I'm so excited that New Avenue Crew will be participating in the ONLINE Teddies Worldwide Teddy Bear Extravaganza Show March 17-19, 2017. I've been hard at work on my first two bears for the show, and I love them already! You'll be able to see preview pictures and vote for your favorite bears starting Friday, March 3. Then the show starts on Friday, March 17. I hope you will drop in and visit all the wonderful bears! I have been part of two Teddies Worldwide shows before in November 2010 and March 2011. You might remember a couple of my bears from those shows. The little brown bear is Mullins, and the large light green and ivory bear is Sprout. They are both adopted.
I am delighted to report, dear reader, that this past weekend, I actually picked up needle and thread and sewed a seam on the head of a little bear! And that's not all! I also picked up a stuffing stick (two, in fact) and stuffed a bear's head with fluff, and then I started stuffing a second bear's head before I had to stop. This is amazing considering that I completed my last bear in April 2012, four and a half years ago! I am on a roll! I am so excited to be creating my bears again, 20 years after I first started New Avenue Crew. I've even brought my boxes of mohair and alpaca fur up from the basement and pawed through them, wheels in my head turning! Now to find more time for these dear little bears...
Have Stuffing Stick, Will Stuff (first published May 22, 2008*)
Of course, one also needs a sewn bear part that’s had its seams combed and has been turned right side out. And stuffing, lots of stuffing.
From my basement travels, I’ve managed to locate a bear (well, a very flat one) who is mostly sewn and has been waiting patiently for a few years (well, many years) to be stuffed and finished. The mohair is a pretty peachy-pinky color, very subtle, which makes me think this will be a girly bear. Now that I’ve decided it’ll be a girl, I’m sure it will be a fight to the finish to have her end up that way. Typically, I don’t know until the bear is finished and looking back at me whether it’s a boy or a girl. I’ve heard other bear makers say the same thing, I’m relieved to say. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds! I’ve put a bow around a bear’s neck, thinking it was a boy, only to be pondering about it later, wondering whether I should try that bow on his head…and voila! Yep, she was a girl bear the whole time.
But back to stuffing. Yes, I must confess that I, Debora Hoffmann, picked up the aforementioned stuffing stick and the head of the rescued flat bear on Monday evening and actually inserted stuffing into the head. Wow! Happy dance!
I would love to tell you, dear reader, that I finished stuffing the bear’s head and moved on to another task on this poor bear, but sadly, that is not the case. I had to retire for the evening. But I long to get back to it, to finish up the bear’s head. One of the next tasks will be to sew the footpads onto the feet, and I am not looking forward to it. I need some sort of magnification for my sewing machine–or I need a new pair of eyes. I am finding that not seeing very well makes for more mistakes (I have an art background, not a sewing background), and I detest ripping out the great, tight seams that my machine sews…because, for one, I have to see up close to do it! Sigh.
Back to stuffing again. There are probably as many ways to work with stuffing as there are bear makers. I tend to pull mine into ropes and then push it in with my stuffing stick, which is shaped like a T (see the picture above). I remember way back when I was first making bears that I made balls of stuffing, but I like the ropes better, though it takes time to make them. The right stuffing can give such a nice, round shape to a bear’s head or body or foot, but it can’t tame a bad hair day. Though I will not be taking a picture that shows this, this formerly flat bear head, which had been waiting patiently in its bag with its other parts, has, um, a bit of a cowlick in a couple of places. Talk about bed head. But I think a little judicious misting and smoothing here and there will help the ol’ girl. Let’s just not mention it to her, shall we?
When I was a child, I enjoyed playing with an elderly teddy bear, probably from the 1930s. He was a good companion and even played with me in the sandbox. He had lost a lot of his fur, and its color was faded from a dark reddish-brown to a caramel color. The other thing he had lost was his smile. I always thought the tear in the fabric under his nose was his mouth! But there were remnants of the black floss that his mouth was stitched with. I had never seen him smile. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, I am not sure what got into me, but I decided that I wanted to see my elderly teddy bear smile. So I set to work with black pearl cotton floss, a long doll-making needle, and my magnifier. I stitched in the exact places where the remaining floss pieces were, and was delighted to see my bear smiling back at me for the first time.
I noticed during stitching that the bear's snout is stuffed with excelsior, also known as wood wool. And on close examination of his remaining darker fur, I found that his fur is actually mohair.
After seeing my elderly bear's smile, I had to give a smile to my little pink childhood bear. I don't remember what her original nose looked like. When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I stitched her black nose in place. I wonder where her original nose went! All this time, she has not had a mouth. But now, she and my elderly bear are both smiling. After all my stitching yesterday, I am feeling motivated to work on my New Avenue Crew bears! Stay tuned, dear reader!