A while ago I promised to put together a step-by-step tutorial to show how I create an inset open mouth, so here goes!
First I draw around the pattern piece I've designed for my bear's mouth. I've chosen to use pink Ultra Suede for this mouth.
Then I start to mark my seam allowance ... I've used black pen so you can see clearly.
This is my finished seam line, with the four corners of the mouth marked, so I can clearly see where to line it up with the chin seam (top and bottom) and at the widest point of the mouth opening (left and right).
I cut out my head pieces. This bear will be made from turquoise mohair with a white alpaca muzzle.
Before I go any further, I need to sew the muzzle to the head and stitch the ears together.
This is how the head looks before the head gusset is sewn in.
Now it's time to iron a piece of interfacing onto the back of the Ultra Suede mouth piece to strengthen it.
Next, I trim the excess interfacing away from the mouth piece. You can still see the sewing markings through the interfacing.
Using a sharp pencil, I then draw where I want my bear's mouth edging to be. This needs to be deeper than the seam allowance.
Using a black fabric marker pen, I very carefully colour round the edge of the mouth piece, taking care not to mark beyond the line I drew before.
While I wait for the mouth piece to dry thoroughly, I pin in the head gusset and baste the nose into place.
Then I colour the black area a second time and leave it to dry again.
While the mouth is drying, I machine sew the head gusset in place and remove the pins.
The next step is to pin the mouth piece into the muzzle opening, so that the sewing line is now visible and the thick black edge is inside the bear's head. Using long pins with coloured heads, I line up the markers I have drawn at the four corners of the mouth - top and bottom chin seam and sides at the widest part of the bear's smile.
Then I add a few more pins to make sure the mouth stays put! The next step is to baste the mouth piece into place (I oversew) and remove the pins.
You can see the baste stitches in this pic. Now I'm going to machine sew my mouth piece, the same way I would sew in a footpad.
I add a few additional back stitches along the sides of the mouth of the seam by hand to reinforce the mouth, as this will be the weakest point when the bear is stuffed.
This is how my laughing bear looks at this point, with his head turned fur side out.
The next step is to stuff the head firmly, paying carefully attention to the nose and chin area. This is trickier than stuffing a classic bear head, so patience is required! In the pic above, I've stuffed the head and am running an extra strong thread across the bridge of the nose to create indentations for eye placement.
Using coloured pins, it's time now to pin on bear's ears and decide where to place the eyes.
I complete the head by trimming the muzzle, embroidering the nose and inserting eyes (for this particular bear, lashes too) Then I attach the head to the body and finish by assembling and stuffing in the usual way.
And as if by magic, my happy, smiley bear comes to life!