Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Denim, crazy glue, and no duct tape after all

Yesterday we had the first broken arm in this house. No broken bones, however, as Margareta doesn't actually have any bones to break. Margareta is one of my oldest granddollters, having joined our family by adoption (arranged by my parents) on Marie's second birthday. Unfortunately, I don't have any photo albums here in Cyprus from before 2000, so can't photo-document here on this blog that joyful day.

So yesterday morning, Margareta's Aunt Katie and Uncle Lukas were having a bit of an argument about who could lovingly care for this niece of theirs, and in the struggle, Margareta's left arm became separated from her body:

Margareta didn't put up any fuss, but Marie wasn't too thrilled. I did briefly look on-line, but sending Margareta to the hospital was a bit out of our budget (she's not covered under our health insurance), and Marie didn't want that anyway. It turns out that they wouldn't even have re-attached her arm--just given her an entire body-and-limb transplant. Marie pointed out that she really doesn't spend much quality time with Margareta anymore anyway, and besides, she loves her the way she is, because of all of the memories. It wouldn't be the same without ink on her legs and grundgy fingernails.

We discussed the options and Marie thought a cast would be cool. We considered a cast made of duct tape, or maybe taping her up and then wrapping white cloth around as a cast. Eventually, Marie decided that if I could actually repair her, that would be good. The strongest fabric I had available was denim (lots of worn-out jeans...), and I didn't have anything of any strength that was a more appropriate shade anyway. Of course, I could have gone and bought some fabric, but I know myself well enough to know that the reality would be that Margareta and her arm would end up lying in my sewing drawer at least until we next move, if not longer, so figured it was better to perform surgery sooner rather than later, with the materials at hand.

The first stage was to fit a cuff of denim and sew it closed, right sides together:

The morning we left the U.S. last December, I broke the frames of my glasses. On the way to the airport we stopped and bought some superglue (crazy glue, Sekundenkleber), the kind in a little jar with a brush, like nail polish. I figured I'd have more control of how much and where it landed that way, and it did make me a little nervous to be working on my glasses. It worked wonderfully (here it is four months later, and I haven't bothered getting new frames after all, and haven't had to re-repair them, either), and I've used this glue quite a few times since. I can highly recommend it. Yes, it was more expensive than in the little tubes, but it's still WORKING four months and at least a dozen uses later, which is more than I can say I've ever managed with a little tube.

Anyway, I used this cool superglue and painted around the edge of the arm, then slid the denim up and over the glue. For good measure I painted some on top of the denim, too. Then it looked like this:

I let it dry (long enough to put on a load of laundry and start some bread), then turned the fabric right-side out.

So far so good, but I hadn't tapered the cuff quite as much as I should have (like, at all), and had quite a time figuring out how to attach it to Margareta. I finally tucked it INside her body and used safety pins to hold it together:

I started sewing with pink-ish thread that more-or-less matched Margareta's body, but the thread kept breaking. Since the denim was a slightly less-than-natural color anyway, I figured the color of the sutures maybe wasn't that important anyway, and I had some good strong black thread, so used that for the rest. I'd thought I'd do a nice neat blind stitch anyway, but as it turned out, it was necessary to actually knot every single stitch to prevent them from pulling apart. Close-up, it doesn't look too neat:

However, it's strong, and whatever else happens to Margareta, it won't be my stitches that tear. From a distance she looks fine, even though it's a little unusual to have a denim-colored stripe in the middle of one's upper arm:

And with clothes on (and back in Marie's care), she looks as good as ever:

When I pinned her arm in place, I thought I had it straight, but once it was finished, we realized that her left arm is now raised more than her right. Marie said that now you can tell that she's Elisabeth's niece, always waving.

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