Thursday, December 14, 2017

Reeking Kapok


I feel like a museum archivist handling a special find.

This bear I'm calling Firefly

(RIGHT: body de-stuffed) >
has all the things I've been reading that antique bears have,
starting with glass eyes,

mohair fur,
and velvet(een?) paws,

all obvious from the outside.

When I opened him up, 
he had the other classic, standard things:

A noise-making box [BELOW], 
broken of course, wrapped in "wood wool" (shaved soft wood, often birch--also called by its brand name Excelsior--same stuff used to stuff furniture and, I think, taxidermy animals).

While it's called a "growler", when you tilt the bear the sound it emits is more like the bleat of a sheep.

Its head and all four limbs are articulated with metal-and-cardboard joints [BELOW], which makes it impossible to wash the bear by immersion---the cardboard will warp.

The white stuffing I'd thought was cotton is––exciting to me!––kapok---my first encounter with the seed-pod fluff of the cieba tree, a tree cultivated for its fibers in south-east Asia (also grows in equatorial regions of other continents). 
Kapok is all-natural, waterproof, lightweight, and fluffy and was much used in stuffed animal making before the advent of artificial fluff.

The growler is wrapped in wood-wool because kapok fibers get into and clog its mechanism.

So... I've read that its best not to mess too much with these old bears unless they NEED it, because they're fragile. 
But this bear reeked, right through its kapok.

Does the smell, in fact, mean the bear had dry rot or something that is unremidiable?

I don't know, but I figure I may as well go ahead and see what I can do.

I just ordered online 5 lbs. of kapok---it's about $9/lb.
I think that should be enough for all the antique bears I got. 
The ones with polyester fur I figure can get polyester stuffing, which is cheaper and also bouncier, though kapok does have a nice loft.

I did not (yet?) unstuff Firefly's head though. It's stuffed with wood-wool, which gives it a nice, firm shape, but its woodiness also makes it easier to tear the material when you're taking it out.  
Maybe I can just leave it...  

Bear Popsicle

I hand washed this polyester bear with replacement button eyes (from the '60s? 70s?)--in great shape, just filthy--and put it out still damp on the back porch last night, with all the other newly arrived dirty bears who are airing out, as well as freezing out any possible wee beasties.

("Controlled low temperature treatment, also known as “freezing” [oh, really?], has become a routine pest management and eradication method for museums..." via Museum Pests)

The temperature last night was about 13ºF (- 9º C).

Of course this morning it was a Popsicle.

I like that this bear is a dark-chocolate brown---though that's a common color for real bears, toy bears are often more caramel.

Bear still has bits of the original nasty shredded-foam filling stuck to its fur. I've just rewashed it (thawed first, of course) and put it on low in the clothes-dryer to finish cleaning and fluffing it up again.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bear, Settling In

Man-oh-man, I thought this old bear was fine when I saw it on eBay, but in person, it has Personality.

When it first came out of its box, it was worried.

 Then it was curious.
After sniffing about, it became confident. It reminds me of Wash, the pilot on Firefly. (Perhaps that is it's name...)
"I declare this land Bear Land."


I hesitate to clean this bear, but it stinks. 
I pulled some stuffing out through a hole, and it stank. 
Wash . . .  no, Firefly! must have lived with smokers. 
For a hundred years. (Possibly that is literally true.)

I don't see any signs, but I even worry about bugs.
For now, Firefly is out in the below-freezing temps of the back porch.

Use These 9 Words in a Sentence!

OK. Michael posted the nine runner-up Words of the Year from Merriam-Webster, and I asked him if he could use them all in a sentence.
The words are
complicit, recuse, empathy, dotard, syzygy, gyro, federalism, hurricane, and gaffe.

Of course he did, here

So then I had to. I didn't know what syzygy meant, and I also looked up recuse and federalism, never having used them in a sentence! I also added some substantive words, because otherwise, really, I couldn't make those words do anything much fun.

I imagine my sentence illustrated by Jules Feiffer's dancer. Here it is:
The modern dancer spun in syzygy with a gyro on a spit, presenting without a gaffe a hurricane of moves meant to represent an empathetic federalism, while the judge was recused as a dotard, complicit in seeking to block the inclusion of "foreign" meats in dance. 
 I'm sure Feiffer's dancer would be up to it. 
Here she is after the US "won" the first Gulf War in 1991... twenty-six years ago, and counting.



If you'd like to play, please do! Email me your sentence or leave it in the comments, or if you're a blogger, I can link to your sentence on your blog.

YaaaAAAYaaaaaayAAAAAAaaaAAAAAAY! ! ! ! ! ! !

ROY MOORE LOST!!!! (And so Trump lost too.)
AND WE WON!!!
Thank you, humans, some of you, for proving humans can make rational choices. 
Black women, eh?
Representative Maxine Waters of CA on Twitter:
Hidden Figures (which I'd said wasn't very good as a movie) sure works as to illustrate a story though. On Twitter last night:
From Mashable ^ "Why people on Twitter are giving black women the credit for Roy Moore's defeat"

2. Other nice things this morning:
I'm going to the PO to mail to California the set of spun-aluminum kitchen canisters I'd mentioned yesterday--(and this time I double-checked postage beforehand).

Yay: I'd put them up for auction starting at $9.99, but had also provided a Buy-Now option, for $19.99. Still a good deal, even with postage ($12).    
So, while I'm not expecting to make much money on eBay, it's more like a hobby about Me 'n' Things, I am happy to make some---

3. ...it helps pay for this BOX OF BEARS!!! that I found on my doorstep this morning, when I ran downstairs to talk to my neighbor about Moore's defeat!
YAYAYAYAAAAAAAAY!!!

(And... ewwww. They're dirty. Bathtime for all, after I destuff them.)  
Have a happy day, Bloglanders!!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

eBay, I'm liking it

I. My "rookie error"

Yesterday I took a 1967 Spirograph to the post office and paid $11 to ship it to the guy who'd bought it from me for $4 on eBay.

The thing is, I'd only charged him $7 for postage. 
Minus eBay's fee and the $1 I'd paid for the Spirograph at Goodwill ––(a steal! though 1 of its 18 plastic wheels was missing, the set still had its instruction booklet, board, pens [dried out, but cool], pins, and other pieces)––I lost a couple bucks. No big deal.


I wrote the customer that he'd see when the package arrived that I'd made a beginner's error (being new to eBay), but it was in his favor.
I was happy he got a good deal, I wrote, and this great classic toy was going to a new home--it was one of my childhood favorites.
"I'm chalking it up to a learning experience."

Later in the day I got this message from PayPal:

This brought tears to my eyes. Who expects kindness and humor in online sales?

But in fact, after being on it for two weeks, I'm experiencing eBay more like a garage sale/thrift store than, say, an antique or a department store. I'm surprised. I'd expected to like researching and writing up stuff to sell, but I'm also love the smatterings of personal chat and bits of bargaining. 

I'm listing things for sale mostly at fixed, buy-it-now prices--mostly around $4.99–9.99. 
I've sold four out of twelve items, for a profit of $8.50 (before my $5 tip), a profit I immediately spent on packing tape.
 So, it's small potatoes, but the dollar amount isn't really the point. I've seen people be mean over pennies.

II. "I don't care for your kind." 

eBay's like Wikipedia--I'd expected both to be hostile but have mostly met nice and helpful people. I'm not very involved in either site though. I expect if I stick around I'll eventually run into some unpleasant types.

It happens, as this seller writes in their description [sorry, the screencap is wide--scroll right > to see it all]:



 And that's another thing I'm liking on eBay---getting to read the writing of people who aren't writers. Mostly it's bland, but sometimes it's blunt like this.

III. Mid-Century Modern Spun-Aluminum Canisters

I'm getting a lot of pleasure out of having a reason to buy, research, and [hopefully] pass along some cool stuff I find at Goodwill that I don't want myself.

Like that classic Spirograph---it sparked vivid memories from childhood--taking it home, opening it up and handling the parts, but I didn't want to keep it. 

Other stuff, I'm just curious about--like this little (1" tall) elephant stamped Made in Occupied Japan. (It's one of a lot of 11 elephant figurines that I listed on the auction option.)

Also up for auction this week is the thing I personally like the best:
a set of mid-century, brushed/spun aluminum canisters labelled flour, sugar, coffee, and tea, with pinkish anodized aluminum lids.
Empty, they nest inside one another like Russian dolls.

GW was selling it for $2.99--cheap!  even if they are a bit dinged (aluminum is soft).
I started the auction at $9.99. (Sadly, the buyer pays postage, which adds a lot.)
If they don't sell, I'm keeping them!

The non-fiction photography is a neat challenge:
you want stuff to look good, but also be honest so buyers aren't fooled.
And you want to arrange stuff so it shows up, attractive and informative, on a phone screen--and choose a good background. eBay suggests plain, solid backgrounds, but I like the black and white I used here (my bathroom floor).

Shooting the stuff is tricky, especially if it's reflective, which lots of thing are (and I don't any lighting set up). I'd like to work on that.

Writing the descriptions is fun---you want to choose searchable terms in the title and then write up things succinctly but interestingly.
They say to write plenty, but not too much. Was mentioning that interior/home designers picked up aluminum from the aerospace industry TMI? 
Well... not for me---if I were a buyer, I'd love that detail. I love knowing it now.

Finally, I even like the design challenge of wrapping stuff up for shippping. The Spirograph, for instance---I put two boxes together, and I also folded foam sheeting around each corner, to protect them. (And boy was I extra glad I'd done such a good job when the buyer was so nice to me---he'll see I took care with his toy. Nice, all round.)

Monday, December 11, 2017

bink, Visible Mending Model

bink mended her favorite winter sweater with some of the turmeric wool from Uruguay that I'm using to darn my blanket. Here she shows off the visible darns.

She also models the one and only knitting project I ever successfully finished--the blue wool scarf I gave her seven years ago. 
Not forgetting her new blue eyeglasses!

Addendum to my mention of Franken's resignation: Sin Eating and Due Process

I'd rather casually remarked in a recent post that I thought it was good that MN senator Al Franken was resigning due to accusations that he had sexually harassed several women, though he said he hadn't, or not really, or not much, or, anyway, he was sorry if he had. 
Or something.

I wrote that it was good because I was happy––relieved––to see someone in power, anyone, choose to stand on some moral and ethical ground in this bubbling slough, to hear someone say that women are telling the truth and that there should be repercussions, even if that means they themselves take a fall.

It resonated for me theologically, that someone should be a ... a sin-eater. You know those? People who take on the sins of others, to serve the greater good of the community. 

Not to say Franken is a pure-white sheep. I don't know whether Franken is as not-guilty as he claims, but his accusers are not claiming he is guilty of anything like Roy Moore trolling malls for teenage girls. 

(I know the term "sin eater" from the British novel The Sin Eater, by Alice Thomas Ellis.)

[Digression]

In the movie Calvary (2014), an Irish Catholic priest (Brendan Gleeson) faces the choice of playing the role of a sin eater, accepting or not the burden of guilt for priestly child rape of which he is not personally guilty.

Calvary was directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother of Martin McDonagh whose recently released movie Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri deals with similar issues--collective guilt and collective responsibility---and contains a sermon (delivered by the excellent Frances McDormand, who makes you overlook just how very preachy it is) about how you are guilty of the reprehensible acts of your gang, whether you did the act or not. 

(May I just interject here that while Three Billboards tells a terrific story, the director's earlier film In Bruges is a much better movie, as a movie? 
However, Billboards has STUFFED ANIMALS in it!!!)

[End of Digression]

BUT . . . . 
First, I'm not sure Franken was choosing to make that sort of sacrifice, which takes the moral force out of it. 
Looks like he was mostly bowing to pressure from his party, right?

And, politically & secularly more important,
I'm concerned that reports of sexual misbehavior from mild to horrific are taking effect willy-nilly.
This is bad.
There should be some due process for handling this flood of accusations of sexual abuse. They should be taken seriously, not swept under the rug--and that means they should be investigated.


My default is certainly to believe the accusations of sexual misbehavior and abuse of power (because I know how normal such behavior is).
And yet, why should Franken resign when there has been no investigation?

His behavior seems to have tended toward sophomoric rather than criminal, while others who proudly wave their slimy paws blithely carry on---but that's not the point:

My point is, EVERYONE should get due process, whether I like them or not, and no matter how slimy and how believable the accusations against them are. 
Because that's how we get civilization to work.
Otherwise we're back to blood vendettas... And gratifying as those may be, they leave the ground slippery for everyone.

Due process is most important for elected representatives.
The entertainment industry does not represent me---if the muckety-mucks in Hollywood & Co. want to fire people, as if they're shocked by behavior they've ignored for decades, well... that's more of a... um...

Well, actually, I think there should be due process there too, but the burden of proof is different for people who work in the private sector than for public lawmakers.

Uh, yes. 
So . . . while theologically and artistically I like the story of the sin eater, I don't actually want my civilization to run on those lines.
I want all that rational stuff the US Constitution set up: checks and balances and juries of peers, not bloody ruminants cast into the wilderness.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I made my first stuffed animal.

A friend is becoming a grandmother in January. This week I made a stuffed animal for the baby shower. 

I asked a woman at the Treadle Yard Goods fabric store what toys her babies had liked. 
She said little babies like toys small enough for their tiny hands, with smiling faces in contrasting light-and-dark colors that they can see (we can't see very well when we're just new, you know), and loops and tags to finger.

So, I made this little animal (2 in./5 cm) with all that in mind. 
It's the first I've made on my own (no pattern) since I designed and sewed a stuffed cat in sixth grade. 
I think it's an otter?

It's a good way to start learning the basics.

Bears to Come

Ooooooh.
I got some bears.
Nine!
They will come in a big box to my house next week.


The eBay auction on these bears closed this morning--I'm amazed I was the only one to bid on them. They were listed individually by an eBayer who doesn't know about bears, she told me when I messaged her for more info. She'd bought the lot at an estate sale because, she said, "I know some people collect them". 

Yes, indeed. 
I've been reading up on bears.  Bears with longer muzzles and front legs are usually older (pre-WWII), and old bears with jointed limbs and mohair fur (even threadbare) are worth more than the $6–$9 + shipping I paid.  

But I don't care about that. Well, I wouldn't have bought them if they'd cost much more, but. I mean, I'm not buying them for their monetary value,
I'm just happy to get bears I like, and I like these ones very much. With their expressiveness, they are the opposite of Beanie Babies. And some of them are quite small––barely 8 in./20 cm, seated, the size I like best.

What am I going to do with them?
I don't know...
Some of them might need a bit of repair, but I don't think I'd change any up much, they're so complete in themselves. I think I'll just learn from them, for a while.

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: Stephanie Metz's Unnatural History of the Teddy Bear

Here's the wonderful needle-felted sculpture "Fetal Development of a Teddy Bear" by Stephanie Metz, who also does teddy bear skulls, and more--her website:

Interview with Metz:
“I have kind of become known for the teddy bear skulls in certain circles…. Again, I love the way people steer nature. Think about a bear: A real bear could eat you, and yet we made it like an infant, made it cute and emphasized all the qualities that make it look like a human infant—a huge forehead, huge eyes, a little muzzle—and we dress them in clothes, and we give them little bowties and things. It’s a way to manipulate the natural world around us.”

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fry & Laurie on Language

Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry talk about "The Flexibility of Language" (on YouTube). Thanks, bink, for sending this to me!

From episode 1.2 of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, 1989––hilarious and real.
I think the 21st century has shown whether English in the UK is "capable" of supporting demagoguery now (not to say in the 1930s). (No one would have asked that of American English.)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

My Thimble: WCCO/CBS 1939 (Franken Resigns)

I found this thimble in a $3.99 grab-bag at Goodwill. I didn't want any of the other things, so I gave the rest back.
The thimble is imprinted with the date 1939 and the call letters of a still-broadcasting Minneapolis radio station, WCCO, an affliate of CBS since 1922.

What?!?! 
Wow--I just clicked on WCCO's site and see Minnesota Senator Al Franken is resigning, though he says he is not guilty. Well, even if that's true, good for him for falling on his sword––since indubitably guilty parties who have no sense of honor or compassion will not.

But... shouldn't there be some due process for handling this flood of cases of and accusations of sexual abuse? I mean, why should someone like Franken resign while others of egregious behavior blithely carry on????
Franken said, “I of all people am aware that there is some irony that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape that his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party”.



Uh, anyway, I thought the thimble was a commemorative––maybe from 1989? But no, I looked it up: it is an aluminum advertising thimble, super common in the 1930s & '40s (like cardboard needle books too). Ones without dates go for around five bucks.

Amazingly, I found this blip, online (THANK YOU INTERNET): "Thimbles for All", in Broadcasting Magazine, September 15, 1939, reporting the WCCO radio booth gave away 30,000 such thimbles during the 1939 Minnesota State Fair–– at the same time Nazi Germany was beginning its invasion of Poland...
I was going to save this historic thimble, but then I thought--why not get the pleasure of using it? That's what it was intended for.
So I am.


I never used metal thimbles before--they felt so awkward--but I realized they work a lot better than a naked finger for pushing needles through thick seams on stuffed animals.

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: Found Photo, Boy, 1940s

This snapshot "Boy & Stuffed Animals, 1940s" was not, alas, found by me but is for sale for $7 here from RetroGraphique's Etsy site.
(I am debating buying it...*)


*UPDATE: I won the debate: I bought it:
I couldn't get over how the boy's
left hand is supporting his toy.
Also how the boy's feet don't reach the ground.
Also, many of the stuffed animals I'm working with come from this era.

Three Smalls

I'm restoring the face of this small (6 in. / 15 cm tall) stuffed animal.
What is it? 
It is itself!

I embroidered a replacement eye, and I rebuilt an ear, etc. 
This morning I'm putting that twist of wire back into the new ear, so it can bend.
(Because of toy work, I bought a wire cutter this past weekend.)


This face is 2 in. (5 cm) tall:

I think this was a carnival prize, probably from before the late-1950s when child-proof eyes came in and toy safety laws required them. Low-quality at the time, charming now.

This is my table this morning:

Yellow bear is probably another cheaply made carnival prize.
The black bear cub, left, which dried overnite on a spatula handle, was one of many (many) such bears sold at the Yellowstone Park gift shop in the 1960s. Also cheaply made, in Japan.

You can see it put a scrap from Art Sparker on its head while its ears dried on utensils beside it. (It's cold here: 9ºF (–12ºC) this morning.)

I'd washed its red plastic collar---sort of weird to me that they put collars on these wild bear toys---and then Marz dropped by and said just what I was thinking, that it didn't want the collar. 
So the collar went to be a belt for blue and white animal.
 
You can find lots on these Yellowstone souvenir bears online.
I paid $5 for this one, a bit much for one that was falling apart, but I like them falling apart, you know---then I get to rebuild them.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Chickens, Before & After

Repair on our father's stuffed chickens for my sister was held up because I had to go to the independent fabric store Treadle Yard Goods in Saint Paul to buy wool felt to rebuild the rooster's beak ––which I finally did yesterday (a bit of a trek on the bus).

Rooster Taouk BEFORE:

Hen Livia (rebuilt comb and eye) and Taouk AFTER:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: John Betjemin's Archie

The things I'm learning, among the stuffed animals.
For instance, E. M. Forster used his Oxford contemporary John Betjemin's stuffed bear Archie (Archibald Ormsby-Gore) as the model for Sebastian Flyte's bear Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited, which (the early '80s BBC version) riveted me when I was twenty.

“If it could only be like this always—always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper,” Sebastian says to Charles. 

(I dare not rewatch it for fear I would roll my eyes and start assigning the characters DSM mental disorders... Though I would understand the Catholic references now, which were entirely lost on me then.)

Betjeman had a stuffed elephant, Jumbo, too.

Archie & Jumbo are on display at St. Pancras station, London, which Betjeman helped save in the 1960s--where you catch the train for the continent now (via Paris Review).
So, I thought about staying at the St. Pancras Hotel when I'm in London this coming spring, but it's £250  *cough cough* per night.

Betjeman wrote an uncutesy poem about his bear, "Archibald", that ends: 
And if an analyst one day
Of school of Adler, Jung, or Freud
Should take this agèd bear away,
Then, oh my God, the dreadful void!
Its draughty darkness could but be
Eternity, Eternity.
I got half my literary culture when I was younger from British TV.
I first heard of Betjeman when David Brent (Ricky Gervais) hilariously criticized  his poem "Slough" in the British Office.
"And they made him a knight of the realm. Overrated."

The Full Bear

It cracks me up how Red Hair Girl photobombed the old bear I re-faced yesterday, Melchior* (for Advent). 



I made Melchior's front paw pads from a lavender wool sweater by Eileen Fisher. My sister and I found three of these sweaters, tags attached, in our mother's apartment after she died around winter solstice fifteen years ago. Presumably our mother had bought one for herself and one each for us. 

I wore mine practically ever day for the next five winters, until the sleeves started to fray. Then I felted it but have never used it till now.  

* Melchior is the oldest of the magi, and is supposed to have a white beard, but when I asked the bear which name it liked best, he chose Melchior---I think because of the association with honey (Latin, mel). 
Melchior needs a camel, I think. And a couple magi friends...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

This is the bear I was looking for.

I've been working all day, into the evening, remaking a stuffed bear's face [earlier post].

Modern stuffed animals aren't much like actual animals anyway, but this bear's original face was an atrocity of cuteness so perverse it had turned its nose upside down.
There was no way this bear could eat grubs, or anything else.

I really hated it, which gave me permission to finally change up a stuffed animal in a big way. Until now I've (mostly) liked each animal as it was and just mopped up things that needed it, and put in new stuffing. 

I reshaped this bear's nose and reattached it,
and I relocated the original eyes, with wool felt circles behind them. That left a muzzle-sized hole that I covered with a piece of Loden green felted wool that Art Sparker had sent me, stitched on with lavender floss.

This is the sort of transformation I'd envisioned bringing about but wasn't sure I could. 

I don't have good light to take photos at night, but I'm too excited to show how it turned out to wait until daylight, so here's a not-quiet-accurate photo:

Below L to R: Bear BEFORE& AFTER
The new old bear:

Re-Do Bear Face

This is the bear I posted inside-out yesterday. I actually disliked this bear's face (it had come paired w/ another bear I'd wanted). 
I decided to take a risk and cut out and reshape its features--my biggest challenge yet.
So far, so good!




This is the original face--with eyes close together, ridiculous eyelashes, and upturned snoot: 

P.S. And here's how it turned out: AFTER