Saturday, January 31, 2015

Diddly Daily Doodles!!

BEE Happy!!

Just a quick little sculpt that I did this morning!
Love and Hugs,

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fiercely Choose JOY

Or whatever you most desire in life . . . choose it FIERCELY. . . as if your very next breath, your very life, depended upon it.

Because it DOES.

I know this sounds dramatic, but I can't emphasize enough how critically IMPORTANT your choice is. 

We make choices every day.  Every minute.  Every second.  And they can lead us down into a spiral of sadness, depression, anxiety, or pain.  OR . . . they can lift us UP.  Dragging us out of the mire.

Our youngest daughter turned 17 this past week and has been living on her own to pursue her dreams, her passion, for the past half year.  People ask me, "How could you let your 16-year-old move to a major city to live on her own?"  My question, "How could I stand in the way of her dream?"  So we fiercely support her, lift her, carry her as much as we possibly can in a long-distance-sort-of-way. 

Sometimes, understandably, our Young One struggles with overwhelming worry and anxiety that generally stems from putting WAY too much pressure on herself.  Yesterday she said something that almost left me dead in my tracks.  Not a surprising situation considering that she's a bright, perceptive, and intuitive young woman.  But I almost didn't know what to say to help lift her out of her mire.  And, hey!, that's my job!

Some background.  She and I were discussing how the questions we ask ourselves profoundly affect how we feel.  How our minute-to-minute questions shape our daily lives.  As humans, we are always asking ourselves questions--it's our nature to be curious and to learn.  So we ask questions.  Notice it today.  You might be surprised by how many questions you ask yourself or how many over-arching statements you make about your life. 

My point to her . . . make sure these questions or statements bring you closer to the life you want, to the feelings you want.

So she tells me, "Yes.  I do feel better when I ask questions that get me closer to feeling happy and confident.  But those OTHER questions are still there.  Can I do it?  Am I good enough?  Will I achieve my dreams?  They don't go away.  They are STILL there."  God, she's smart!  It sometimes makes my job so hard! 

My reaction? . . .  "She's RIGHT!  How am I EVER going to get out of this "truth" to help her pull herself up?"  Breathe.  Reflect.  Go inside.  I look to my own truth.  The only way I can help others is by sharing the truth I KNOW deep inside me. 

Look.  And there I see it.  Those questions of "TRUTH" that every person like me who lives with chronic pain has way down deep in their depths that can make us completely fall apart in tears.  The questions of "Why me?  Why do I have to live with this pain?  Why can't I live like other people and do the things I want to?  Why do I have to build a life around restriction, pain, and more pain? Etc. Etc." 

Immediately, I share these AWFUL AND DARK questions with my daughter.  My daughter who KNOWS the pain I live with.  My daughter who has seen it all.  Times in the ER.  Times in a wheelchair.  Vacations cancelled.  Outings cut short or cancelled.  Oh, God!  The list could go on and on and on and on . . .  I SO wish I could have shielded her from these experiences. 

As I tell her these things . . . am asking these dark questions . . .  I'm holding back the tears and feel the downward spiral swallowing me.
But I FIERCELY hold on. 
It's important to share so that she, so that YOU, can learn to climb out of your own pits of darkness.

The answer?  I CHOOSE not to let these questions lead my life.  I CHOOSE to focus on other questions.  Questions that bring JOY.  Questions that lead me away from the darkness and towards the light. 

Every day I wake up and DECIDE how I want to feel.  While I'm still in bed I ask, What am I grateful for?  Who do I love?  What do I want to feel today?  And my answer everyday is . . .
I want to feel JOY!  I want to feel ALIVE!  I want to feel FREE from pain, past and present! 

I choose these feelings FIERCELY.  As if my life depended on it.  Because it does.  I have other feelings I want to feel, too.  Creative.  Abundance.  Generous.  BUT if I can just get to the first one, the all-important one for me . . . JOY . . .  that's good enough!  The others will follow.  They are all connected.

And all through the day, every moment, every second, I examine the questions I ask myself.  The statements.  The beliefs I'm focusing on.  And if they lead me to darkness . . .
I CHANGE the QUESTION until I'm lead to LIGHT!
I hope this helps even just one of you to choose to focus more on light today.
What about you?  Do you have any thoughts that might help us all lean towards the light, towards a happier life?  I know that we would all LOVE to hear them below in the comments sections.
Love and Hugs,

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Tutorial

In the comments section of last week's "Tuesday Tutorial," I referred to a nifty trick used by doll makers to shift stuffing around AFTER you have finished stuffing your critter.  I was SURE that I had shared it with you, but, alas, I can't find it anywhere so I'm going to share it now.

Before I do though, let me cover some basic tips on stuffing.
Tip #1: Use small pieces of stuffing.
I use small pieces of fiberfill when I'm stuffing the head or limbs.  Using big chunks often leads to icky lumps and bumps--at least when I do it!  You can use a stuffing stick or hemostats, but I also find that a chopstick is a pretty effective stuffing tool. 
While I'm stuffing, I feel along the areas that you are stuffing to be sure there are no lumps or bumps and check to be sure the head or limb looks the same on both sides as you are stuffing it. 
It's important that the head should be stuffed firmly so that its shape won’t distort when you attach the eyes.  I also stuff the limbs of my critters fairly firmly so that I can’t feel the bold heads when I hold them. 
Tip #2:  For added weight, add glass granules or zinc-plated BBs. 
The tiny glass beads  or BBs are not necessary, I just like the weight and feel it adds to the teddy bear.  Sometimes, I pour some glass granules into the feet after placing a small amount of fiberfill on the bottom.  But I always add glass granules or BBs when I'm stuffing the body! 

Tip #3:  Make a muslin pouch to hold the glass granules or BBs.
Generally, I put the granules or BBs in a muslin pouch--that way if I don't like how the stuffing is going, I can easily take out the granules or BBs without them bouncing all over my studio.  But it's totally optional!  
Stainless steel shot or zinc-plated bbs to add more weight than the glass granules—don’t use, for example, plain steel shot because humidity may cause it to rust inside the bear. 
If you want to make a pouch for the glass granules or bbs, cut two squares of scrap fabric and stitch them together on three sides.  Pour in a small amount of glass granules, roll over the top of the bag twice, and stitch closed.  Place some fiberfill at the bottom of the body before putting in your bag of glass granules—it makes the glass beads less noticeable. 

Tip #4:  Move stuffing around with a sturdy needle.
Yup!  This is the BIG TIP!! 
So let’s say that you were really, really, REALLY careful when stuffing the head or the arms or the legs and when you finish you are absolutely frustrated to find that there are STILL areas that have too little stuffing or too much stuffing.  Don’t despair! 
This is a handy little trick I learned from doll makers—use a strong, stout needle and MOVE that stuffing around to where you want it!  That’s it!  You don’t need to start all over again. 
HOW-TO:  Insert a strong needle just under the surface of the mohair head and, with the tip of the needle, pull stuffing from an area that has more stuffing to the area that has less stuffing.
And if you have a place with too much stuffing, you do the same thing—just move stuffing around until it feels right to you.  Neat trick, huh?!

I know we would all love to hear if you have any other neat tricks.  Or do you have any questions about what I've written?   Let's hear them in the comments so that we can all learn together!  Thanks!!

Love and Hugs,

P.S.  I can't believe I forgot to share one of the most important tips in bear-making.  Thanks, Kay, for reminding me.  Here goes!

Tip #5: Use a mirror to check for symmetry especially when stuffing the head.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Path Appears

Okay, Readers!!  I saw this trailer this morning and I just HAD to share it with you.  "A Path Appears" looks an absolutely moving, touching, and inspiring 3-episode documentary that will be airing on PBS--January 26th, February 2nd, and February 9th.  It looks like a MUST- SEE!!

Check it out!!

Love and Hugs,

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Tutorial

Welcome to my new "Tuesday Tutorial" series!  I'm sharing some important tips and secrets that I've learned over the years as a teddy bear-maker.  Some of these tips are straight from the patterns I sell on Etsy.  Heck, when I'm done, you could cut and paste these "Tuesday Tutorials" together and basically make one of my pattern instructions for free!
Today, I'll start by explaining a relatively basic technique that has a MASSIVE impact on your bears. 
Sewing in the head gusset. 
This is something that plagues even the most experienced bear-makers.  I've seen plenty of muzzles from quality bears have the gusset sewn in off-kilter.  Basically it comes down to this:  If your head gusset is not in the center, your bear's nose will look crooked when you are finished.  You are aiming for as close to perfection as you can get.  Notice I said "aiming"--don't go crazy here!  My personal mantra here is to go for the "best I can do."  Some say that a head gusset which is a little bit off can add personality.  I agree.  But TOO much off and it's . . .   Just.   Not.   Right.
So, with your two "side head" pieces together, stitch from the bottom front of the neck to the tip of the nose.  After that and it's time to carefully pin in your gusset.
TIP #1:  I always mark the center of the head gusset on the fabric so that I can place the exact center of the gusset’s nose on the center seam of the two head pieces. 
After I get this placement right, I pin the sides of the gusset around the bear’s head.  Make sure that each side of the head is pinned evenly.

TIP #2:  Use a LOT of pins to secure your pieces together—the mohair can get pretty slippery when sewing. 
I pin with the pins perpendicular to the seams (with the pin heads sticking straight out along the seams) so that I can go right over the pins with my sewing machine, especially in tight or curvy areas.
I'm rather particular, so I sew each seam twice on my sewing machine—first with a longer, basting stitch and then with a tighter, sewing stitch.  However, if you prefer, hand sewing works just as well.  When your pieces are securely fastened either with pins or by hand-basting, use a backstitch (picture below) with heavy-duty thread to sew tight and small stitches.  You may also want to go over your seams a second time with a blanket stitch (below) to make them even stronger.


TIP #3:  Start by basting JUST the nose to prevent the fabric from slipping or shifting to the side.
I first machine baste both sides of the nose and then continue sewing by basting up and over the top of the head and then down the back side of the head and ending at the nape of the neck.  Then I baste the other side of the head by beginning at the nape of the neck and finish where I started at the side of the nose.  I find that this method of sewing each side of the gusset prevents the gusset from shifting off-center when sewing.  It’s frustrating to pin and sew a “perfect” gusset only to find that it has shifted to one side during sewing making the nose lop-sided.  And by basting, if anything isn’t satisfactory, it is easy to pick out the offending stitches and re-baste them.  When I’m happy with the way the head is basted, I then go over the seam with a tighter sewing stitch.

TaDa!!  A nicely centered head gusset and no crooked noses!  Do you have any tips for sewing in head gussets?  Or do you have any questions about what I've written?   Let's hear them in the comments so that we can all learn together!

Love and Hugs,

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Confession Time! I'm a Growth Junkie!

Have I ever told you that I'm a growth junkie?  There you go--I've admitted it.  I love to change and to grow and to learn.  My Dear One has resigned that there is always something new that I'll do, bring up, or even push him into.  He loves me, so he accepts it.  He doesn't like change.  But, for that matter, I don't like change either.  Strange isn't it?  I don't like change, but it's something I am always doing and striving through.  My mantra is, "The only constant in life is change."  Perhaps it's exactly WHY I don't like change, that I push myself to LEARN to change.

I've been so silent on this blog this past year.  Am I still making bears?  Yes.  Am I still learning other arts?  Yes.  Do I still plan on releasing new patterns?  Writing tutorials?  Telling you all the secrets I've learned about bear-making so that you don't even have to buy one of my patterns?  Yes.  Yes.  And, Yes!  But I think I also need to write.

I've learned SOOOOO much this past year and I've gotten so much healthier and stronger.  Growing is who I am.  It's at my core and I'm tired of trying to make this blog "fit" into some definition of a "craft blog" or an "artist blog."  I just can't come up with pithy things to say or nifty-difty photos about crafts, bears, or art.  BUT . . . I can always come up with what I'm learning and how to grow and how to become more like yourself and fabulous quotes.  It's what I do.  I'm the family Go-To-Girl for advice, recommendations, learning, and balance.  So I think it's time to make this a "ME" blog and time to stop trying to make my square peg fit into a round hole.  Heck, now you can get to know me in all my square-ness.  I've never followed the crowd, so I guess I shouldn't start now.  (grin)

So how about you?  Are you a Growth Junkie?  What do you like to change up and learn?  Any advice for the rest of us poor folk stumbling along this path?  We'd all love to hear what you have to say below!
Welcome to my world!
Love and Hugs,