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Advanced Bearmaking

When you are feeling comfortable with your bear making, you might wish to try some new ideas.

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Faces Nose Bridge Cheeks
Embroidering Nose Hiding Knots Claws
Face Plucking Loose Joints Eye Effects


The important part of bear making is the face  Top of Page 

It is the place where the bear expresses his/her personality and it is the first thing most people notice when purchasing a bear. It is important that the bear looks back at you, if he doesn't, there is no appeal.

The art of perfecting a face is the most fundamental part of bear making. A good pattern helps, correct size & placement of eyes is also very important, the nose & mouth are important, but even when you seem to have got all these attributes right, does the bear say what you want it to? Maybe it's time to look at face sculpting - no, not with a hammer and chisel, but a needle & thread!

With just a few stitches in the right place, it is possible to add considerable character to your bear. Describing needle sculpting as it is called, is not easy, but we'll give it a try.

Giving your bear deeper eye sockets or a more pronounced bridge to the nose is not difficult.

The head of your bear must be stuffed firmly, but not rock hard, (the best filling is poly flock or similar) the neck joint should be already inserted and all stitching finished.


Deeper Eye Sockets (the easy way)              Top of Page

Decide where you want the eyes to go. This can be made easier by using a pair of drawing pins or round headed map pins. Using the pins, try several positions until you are sure that their placement gives the look you are after.

Using a long doll needle threaded with double strong thread (use a colour close to the colour of the fabric backing, as this will make it easier to hide the stitches), start as follows:

Thread the eyes on to a long doll needle with strong thread. Pass the needle through the spot marked by the pin and bring it out low down near head joint. Repeat for other eye. It is advisable to bring the threads out one each side of the head gusset seam and tie them across the seam. This protects against the fabric tearing.

Now you will need help. Get someone else (preferably a strong person) to hold the head in both hands with the face towards them. Get them to place a thumb on each eye and push them both in the direction the needles pass through the head. While they hold the eyes in hard, you tie of the threads with a triple knot. You need to push the eyes in further than you want them, as they will come out a bit when the pressure is released. How much you have stuffed the head will make a lot of difference as to how deep the eyes are set. If they are not right, just snip the thread near the knot and try again.


Eyes Deeper (Sculpting)              Top of Page

Anchor your thread at base of neck & bring your needle out where you want to place the eye. Make a small stitch, then back out to base of neck. Repeat, usually 2 or 3 stitches are required to be placed evenly around the socket.


Eyes Closer Together

Anchor thread, bring needle out near eye placement. Make a small stitch, go across to the other eye & make a stitch, then back to first eye. Then just place your eyes as normal. See diagram over page.


Higher Nose Bridge                 Top of Page

This can be done before or after the eyes are inserted. Using a long Doll Needle with double thread, first anchor the thread under the chin, near neck joint. Put a large knot in end of thread, push needle in one side of neck seam and out the other. Repeat again, then pass needle through loop, pull tight.

This will make sure the thread doesn't come loose. Pass needle though head and come out near an eye socket.

Pass needle back through nose coming out at same spot on other side of gusset. Making 3-4mm stitches, work backward and forward, moving towards the tip of nose. Pull each stitch until the bridge is increased in height. It should only take 4 or 5 stitches. Be careful not to pull too tight, as you may tear fabric backing. A practice on a spare head is a good idea.

When you have made the last stitch, pass needle back down to neck seam and do a couple of stitches at neck to ensure that it won't come loose. It is essential to keep your thread tight at all times, so the sculpting stays in place.

The only problem you may encounter is that the fabric at the top of the nose bridge is loose. This is because the stuffing has not gone up into the higher bridge. You can overcome this when putting in the sculpting stitches by angling the needle down till you are half way through the nose, then tipping it up to come out the other side. When the stitch is pulled tight it will lift stuffing into nose bridge.


Cheeks             Top of Page

Anchor your thread. Bring needle out on cheek. Take a small 4mm stitch, then take needle back to anchor, pull to get desired effect and tie off. Repeat for other cheek. This will give you anything from a pimple to a hollow. The point from which you anchor can also make a huge difference. i.e. Base of neck, half way up head or top of head.

You can use these Sculpting Technique to create many different facial effects.

You are only limited by your imagination!

Pass needle from back of head to eye socket, through loop in first eye & back through same hole and out other eye socket. Pass through loop in 2nd eye, back through same hole and down to back of neck. Tie off as before.


Embroidering Noses             Top of Page

This is an exert from the book "Making Adorable Teddy Bears" by Anita Louise Crane. The book is full of beautiful bear patterns as well as handy hints and instructions. Available via our on-line store for A$27.45.

1. Thread a large embroidery needle with the desired colour of cotton floss. For best results use a single thread.

2. Cut a piece of felt from leftover scraps of felt, in the desired nose shape. You will want to experiment with the scraps until you find the shape & size you want. This will be your template to help you stay in the lines and will make a nice pad for the stitching. I like to try several different styles until I find the one best suited for the Teddy I am working on.

3. Baste or glue the template in position where it gives the most expression. Below are examples of the most common types of nose and mouth patterns.

4. Carefully embroider the nose & mouth, following the pattern. Keep your tension even and tight and untwist threads as you go. If the fur around the nose pulls into the stitches, try holding down the muzzle fur with removable sticky tape, or trim it a little more. If you are not satisfied with the appearance, snip the embroidered pieces and pull them out with needle-nose pliers. If there is ever any part of the bear I find myself redoing, it is nose embroidery, so don't worry if the look isn't quite right the first time. Keep cutting and re-stitching until you like it. I always try several different mouth styles when I embroider the nose. You can even embroider a smile on the bear.

5. Do not knot the thread when you are finished. Catch the thread in a backstitch, hiding it in the nose threads.


Hiding Knots            Top of Page

Knots sitting up on the surface of your bear can be easily felt by anyone that handles it and can distract from the overall effect. Hiding them is not difficult but can be hard to explain. Here goes...

When closing seam, tying in eyes, stitching noses, laws or face sculpting, the problem of how to lose the knots is encountered.


The loose end... When starting your bear, if you have an opening, it is easy to knot your thread and start on the inside of the fabric, so that the knot is inside. However hiding the knot when you have finished is not so easy.

With the last stitch you must tie off by making a stitch, but before you pull it closed, pass the needle through the loop, then pull tight. It is advisable to do this twice, but the stitches must be close together. Now insert the needle right next to the knot, pass it through the limb or body and come out on the other side. Pull it tight, then give it a little jerk, the knot should flip onto the inside of the bear out of sight. Now pull the thread tight and snip it off close to the fur. The end should disappear inside the bear.

This takes a little practice, but it is easy once you get the hang of it.

This process is also used to hide the knot when you are anchoring thread when face sculpting.


Claws             Top of Page

Putting claws on your bears hands & feet can add character that brings him to life... And it's not difficult.


Depending on the bear's size, you will need 5 ply (thin) or 3 ply (thick) perle cotton. Preferably the same colour as used for the nose. After the bear is assembled, but before it is stuffed, take a length of perle thread, put a large knot in one end, then thread onto a needle. Decide where the first claw will start and pass the needle through that spot from the inside out, so that the knot is on the inside. Remove needle from the thread. Repeat for other arms & legs.

Continue by stuffing and finishing the bear. When the arms and legs are finished, you can now sew in your claws by stitching 3 or 4 long stitches on the outside edge of each paw/foot. When you have finished tie off the thread & sink the knot.


Face Plucking             Top of Page

How do you get those beautiful smooth muzzles? They are not shaved, but plucked.

You need to decide that you are going for a plucked muzzle before you assemble the head. When you have cut out your head, calculate which part of the muzzle will require plucking and remove any fur that would get caught in the seam when it is sewn up.

To remove the fur, take each strand of fur with a good pair of tweezers and give it a sharp tug. It should come out easily and as each tuft is a loop, it is like removing 2 tufts.


Loose Joints             Top of Page

This is not how to fix loose joints, but how to create them. Bears with floppy arms or a head that rocks from side to side can have extra appeal. Try these variations.

1. Use smaller disks & don't over tighten the bolts.

2. Use a cotter pin joint with a small disk in the head.

3. Use 2 cotter pins joined together as shown.



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