When I recall my days of making and selling a minimum of three bears each and every week, I realise I must have been driven to work many more hours in my single parent days! These days I prefer to work at a more gentle pace, particularly as my poor hands don't cope so well with long hours any more ... bear making takes its toll on finger joints over time, unfortunately. Anyway, we should all make a little extra time to smell the roses now and again ... it's good for the soul!
Even a fairly straightforward classic teddy bear takes about twelve solid hours to create - from drawing and cutting out the pattern, trimming the mohair edges by hand to give a professional finish, then pinning the pieces together ready for sewing, setting in paws, stuffing, making the head, assembling, jointing and finishing. Yes, making a traditional teddy is a very involved process.
So I'd share my latest bear's work-in-progress photos to show the process. The picture above shows a stuffed head with muzzle closely trimmed on top.
I usually pin the ears roughly in place at this point and use a couple of black pins to give me an idea of where to place the eyes. Then I start to scissor sculpt the rest of the muzzle.
I always work on the head first and when I'm happy with the muzzle, move on to nose embroidery.
Once the nose and mouth are sewn, I think the bear really starts to take on his personality!
But as you can see, it's only when the eyes (vintage boot buttons in this case) are inserted, he comes to life ...
When both eyes are in place and he can look straight at me, my teddy bear is ready to be assembled.
After I have jointed the head to the body, I half stuff his limbs and measure where I want to fix them.
When making a traditional bear, the traditional method of jointing limbs and head is to use two hardboard discs, one inside the body cavity and the other in the limb, then make a crown joint using a cotter pin and washers to secure.
When teddy has been assembled, it's time to stuff him, add his growler and close all seams by hand.
Lastly, there are claws to be stitched and ears to be sewn on; again by hand.
To finish teddy, I like to give him a thorough brush with a teasel brush to remove any fur trapped in the seams and generally spruce him up before deciding how to accessorize. As this is a traditional teddy, I opted for a smart satin bow.
Before teddy can be offered for adoption, I like him to have studio photographs taken for my website as it's important to represent the colour of his mohair as accurately as possible and the Iphone pics snapped in my workshop aren't really suitable ... and of course, a beautiful photograph taken on a decent camera is hopefully worth a thousand words!
So that's the tale of how one of my traditional teddy bears is made. I may not make quite as many teddies as I once did, but I guarantee each bear I do create is made with as much love and attention to detail as ever his predecessors were. They are, as always, special teddy bears for special people.
Oh and if you were wondering - yes! The bear in this post is now available for adoption from my website. His name is 'Elliot'!
Thank you so much for your kind interest :-)
Update: Elliot has been adopted.