Last year I went to a Teddy Bear fair and with Mum’s encouragement, I ended up buying a pattern and some beautiful curly mohair. This was the start of my fascination with bear making.
As I hate machine sewing, I did everything by hand and I really enjoyed myself. The most tedious thing is when you have to trim the fur around the edge so it is easier to sew, which means you get bits of fur everywhere.
After calling her a he throughout the sewing process, as soon as I put the head on the body, I knew that it was a girl. Her joints are very loose and I am not sure about her nose, but as my first bear I am really pleased with the way that she looks, especially wearing my costume jewellery.
Bear making is a strange business, I often feel slightly embarrassed about it, but when I have given the bears as gifts, they have always been received with lots of smiles. Secretly, everyone likes a teddy bear – I think that the trick is to make sure that the bear fits the personality of the owner.
Since my first bear, I became prolific in my bear making and bought many patterns. Each time I made one, I became more and more aware of the subtleties of design, down to ‘pulling paws’ to make the toes curl, needle sculpting which is making a series of small stitches pulling into the stuffing to shape the head, and not to mention scissor sculpting which is snipping away at the fur to change the face. You can just use one pattern, but can finish it in so many different ways to create a different personality and style.
At Christmas, everyone had a bear and for birthdays too, when I ran out of pattens, I slowed down making the bears and starting to plan my own designs. Already I have tweaked arm and foot length and now I know which head shapes I prefer, but it is taking the plunge into the unknown.
It is an expensive hobby, mohair costs a lot so you need to be 100% sure of your design before you start cutting out, so it is suggested that you make the bear out of calico to make sure that it looks OK. Of course, it would be easier to do this on a sewing machine, unfortunately I tried and failed, with sitting up to the machine hurting my back and the 3mm seams too small to accurately sew. So the calico design is on the backburner for a while.
Now, I have gone back to doing some embroidery. I had forgotten the meditative state that the stitches have on me and the lack of the shedding mohair is refreshing. Of course I can’t leave the bear making design behind and as I sew the thought ‘maybe I could cover bear paws in french knots’ creep into my mind…