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Monday, October 24, 2016

Have Stuffing Stick, Will Stuff

I am delighted to report, dear reader, that this past weekend, I actually picked up needle and thread and sewed a seam on the head of a little bear! And that's not all! I also picked up a stuffing stick (two, in fact) and stuffed a bear's head with fluff, and then I started stuffing a second bear's head before I had to stop. This is amazing considering that I completed my last bear in April 2012, four and a half years ago! I am on a roll! I am so excited to be creating my bears again, 20 years after I first started New Avenue Crew. I've even brought my boxes of mohair and alpaca fur up from the basement and pawed through them, wheels in my head turning! Now to find more time for these dear little bears...
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Have Stuffing Stick, Will Stuff (first published May 22, 2008*)
Of course, one also needs a sewn bear part that’s had its seams combed and has been turned right side out. And stuffing, lots of stuffing.
From my basement travels, I’ve managed to locate a bear (well, a very flat one) who is mostly sewn and has been waiting patiently for a few years (well, many years) to be stuffed and finished. The mohair is a pretty peachy-pinky color, very subtle, which makes me think this will be a girly bear. Now that I’ve decided it’ll be a girl, I’m sure it will be a fight to the finish to have her end up that way. Typically, I don’t know until the bear is finished and looking back at me whether it’s a boy or a girl. I’ve heard other bear makers say the same thing, I’m relieved to say. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds! I’ve put a bow around a bear’s neck, thinking it was a boy, only to be pondering about it later, wondering whether I should try that bow on his head…and voila! Yep, she was a girl bear the whole time.
But back to stuffing. Yes, I must confess that I, Debora Hoffmann, picked up the aforementioned stuffing stick and the head of the rescued flat bear on Monday evening and actually inserted stuffing into the head. Wow! Happy dance!
Girly Bear\'s Parts
I would love to tell you, dear reader, that I finished stuffing the bear’s head and moved on to another task on this poor bear, but sadly, that is not the case. I had to retire for the evening. But I long to get back to it, to finish up the bear’s head. One of the next tasks will be to sew the footpads onto the feet, and I am not looking forward to it. I need some sort of magnification for my sewing machine–or I need a new pair of eyes. I am finding that not seeing very well makes for more mistakes (I have an art background, not a sewing background), and I detest ripping out the great, tight seams that my machine sews…because, for one, I have to see up close to do it! Sigh.
Back to stuffing again. There are probably as many ways to work with stuffing as there are bear makers. I tend to pull mine into ropes and then push it in with my stuffing stick, which is shaped like a T (see the picture above). I remember way back when I was first making bears that I made balls of stuffing, but I like the ropes better, though it takes time to make them. The right stuffing can give such a nice, round shape to a bear’s head or body or foot, but it can’t tame a bad hair day. Though I will not be taking a picture that shows this, this formerly flat bear head, which had been waiting patiently in its bag with its other parts, has, um, a bit of a cowlick in a couple of places. Talk about bed head. But I think a little judicious misting and smoothing here and there will help the ol’ girl. Let’s just not mention it to her, shall we?

*This blog post was first published on May 22, 2008, on my first blog at http://newavenuecrew.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Smiles for My Childhood Bears


When I was a child, I enjoyed playing with an elderly teddy bear, probably from the 1930s. He was a good companion and even played with me in the sandbox. He had lost a lot of his fur, and its color was faded from a dark reddish-brown to a caramel color. The other thing he had lost was his smile. I always thought the tear in the fabric under his nose was his mouth! But there were remnants of the black floss that his mouth was stitched with. I had never seen him smile. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, I am not sure what got into me, but I decided that I wanted to see my elderly teddy bear smile. So I set to work with black pearl cotton floss, a long doll-making needle, and my magnifier. I stitched in the exact places where the remaining floss pieces were, and was delighted to see my bear smiling back at me for the first time.


I noticed during stitching that the bear's snout is stuffed with excelsior, also known as wood wool. And on close examination of his remaining darker fur, I found that his fur is actually mohair.

After seeing my elderly bear's smile, I had to give a smile to my little pink childhood bear. I don't remember what her original nose looked like. When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I stitched her black nose in place. I wonder where her original nose went! All this time, she has not had a mouth. But now, she and my elderly bear are both smiling. After all my stitching yesterday, I am feeling motivated to work on my New Avenue Crew bears! Stay tuned, dear reader!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Down Memory Lane

As much as I like to look forward to new experiences and new relationships, I also enjoy taking a walk down Memory Lane from time to time--sometimes revisiting my own memories, and sometimes discovering lovely parts of a past I have not known. Are you like me?

Today, a friend of mine shared a photo of a bear I created for her 13 or 14 years ago. I named him Juniper after the juniper bushes that grew in front of our house on New Avenue when I was young. My friend made Juniper some darling overalls to wear.

Juniper in his snazzy overalls
Juniper lives with my friend Hiromi Nagataki in Japan. Hiromi is a teddy bear artist and creates darling bears with exquisite clothing; her business is called Teardrops. She made a sailor bear for me named Satsuki. Before I sent Juniper to Japan, I took a picture of him with Satsuki taking tea in the garden.

Satsuki (by Hiromi Nagataki) and Juniper (by Debora Hoffmann) taking tea
I created New Avenue Crew 19 years ago, in 1996. The Crew entered cyberspace (cybearspace?) in about 2000 with a site on the now-defunct Geocities. I thought I would never see my website again, but three years ago, I found it on a site called Reocities and wrote a blog post about it. Imagine my surprise when today I stumbled upon my Geocities site in another place I didn't know it existed! You can visit my website and read all the pages and see all the photos as they appeared in 2008. It is a snapshot in time, a walk down Memory Lane.

The New Avenue Crew website on Geocities.ws

Friday, July 10, 2015

Teddy Bear Picnic Day

I was surprised earlier this week to find out that today is Teddy Bear Picnic Day. I had no idea! We shouldn't miss an important holiday like Teddy Bear Picnic Day!

Juniper enjoying the garden (pretend he's having a picnic)
It has been raining quite a lot here this summer, so there haven't been many opportunities for a picnic, but indoor picnics with teddy bears are allowed, I'm sure.

Enjoy this new, very important holiday with your teddies!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Bear's Favorite: Honey Vanilla Ice Cream

bear, swimming pool
Source: Internet
Every bear knows that there's nothing better than a cool treat on a hot day. And because bears love honey, and we at New Avenue Crew love bears, I thought I would share my favorite cool treat with you.

Honey Vanilla Ice Cream

1 quart cream (not ultrapasteurized, preferably from grass-fed cows)
1 vanilla bean (or about 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
5 egg yolks (preferably from pastured chickens)
1/2 cup raw honey (or high-quality maple syrup)
pinch sea salt

For the tastiest, most nutritious ice cream, use the best quality cream you can find, preferably from grass-fed cows. Never use ultrapasteurized cream.

Pour cream into a medium saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out the vanilla bean "seeds" and add them and the vanilla bean pod to the cream in the saucepan. On medium-high heat, bring the cream to a gentle simmer/boil, stirring with a wooden spoon. Watch carefully; when the cream seems to start to foam a bit, it is done. (If you leave it longer, it can foam over the sides. Yes, that happened to me!)

Take the cream off the heat, cover, and let infuse for 25 to 30 minutes. Then remove the vanilla bean pod. (I save the pod for another batch of ice cream, 30 to 35 minutes.)

Add egg yolks to a large mixing bowl. Beat egg yolks with a wire whisk. Add honey to egg yolks and whisk to combine. Add a pinch of sea salt.

When cream is finished infusing, whisk it to break up the top layer, or remove it if you wish. If the cream is still hot, add only a little at a time to the egg yolk mixture, starting with about a tablespoon. Once you have whisked three or four tablespoons of cream into the egg yolk mixture, you can add larger amounts of cream until it is all mixed.

Cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator until completely chilled.

Process in an ice cream maker (the one I use is below) according to directions, and then add to a chilled container and store in the freezer.

Enjoy!

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker
Source: Amazon.com