Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Lovely Remembrance

I wanted so badly to post this sooner, but since this was a surprise that the client wanted to give as Christmas gifts, I couldn't until after the holidays had subsided.  Figured Super Bowl Sunday was far enough out...then Valentine's Day...then St. Patrick's Day...then Easter...

This client was referred to me via a mutual friend.  His mother had passed away about a year ago, and the family was understandably having a difficult time.  The grief counselor suggested having something made from some articles of her clothing, and commented that a bear was usually a good choice as it could be hugged as needed.  My client showed up with 6 beautiful Gund bears and a bag full of his mom's clothing in tow, in colors she had loved wearing (and pieces that held some sentiment for his dad, his siblings, and himself).

Clothing, and trimming, and bears - Oh, My!

I had to think about this for awhile, since I'm not a master pattern maker by any stretch of the imagination.  Suddenly it hit me - I have several books filled with baby patterns that I've bought over the years, and with a little tweaking, they might just fit these bears.
I started off small.  I used one of the Henley t-shirts my client brought for me, looked around Pinterest for a few ideas on bear clothes (where there is a decided plethora of frilly & silly bear clothing - and a metric TONNE of Build-A-Bear garments that leave a lot to be desired); I decided to cut the shirt down to size and draft a pattern from it. Most of the patterns I found on the internet didn't account for any kind of body shaping (especially in the neck/shoulder areas).  Shaping for a bear is hard - that meant a t-shirt had to fit over a big head and around a thick neck, which leaves little room for a shoulder area, which is proportionately smaller.  It took a little finessing, but I was pretty happy with the results.  The simple elastic waist pants took a bit of fudging, too - thankfully, baby patterns do take a padded bum into account!  Don't get me started on the big bear feet, though...

After completion, I sent this pic in a text message to the client that read:
"In the beginning, there was a t-shirt.  And the t-shirt fit.  And it was good."

He loved it.

One of the blouses, cut as close to the original seams as I could get, in order
to save as much usable fabric as possible.

Matching blouse fabric with t-shirt fabric I culled from my
remnant bins.  I buy these when I see them at my local fabric store -
they are usually less than a yard apiece, but you'd be surprised how
handy they are to have sometimes.

Matching up tops and bottoms, deciding which ones would be
more girly and which ones would be more boyish.  Some turned out
to be in-between-y.

I should totally trademark that last word.
I had so much fun planning, matching, and making these, that I couldn't help but continue the party over to the photo shoot.

I had so much fun, I ended up stripping the threads on my camera's tripod connector.  OY.

Two of my favorites - especially the salmon colored one.
("PSST - I've got a secret to tell you!")

This was made extra special by taking advantage of the pocket placement on the front of
the original blouse, which then became the back pockets on this pair of overalls.

Okay, I'm beginning to sense a pattern, here.


You can't tell that this is my favorite of the group.

Not.  At.  All.

("...99, 100!   Ready or not, here I come!")
Of course, then the ridiculous fashion photographer wannabe in me took over...had to make sure I got their good side, you know.

Sigh.  Still my favorite.  

Mr. Casual

His close-up.
Then, the prop-master in me got all fired up again.

I wuv my kitteh.

Hands down the hardest outfit of all - lots of detail work, but
it was totally worth it.
Believe it or not, this is a straw hat we found at some dollar store, and
it's been sitting on top of a glass frog lamp my husband bought me years ago
as a gift.

The frog didn't seem to mind lending it out.


Another Henley and pants combo.
This one reminded me of my own mom for some reason.

And here we are, back to the starting point again.  

The Henley crew.

Family portrait.  

I ended up sending all of these photos to the client.  In addition to presenting a bear to each of his siblings, his father, and himself, he made a little documentary about the bear project which included photos of the clothes, the bears, the presentation, and pictures of each recipient with his or her bear.  In the photos he took of his siblings and his dad holding the bears, you can see some of the photos of his mom in the background - and in one or two, she was photographed wearing some of these garments in life.

One of the most poignant and rewarding projects I've ever been asked to help with.