October 7, 2012
Today, prior to jointing and adding safety eyes, I did a test-run of stuffing with some Crest-a-lon polyester filler from my local Spotlight store, mainly to check on any weaknesses in seam stitching. I need to re-sew one of the legs because the the paws in the pattern are a fraction too short.
The pile-less acrylic faux fur has the general appearance of strong felt or chamois, rather than conventional mohair or knitback fur. Where there are any weaknesses in stuffing technique, creases appear. At the same time, I’m trying not to overstuff as ‘basic’ fur, especially of the knitback variety, can expand, distortig the intended look and creating a bloated-looking bear.
Having started with basic materials (acrylic faux fur, felt and polyfilla), it seems only sensible not to mix-and-match with more expensive and better quality materials. So I’ll stick to safety eyes and conventional joints, this being ultimately an exercise in getting my eye back in. I’ll retain German glass eyes, ultrasuede, wood wool and superior joints and sparse mohar for a ‘cousin’ done a bit later.
So this version of Pee Wee (and a brother to be done in a different colour acrylic and felt), after the design of Catherine Cardellini, will be cheap-and-cheerful with a total price at a shade under $20, compared to the one illustrated in the Australian Bear Creation magazine article. Hardy any bears pictured in books and magazines are made from knitback, polyflla and safety eyes, they invariably are made from mohair, ultrasuede and German boot button or glass eyes. Frankly, having stitched a few myself, I’ve yet to see a really convincing teddy bear made from knitback faux fur.
October 2, 2012
More problems today with WordPress uploading photos… But I’ve finalised all the seams and am ready for jointing and stuffing.
Catherine Cardellini’s pattern for Pee Wee calls for cotter pin joints which I’ve not used before, having opted for locknut joints in the past. She also calls for a combination of polyester filling and glass beads for the stuffing; glass beads I’ve also dispensed with in the past. We’ll see how this works out since I don’t think it’s my stuffing technique which has let me down in the past.
Using polyester filling has worked for me in the past, but then I’ve not been too particular about nose embroidery. This time round, if I’m not happy with the degree of firmness in the head, I’m going to track down wood shavings or something similar, because I really would like to get the head ‘right’. I’m even having doubts about using standard plastic eyes and have ordered in some 9mm black German glass eyes in an attempt to get closer to boot button eyes.
I’ve been going online and teddy bear making fashions have definitely changed in the last fifteen years or so. I’m finding the ultrarealism a bit creepy and the use of Copic markers around the nose and eyes to produce a heavily made-up look a bit too much.
“Pee Wee” in Australian Bear Creations vol.7 no.2 (2001): 10-14.
October 1, 2012
I’ve transferred the pattern to some grey-brown, smooth acrylic faux fur. This will show the extent of my sewing skills because the acrylic is very thin, so thin in fact that it shows pin holes, so I’ll be sewing it without the aid of pins. Since it has no pile, the seams will show so they need to be neater than usual.
No sketching today – somewhat frustrated by both the cancellation of the SketchBook Project’s exhibition in Melbourne and my inability to post photos to the website of SketchCrawl International. So what better way to deal with life’s frustrations than to get out a needle and thread and let it all wash away? I think it’s been a weekend of frustration, what with the Meagher murder in Melbourne, yet more mysogyny from the Liberal Party of Australia and Mardi Gras’ astounding support for homophobic Jeff Kennett…
The felt is a tiger-striped design, in yellow with blue-black stripes, and somewhat perversely, I’ve decided to go with this for the paws. The second version has more conventionally-coloured paws. I’ve been very careful in cutting it out to get the stripes to show just so. In sewing the paws, I’ve learned from the past not to sew in a circle in one go around each paw, since that can add to distortion of the attached limb, so these days, I start from the middle of the paw and work out in two separate lots of stitching around each.
I managed to sew most of the seams today without pricking myself on the needle at all. Perhaps I’m more relaxed than usual, I can’t say. I’m using Chinese “Birch” sewing thread from Spotlight, with proper overcast stitch all around the edges then a reverse stitch for the seams a quarter of an inch in. Everything is precise and not at all rushed.
Tomorrow, I’ll finish off all the seams ready for jointing and stuffing. I have to go back to Spotlight for stuffing and will probably go back to get joints which are slightly larger. I’m reading my bear making magazines and books more carefully regarding jointing, wondering if jointing affects the ability of bears to sit up straight or not. I have a bear I bought at an outdoor fair in Amherst, Massachussetts twenty years ago, made by Lynn Gatto of Limerick Bear: it is a small 11″ bear in sparse mohair, German black button eyes, warm grey felt paws – just as perfect as any bear can be. I can feel that Gatto’s bear definitely has wooden joints and if not’s the joints that can make him sit up straight, then it must be the stuffing which is incredibly firm – so firm, I can only assume it must be Excelsior/wood shavings because it has a feel totally unlike any synthetic wool stuffing which I’ve used in the past. I’m eyeing off local bear making classes even more where I’m sure a lot of unpublished secrets will be revealed.
October 1, 2012
While daily drawing continues, I came across an interesting teddy bear and spent the day transferring the pattern to cardboard and organising materials: a design by Catherine Cardinelli, 11″ or so (so a bit of a Goldlocks bear – not too big and not too small) and I’ve decided to work up two versions, both in smooth acrylic faux fur (with virtually no pile) and felt paws.
It’s been ages and ages since I made a teddy bear. I stopped when my own efforts failed to excite, in part, because I kept stabbing myself with the needle and in part because of materials. There is only so far one can go in creating a thoroughly convincing bear from cheap materials! I’m at the stage where I need to “upgrade” to sparse mohair, a shaved snout and embroidered nose, plus repro black button eyes, so these two will be “practice runs” to get my eye in. With a “portfolio” of a few decent bears under my arm, I feel I can front up to some local classes or workshops to get the lowdown on stuffing and embroidery.