I was writing, yesterday, about how I can’t seem to sit down and write anything. I think about things and I want to put words to them, but I dance around the ideas, unable to hold still long enough to put ink to paper – umm – so to speak. So these little last coupla blogs are kind of a warm up.
And maybe, in the next couple of days, would y’all mind if I finally sat down and talked about some things? Real things?
This particular piece is about the seemingly life-long yearning I’ve had to make – how you say – stuffed animals. Soft animals. Which have always been a little magical to me. I suppose this is just a small dream—not like being a doctor or making a bunch of money or saving the world. Just a thing I always felt like I should be able to do. Except, every time I’ve tried, I’ve made a super mess of it.
Here is a picture of my sensitive sister. This was taken way back – 1979 – before I had any kids. But she did and pursuant to another dream-now-in-flames, the I-wanna-be-the-best-aunt-ever dream, I tried to make my wee nephew a stuffed horse. Or dog. However it came out—that’s what I wanted to make for him.
Her response wasn’t unexpected. Just kind of—bite your trembling lip for me. I mean, the poor thing was ugly, but I’d gotten kind of fond of him. I’m pretty sure he didn’t survive long.
I suppose there were—no, I KNOW there have been patterns for this kind of thing foever. But, and please excuse me, designers of the thirties through seventies, the animals people made then weren’t like the ones we have now – they were kinda stiff and sharp faced and not very winning. I actually have quite a few of those patterns now (ever hoping to find the magic one), and there’s a lot to learn from them (if you have time for learning). But it’s the animals you can buy – the whateverKins and beanie guys and the German kind—that’s what I wanna make. Charm, charm, charm. Soft and squishy and sweet and winning. How cool would it be to be able to make something like that and give it to somebody you care about?
So when I found this very simple little horse in a gift shop a couple of years ago, I was determined to make one like him. I came home and bravely bought a commercial pattern (Vogue doesn’t cut it—but there are some Etsy designers that are really, really good) and you may remember years ago when I produced this guy:
A horse only a mother could love.
So in the middle of all this year’s learning software and figuring out how to trick it, and editing and doctoring manuscripts and working with POD services, of course I decided that now was the time I was going to do this soft-horse trick and do it right. And then a really sad thing happened lately that motivated me to actually pick up scissors and attack the muslin I’d bought last year for this very purpose, so I could make a guy who’d be easy to love and sweet to hug for someone I love.
I drew up a pattern. Trying to make a flat rendition of a 3D specimen is not easy. I knew it wouldn’t be. I knew that things would have to be a little tricky and shapes a little unrecognizable in order to get all the curves and things right. And the first guy I drew was NOT right. Not close to right. But I cut him out and I sewed him up, and I looked at him from every angle, using the gift-shop horse as a reference, and I drew all over him, then frogged him and used him as a basis for the next pattern.
I went through this arduous, time-heavy process about eight times over weeks. Each time, I got closer – this one was too narrow, that one too bulgy; this head too short, that leg longer than I liked. I wrapped muslin around shapes I knew I wanted, drawing lines, making cuts to take up slack, and pinning till my hands were raw from running into points. And then unpicking, unstuffing, flattening, snipping—adjusting a line here, a curve there and redrawing, hoping this one would finally be the right one.
Here is a table full of carcasses. Close-but-no-cigar horses, annotated. And there, in the middle of it all, is the final mock-up, close enough I decided to make him out of some fabric I’d greedily brought home from JoAnn’s: soft as anything and not real stretchy.
Close up of annotations and measurements.
The fabric turned out to be maliciously crumbly, breaking off in chunks of fluff. And when I cut the guy out of it, I FORGOT TO ADD THE SEAM ALLOWANCE. But I was too far in. I had to make it work. So I zigzagged the guy together, turned him carefully, and gave him hair on the fly. This is how he turned out – with ball-end pins for eyes (so far):
In the arms of my lovely assistant – the little red roan (except there’s no white on him).
She likes him—can you tell?
Ohhhh – cute – she is saying.
A fuzzy armful.
I think this time, he worked. Now to make the real one, the one with seams and eyes. If I can just hang on to the energy -