Category Archives: Teddy bears

Yet another teddy bear and an update on life in general

First of all: I’m sorry I’ve been absent for such a long time, and that my updates before this weren’t exactly numerous before summer either. This has been a crazy hectic year, and I don’t see it slowing down either, and both my sewing and blog suffers. The fabric shop has been doing well enough so far, and I’m looking forward to fall and winter with curious optimism.

Also, my grandma died at the same time I was taking over all the goods I bought from the old fabric shop. My husband hasn’t exactly had too much spare time either, as he has been crazy busy with his own projects, work, the fabric shop and picking up the pieces after gran wasn’t part of the world anymore. I will do a post on my grandma later on, I just haven’t managed to start writing it so far. Suffice to say – we were really close and I miss her.

 

Now – over to a post I started writing before any of this happened.

This little guy began his life at the lab where I was working before my big fabric shop project saw the light of day, one Saturday evening in November. I needed an addition to the bear I had previously made for Gran’s neighbor, as I learned there were two children and not one in the house.

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He is made from a two-tone alpaca, which is a dream to work with and has a great feel to it.

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When I delivered the bears just before Christmas, both children and adults appreciated my teddies.

Now I’m just happy I managed to make these guys in time.

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Scrappy bears

Based on the same pattern that I shared on the blog back in 2012, I finished three teddies in various fabric combinations last month. I had enough of one fabric to make one bear, and the other two had to be made from various scraps of fabric.

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Number one is made from thick golden mohair with a brown backing and thinner, curly mohair with almost the same brown backing. I chose brown plush for the paws, olive green eyes to set off that darling pink face, and a soft yellow bow for this one. Hopefully the firstborn daughter of my friends in Germany will like her new teddy bear.

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The second one is meant for the newborn boy of another friend. I had the exact same mohair in two different colours – blue and orange curly mohair with dark tips. As neither scrap of fabric was actually big enough, I had to be creative with this one in order for the bear to have a head, body and all limbs in place. It turned out as somewhat of a blue-and-orange panda hybrid, and I love how the contrasting colours play together. As there already was so much happening with this one, I opted for black eyes and an organza bow in the same light blue colour as the blue mohair so as not to make the bear too wild colour-wise. I hope the little guy will enjoy his new play mate.

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Finally the third bear is  made from one fabric only, a beige brown-tipped mohair. This one got a pair of “buzzard” eyes, which gives it a somewhat wilder look than the other two. I think it turned out as a teddy bear with some badger in the mix. The red bow makes it ready for Christmas 🙂 Hopefully Grandma’s little neighbor will be happy with this one.

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Here they are together – one pattern makes three very different teddies.

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(Teddy)Bear with me

Forgive me Internet, for I have not blogged. What I’ve been doing you ask?
Last time I was job hunting, and I started working at the laboratory in a private medical facility on September 1st – I got a job!

Apart from job hunting I finally started making the four teddy bears needed this fall. One was for a friend who turned 30 in late August, one is for another friend’s newborn daughter, one is for the newborn son of yet another friend and one is a gift from my grandmother to her neighbor’s daughter.

After I started to work full-time, I had neither time nor energy to keep sewing, and I’ve missed it tremendously. Luckily I’ve made a deal at work that I cut back to 70 % starting this December, and hopefully I’ll get to do some sewing again then 😀

As I started laying out the fabrics for the bears, I realized that these bears would have to be made from scraps as I have not updated my teddy stash on fabrics for the bigger bears. I had enough of one fabric for one bear made from the pattern I posted here. Then there were the other to biggies, which turned out fine as two-coloured bears. I managed to make the 30th birthday gift from a scrap of string mohair which is a great fabric to work with, and this little fellow is a fluffy one 🙂

This little bear is made from string mohair which is basically untreated mohair with a nap. This fabric can be dyed, the hair can be cut or curled – it’s a clean slate fresh off the loom. And it’s such a delight to work with! Though the nap on this one is fairly long, and I’ve made 30 cm bears from it in the past, it was surprisingly suitable for a 17 cm bear as well. I had this pale yellow plush which I used to make the little paws, and I was delighted to find embroidery yarn in the same hue to embroider the nose and mouth. I made a little necklace from fresh water and wax pearls as I found this to suit this little bear better than a bow tie.

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I promise to do a post on the three bigger bears (sans Goldilocks) in the not-so-distant future.

 

 

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The happy couple

My pen-friend got married last summer, and I just wanted to show the present I made for her (and her husband):

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Two felted teddies standing on a heart. I hope J and K live happily ever after – I’m so happy for you guys!

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How to make a teddy bear part 2

This will be my final post about teddy bears for a while. In my last post I explained how to sew a teddy bear, and now I’m describing the final steps towards a complete home-made bear.

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Where we left off.

Step four: The head:

The head turns out somewhat triangular with this pattern, which can be good, if that’s what you want (I like some versatility in my patterns). If you want a rounder head shape, this can be done by laying the finished head (turned right side in) flat on its back and sewing a rounded seam approximately down the middle of the head (you basically cut or round the corners of the head). Do this symmetrically on both sides of the head.

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Front view of the head and how the corners are rounded somewhat.

If you’re using plastic safety eyes, now is the time to place them on the bear’s face. Do this by filling the head loosely with wadding and use pins or “true eyes” (glass eyes on pins) to decide where the eyes are going to be. Remove the wadding (make sure your pins stay put) and fasten the safety eyes as described in the package you bought. If you’re using a plastic safety nose, you fasten this by the same procedure.

When you’re satisfied with your head, it’s time to turn it right sides out and fill it with wadding or some other filling material. The best way to do this is to work with smaller amounts of filling, as this gives you better control of the finished head. You should make sure that every little nook inside the head is filled out – no sagging fabric above insufficient filling. A rule of thumb is that the finished head should be as firm as a tennis ball.

After filling the head, it’s time for ear placement. When you’ve placed your ears where you want them (again – symmetrically), simply lay them flat pointing backwards and pin them in place. Then fasten them to the head using extra strong thread and mattress stitches. Sew the front ear first, pull the thread taut and flip the ear over so it points forward. Sew the back ear and make sure that both ears are where you want them to be. Fasten your thread by pulling it into the middle of the neck opening and knotting the ear threads together before sewing a couple of times through the head.

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Ears folded backwards, then fastened with mattress stitches and finished result.

Next, it’s time to embroider the nose on the bear’s snout. First fold a piece of writing paper in half, and draw half a nose along the fold. Cut out your nose template and see if it fits your bear. Make any changes you need to make it work, and then cut away any hairs or fur on the part of the snout where you want to embroider the nose (the snout should be completely bare where you want to embroider the nose). Pin the nose in place and use a thin ink pen to trace the outline of the nose on the snout. Starting at the side of the nose, sew horizontal stitches inside the whole nose. Then do a layer of vertical stitches. If you want, you can then finish the nose with a row of loop stitches along the upper nose line. Sew a mouth on your bear using straight or loop stitches. The thread ends are fastened by knotting them (not too tight!) inside the neck opening. You can then give your bear face a makeover by trimming down the fur on a part of or the whole snout if you like. This works really great if you work with a two-tone furry fabric, where the inner half of each hair has a different colour from the outer half.

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The nose step-by-step.

Step five: Assembling the bear:

Sew a row of basting stitches using double extra-strong thread around the bear’s neck/bottom head, then insert your joint and pull the thread taut. Fasten the thread by sewing around the neck and through the head so that the joint sits tight. Push the joint pin through the upper body and fasten the joint.

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Above: the joint inserted and fastened in the head.

Below: the head is joined with the body.

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Turn the arms and legs so that the upper arms and legs are inside out and make a tiny cut where the joint should be inserted (the X on the pattern marks roughly where the joint should be). Insert the joints and turn the arms and legs right side out. Use a loose joint disc to mark the placement of the limbs and make tiny cuts where you can insert the joint pins through the body fabric. I like to place my limbs just to the back of the side seams, but the choice is yours. I wouldn’t recommend cutting through the actual side seams, as they could unravel.

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Above: a bolt is inserted just to show where I’ve cut through the fabric and how the joint looks from inside a limb.

Below: All limbs with joints inside and fastened to the body.

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Check the placement of the limbs before fastening the joints.

Step six: Body and limbs:

Fill the limbs and body the way you filled the head, using small amounts of filling to ensure an even distribution. I like to start with the limbs and do the body last. Both limbs and body should be a bit firm in order for the bear to keep its shape, but you don’t need to do it as firm as the head.

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Filled with wadding.

When the bear is filled, close the openings using mattress stitches and fasten the thread.

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Closing the openings using mattress stitches.

Use a teddy bear brush (or cat brush) or a needle to pull hair/fur out of the seams and fluff the fur. If you like, you can embroider claws on the bear paws.

 

Step seven: Eyes:

If you, like me, prefer glass eyes over safety eyes, fastening these is the last thing to do before your bear is finished.

Use pins or placement eyes (eyes on a pin) to figure out the placement of the eyes. Pull a double extra-strong thread through each eye – you need a great length of thread for this. Using doll needles pull the eye thread through the hole where the pin marking the placement was. The thread should go through the head (I make a path diagonally through the head from an eye on one side of the head to the neck on the other side).

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Eye placement using placement eyes and glass eyes attached to the face.

Now for a fun part: You’ll make eye sockets on your bear! Do this by using a pair of small sharp scissors (e.g. nail scissors) to widen and deepen the hole where the eye thread goes into the head (this have to be the exact same spot!). You need to do this in order to make room for the loop of wire sticking out of the eye, where the eye thread goes through.

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 Stop torturing me! Making eye sockets by means of a pair of nail scissors.

Pull the eyes carefully into their places and see if any adjustments need to be made. When you’re happy with the placement, pull the thread while pushing the eye into the head (if you only pull the thread, the eye could break). Hold the pressure on the eye while pulling the thread through the head a couple of times, never making a stitch in the same place. Do this on the other eye as well. I like to divide my threads (each eye has a total of four threads) and fasten two threads together for the last finish – that way the eye is secured in place.

After fastening the eyes, use a needle or brush to comb the head.

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Congratulations: You’ve made a teddy bear!

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How to make a teddy bear part 1

In my last post I gave a brief introduction to teddy bear making, and this is the first post in my “how to make a teddy bear” sequence. I hope I’ve explained the process properly, but if anything should be unclear, feel free to ask!

As promised, here’s the pattern for the bear I’m making this week. Use this pattern as you will – if you want to make a couple and sell them, that’s fine by me, but please do not incorporate this pattern in any large scale production of teddy bears for sale without at least asking me beforehand. I appreciate it if you would state that this is my pattern if you make any bears for sale.

Teddy bear pattern

About the pattern pieces:

All pattern pieces include 6 mm (0.24 “) seam allowance.

The pattern consists of two head pieces, one ear piece, two leg pieces, two body pieces and three arm pieces. A teddy bear made from this pattern is going to consist of three head pieces, four ear pieces, six leg pieces, four body pieces and six arm pieces. In other words, you’ll need to cut out the pieces from a suitable fabric as follows:

Head:  Side:               Cut two, one of them reversed.

Middle:           Cut one.

Ear:     Cut four.

Leg:     Cut four, two of them reversed.

Back paw:       Cut two

Arm:    Outer: Cut two, one of them reversed

Inner:  Cut two, one of them reversed

Front paw:      Cut two, one of them reversed.

Body:  Front: Cut two, one of them reversed

Back:   Cut two, one of them reversed

Suitable fabrics:

Basically you can use any fabric when making a teddy bear, provided it’s sturdy enough but isn’t too thick to work with based on the size of the teddy bear and the pieces used to construct this. When I started I used cotton velvet (grandma’s curtains), and later I started using synthetic knitted furry fabrics. Then I moved on to mohair and alpaca. As a rule, I recommend woven fabrics, as these hold their shape much better than knitted or stretchy fabrics. Don’t buy the expensive mohair and alpaca fabrics to make your first bear if you’re an inexperienced sewer – it’s better to make mistakes using inexpensive fabrics. If you want to start with mohair, I would recommend searching for an old coat at the thrift store and use this to make your first teddy bear.

Required materials:

Joints (30 mm/1,2 “) – These could be bolt or pin based joints, plastic safety joints, or you could skip the joints and join the arms and legs to the body using extra strong thread.

8-12 mm eyes (glass eyes on metal loops are my preferred variant, but plastic safety eyes are a valid alternative. Beads or embroidered eyes also give a nice result.

Fabric of your choice for the main parts of the bear (about 40×50 cm).

Fabric of your choice for the front and back paws (abaut 15×15 cm).

Sewing thread, preferably a strong one.

Extra strong thread (e.g. upholstery thread) for fastening eyes and closing seams after stuffing the bear.

Filling material – wool, wood chippings, synthetic wadding etc. I’ve heard about teddy bear makers who make it their mission to create teddies only from upcycled materials – mohair coats are used as fur, and old sweaters are cut up and used as wadding. It’s a great way to repurpose scraps of fabric.

Thread for embroidering the nose – I recommend pearl yarn.

Fabric scissors

Small scissors for trimming the bear’s nose hair.

Needles for hand sewing.

Doll needles (extra long needles used in doll making)

Pins or similar for figuring out the eye placement

Tools for fastening the joints in the teddy bear – these depend on which type of joint you are using.

Step one: Cutting the pattern pieces from fabric:

Lay out the pattern pieces on single layer fabric and pin them or hold them in place while tracing the outline of each piece with a pen or tailor’s chalk on the fabric before cutting. Remember to match the pieces to the straight grain. If you like, you could cut out your pieces on the bias, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as the fabric stretches differently and could give your bear a somewhat funny shape.

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If your fabric isn’t a furry one, just cut out the pieces as you would do normally. If you’re working with the furry kind, a tip of advice is to avoid cutting the hairs off the fabric. This is done by inserting the tip of your scissors between the hairs as you start cutting, following the fabric surface below the hairs closely as you cut out the pieces.

If you are working with a fabric with thick fur, like alpaca, it could be worthwhile to trim the fur in the seam allowance around every pattern piece – that way you get nice and tight seams on your finished bear. Take caution not to trim the fur other than in the seam allowances.

Step two: Hand basting pieces together before sewing them:

When I started sewing teddy bears, I never basted the seams before sewing them. But as I started doing more and more of the sewing by hand, I found that hand basting the seams before sewing them on a sewing machine had a great impact on the finished product. Today I sew most of the seams on a sewing machine, after hand basting the pieces together. Some seams, however, I always sew by hand. I don’t bother basting the seams I sew by hand, but if you want to, just go ahead.

If your fabric has fur, try to point this inside the seam, towards the middle of the piece (e.g. the body) you are basting – I’ve found this a time saver afterwards, when you need to comb the fur out of the seams on the finished bear.

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Start basting the following seams:

Head: 1-5

Ear: Along the curved line (use either ear A or ear B)

Leg: 14-15 and 16-17 (leave 14-16 open)

Arm: 10-11

Body: Front (along the tummy line): 6-7

Back: 7-9 and 6-8 (leave 8-9 open)

After the above mentioned seams are sewn, rip out the basting thread and baste the following seams:

Head: 3-4 along both sides of the head. Leave the snout open (this we’ll sew by hand afterwards).

Arm: 12-13 (leave the gap between 12 and 13 at the back of the arm open).

Body: 6-7 along both sides of the body.

Step three: Sewing the bear:

I sew most seams by means of my sewing machine, with 2-3 mm long straight stitches. Unless you are working with a fabric which frays very easily, it’s not a necessity to secure the raw edges of the fabric – only minimal stress will occur to them once they are secured inside the bear. If you’re worried of the seam allowances in the openings in the backs of the body, arms and legs, you could threat these with “Fray Check”, a fabric glue made for this purpose.

Hand sewing:

I sew all hand sewn seams with back stitches, as this creates a neat and strong seam. The stitch length is 2-4 mm. Make sure the thread is pulled taut after every stitch.

After finishing the seams sewn on the sewing machine (or you could of course sew all these by hand as well – it really doesn’t take that long, and the result is nice!), sew the following seams by hand:

Head: 3-1 via 2.

            Leg (back paw): 15-17.

Next step will be explained in my next post. Happy teddy bear making!

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Introduction to teddy bear making

As promised, I’ll do a how to about teddy bears this week, and I’ll start with a brief introduction. Next post will feature a downloadable pattern and the first steps towards a finished bear.

I started making teddy bears in 1999, when I came across Thielmann’s and Franz’s book «Making Lovable Teddy Bears & Their Clothes» at a book sale. A month after discovering the book, I had made my first teddy bear from grandma’s old curtains (the very same I’ve used to test a dress pattern recently). That year I made more than twenty teddy bears, followed by just as many the next year. Over the years I’ve made 104 teddy bears, and this week I’m starting on my 105th.

I started making my own patterns at some point during 1999, and with inspirational inputs from pictures, books and fellow teddy bear makers and enthusiasts,  I’ve created many different patterns over the years.

The pattern I’ll use is the same as I used to create these lovely bears.

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It’s a pattern I started developing in 2010, which was altered a bit before I made the bears in the picture. This time I want to make a bear with slightly smaller ears. I’ll include both ear sizes in the pattern I’ll upload.

The sewing instructions are based on what I’ve learned over the years, with focus on what has worked for me. As mentioned, I started with the book by Thielmann and Franz. I also have a great book by Gillian Morgan, The Book of Teddy Bear Making. In addition to this, I’ve had the luck of knowing Anne Line Gjerdrum, who made and sold teddy bears for many years, in addition to giving classes and running a teddy bear supply store at her home, where one always would get some new tip or advice on how to be better at bear making. She has been my biggest inspiration, and a treasure of knowledge when it comes to teddy bears. She has retired from her bear making days and moved on to new crafts, but a collection of her work can still be found at her bamseri. Through Anne Line I also came across Vanessa Littleboy’s manual on designing teddy bear patterns. If you’re into making your very own pattern, I deeply recommend reading a copy of her design guide.

I’ll try posting the pattern later today or tomorrow.

 

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