Friday, 20 April 2007

Putting it all together!

To give Freddie his arms, I need the following tools and components:

4 Hardboard discs to make the moveable joints, 8 steel washers and 2 good strong split pins ... I buy those from a local fixtures company. I am their only teddy bear maker customer apparently!

I also need my two pairs of pliers, long nosed and round nosed to make the crown joints I described in my earlier post about assembling the head because I'm going to assemble Freddie's arms using the same technique. This will give nice free moving arms. I need my trusty fabric tape measure, my sooper doopha stuffing stick, my awl and an implement such as a small chisel to make the holes in the discs slightly larger so they accommodate the heavy duty split pins. I also need a curved needle (like the kind used in upholstery renovation) and some extra strong thread.

Please ignore the screwdriver and ratchet thingy ... they will be used to assemble Freddie's legs later.

Finally, I'm going to use some 5 ounce thick polyester wadding so that the paw pads can be beautifully even when stuffed ... no lumps and bumps! I'm going to cut this into 4 rough rectangles, each piece big enough to cover the paw pads of both the arms and the feet. (Put the legs aside for later).

The first thing to do is to lay the polyester wadding piece over the inside of the arm paw pads, then tack it to the arm piece taking care to keep the tack stitches (I use a running stitch) on the outside of the machine stitching seam.

Once that's done, I simply trim round carefully to make a neat finish and then turn the arm inside out so that the mohair is on the outside.

The next step is to slip a washer over a cotterpin, put that to one side and slip a hardboard disc into the top of the arm cavity. (You will note I've stitched around the entire arm when sewing it together, but have left an opening big enough to insert the hardboard disc into.)

Now I'm going to use my awl to make in the arm for the split pin to go through. I put the awl through the centre of the disc and out through the fabric to do this.

When the hole is made, I wiggle the split pin through the disc and out through the fabric.

Then I trim around the cotter pin to enable the arm to move freely when assembled and to ensure I get a nice tight joint when I turn the cotterpin using my pliers (as per the head - see below) into a crown joint.

Now it's time for me to stuff the arm making sure it's even throughout. Suitable stuffing is important for good finish. For Freddie, I'm using a polyester fibre/cotton mix, which will give a lovely weighty feel to the finished bear. I like to stuff firmly into the paw pad and take care to keep the stuffing even for a professional finish. As I stuff, I constantly feel the arm until I'm happy with the result. I want my stuffing to be even throughout and reasonably firm, but I don't like a rock hard finish. I like my bears to be huggable!

When I'm happy with the stuffing I can close the seam using the curved needle and extra strong thread. I prefer to use ladder stitch for this as it gives an invisible finish if done well.

To ladder stitch, I don my faithful thimble and after fastening my thread to the top of the seam, take small alternate stitches from each side of the mohair.

After every few stitches I take, I use my thumb to press down on the stitches and carefully pull them tight until the seam closes neatly. The I finish off the seam with a couple of tiny stitches sewn tightly over the seam before weaving the end of the thread back and forth invisibly through the arm.

To assemble the finished arm, I measure from the base of the neck joint down the side seam of the body and mark where I prefer to place the arm using my awl to make a small hole in the fabric just behind the seam. Then I place the split pin which is sticking out from the top of the arm, through the hole and assemble in exactly the same was as I assembled the head to the body previously, inserting a disc and washer over the split pin on the inside of the body cavity, then turning the split pin as before, using the crown joint method.

So that's arm number one and needless to say, to position arm number two, I simply repeat the whole proceedure and assembly the second arm on the other side of Freddie's body!

The legs are completed similarly, but instead of using split pins, I like to use nylock nuts 'n bolts through the discs. I stuff to halfway up the leg, taking great care with the footpad in particular, then I insert a hardboard disc, this time with the hole make larger to accommodate a small bolt. I slip a washer over the bolt, put the bolt through the disc and fabric and into the body cavity. then I slip a matching disc and washer over the bolt on the inside of the body cavity, beofre tightening with a screwdriver and ratchet tool. To measure where to place them on the body , I decide where I want them placed, then use a long doll makers' needle which I insert through the upside down body where all the seams join. I then slip my fabric tape measure over the end of the needle and measure down from the seam, marking the appropriate spot, once again with my awl, slightly behind the seam. Because the bolts are wider than the split pins, it may be necessary to make a larger hole in the fabric to assemble the legs.

Once the leg is assembled, I repeat the process for leg 2 and finally, stuff firmly, paying special attention to the area around the joint, which needs very firm stuffing. I close the seam using ladder stitch and hey presto, Freddie has arms and legs!

All he needs now is a tummy full of plastic pellets, his body stuffed good and firm so that he doesn't slump until he's a very old bear and a voice ... of course! I always add a traditional growler to my bears' tums! Once his ears have been stitched in place using my curved needle, extra strong thread and ladder stitch and I've stitched some teddy bear claws with embroidered thread, I can slip his smart new sweater over his head and ...

Very pleased to meet you Freddie!

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