Saturday, 23 October 2021

Well done Meg!

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WELL DONE MEG!

It is always a thrill to see one of my teddy bears in print, so as you can imagine, I was delighted to discover 'Meg' featured as part of the 'Autumn Bears' article in issue 245 of the Teddy Bear & Friends magazine, when it dropped onto my doormat recently.

Teddy Bear Times & Friends has featured my bears many times over the past twenty five years and for that, I will always be grateful.

Thank you so very much Teddy Bear Times & Friends!

Friday, 22 October 2021

The Big 'Uns

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THE BIG 'UNS

When I first began collecting vintage and artist designed teddy bears over thirty years ago, it was always the big traditional mohair bears who captured my heart. There was something reassurring about them, something solid and true, something that captured the very essence of childhood. It was that sentiment which inspired me to want to create my own teddy bears for grown-ups.

I believe we should all hold on to our inner child because the purity of childhood is where we all began to understand the most nurturing aspects of life, those of reassurrance, friendship and kindness towards others. Of course size isn't always important and little bears can be every bit as important as bigger bears when it comes to offering comfort ...but it should be said, there is something particularly heartwarming about a hug from a big teddy bear.

In marketing terms, it isn't always practical to concentrate on creating big bears as they require a higher price tag, extra time to make and a little extra space to display ... but I won't ever step away from making big bears because they are the heart and soul of who I am and always have been, as a creator of teddy bears.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Up close and personal!

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TEDDY BEAR TIPS

I am often asked how I create my teddy bear noses...

A teddy bear's nose is very important. I believe it should be neatly stitched, expressive and perfectly shaped to suit teddy's character and facial proportions. Embroidering a traditional teddy bear nose is an art form, honed over years of practice and in my view, is one of the most important aspects of teddy bear making as it is the bearmaker's unique signature.

Sewing a good teddy bear nose can be tricky as it relies on so much more than simply needle and thread. To embroider a good teddy bear nose, the head pattern must first be carefully designed with a perfectly symmetrical muzzle. When the pattern is transferred to mohair for cutting, it is essential to ensure it is cut accurately, as the odd couple of millimetres here or there may prove disastrous when a nose is sewn. It is imperative that the muzzle is stitched into the head precisely, ensuring it is kept central, either by hand or machine. If muzzle and chin seam are slightly 'off' centre, it will become glaringly obvious when a nose is sewn ... and is if that isn't enough to terrify the most stalwart of makers, stuffing a teddy bear head unevenly, or not firmly enough, also has the potential to cause all manner of problems when the nose is sewn!

Before I tackle the nose, I prefer to fasten in eyes and trim the muzzle prior to settling into my chair, with a long slender needle and embroidery thread. I like to be relaxed and able to take my time for this job! I sit with my bear's head firmly gripped between my knees, at a right angle, ie., his chin pointing towards my knee. Then I take my first stitch, burying a tiny knot under the mohair backing with a firm tug and bringing my needle out in the centre of the muzzle. Taking care to maintain a firm and even tension and keeping the thread central, I take my first stitch down to the chin, just under the seam, then back up to the muzzle to stitch towards the right keeping my stitches equal in length, returning to the centre to stitch an equal number of stitches towards the left. Then I repeat the process to create a second layer with slightly longer stitches across the top of my embroidery (I am left-handed, so imagine right-handers may prefer to stitch from the centre to the left first; either way is fine). A little tip: if the muzzle is cut and sewn in correctly, it should be possible to use the tiny holes in the backing as a guide for your needle ... but woe betide you if the muzzle is slightly adrift! 

To finish my teddy bear nose, I take long stitches across the top, bottom and along the sides of my nose, using a deliberate tension to create a slightly rounded shape. Using the remaining thread, I exit through the chin seam, stitch an inverted 'V' shaped mouth using glass topped pins to guide me and finally, make a couple of long stiches from the top of the mouth to the bottom of the nose, along the chin seam.

Teddy bear noses can be stitched in a variety of styles and shapes. I have become known over the years for my classic block noses, neatly embroidered in satin stitch, but have also created many waxed noses, striped noses, sparkly noses, festive noses and even careworn noses, deliberately distressed to give an impression of age. A teddy bear's nose is limited only by the imagination of his maker!

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Seaside Follies

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SEASIDE FOLLIES

I recently received an intriguing request to create this 21" commemorative teddy bear. He celebrates the life of my collector's Great Grandfather 'Jack Bellamy', a successful music hall act and Pierrot clown in the early 1900's. My collector emailed a blurry black and white photograph for me to work from and as a nod to Jack Bellamy's original Pierrot costume, included a request for pom-poms to be included in the design of his tribute teddy bear.

Pierrot troupes were a feature of almost every seaside town in the first half of the 1900's, raising funds and morale during the war years. They were obliged to be 'smart, charming and available at all times' and ready to entertain with music, dance and comedy, whatever the weather!  Many of our legendary British comedians such as Arthur Askey, Lesley Crowther and Max Miller, began their comedic careers as Pierrot Clowns, providing charming family fun at the seaside until the 1950's/60's, when overseas travel and foreign holidays became more accessible to British families and the Pierrots' heyday came to an end.

For a more detailed glimpse into the world of the 'Seaside Follies' Pierrot troupes, please visit www.seasidefollies.co.uk

Friday, 23 April 2021

Summer Love Sensation

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A SUMMER LOVE SENSATION

Remembering my own childhood 'Summer Love Sensation', on the death of lead singer Les McKeown, aged 65, yesterday...

Summer of '76. En route to Southampton's Gaumont Theatre with my two 'bezzie mates' Sharon and Kimberley. Polaroid photo taken by our chauffeur, my rather bemused Dad. When we reached the theatre, a queue of excited teens stretched for what seemed miles, so we took our place at the end and waited for hours to take our seats in 'The Circle'. As the curtain raised and the Bay City Rollers bounced onto the stage, the audience as one, leapt to their feet, a mass of waving arms and streaming tears. We could only guess the song as it was drowned in deafening white noise, fans screaming their undying love to Les, Eric, Derek, Alan and Woody. Rollermania had arrived.

The Bay City Rollers were a worldwide pop music phenomenon in the 1970's. They sold more than a million records and songs like 'Bye Bye Baby', 'Shangalang', and 'Give a little love' had us queueing outside record shops clutching our pocket money, desperate to buy 7" vinyl copies so we could listen to them over and over again in our poster plastered bedrooms. The band topped the music charts as a generation styled itself in top-to-toe tartan and stripey socks. 

The BCR's were a right of passage for many young British girls at the time ... you picked your favourite, fell hopelessly in love for the very first time and dreamed teenage girl dreams to the sound of the Bay City Rollers.

Springtime Pals

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SPRINGTIME PALS

After creating Hyacinth Bunny and Bluebell Ellie-Bear earlier this month, I decided to make a teddy bear pal for them and Buttercup Bear came into being ... then I kept looking at the trio and thinking knitted jackets in appropriate colours might be a lovely detail to bring them together as a collection ... then last week, my poor dog Betty hurt her leg on a walk so I couldn't work upstairs in my workroom (bear with me, this does all make sense in the end ...!) as the vet forbade Betty from using stairs until after surgery (Betty always sleeps by my workroom door as I work). I took the opportunity to move my new collection of bears downstairs to keep Bets company and to cut a long and rather painful story short, knitted them sweet little jackets, with Betty sleeping peacefully at my feet.

I sometimes find that bears (and their friends) need a little time to let me know exactly how they would like to present themselves. The design process isn't always clear at the start of a new project and this sweet group of friends had clear ideas about how they wanted to look. I love the soft pastels they chose for Spring; they are so pretty!

As for my sweet Betty, she continues to put on a brave face whilst waiting to see the orthopaedic specialist. She loves to run and play, so this has been a worrying time, but I am sure that with expert care and plenty of love, she will soon be on the road to recovery.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Life in the fast lane

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LIFE IN THE FAST LANE..

Betty has always been the kind of dog who loves to live life in the fast lane. She is full of joy, a true delight to watch as she races like the wind, returning at the peep of a whistle, good girl that she is.


Unfortunately, it now transpires that my sweet girl has developed cruciate ligament failure, which will most likely require invasive surgery and a long, slow recovery period. Needless to say I am heartbroken for her, although relieved that we are now on the path to specialist referral and hopefully, Betty being able to run freely again one day. For now, we are restricted to short, careful walks and plenty of tender loving care.

Thankfully, Betty is currently managing her pain well and is as always, full of smiles, nose nudges and gentle licky kisses.

Please bear with me if I am a little slower with your orders during this time; I will continue to create teddy bears, but may need a wee bit more time now and again, in view of having to manage Betty's specialist hospital visits and after care.

Thank you x

Friday, 26 March 2021

Dolly Days

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DOLLY DAYS

I wonder if you recognise this dolly? If you do, I am guessing you were probably a child of the fifties or sixties, like myself. I stumbled across dolly by chance on Ebay recently and before I could talk myself out of it, had contacted the owner to see if I could buy her...

She reminded me very much of a slightly larger version I owned as a little girl. I think my dolly was around 19" tall, and a more substantial doll. This smaller, more manageable version, is just 15" and fits comfortably into my granddaughter's dolly pram. Izzy promptly named her 'Grumpy Dolly' and took her to the local playground for some fresh air. Grumpy Dolly (also named 'Rosemary') arrived at my house tightly sealed in a plastic bag with two other 1960's dolly friends, a little Rosebud doll and a larger Palitoy baby doll. I like to think she appreciated her new dress, hairbrush and a caring young owner to take her out in the pram for walk and a play on the swings after being stored for over half a century.

Tucked away in my knitting pattern stash, was a vintage knitting pattern featuring the 'Chiltern Babykins', so I knitted her a pink dress and matching knickers to cover her modesty. I think I will make the socks this weekend. After so many years, she was due a new outfit!

For anyone still wondering, my sweet dolly was designed by the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company, the same UK company responsible for creating our wonderful Chiltern Hugmee teddy bears. She was modelled to suck her thumb, with knees bent, just like a real baby. All Chiltern Babykins dolls had hair that looked as though a child had been left alone to hack it with a pair of scissors!

In the days of glamorous dollies, these dolls were sturdy, a more unusual style with their 'grumpy' faces but nonetheless, very endearing. In fact, I have rather a soft spot for them!

Sadly, my original Babykins doll 'disappeared' in my teens, most likely in a garage sale. As you can imagine, as one of five daughters, it wasn't always possible to keep childhood toys, so I have loved this trip down Memory Lane with my little Granddaughter, sharing dollies and making new dolly memories together.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

A teddy bear legacy

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A TEDDY BEAR LEGACY

I was delighted to receive my subscription copy of 'Teddy Bear Times & Friends' this month and couldn't wait to open it to see an article celebrating my 25 years as a teddy bear artist! It is always a tremendous boost to see my bears in print and a huge honour too. Thank you so much TBT!

To have work published is always a thrill as it gives my teddy bears their place in history. Print publications validate an artist's work in the teddy bear world and share the bears long after they have settled into homes around the world. I hope that one day, when I am long gone, my grandchildren will stumble across an old magazine, or a dusty teddy bear book and be proud of their Nana and her teddy bears. Wouldn't that be lovely?!


If you would like to order a copy of Teddy Bear Times & Friends (My bears are in issue 250) copies can be purchased online. Please pop over to https://www.teddybeartimes.com/issues 

With love from me to you

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WITH LOVE FROM ME TO YOU

I wonder, what style of teddy bear do you like best? It's a tricky question, I know! There are so many wonderful teddy bears available online these days, it must be very hard to choose that one special teddy bear...

Since the start of the pandemic I have stayed home and shopped online. I learned that I don't actually need shops in my life and a good photograph will suffice in most cases when choosing what to buy. I don't miss stuffy changing rooms, queues or busy car parks and I certainly don't miss being hustled and bustled in busy stores. No, online shopping suits me just fine these days. I even managed to order a lovely new rose for my garden last week ...(although, if I'm honest, I did feel a twinge of nostalgia for mooching along rows of roses at the garden centre, umming and aahing over which would be my perfect choice).  I suppose one day I may rediscover the urge to visit a shop, but until then I am content to scroll, click and wait patiently for my deliveries.

I think in the case of teddy bears, choosing a companion bear from a photograph must be quite a trepiditious affair. Teddy bears are by nature a cuddlesome purchase so when buying online, a sense of touch is swapped for sight ... and imagination. It becomes ever more important to trust your bear maker when buying online. Thankfully, the wonder of the internet provides us with opportunities to 'chat' ...in fact probably more so now than at an actual teddy bear show where time was always so limited!

I used to love watching collectors reaching for my bears at teddy bear shows. It was always a privilege to witness those first few seconds in person, when a bear caught the eye of a collector and the collector couldn't resist picking him up for a cuddle. Nowadays of course, that precious moment happens after a teddy bear has already been purchased, packed into his box for travel to a distant horizon and safely delivered to a new owner after I have wished him a safe journey. Times have changed but fundamentally, the process of falling in love with a special bear does still happen... a teddy bear catches the eye of a collector across the internet, rather than across a crowded show room and when he (or she!) arrives at their door, I like to imagine the box being carefully opened and the same joy on the new owner's as they reach inside to hug their bear for the very first time ... 

I may not be able to share smiles and conversation in person with collectors these days, but my bears will always share them on my behalf, wherever they travel in the world ... with love, from me to you.

Monday, 8 February 2021

A child of the sixties


PATTI PITTA PAT AND CHATTY CATHY

It was my birthday a few days ago, a strange one under the current restrictions, but quite fun nevertheless. It is only a couple of years until I turn sixty (my goodness, seeing that in print is odd!) so I thought this could be the perfect year to indulge my inner six year old girl by purchasing a doll from my childhood in the sixties to share with my little granddaughter, who also loves her dolls. My childhood was very traditionally filled with dollies, several precious soft toys and a big Chiltern Hugmee teddy bear, who sat on the end of my bed for many years (I also recall a box of toy cars including a Batmobile... my Dad's nod to the son he always wanted but never had I think!) I still have the softees, now rather floppity and threadbare and my Big Ted bear of course, but sadly my collection of dollies disappeared over time.


One of the dolls I particularly remember was Chatty Cathy, by Mattel. She was a rather glamorous blonde doll who wore a pink candy striped dress and smart black shoes. She spoke in short sentences when I pulled a cord on her back - that is until the day her words became more and more garbled, then completely indiscernible! Chatty Cathy was a precious Christmas gift from my Gran, sadly no longer with us... oh how I wish I had kept that special dolly to share with my own granddaughter!


The other doll I never forgot, was a large walking talking doll with short hair and a more robust, no nonsense appeal but after so many years apart, I couldn't remember her name. After a spot of frantic 'Googling' and more than fifty years later, I finally located her, or to be more accurate, her exact lookilikey. My Patti Pitta Pat 'The Electric Walking Doll', was waiting for me to claim her on Ebay! Such moments should always be born of impulse, so I threw adult caution and middle aged commonsense to the four winds and snapped her up before some other nostalgic child of the sixties did. By some miracle of sound, simple engineering, a couple of hefty D batteries and the good care of her previous owners, my Patti was soon toddling dutifully across the workroom carpet, arms outstretched, while I grinned broadly, brimful of nostalgia, much to the confusion of my husband. I can't wait to introduce Patti to my granddaughter on our next 'childcare bubble' day!


Lockdown birthday was an odd experience. Instead of the usual lounge full of family eating cake, I had time to take a private trip down Memory Lane, walk my dogs in the deep dark woods where the bauble tree grows and eat a cosy steak dinner with my husband and daughter. I met my mother in the pouring rain for a birthday walk a day earlier and received lovely messages, either in person or virtually, from my family throughout the day, so all in all, it turned out to be a not bad birthday, just a different one.


I very much hope that by next year, birthdays will be legally shared with loved ones once more but as a one-off, I don't mind telling you, this year's birthday turned out to be pretty good after all!

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