Life Lessons,  raving lunatic rant,  sewing catastrophes

The Story of the Bear with Buckles and the Girl Who Failed Him

You know what happens when you don’t blog for a long time (which for me is anything longer than a day or two)? It gets harder! After about three days I start thinking, maybe I should just stop blogging altogether. I wonder what life would be like without being attached to the internet at the hip? Would I be forgotten? Would I finally get all my housework done and stop ignoring my child and husband so much? Would I write a best-selling novel and get rich quick? Think think think, I think. Pretty crazy stuff goes on in this head up here.

So anyway, while I was taking an unannounced mini-vacation from this blog and pretty much hating life because I was a snotty-nosed walking-dead sick person, I decided to take on a colossal SEWING project!!!! What better to do with my free non-blogging time than wrestle with a bunch of obstinate fabric that won’t let me have my way with it? AAAaaaagh! You can just imagine me growling and ripping at pieces of brown corduroy while sweating bullets because I am feverish AND our house is 103 degrees in summertime.

You see, I had this great idea. It was a really really really great idea. I wanted to make a special present for a special person. A special little person who just turned two and who also really really likes buckles. He likes buckles so much that he will stop whatever he is doing—playing at the beach, digging sand castles, running around on his front lawn.—to go and play with the buckles on his stroller. He is a smart little boy who is fascinated with clamps and clasps and the way things work. I am fascinated with this little boy. I know he is going to grow up to be one of those really smart older boys who can take things apart and put them back together again. I love those kinds of boys.

A year ago (a whole year ago!!) I thought up the idea to make this little boy some kind of toy with all kinds of buckles on it. Not one buckle like his stroller but three or four or even five. I would sew it with all the buckles I could find! It would be a buckle extravaganza and he would love me forever because I alone understood his love of buckles. I would be the best honorary auntie ever.

Buckle Bear Plans

And so the idea of the bear with buckles was born, or Mr. Buckles if you like the sound of that better. Inspired and on fire off I skipped to the fabric store. To my delight I found all kinds of buckles. There were ring buckles and clasp buckles and hook buckles, silver buckles and black plastic buckles and bronze buckles. There were even buckles that lit up and blinked. This was the best idea EVER. I was so proud of myself.

I bought some red-braided belt material for the belts, some brown corduroy for the bear body and some cool striped jean material for his sporty cuffed pants. I had some red striped mattress ticking at home, so I decided to use that for a vest to put all the buckles on. After all, part of my motive for making this present was to save a little money along with giving the most original present ever.

After a couple days of staring at the fabric and sketching up all sorts of creatures, I decided to just have a go at it without a pattern or a plan other than the willy-nilly ideas swirling around in my head. I really think that is where I went wrong.

There is a big part of my personality that is not suited to sewing. Sewing is a slow and methodical craft. Rewards come to those who are careful and meticulous with their seams. Cutting corners in sewing does not win the race. In fact, it often puts you back several hours with a seam ripper in your hands. I hate ripping seams and doing things twice or thrice or fifty times that I could have done once. I never liked writing rough drafts in school and that hasn’t changed much. I’m not a perfectionist.

What I am is creative and logical. (Is that an oxymoron?) I can figure things out if I set my mind to it. I can make stuff work if I try hard enough. I figured I would just sew what I knew how to do and figure the rest out as I went along. That worked out well enough for my couch cover project.

A Bear Hot Pocket!

I sewed his arms and legs and stuffed them. Then I sewed his head. They looked adorable. Separate and unattached but adorable! Then I started on the vest.

That bloody red-braided belt material started to unravel. It was horrible. It took on a personality of its own and the more I tried to sew it, the more it unraveled. My sewing machine decided to balk too and the thread made giant loopy tension nightmares on the underside of whatever I sewed. The bobbin jumped and shrieked and flew right out of the bottom of my machine. I took everything apart and put it all back together again, determined that it would not get the best of me. I zig-zagged up the belt material as best I could to keep it from unraveling more but it just kept unraveling and turned into a frayed mess. And then I started to run out of belting and that made me cry. Big snotty smudgy tears that dripped on my corduroy and ruined everything. It was a disaster.

A complete and utter disaster.

I decided that all the zig-zaggy stitching was fashionable and carried on anyway and then I sewed one of the belts on backwards! The blinking belt buckle! The best belt of them all! It was dreadful! How could I do such a stupid stupid thing?!! For a while I decided I would just buckle that belt in the back of the bear but I knew my little friend would know it was a mistake and I had to rip it out.

Then I sewed his head on backwards and his vest upside down and every time I stuffed him inside-out and outside-in the corduroy would unravel a little more because I was stuffing the whole body of the bear through a little hole between his legs. It was not unlike a painful birth without an epidural!

I know those of you who do not sew will be confused completely by the inside-out-outside-in process. Just believe me when I say that it was difficult and strenuous and I was sweating bullets. It didn’t work no matter what I tried. Pinning it right would have been a good idea but once it was outside in I would feel around for the pins and twist it all wrong again. It was like I was sewing blind.

I really do think I was this close to finishing the project and pulling it all off but as the days wore on and my sickness and bad attitude took over, I had to give up. I cried and cried and cried. I hate failure. It was such a good idea and now no one will ever know because it’s such a big mess! I thought hysterically. There might have even been some PMS thrown in.

To make matters worse this is the second present that I have not been able to give to a special little boy in my life. Not the same buckle-loving boy but another one just as special. Is God trying to teach me something here?

A while back I bought some really cool little stump bean bags on Etsy. They were the sweetest little bean bags ever and so very perfect for this other little boy in my life because his mom is eco-friendly and would love them. She wouldn’t want me to buy him something plastic or noisy or mass-produced in China. He would like them because they looked like little trees and you could throw them. And if he didn’t like them, then my friend could put them in a little dish on her coffee table and they would be all cool-looking and deco in her super deco house. I’m using dumb words but you get my drift. Cool friend : cool present. Maybe I was being a little too proud of myself for finding the best most perfect present ever.

I ordered them. I paid for the shipping that was a little bit more expensive than I wanted. I wrapped them in some very special Baby Bug wrapping paper and set the present on the passenger seat of my car to give to my friend’s little boy next time I saw them. Then I drove around with that present on my seat for three weeks. Our timing was all wrong and I never got around to giving it to him.

Then one day I forgot to lock my car and my present was gone. Pfft! Stolen! Right out of my car just like my fancy silk diaper bag and the box of wipes. Somebody in my neighborhood is watching me and every time I forget to lock my car they take things out of it.

Yes, I’m totally going to set a trap.

But in the meantime I’m just peeved! Who could do such a thing? Who would unwrap a present that was wrapped with paper painted by a little kid? WHO??!! Someone who has no soul. Someone who is rotten and evil and mean. I never blogged about that when it happened because I just figured it’s my dumb luck. I’m going to learn to lock my car one way or another. How much is it going to cost me is a better question. $50? $100? more? I don’t know.

I’m just sensitive on this subject. Thoughtful presents should go to their rightful owners and then I should get credit for being such a great present-giver.

Or should I? Is that the lesson here? Am I trying too hard to be the best present-giver ever? If I just start giving people coffee-scented candles will I get over this curse? Nothing against coffee-scented candles but I think I’ve gotten five thousand of them in my lifetime.

Operation Buckle Bear fails

Long story short: It was a spectacular idea and a spectacular failure, but I am glad I tried. My mom says she can help me salvage the bear with buckles. Maybe in a few months or so, he will get to live with the boy who loves buckles.


  • sizzle

    That is quite an endeavor you undertook. I really do think that the thought (and there was a lot of that!) that went into this gift is waht matters the most. Because he is two and won’t remember that you didn’t get him something for his birthday or that you gave him his birthday gift for Christmas. It’s such a cute bear and thoughtful gift.

    But yes, sewing is not for those of us who want to cut corners. I learned that the hard way. Also, the ironing is a bitch.

  • Melissa

    I know you want him ‘salvaged’ but he looks darn cute to me! An incredibly awesome idea and he looks just like something you would Illio.

  • whoorl

    Well, this just made me all teary-eyed. I have a feeling this boy thinks you’re pretty special too, buckle bear birthday present or not. :)

  • Gayle

    Brenda, you are very talented to get as far as you got on Buckle Bear. He is so cute! And, yay for a mom that can help salvage sewing projects gone wrong!

  • Michelle

    This neat little boy would love you no matter what! You sure are a good friend and auntie :o) You made him with love in your heart, and that’s what counts. Wito and Whoorl sure are lucky to have you :o) You really are special!


  • BeachMama

    Oh my goodness, Buckle is the cutest bear. He sure looks like he could be ready in no time, perhaps when you are feeling a bit better and look at him again, you will see that he can be put together for you. It is the thought that counts sometimes, I truly believe that.

  • Calee

    He looks awful cute to me. My not quite 2 year old recognized him as a bear and wanted to climb through the computer to hug him so I think the child will love him, no matter the imperfect seams.

  • pinky

    Would I finally get all my housework done and stop ignoring my child and husband so much?

    perhaps – but I stopped blogging for six months and I didn’t get a darn thing done :-)

    and you are so hard on yourself! You come up so many fantastical ideas, I am not surprised that occasionally you need to put them aside to get a little space and come back to them later. You are like an inventor – it’s all just a process :-)

    *dude, that SUCKS about the person stealing your beautiful present, and I am sorry.

  • Heather

    I have been reading your blog for some time now and have never left a comment. Thought today was as good as any. I LOVE the buckle bear idea and I think he looks great.

    My son has been into buckles since he was a year old. At the time I was making knock-off “Taggies” for friends. I decided to make my son a “Taggie” but with buckles on the ends of all the tags. It actually turned out really cute and it was great to bring along on plane rides. When he was done I rolled it up and clipped a couple buckles to hold it in place.

    It took me enough time just to make the blanket… I can not imagine taking on a bear… you amaze me!

  • Jenni

    This is truly a bear that will quickly become a favorite. It looks like one of those things a child just wants to cuddle and fiddle with all day long for comfort. It’s that bear that secretly goes to college with a grown boy! Totally awesome!

  • bluejaye

    He is very cute.

    I have a couple of shortcut sewing ideas that will make him faster.

    Also, rule number one….don’t sew when you are in a daze…or dying.

  • bethany actually

    Oh! A lighter to melt the edges…of course bluejaye is right! You have so many helpful seamstresses in your life, Brenda. :-)

    I think you will come back to this someday and you will have learned from your mistakes and it’ll be a fabulous bear.

  • Starryprincess

    He looks fabulous, give yourself a couple of days to recover then go back to it. He’s already amazing.

  • Gingermog

    I actually think Mr Buckle Bear looks fabulous. Gosh lady you are amazing. In 103 degrees I would be lying scantily clad in a dead faint under the direct breeze of a fan, not wrestling with courdroy. Very sorry to hear about the evil person who broke into your car, but you know they are storing up a heap big trouble for themselves one day. Just so stupid petty thievery. Please don’t give up blogging yet, purely for selfish reasons, SJ is stopping and I feel like an old friend is breaking up with me.

    Hey maybe if I stopped reading blogs I’d write a book, be a better cook, read improving books, learn to spell, have tidier cupboards. Heck, no, I’d rather hang out with you. Hope you are all feeling better. Big hugs.

  • K

    Aww, he’s adorable. I know all too well about “giant loopy tension nightmares” in sewing. It is so very frustrating. I know where you’re coming from. I hope that eventually you can save buckle bear.

  • Sam

    Oh my sweet Brenda – what a fabulous idea! My kiddo is obsessed with buckles, too, and he would eat something like this up. I’m glad your mom is going to help you salvage Buckle Bear, and I can’t imagine the frustration that sewing brings on. You are Superfriend!

  • Susan

    Ahhh you are way too hard on yourself! You create many beautiful things including Buckle Bear. He’ll come together maybe after the cold is gone and the summer cools down to fall. Geesh most people couldn’t think to even draw out Buckle Bear on paper and it looks that fabulous!

  • Mysh

    Oh don’t give up! He’s great…you’re great and frustration is not a fun play-mate, especially when you’re already under the weather. Give it a few days/weeks, let your Mom help and Mr. Buckles will live again! :O)

  • Clownfish

    A failure, your bear, is not. But five words rang in my ears as I read your post, “The Boy Who Loved Buckles”. No makings for a novel but children’s book for sure. You would get writers credit and pay yourself to illustrate it…. hmmm

  • diane

    Wow, what a great idea. I am not a sewer, but I think buckle bear looks fantastic. When you are ready, pick him up again. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be loved by a little boy, just made with love.

  • Katie

    Buckle Bear looks completely amazing and I think it’s wonderful that you even gave it a shot. I really hope you and your mom are able to finish him up!

  • bluejaye

    I remember when the kids were that age they thought it was completely amazing that I could put two pieces of fabric together and make the stick, let alone make a stuffed animal. He won’t notice any “weirdness” unless you point it out.

  • Annabanana

    Oh B! You almost made me cry…I am holding it in to spare myself but, awwwww.
    The thief thing makes me mad. Been there, rotten people I tell ya, no soul for sure!

    Your bear, I feel your pain.
    That dang octopus I made nearly ruined me. Eight legs to turn out and only two survived. The rest of them had busted out seams and I had to hand stitch them back together. It took two stinking hours to pick the legs inside out.
    Then to stuff them was another issue. My sausage fingers were too fat to get the stuffing down them and my only tool on hand was scissors and they were used to force down fluff.

    But…the kids love it and I feel so proud that it is done and surviving the swinging over the head tosses.

    I am sure that your bear will be quite salvageable, it looks so cute now and so whimsical.
    Where are those aunts when we need them?!

  • mamalang

    Awww…He’s awesome. And really, I don’t think there is much left to do that would salvage him, you just need some space. It always amazes me when I’ve come to an impasse on a sewing project, leave it for a while, and come back with a fresh mind, I usually spot what I was doing wrong immediately and it all works out. Good luck…whenever you get it done, he will love it!

  • Kuky

    I just posted after not blogging for a week and I can totally relate to that feeling of “maybe I shouldn’t blog anymore”. Maybe I would get stuff done too. Like changing the fish’s water or folding the laundry. But more likely I’d ignore the chores and do something fun like drawing or reading. Well except for Nemo’s water. I REALLY need to change that like yesterday.

    And I’m sorry you had such a hard time with buckle bear. I think he’s cute. He doesn’t look like a spectacular failure to me. And I find my screwed up softies usually have the most character to them. They have more personality when they’re new and fresh without all the kinks worked out.

  • C

    I think Mr. Bucklebear looks amazing and that you are such a thoughtful giftgiver! Boo to the people who took things from your car. I hope the carma (ahem, couldn’t resist) gets them later.

  • Sonja

    You and me, we may be sewing twins. Sewing without a pattern? Not my stong suit. Following a pattern? Also not my thing. I like to “tweak” stuff, which is probably why the seam ripper is my most important sewing tool (after the machine, of course).

  • Jo-Ann

    Oh, I this reminds me of soooo many projects that I have undertaken. Maybe we should switch, I’ll finish yours if you’ll finish mine!