Monday, 17 March 2008

Dusty jackets

'Bears and how to make them' by Margaret Hutchings - first published 1964

I saw this book on Ebay recently and thought it would make a great addition to my workroom book shelf. 'Bears and how to make them' by Margaret Hutchings was published in 1964 and as a child of the sixties, of course I couldn't resist the opportunity to discover what was being taught about bear-making back then! The term 'teddy bear artist' wasn't coined until the mid 1970's and yet, this book proves the art of teddy bear making was being referenced in detailed publication more than forty years ago! It really is a fascinating book and is still completely relevant today. In fact, if you look at the examples of trapunto feet for realistic bears in the picture below, it would seem that little should ever be classed as completely new in terms of teddy bear design!

I also found another of Margaret Hutching's wonderful books for a few pounds while I was auction shopping and it arrived in the post a couple of days ago. 'Modern Soft Toy Making' was first published in 1959 and is a veritible goldmine of soft toy making information.

'Modern Soft Toy Making' by Margaret Hutchings - first published 1959

Don't be put off by the term 'soft toy making' by the way, many of the techniques featured in this vintage book are still used in modern bear artistry today. In fact, if you have an urge to begin designing your own teddy bears, I think it's entirely useful to study as many toy making and crafting books, past and present, as possible, in order to fully understand how best to develop your potential. I've been designing my own range of bears for about fifteen years and I am still discovering new skills, which for me, is a major part of keeping the process fresh and exciting.

'The Splendid Soft Toy Book' - first published 1981

I remember reading a recommendation for 'The complete book of stuffed work' by Toni Scott on a forum several years ago, so I hunted for a copy and eventually tracked one down in the US. I had it shipped over and although it doesn't have much to say about bear making specifically, it does contain a wealth of information relating to all things soft sculpture, much of which can be interpreted in terms of bear design, by a creative mind.

'Complete book of stuffed work' by Toni Scott - first published 1978

And then of course, there are recent bear-making manuals aplenty; these are the three I would class as teddy bear artist bibles and no self-respecting bear art shelf should be without them!

'101 bears to make' by Nancy Tillberg, 'Constructing teddy and his friends' by Jennifer Laing and 'A bear of my own' by Rotraud Illisch

Aside from crafting publications, you can also enhance your bear design knowledge greatly by studying many other teddy bear related books. I'm thinking of reference books featuring vintage/antique bears, auction house catalogues, specialist collectors'magazines etc ... I'll share some of my favourites with you another day!

In the meantime, do keep your eyes peeled for some of the rarer vintage gems - they can often be found in second hand bookstores, or on internet sites. Don't be put off by tatty dust covers, because often you'll find a treasure trove of relevant bear-making information inside those faded covers and all for only a few pounds!


  1. I'm a hoarder of old sewing/craft books too !!
    You've given me an idea to sahre them too - my pride and joy is one from the latter years of the 19th cebtury, regarding what girls leaving the orphanage to go into service should sew ...
    As always, your bears are awesome!
    I've added a link to your blog from my paltry effort.

  2. Hi Anji, thanks for stopping by! Lovely to hear from you and I for one, would be fascinated to share your vintage book library in Blog Land! I've added your blog to my links, I hope that's okay! Will pop over and read yours today ...

  3. Hi Paula,
    In the days before I made mini bears I used to make lots of different toys for children and do craft fairs and I had most of these books ,when I started the minis I thought I would never need them again and had a big clear out and boy am I kicking myself now .... tempted to buy them all again for reference !
    louise x

  4. P.S. You bears are gorgeous!! Works of art.

  5. Hi Paula,

    Thanks so much for all the tips on your blog, I really appreciate the time it took to write, photograph and post those articles (I do similar posts for illustration on my blog). Anyways, I'm interested in learning how to make teddy bears and even ordered a kit from "Intercal Trading Group" which comes with eyes, joints, mohair etc. But as a complete beginner I'll definitely need a book with photos/steps so I can get a good overview of what I should be doing. Especially the bear's head/gusset, that looks complicated. Can you recommend a book for the complete beginner?


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