I did not know when I started this project quite how challenging this pattern would be or quite how rusty my sewing skills have become. It has been thirty-something years since I really did anything more complex than a hem. But perseverance won out in the end and I finished the project. This is Keebler who I hope will end up being one of my little granddaughter's favorite cuddle buddies.
My granddaughter may come up with her own name for him and whatever she wants to call him is fine with me. But he will always be KEEBLER to me. I will explain why later.
The nose gave me fits from the beginning and I'm not sure I understand what I did to make it work well enough to explain. But I was finally able to fashion a nose out of the odd shaped bit of fabric and get it sewn in place so that it actually looks like a lion's nose. It even looks like the nose on the on the front of the pattern envelope. I would have settled for it just being recognizable as a nose. To have it end up looking like the one on the picture is unexpected bonus. I did have to deviate from the instructions quite a bit as they said to baste the nose in place on one side of the center of the muzzle and then stitch the two sides of the muzzle together with the nose sandwiched between them. I have a fairly nice sewing machine but it's not industrial strength. I was pretty sure it wouldn't be able to handle two layers of fleece (the two sides of the muzzle) plus four more layers of fleece made up by the folds in the nose. So I used the machine to make the seam up to the nose, then finished it by hand. I used heavy coat thread for the hand work, so hopefully it will hold up to the rigors of a toddler. Handwork is my comfort zone, so it was fun to include some of that.
The day I finally conquered the nose, I also lost my head ...for a while anyway. I got the nose firmly attached to the muzzle and started looking for the pattern piece labeled 'head' ...but it was nowhere to be found. I always pin all the pattern pieces before I cut to make sure I will have enough fabric. Then I always cut all the pattern pieces at once and leave them pinned to their piece of the pattern until I'm ready for them. But I searched through all my cut pieces three times and NO HEAD. Each pattern piece has a number and the head was number four. I even took all the unused pattern pieces out of the envelope and made sure I had not just failed to cut that piece. But there was no number four in the envelope. Ugh!
I knew the pattern company had not shorted me. Pattern pieces come all printed on one or two big sheets of tissue paper. You have to cut them apart to make individual pieces so you can arrange them on the fabric. I knew the missing pattern piece for the head had to be around here somewhere but I was running out of time to get this project done. I have my sewing machine setting on my grandmother's old writing desk which is tucked into a shallow alcove in my office. I thought the missing piece might have slipped off the desk while I was wrestling with the nose so I got out the flashlight and looked behind, under and on both sides of the desk. I didn't find it. I did find my cloth measuring tape though ...so the effort wasn't totally wasted.
Frustrated and baffled, I went back to the instructions to see if I could improvise. This pattern has four variations ...a lion, a monkey, a dog, and a cat. The lion is the only one that calls for the number four pattern piece for the head. The other three variations have a similarly shaped head, with only a minor difference on one end. I figured that, in a pinch, I could substitute the pattern piece for the head that the other variations called for and just 'eyeball' the minor difference to make it work. My only concern was that though the two 'head' pieces might be shaped very similar, I would have no way of knowing until I tried to attach it to the muzzle if the scale was the same. But I was running out of options so I got set up to cut a 'head' from the other pattern piece.
I have a 75 watt halogen bulb in a floor lamp beside the cutting table and wanted to turn it on so I could see better while I was cutting. I had to walk around to the back of the table to reach the switch on the floor lamp and as I stepped behind the table, I heard the familiar rustle of tissue paper. My missing pattern piece ...the number 4 head piece! It had apparently slipped off the table when I was laying the pieces out on the fabric. I didn't notice it was missing when I was cutting out the other pieces because there are 13 different pieces to this variation of the pattern and they are not consecutively numbered. The carpet in my office is circa 1985 which was smack dab in the middle of the 'earth tones' era in home decor. Typical of the 1980's, the carpet is a deep sculpture in a sandy tan, almost taupe color ...very similar in color to the pale tissue paper pattern piece. So I was able to cut the head from the correct piece of pattern after all.
In retrospect, the only parts of this lion that I made by following the instructions exactly were the legs. I modified the tail to make the fuzzy end more 3-D and fashioned furrowed 'eyebrows' from remnant fabric rather than just embroidering them as the pattern suggested. I did embroider the eyes and used the same brown embroidery floss to fashion the toes on the end of his floppy legs. Thinking back on the process, he's about 50 percent 'by the book' and fifty percent me figuring a way to make it work or a way to make it work (look) better. And that brings us to the story of how he got his name.
A friend of mine left a comment on my first post about this project, suggesting that if I ran into problems with the pattern, I should just 'Fudge, fudge a lot, you're a big girl now, you can fudge the pattern, the girl will never know!!'
Well, fudge I did. First with the nose, then the tail, and almost had to fudge the entire head. I fudged on the assembly process, stitching by hand almost as much as on the machine. I even fudged to create a 'suspended' stiff interfacing in the mane so that I could stuff on both sides of the interfacing and it would feel soft all the way around, but would have an inner support that would keep it from being floppy. Yes, this lion is the product of a whole lot of fudging. Get it? Keebler Fudge? I know, I know ...I have a warped sense of humor.
I am pleased at how he turned out and even more pleased that I got him finished with a whole day to spare before I leave for my weekend with my granddaughter. I work all day tomorrow but then I'm on vacation until next Wednesday. It will take me most of the morning Thursday to clean up my sewing room and turn it back into my office ... and the rest of the day to pack and put some meals in the freezer for Yeoldfurt to have while I'm gone. Assuming the threat of fires has lessened by Friday, I will leave early that morning and be back Monday before Yeoldfurt gets home from work. I will miss him but I'll make sure he has plenty of clean laundry and plenty of meals in the freezer until I get back. I'll have a nice supper ready for him when he gets home Monday evening and we'll be able to spend Tuesday together since that's his regular day off and I'll still be on vacation. By Tuesday, we will have been apart just long enough to miss each other's company and we can spend the day spoiling each other rotten. Life is good.