A couple weeks ago I was out on my walk and something in the gutter that was kind of furry-looking caught my eye, poking out of a pile of leaves and dirt. I reached down, plucked it out and examined what I had found. It turned out to be an old stuffed bear which I thought was a dog toy from the way it was all torn up. It looked like it had been chewed on by a dog, had no eyes and all of the stuffing was gone, replaced now by dirt and leaves.
I’ve long appreciated the Japanese concepts of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is repaired with gold or other precious metals, treating the break as part of the history of the object and calling attention to and celebrating the repair instead of trying to hide it. Likewise, the idea of Wabi-Sabi, appreciating the imperfect as uniqueness to be celebrated, is another concept that has appealed to me. I have often lamented the current throw-away culture and planned obsolescence that seems to dominate and pervade our society these days, and something in this damaged and discarded piece of cloth and faux fur called out to me, beckoning me to try and restore it. I’ve always loved animals, both real and stuffed, tending to anthropomorphize them and treat them like little people.
I shook him (<–SEE!? “him”) off a bit, tucked him in my pocket and continued on my walk. (I should have taken some photos of where I found him and how he looked but it didn’t occur to me at the time.)
He was so dirty that I actually put him in a gallon plastic bag when I got back to the house. I didn’t have time to do anything with him right away and I wasn’t sure what might have been living in there. I had shaken him out as best I could and gotten a lot of leaves and dirt out, but you never know…
When I finally got back to him a few days later, the first thing I needed to do was wash him. I pulled him out of the bag he had been in and dropped him in the sink.
I washed and washed and the dirt just kept coming out. Wash, rinse, repeat… I went through several sinkfulls of muddy water before I finally managed to reach a point where there was no more dirt and other bits washing out.
I dried him out with a towel as best I could, then let him hang out on the clothesline in the back to finish the process. After a few hours in the warm sun and breeze he was finally clean and dry and ready to come back in to start repairs.
It was time to flex my newly-acquired sewing skills to close up the numerous rips and tears on his face, body, feet and back. I had started learning how to sew in order to put patches on my man-purse bag which I learned to do thanks to this video. I found the concepts worked pretty well for sewing this guy up too, although I used a simple loop stitch instead of the running stitch I used for sewing on patches.
After the all the rips except the one in the bottom were repaired, I trotted myself over to Walmart to look for material to re-stuff him with. The craft aisle had a lot of options but I finally settled on Super Soft Polyester fiber fill. The bag was under $10 and was way more than I needed, but there wasn’t a smaller size. I could probably completely re-stuff another 20 of these with what I have left over.
I started stuffing the head, worked my way to the arms, then the legs, and finally the body. I really wasn’t sure how much to use, I just tore off pieces and shoved them in until all the appendages were firm and held their form with no lumps, but still remained soft and squeezable.
I picked up some replacement eyes from JoAnn Fabric that seemed a reasonable size to match the size of the head. The package of four only cost $3 and gave me a couple of spares should I need them. The eyes had posts on the back that simply pressed through small slits I cut in the face and then a safety backing was pushed through from the inside onto the post to lock them in place.
Now that I no longer needed access to the inside for stuffing or the eyes, the final steps were to sew up the large rip in the bottom and to repair a couple more minor rips that I hadn’t seen until he was fully stuffed and filled out.
Is he perfect? Nope, thanks to my amateur sewing job and the fact that there was a bit of material that had been completed torn off. But he is clean and soft and very huggable and any young child would be thrilled to have him.
I did eventually look at the tag that was still attached, and what I had originally thought was a dog toy actually turned out to be a Dan Dee stuffed bear. Now from the damage I’m guessing it was either used as a dog toy or a dog got hold of him at some point, but he wasn’t intended to be Fido’s plaything anyway, and I’m even more happy that I restored him.
I’m not sure what I’ll ultimately end up doing with him, for now he’s keeping me company hanging out on the bed, waiting for me to come up with a good name for him. I’ll update this post once I find something fitting…