Early Black Bear

This is a new bear after the style which predated the birth of the Teddy in 1903. These old bears were based on the bears of the wild and often were made to sound fierce and lifelike with a sinister growl. Known as "bruins" they stood on all fours and had a humped back.

My bear is made of a modern black astrakhan fabric; he has modern boot-button eyes, with paw pads and muzzle made of black cotton velvet. His paw pads are constructed like the feet, so he has a "sole" to stand on. He is stuffed with straw.

He is taken from the pattern in Make Your Own Classic Bears by Julia Jones [Page 30 Early Black Bear]. More detail below.

This was my very first attempt at a teddy bear and I have to say (smugly!) that after the last stitch was sewn in his back and I turned him round to face me I was absolutely delighted with the result. This may demonstrate several things: what a good book Julia Jones has produced, teddies are easier to make then porcelain dolls, stuffed toys are cute, I am complacent.... and so on. In fact to encourage you I think it means that if you embark on a Teddy then your chances of producing an acceptably good result are quite high; I suppose I am quite experienced (as distinct perhaps from skilled) in needlework and working with different fabrics, but other than that I knew nothing about Teddy making. There are many things wrong with the Teddy (see further down) but he is still nice.
I am not certain why I started on the bear; it was summer and I was in the library and I saw the book. I already had a piece of black astrakhan which I had bought in John Lewis with a view to doing a bear craft project with my step-daughter; I knew that bear raw materials are important and can be expensive. As I imagined that we would not do more than one bear, I wanted it to be nice quality and this was an opportunity for a short pile (easy to work with?) good quality remnant. Time passed; she grew up; I still had the fur. When I saw the Early Black Bear in bouclé fabric with velvet paws, he seemed perfect. I went to the web to look for the rest of the supplies (joints, eyes, straw) and found all I needed at Christie Bears. After that the project took only a weekend to complete from tracing the pattern to viewing the completed bear.

In the following paragraphs you can see what his problems are and learn from my mistakes, and successes.

  • As instructed I spent a lot of time on laying out pattern pieces and ensuring the piles ran "down" and as I wanted.
  • He is not hand sewn. I used a "walking foot" on my sewing machine which avoided too many issues with the pile on the fur and the velvet (but despite this he still has a wrinkle on his nose).
  • I thought I knew what a crown joint was but I made his joints as "snail" joints; in addition to this I misinterpreted the text in the book and stuffed his joints in slightly the wrong way. The result is that although the joints seemed tight enough, once he was completed it became clear that the joints are too loose. I don't mind but the next bear turned out to have better tighter crown joints (some research later).
  • I was not sure how to attach this bear's head to his body properly; I gathered the neck opening in the body until it was a small hole, and then put him together. The result is that his arms are too high up his body compared with the head and he has a hunched look. The arm and head hardboard discs interfere with each other; I now believe there should be about half and inch between them.
  • I stuffed him very hard with straw, as I believe this to be correct and spent a lot of time squeezing and shaping - it has made him very hard - but his soft fur makes up for that.
  • I used matt boot button eyes in the size suggested but the red eye rims in felt are my own idea (from the text in the book - to make him fierce...); this has made his eyes rather big, and for greater realism you go for smaller eyes apparently. Also his eyes are wide apart and his mouth and nose are quite small. Overall this has made him look innocent and not too bright - but - "cute" in fact, I think.