I thought I’d do a bit of a progress series on making TBB II for anyone curious about how a bear is born (and even for those of you aren’t ;o) )  The first bears that I made were from patterns made by other makers sold either individually or as kits with all the mohair etc included (Bear Basics in the UK, Intercal in the US and Beary Cheap in Oz are great places to pick these up), however in the same way as for other sewing patterns, you usually cannot sell bears made from these patterns, so when I started selling my bears, I had to design my own patterns.

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From the patterns I had already used I had a good general idea of the pieces I would need, however there are many variations, eg 1 piece versus 2 piece legs, 2 piece versus 4 piece bodies, 2 piece versus 3 piece heads, and let’s not start on the whole idea of inset pieces to get tonal effects!  Ted Menten’s Teddy Bear Studio is a great book to show you how patterns can be drawn and altered for different effects.

For TBB II, I’m using Maple’s base pattern shrunk down, but my first step in designing a bear is usually to draw the pattern out on paper.  I do most bits freehand except for the foot pads and head gusset (when doing 3 piece heads), where I break out my flexible curve ruler (you can get flexible curves both with and without measurements, but if you want those pieces to fit, I’d suggest one with a ruler ;o) )

Once I’m happy that I’ve got the proportions right (using the terribly technical, layer the pieces of paper, lining them up at the joints and holding up to the light method), my next step is to dig out the template plastic.  Now this is actually sold for quilters, but hey, what’s a little multi-tasking between friends ;o)  Armed with a Sharpie, I then trace all my hand drawn pattern pieces using a light box:

I mark out one pattern piece for every time I will need it – ie for a 2 part leg, I mark out 4 pieces – then I arm myself with a pair of sturdy paper scissors to cut them all out.  Whilst it’s tempting to just cut one of each, trust me when I say that this method is invaluable for allowing you to work out the best layout of pieces on the ‘fur’ so that you get the least waste.  It also ensures you actually have enough ‘fur’ for your chosen project (unless, of course, you fancy changing your plans to make a pirate bear because you’re one leg short…)

On your ‘fur’ of choice, you will then need to find the nap, that is, the way the furry bit actually runs.  As you stroke it in different directions, you should be able to see which way the pile lies – note this may be obvious on some fabrics, but rather less so on others, like TBB II’s curly mohair.  Lay your pattern pieces out on the fabric backing so that the pile is running in the right direction for the part, noting that the ears can generally fit in any wee gap you have in your layout:

My next tool of choice is a gel pen.  I usually use white, but there’s no hard and fast rule here!  I use it to trace round all the pieces.

Now I can just see you quilters with your rotary cutters thinking ‘why would I need to do that last step, I’ll just run the cutter round it’.  But that would be bad, very bad…  Tune in next week and I’ll show you why!

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