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Choosing fabric to make handmade bears

Tracey Wilmot

Handmade bears are a pleasure to make, I am not a maker who likes to make the same things repeatedly and bears perfectly suit this. There is no end to the creations and the different styles and looks you can achieve.

When I start to make a bear I do not draw a picture or choose a pattern I choose my material.

Handmade bears body mohair, faux fur or anything else......?

I stick to no rules with the fabrics that I use and there is no reason why you should. Mohair is one of my favourites as you can purchase so many different styles; dense, sparse, long, short, straight curly the list is endless and the choice of colours is immense. If you really want to be individual you can dye it yourself.

I have been experimenting with some vintage fabrics and have made some bears using Harris tweed. When I use mohair I cut the fur on their faces, giving them character, personality and uniqueness and I feared this would be lost. This is not so and I have been pleased with the results. I am now experimenting with other vintage patterns in cotton and with lining and achieving good results.

Plush is a faux fur, when using this I would recommend using a good quality fur to achieve the best results. It can be rather thick so if using a sewing machine you need one that is robust and good quality strong needles.

The types of material you can use and the bears that can be created is only stopped by your imagination. I would recommend if you like a fabric try it be prepared to put the extra effort of lining and the results can be amazing.

Handmade bears paw fabric, can you only use suede......?

No you can, and I do, use any type that you choose. The only part you have to think about is; does it need lining? and will it create the look I want it to? I usually pick a few and lay them next to the body fabric on a table. This gives me some ideas of what the finished bear could look like and helps me decide the kind of bear that could be created.

Suede and leather are commonly used, and I do use these a lot, especially with mohair when I do not want to attract attention from the body fur. They are good strong fabrics that don't fray. The stronger the fabric, the easier it is to insert in the foot it does not move enabling you to sew quicker and straighter. If you choose a colour that matches the mohair backing you achieve a more seamless transition between the two, but really it is personal choice and a totally different style of bear can be achieved by your choice of these fabrics and colours. Velvet and cord are also good plain fabrics  I particularly like velvet paws with tweed bodies the two fabrics compliment each other.  

 Cotton prints are a good way to add colour. You can give a bear a softer feminine look from choosing prints such as flowers. I buy fat quarters and off cuts for these. You don't need a large amount as paws and feet are not big. I don't like to have too much as I make all my bears unique and I only use the same fabric a couple of times.  I used to use iron on interfacing as cotton prints can sometimes be thinner material and easily fray. I found I  did not like the way it made them feel too much like cardboard so now use curtain lining and tack it to the paw before attaching to the arm or leg, or I cut out a full arm piece and line the whole side of the arm stopping the seam becoming bulky. It all depends on the fabric you choose to use.  

Again as with the body material your choice is immense and the extra effort of lining and sewing can open up a whole new set of bears to create.

I hope you found this useful and if you would like to view some of the Rose-May bears that I make they can be found here.






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