Teddy Bear Making
This week on Show Me How, Gloria Bastos is joined by Michelle Neethling from Honeydew Bears and she will show us the versatile and exciting craft of teddy bear making. She will teach us various techniques such as following patterns to create the bear, cutting mohair, using various stitches, airbrushing, assembling the bear using joints and stuffing, and so much more! We also visit her in her studio where she convinces us why we should take up this hobby.
Teddy Bear Making
By Michelle Neethling
Tel: 011 764 4317
- Peggy Bear kit – which includes the following:
- 35cm x 50cm Mohair or synthetic fabric & 12cm x 14cm paw pad fabric
- 12mm Eyes, 10 x 30mm disks, 5 x cotter pins and washers (or nuts and bolts)
- Stuffing & Plastic or steel pellets (optional)
- Hemostat for turning pieces & Copic E44 airbrush set
- General sewing supplies, Nose thread no 8 & Strong cotton for closing seams
- Glue pattern pieces on cardboard and cut out to use as templates. It is always best to cut 2 or 4 pieces of each etc where indicated to do so. Ie – LAY OUT THE WHOLE BEAR BEFORE CUTTING! Position templates on the wrong side of fabric and trace around. Take care to place the correct pattern pieces on the correct fabric, ie paw pads on paw pad fabric etc. Also take care to reverse the corresponding pattern pieces. Work with the pile of the mohair facing you and the pieces also laying with the pile direction facing you. The direction is indicated on each piece an arrow. It is best to use fray check on the fabric. After tracing pattern out, fray check the whole pattern and let dry before cutting out (fray check dries in approx. 10 minutes) be careful to use a waterproof pen or a Pentel gel pen as it does not “bleed” when fray check is used. Only use a SILVER gel pen on the white or it will show through!! Perhaps use a small patch to test first. Cut out all the pattern pieces. I suggest tacking all pieces in place and then sew with a small back stitch, I use a 2mm seam allowance.
- Start by joining the earpieces. Join right sides facing. Sew from A to B leaving the bottom of the ear open.
- Then join each inner arm piece to a paw pad with right sides facing from A to B. Then join the 2 arm pieces together,
- Leaving an opening as indicated. Place on top of each other and sew from C to D
- Join from A to B as indicated, and then C to D leaving an opening as shown. The bottom of the foot is left open, as we will be placing the footpad in here. Now take a foot pad, and mark it in 4 opposite corners (to get the exact middle, fold in half and mark, then fold in half the other way and mark). Now pin these 4 marks to the inside of the foot. Remember to have the right side facing inside the foot and the wrong side facing you. It is difficult to work with pins. Therefore make 4 double stitches at each corner and remove the pins. Your footpad will be secure in place. Then complete around the footpad with a small backstitch again. You can ease in the pad from marker to marker. Be careful not to have any pleats or folds in the pad. Once this is completed your leg is ready for turning. Carefully nip some fabric with a hemostat through the opening, and turn.
- Sew from A to B. Ensure markings are placed for the placing of the legs and arms. The opening on the back is a bit larger as you will be jointing through there.
- Shave fur from gusset and side head as shown on pattern piece(before sewing) as this gives you a clean seam. Then join from A to B. (tip of nose to bottom of neck) Then take your gusset and carefully hold in half to ensure you are getting the exact middle of the gusset. Place point A at the tip of the nose and work back from A to C, end off with a double stitch. Then go back to the front and work back from A to D. The reason for doing this, is to get the gusset exactly in the middle. Cut the cotton off and turn head right side out with a hemostat. All pieces are now sewn, turn them all out with a hemostat or similar tool. Push all seams out with a stuffing stick along the seams.
- JOINTING & STUFFING
- Firstly you will be sticking a cotterpin through a washer (important otherwise it will pull through the disk) then through a disk and then into the arm etc – so the disk is on the inside and the pin is sticking out the material, (on the right side and the disk will be on the inside). Repeat for both legs and arms. See pattern for markings for placement (as a guide).
- You are now ready to stuff your bear. Stuff first the legs and then the arms. Ensure you are filling the foot area well and then working your way up the leg. Use small pieces of stuffing at a time. Do not over stuff the limbs. Do not stuff between the disk and the material. Repeat for all 4 limbs. The opening can then be closed with a ladder stitch, with a strong thread. Do not use your ordinary sewing thread as this will snap.
- Stuff the head in the same way, starting at the nose area and working back. The nose area should be very firm. Once the head is filled back to the neck area, place the last disk in the opening. With a strong thread tack along the opening after starting with a knot to secure the thread. Then pull on the thread and close the opening around the pin. Work a few stitches to secure the thread. Clear any further fur from the face, using the picture as a guide.
- You are now ready to attach the eyes. I have firstly put a bit of colour in the eye sockets. I used a copic airbrush system, colour E44, but you can also use pencil crayons (Berol) both avail from us, or oil based pastels. Use your test eyes to make sure where the eyes need to go. Your make-up will also work as long as it is oil based. Always test a bit on an offcut before trying it on your bear face! You may now insert your eyes as per normal.. Take 2 pieces of the strong thread or Bear-makers floss, thread the eye on and then thread the ends of the thread through a longish needle and pull through the head. Bring the needle out as close to the disk at the bottom as possible. Leave the thread loose and place the other eye in the same manner. Come out very close to the first eye at the back.(not in the same hole) Tie the two pieces of cotton at the back. Hold the threads around your middle fingers, and with the head facing you, push the eyes in slightly with your thumbs while pulling at the back with your fingers. This will sink the eyes into the head. Tie tightly and bury the cotton in the head and cut off. Do not cut the cotton off close to the base of the head as, when brushing your bear, the knot will pull loose. If you know how to sculpt from ear to eye, you can do so here.
- First whip the bottom of the ear closed with ordinary cotton (after you have turned them right side out). Pin the ears at the required place on the head and attach with a ladder stitch. Your ears will now be secured. I have trimmed a bit of fur off the edges of the ears so it’s not so long (your choice).
- NOSE AND MOUTH
- This is sewn with size 8 embroidery thread. The style of the nose you choose is personal. But it is sewn in satin stitch, very closely together. Ensure your stitches are of even length and do not pull too tightly on the thread. I would start in the middle and the do each side, I find this helps to get a more even nose. The mouth again is a personal choice, if you want a smiley bear then do it slightly upward, or a sad bear, slightly down. I make one long stitch and then use 2 pins to help with the placement of the V area. This ensures that the mouth is straight. Then come up to the nose again with the thread and continue with the nose. When finished with nose and mouth, bury the thread in the head and cut off.
- ATACHING THE HEAD AND LIMBS
- You are now ready to put your bear together. First attach the head. Push a pin through as indicated on the pattern pieces. Once the pin is sticking through into the middle, place the other disk on the inside. Then curl down each side of the pin, tight against the disk. This should be quite tight but should still allow the head to move freely. Attach all four limbs in this way.
- Once the limbs and head are attached you can stuff the body. I have just stuffed with fibre fill and placed some steelshot in the tummy. I like the bears to be a bit heavy. Ladder stitch opening at the back closed. You can decorate her in any way you like – with ribbons or a charm, or knit her a scarf