Flower Bear has been sitting on the old site with a (mostly) updated pattern, but a minimum of instructions. And you’ve probably been wondering why the paper mache dragon has “open source sewing” when it’s clearly not sewn. So let’s kick off the revamped blog with a little sew-along. If I can find the boxes of supplies, I’ll even put together a few kits for giveaways here shortly.
I can’t claim to be the first (or the fortieth) to come up with putting a flower around a bear’s neck. Honestly, that probably first came up 2.5 seconds after someone put a ruff around an appropriately-sized bear’s neck, decades before I was born. But the idea of a little bear with protective coloration came to me when my mother-in-law was in the hospital and I wanted to give her flowers. The first Sunflower Bear got dropped on his head countless times in that hospital room, when people picked up the little galvanized bucket full of faux sunflowers without seeing him. So, success? He also won a blue ribbon at the Kansas State Fair in the theme bear category. Granted, entering a “Kansas Day” bear with a sunflower theme is pretty much cheating, especially when I learned it was supposed to be (well, permitted to be) a bought bear, decorated.
Speaking of bought bears, if you were hoping to find a tutorial that didn’t involve sewing a bear, here it is. Take an appropriately-sized bear and flower, cut between the petals to open up the center of the flower, sew it back together around the bear’s neck, done. I did that for my son, who wanted a bear like Grandma’s but wasn’t patient enough for me to make a whole new bear. You can also do that if you get so caught up in joint assembly that you forget to put the petals in. Confession: I almost did that with Zinnia Bear.
There’s no rule that says you have to put a flower on your bear, either. The pattern makes a perfectly serviceable conventional bear. There’s also no rule that says you have to make a full bear. A bear face in a flower can make a cute decoration for a gift, Christmas tree - if that’s your style, you could put a pin on the back and wear it.
Choosing your fabrics
Both these bears are made from upholstery velvet. This is great stuff to find in remnant sections. Just remember that often the home dec remnants are separate from the usual remnant table, and that you’re looking for the nice, stable sort with a white woven gridlike backing. If you want to fight with squishy, stretchy velvets out of the special-occasion section, you’re a better person than I am. Bearmaking supply places also usually carry it, sometimes as pawpad material. It’s often slightly longer pile, and comes in a wider variety of colors than you are likely to find in a store, but also will cost a little more.
This pattern is also a good candidate for felt, with outside seams. As a bonus, you can ignore all the parts where you have to turn and stuff. With felt you can just stuff as you go along, and except for putting the joints in you can ignore the “leave an opening for turning” parts. Good quality felt, usually wool or wool-blend, will make things easier, but you can get by with the cheap squares from the craft department at a big-box store. Just hold the square up to the light before you buy it, and make sure it doesn’t have thin spots. Felted wool will work too, though if you get into thicker stuff you’ll definitely want to make a bigger bear.
You can even size up the pattern and use a short-pile mohair. If you get too large, you’ll start to get puckers in the body - larger bears need shaping darts/seams. Synthetic furs - which almost always are sliver-knit instead of woven - can work too. You lose a little shape definition in the head, but you make it up by being able to sew bigger bodies without darts.
If you’re a beginner, pick felt.
Choosing your flowers
I’ll admit it: I have been known to haunt floral sections, testing to see if flowers come apart. The ideal flower-bear flower has a nice big, dark center (Zinnia Bear is a lot less camouflaged) with a texture and color that matches your head fabric, and isn’t glued together. You can often carefully pry apart even glued flowers, but you probably want a few spares if you do that. Remember to check the sepals (the green part underneath) for glue as well as the center.
Check the leaves for a color match with your body fabrics, at least if you plan to make your bear a flower arrangement to live in. Worst case, find foliage that does match and swap the flower heads.
Choosing your joints
(I’ll wait a minute while you make the weed jokes in your head.)
Bears this small can get away with thread joints if you don’t want them to hold their poses well, but you’re more likely to want button joints or full-fledged disc joints. As printed, 3⁄4” joints are probably what you’re looking for. Buttons are easy to find, and while they’re not as firm as disc joints, they’re probably enough for a small bear. Plastic doll joints are readily accessible, except sometimes the posts are too long for tiny bears (which tend to have joints larger than a similar-sized doll would). If that’s all you can find, you may need to clip the posts. Traditional disc joints are a little harder to find, but they’re ideal.
Choosing your stuffing
Polyfil is the stuffing of choice, and it’s pretty easy to find. Buy a bag in almost any craft department, grab an old pillow, whatever. One caveat: you’ll need more than you think. You may also want a fishing weight or a few BB’s (pick stainless) to give your bear some heft and tip resistance.
Alternate stuffings include wool, cotton - anything that’s clean, packs well, and isn’t going to compress or break down over time.
Choosing eyes and nose
Both Sunflower and Zinnia Bear have glass or jet bead eyes. You can also buy glass loop eyes that tiny, believe it or not.
You can also buy tiny glass noses - Sunflower has one. Zinnia has a polymer clay nose. Traditionally, bear noses are embroidered, but I’ll admit it: I’m no good at that, so I cheat. Zinnia has an embroidered mouth; Sunflower doesn’t because in normal lighting it doesn’t show up against his fur and - I’ll admit it - as a result I plumb forgot.
Stay tuned. As I add steps, I’ll link them here.