We have a free pattern available for ANYONE to download here on the blog. You can access it through the link in the top left hand corner (with a picture of a bear called Gracie that we made using it). I thought it might be helpful to also offer a free 'tutorial' of the step by step process of making this bear.
We decided to do her up in a panda style using our black and pink faux fur (Coconut Ice and Ace of Spades). We hadn't mixed these two fabrics together before, nor had we made this pattern in faux fur before, so it was a little bit of an experiment!
First step is to lay out all the pattern pieces into the backing of the fur fabric. You want to make sure that the arrows on the pattern pieces follow the pile direction on the fur. (Run your hands over the pile-side of the fabric, when it smooths down, you're following the pile direction. If it roughs up/fluffs up/resists being brushed then you're probably stroking against the pile).
Cut around your markings very carefully making sure that you don't cut into the fur pile itself - just the backing. This is actually quite tricky with faux fur, especially thick-pile faux fur. I use a nice medium size pair of scissors that are very sharp and have quite narrow/pointy ends to help make this process easier. Run your scissors through the pile before chopping. You'll soon feel the extra resistance when you cut through pile as well as backing, and you'll be able to pull back before you do too much damage.
After you've cut all the pieces out (4 ear pieces, 4 leg pieces - 2 reverse, 2 body pieces - 1 reverse, 2 side head pieces - 1 reverse, 1 head gusset, 2 outer arm pieces - 1 reverse, 2 inner arm pieces - 1 reverse, and the 2 hand pads - 1 reverse, and 2 foot pads), you'll need to pin them together as shown above. It is at this point in the process of bear making that'll you discover if you've cut any of the pieces in the wrong orientation (easily done! lol).
Now it's time to sew!
I sew 99% of my bears on my trusty machine. Bears are also perfect for hand-sewing if you prefer, as you can often get a lot more control over the shapes that way. The photo above shows the side head pieces sewn to the gusset piece. Then the photo below shows the same head turned right side out.
This is the full bear all sewn up and lying out in position. I like to do this with each bear before I start inserting joints. (Just means that I get the joints into the right sides of each of the limbs).
To set joints, you're best following the instructions on the particular joint set that you have chosen to use. We use a lot of cotter-pin and T-pin joint sets in our bears as I prefer the ease with which these joints can be inserted. We just make a tiny hole in the centre-top of each limb, (the side closest to the body) and push the wooden disk with pin already inserted through it into the opening in the back of the limb, then poke the pin through the hole we just made leaving the disk inside of the limb.
When you have all the joints inside of the limbs it's time to line them up on the body. I don't include joint positions on my pattern pieces as I find that the best position can shift during the sewing process. I prefer to make the jointing holes on the body after the body is turned right side out. I do this by lining up the arms and legs with the body and making a hole right through one side to the other. If you're body piece is fully flat, and evenly lined up when you make the hole - it should be nice and even on each side.
The scrappy image above shows a rough guide of where I place the arms and legs - just ignore the side body seam for this pattern. The bottom of the leg needs to sit just above the butt-seam so that there is room for it to flatten when you stuff the bear. Ideally you want the bear to rest on his legs and butt when finished. If the legs are too high he'll be unstable, if they're too low he'll just be sitting on his legs - not his butt.
The arms are attached slightly closer to the front of the body, and about half way between the top of the leg and and top of the neck. Too high and the bear will look hunched, too low and he'll look like he has an elongated neck! It's a bit of an art getting the positioning 'just right' - but it's all part of the learning process.
This is the bear with limbs attached - but still empty of stuffing. I don't do any stuffing until I have the head attached. That will be the next step.
(Showing off the opening in the back of the body where the other side of the wooden joints sit. You can see the pins curled over to secure the joints in place).
So the next step is finishing up the head. The first thing I do is get the head-joint put together. This is the same process as making the limb-joints. The insertion is a little different though...
You'll need to stuff the head as firmly as you can manage. The most important part of the bear is his face - and this is where you're making the foundation for an awesome face. I use a firmly compacting stuffing and make sure I get it right into the nose cavity first, always pushing and compacting as I go. When you're done you'll just have a small round opening at the base of the head as shown below.
Place the joint into this hole.
You'll then need to secure the joint inside of the head so that only the pin is sticking out. I use a gathering stitch around the opening, doubling back to make sure it's very strong.
The closed neck seam with just the pin sticking out.
Now that your head is closed up, it's time to get to work on that little face. I like to trim the face before I set the eyes. I follow the seams on the nose to determine where I should trim.
Then sculpt each cheek in turn. The key to getting this right is to just go slowly. A nice sharp pair of scissors held parallel to the fur, and just trim a bit here and a bit there until the shape you want emerges. There's nothing worse then accidently hacking into the fur at this point after you've already put so much work into the bear.
The cheeks don't need to be perfect at this stage as we will come back and neaten them up at the end after the eyes are set. You just want the basic shape to guide your eye positioning. I like to sink in some eye sockets at this stage by running a strong thread from one side of the face to the other, back and forth a few times, pulling the tension as you go. If you do it enough times it will hold without you needing to pull the thread anymore.
At this point I shade the eye sockets with dy-na flow silk dye. Any shading medium of your choice will work. Let this dry while you cut some little tear drop shaped pieces of faux suede to act as the eye whites. If you make the tear drops just slightly longer than the eye - you'll just get a tiny white crescent-moon shape showing under the eye. Less is more when doing eye-whites. Just a tiny hint is enough. Too much and the bear will look a little startled!
Insert your eyes as you normally would. I do this by making a tiny slit in the fur in the centre of the eye socket (just make sure you don't cut the thread you just used to sink the sockets in the first place. Another hint when setting eyes on faux fur bears is to only cut ONE thread in the backing. Faux fur is usually knit-backed, and with the tension placed on it by being stuffed so firmly - it will unravel to a very large hold if you cut too much).
Push your needle up through this hole, thread on your eye with eye white attached, then push your needle back through the hole in the eye socket and bring it out at the back of the head near the neck seam and tie it off firmly. You will need to pull on the thread and push down on the eye with your fingers at the same time to get it set nice and firmly. As you're anchoring off your thread the eye will bounce back slightly - so always pull it in further than you want.
Once the eyes are set I like to move on to the nose. I don't have any great tricks for embroidering noses. I don't use templates, I just sew. And sew. And sew! Over and over many many times is the best tip I can give. You need to make sure your first row of stitches are very firm so that you have a nice strong foundation to build your final layer of nose threads over. Keep the tension even for a smooth nose. I like to embroider the mouth about half way through embroidering the nose so that the threads are secure.
Bring a thread down from the centre of the nose (hopefully this should follow the seam down the chin of the bear too), push it back into the chin where you want the mouth to start, then out again where you want the 'smile' to be. Bring it back up, hooked through the first mouth stitch you made - then back into the chin on the other side. The photo shows it better than I can explain!
Now you have a face without ears!
The ears are probably my most hated aspect of bear making - but are seriously crucial to the resulting expression. High set ears will give a completely different look to low set ears. And wonky ears give a different look again!
When making a two-coloured bear like this one, I always sew the ears using the lighter colour. Close the bottom seam on the ear then line it up on the head where you want it to sit. Use lots of tiny stitches the whole way around the ear to secure it in place. Getting the second ear even is the trick - and will be something that you'll just need to practice.
A tip is to view the bear from behind and from the front - and also hold it in front of the mirror to make sure it still looks symmetrical there. Our eyes are tricky and will automatically correct things when we're looking at them directly, so you may not notice that one is higher than the other.
One finished face!
Now you need to attach your finish head to the body. Again - I don't have neck-joint positioning marked on the pattern pieces, this is something you'll need to line up yourself when you have a completed head and body. Hold the head on top of the body and take note of where the pin is sitting. Again - only make a tiny hole to pop the pin through, and take care not to cut the stitches on the body seam.
Now you should have a completed bear just needing a bit of stuffing!
You can stuff the bear however you like. My preference is to fill the bottom/belly with beads,then pack the stuffing on top of this. Repeat this with the arms and legs - only pop a bit of stuffing in the hands and feet before you add the beads if you want to embroider toes/fingers or do any shading. If you put the beads in first you'll be having to embroider through the bead or shade over the beads - resulting in more work for yourself!
Close up the seams on the arms, legs and back using a tiny ladder stitch, making sure all the raw edges are tucked inside. With a faux fur bear you will need to free the trapped fur with each stitch you take. It's a slow and painful process, but means you'll get invisible seams at the end.
Then sit back and admire all your hard work! We called this little girl 'Lilly', and she has already found a wonderful new home.
We do have complete kits available for Lilly if you'd like to have a go at making one like her yourself though.
Lilly with her friend 'Ladee' who now also has a new home. Both girls looked so lovely together!