Hey all! Some people I've spoken to are a little reluctant to have a go at making up a teddy bear from a pattern because it looks complicated. It isn't really! So, to help you on your way, I thought I'd share a few tips. I'll start by saying that these are things that “ I” find useful – I know that the way I do things may be very different to the way others make their teddy bears. Have a read and if they are helpful, use the tips in your future teddy bear making efforts. If not, it doesn't mean either of us is wrong, just that you look at a pattern in a different way to me!!
The most important thing to keep in mind when making your teddy bear is: no two hand-made teddy bears are ever EXACTLY the same!! So, don't panic if your teddy bear looks different to the pattern photo. I've designed the bear patterns on this site and made them up many times and NONE of the teddies have looked exactly the same – they are all unique and individual. That's part of the charm of hand-made teddy bears!!
• The patterns on the Tag Along Teddies site have been designed with beginner teddy bear artists in mind. The 'trickiest' part of these patterns is the head, because that's what gives your teddy bear his/her character. So, take your time with this step to make sure you achieve the result you're after.
• When stuffing the head of your teddy bear, take time to do so a little at a time, making sure you stuff it evenly and firmly. I make a loose fist with my left hand and sit the nose in it so that my hand supports the rounded shape as I start stuffing. The head should be stuffed firmly without making the teddy bear look too bloated. A firmly stuffed head will make it easier for you to create your teddy bear's face.
• The placement of eyes and ears is what really gives your teddy bear his/her character. For a 'cutesy' look, eyes are usually set quite wide apart and ears are towards the top of the teddy's head; for more of a 'country' or 'shabby chic' look, the teddy bear has eyes set closer together with ears lower. Before securing either of these features, test the look. To try eye placement, you can use a couple of pins with black bobble ends to mark the place you think you'd like the eyes. If you're going to be making lots of teddy bears or have lots of patterns you're dying to try, you could invest in a set of test eyes. These can be purchased from specialist bear supplies outlets, such as Gerry's Teddy and Craft Design ( www.gerrys.com.au) in Brisbane, QLD. Another idea you could try is to find a pair of raised, black buttons with a shank back. To keep them in place on the teddy bear's face while you examine placement, slip a piece of thin wire through the shank of the button and double it over to give you a pin. If you're not sure if you like the eye placement on your teddy bear, sit it in your lounge room near the TV for a day or two to just 'live' with it before you decide.
• To experiment with ear placement, slide a quilter's pin (a bit longer shaft than dress making pins!) through the two corners of each ear and place them. I usually don't place the top corner of the ears above the gusset seam and sit the ears more forward than back. Again, play with placement and sit your teddy bear somewhere to study for a while until you're happy with the look of your teddy bear. This will also help you to get the ears to sit evenly. If you're very brave (or your loved one/friend is very brave!) ask the opinion of a friend/partner/spouse/random bystander! When ladder stitching the ears to the teddy's head, I usually sew them in gentle curves rather than in a straight line so they sit more naturally.
• The type and size nose you embroider can make a difference to your bear's look, too. Before you start, look at some pictures of bears to see what shape the noses of your favourite teddies are. You can stitch the nose freehand, but this can be tricky to keep even. To help keep your teddy bear's nose even and in the shape you're after, you can make a template out of black or brown felt and glue it in place, then satin stitch, vertically, over it. Alternatively, you can purchase a range of self-adhesive nose templates from specialist bear supplies outlets such as Gerry's Teddy and Craft Design. ( www.gerrys.com.au) The choice of brown or black perl thread can also affect the look of your bear. Hold part of the perl skein across the teddy's nose to get an idea of the look before you decide.
• Clothing can change the character of your teddy bear. Most teddy bears will 'tell' you whether they are a boy or a girl – there just seems to be something about their face that gives you an impression! However, if you're not sure, find a piece of scrap fabric about an inch wide and three inches long and tie a loose knot in the centre of it. Sit the 'bow' on your teddy bear's neck and head alternatively to see if it looks best as 'George' with a bow tie or 'Georgina' with a hair ribbon. If you still can't tell, it probably means you can dress your teddy bear in whatever outfit you like and it will look gorgeous!!
• When your teddy bear is completed, the last VITAL step to take is to choose a suitable name. Sometimes, the name on the pattern may suit your teddy bear, but sometimes it won't. Again, sit your teddy somewhere in your home where you spend a lot of time (I watch a lot of DVD's to avoid daytime television when I sew, so near the TV is a good spot for me!) and live with your teddy for a while until a name jumps out. Some teddy bears will name themselves before you're even finished creating them, while others may remind you of a friend/family member/workmate. You'll know when you find the right name, because it will just 'fit' your teddy bear!
• Lastly – enjoy the journey AND the destination! If you're getting really frustrated whilst making your teddy bear – take a break! Go for a walk or better still, take a friend out for coffee! And when you've completed your teddy bear, find a comfy spot for him/her to sit where he/she will be greatly admired by all who visit your home and where he/she will receive lots of hugs!! Just be sure to hide your honey and biscuits because teddy bears have notoriously sweet teeth!! OH! And be warned, very few people can make just one bear – bear making is addictive!!
• If you have any questions you'd like to ask, email me and I'll try to come up with a helpful answer for you!! Until then, happy bear making!