before they left; and a couple of helpful charity organisations came and collected surplus belongings, Freegle came in very useful for this too.  It was very sad to say goodbye to the great neighbours I'd known for many years but I'm happy to say we're still in touch and I'm lucky enough to have already made some lovely new friends from among my new neighbours.

It's funny how some of the silliest little things have made the biggest difference - being able to put the rubbish out without worrying about stairs; a kitchen where I don't have to stand at a funny angle at the sink, a shower attachment over the bath, and even a pretty flower in the garden (well flower bed).  Now I just need to unpack those last few boxes... and buy a trowel for those spring bulbs  :)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Bear Facts

Anyone who's read my blog will know that I love making miniature teddy bears.  They tend to be made intermittently depending on how well my hands are working.  I set myself a quota of at least 12 bears this year and even with everything else thats been going on, I've already achieved my goal, which has made me very happy!

I make my bears mainly for friends and family and usually have a number of people sitting patiently on my "Teddy To Do List".  When people reach the top of my list and if it's not a surprise gift, I often get asked the same questions, so this blog post is being written to address some of those queries.

Funnily enough I find miniature bears easier to sew than large ones - my left hand doesn't work as well as my right, so the smaller pieces are easier to hold than bigger bear bits and I can turn the small cotter pins I use for the neck joints, where I find the large ones impossible.  I also enjoy the challenge of working at this small scale.  I like to make sure my bears are as good as I can possibly make them so they are all hand sewn with extra strong thread and a lot of love.

I currently use three types of fabric for the main body of my bears.  All are made from synthetic fibres, as is the Ultrasuede fabric I use for the paws.  I use one basic teddy pattern which has a very traditional look and creates a bear who is approximately 8cm (3 1/4 inches) tall.  I have plans to create kitty and bunny patterns in the future, I just haven't got around to the drawing stage yet - thats on another To Do List.

1.  Cashmere
This fabric has the shortest pile but has a very touchable, soft and velvety feel, and it usually comes in a huge variety of colours...

Percy & Milly (made for a Hello Kitty fan) are both made from cashmere 

2.  English Velvet
I can't source this fabric anywhere at the moment.  I was lucky enough to be able to buy a small batch of this fabric a couple of years ago from a supplier who was retiring.  It has a longer pile than the cashmere and a slightly bristlier texture, though still very stroke-able.  I have much more limited colours in this, mainly natural browns and beiges, some slightly more golden shades, plus a green, a blue and a rose pink...

William & Raphael are both made from English velvet

3.  Sassy
This has the longest pile I currently work with.  It was developed in America specifically for miniature bears, it comes three types - frosty; long pile; and smoky - and a wide range of colours.

Bai & Clarabelle are both made from Sassy long pile

Frosted Sassy has a lot of colour in the base fabric but very little in the actual fur - Bai's arms, legs and ears are made from frosted fabric although as she's quite a light colour, the effect isn't too noticeable in her photo.  All coloured Sassy fabrics have been hand dyed (not by me - at least not yet...), except the white long pile and the natural grey smokey.

Sassy smokey has a dark base fabric which gives a different look, in the photo below you can see two bears - Pumpkin, who is made from cashmere and Greta, who is made from Sassy smoky, so its a good photo to see the differences in the different types of fabric...

I make a rule of never combining different types of fabric, but of course I do on occasion break my own rules - I was lucky with Sidney that it worked out, but I don't generally recommend mixing like this...

Sidney is made from a mixture of a leopard printed cashmere and an English velvet like fabric, both of which I don't seem to be able to find anymore, though I currently have a few remnants left.  And once in a while, I'll pick up a different piece of fabric, like I used for Herbert here...

I hope this post will help my friends to choose their new teddy bear friends.  At some point I'll do another post with some of the fabric colours I have in my stash and add a link on here.  If anyone has anymore questions, please feel free to ask.