Three Bears at Christmas
Posted in Projects on Friday the 11th October 2019 by Vicki Ormerod
As luck would have it, I was given the opportunity to make something from a metre of this great green Christmas cotton fabric. First impressions on the fabric are that it has a great feel and should be a dream to sew. I did not prewash my fabric, as the finished items are not likely to be washed!
In total, I made four things from my metre of fabric, and used almost every piece of it.
My first choice for a make was "Delight" by Emma's Bears. This was designed as a signature bear, to be made from plain calico so you can write on the finished bear. The fabric I'm using already has seasonal writing on it, so this bear will be embracing all things Christmas! This cotton fabric is a lot thinner than calico, so I thought if I was to fuse some interfacing onto the cotton then it would make it more like a calico weight and stiffness. I wasn't too sure if I needed lightweight interfacing or medium-weight, so I made two bears: the first with lightweight interfacing, while the second was made using medium weight interfacing. To be honest, I can't tell much of a difference on the finished bear between the two different interfacing weights although while sewing, the medium weight did have more of a calico feel to it.
To get the pattern cut out accurately, I redrew the seam allowance on the pattern at 3/8" before cutting the pattern pieces out. Then I traced the pattern pieces onto interfacing and cut that out, before fusing the interfacing onto the wrong side of the fabric, paying close attention to the words on the fabric (as much as possible), to ensure I had the best layout that I could. I then cut around the pattern pieces with pinking shears, to prevent the pieces from fraying as I'm sewing and turning them.
I found that Coats Moon M0039 was a brilliant match for the green base colour of the fabric, and used that for almost every piece of sewing on these bears. My only deviation was some black embroidery thread for the noses and mouths.
To ensure the seams were securely sewn, I used a triple straight stretch stitch, then used two strands of thread to hand sew the turning gaps closed after stuffing. I couldn't find suitably sized toy joints in my sewing bag, so I hand stitched the head in place on the larger bears, again using two strands of thread, running the stitches around the head twice for a more secure finish.
The first bear has 12mm regular eyes, while the second has 12mm googly eyes just for fun. I wanted to make sure the hole for the eyes was accurate and also didn't fray over time. Rather than cutting a small hole, I used my Prym Love vario pliers to make a neat round hole then added some fray check around the raw edge to stop it from fraying. Once that was dry, I added the safety eyes in as normal.
The limbs are thread jointed using four strands of thread to make sure they are really strong. It seemed strange picking out buttons for a teddy bear, but it does add an extra feature to the limbs of each bear.
As with my previous makes, I raided my Mum's button tin to find some suitable buttons for each bear. I picked out different buttons for my bears so they each have a unique look. Of course you could be really creative and use a different coloured button for each limb on the bear, or maybe a shaped button instead of the regular round one.
Both larger bears used around 350g of toy stuffing each, as they need to be stuffed really firmly. I'm more used to making bears from faux fur or fleece where you can get away with a less dense filling. If you don't fill bears made from cotton firmly, you end up with puckers and creases in each piece, which really doesn't look right for this style of bear.
I was wary when it came with the stuffing, given that I needed to cram in as much as I could – how would the cotton withstand that? I am pleased to say that it withheld a lot of force and extra stuffing, and none of the stitches broke either!
The text on the fabric is written in different directions, which made for some interesting fussy cutting for the ears and paw pads... unfortunately it did result in the belly of one bear having totally upside-down writing, but I think that just adds to his charm and personality.
Having made these two bears, I knew I probably wouldn't have enough fabric left to make third bear the same size, so I printed the pattern at "two to a page" to give me a smaller scale bear. To ensure the fabric was easier to work with, I fused the medium weight interfacing to the cotton before cutting the pieces out. I stuck with using the pinking shears, as the smaller the pieces, the harder it is to turn them and the more manipulating you need to do which in turn can lead to more fraying.
Being a smaller bear, he obviously needed smaller eyes – the 6mm black eyes I had in my sewing bag were a perfect fit. I did cut a small piece of black acrylic felt for his nose, then stitched over it. That way the green fabric doesn't show through if any of my nose stitches aren't as accurate as they could be!
I thought that hand sewing the head to the body on that bear would be a little too fiddly, so I added a 35mm toy joint for the head. Ideally it would have benefitted from a smaller one, but that just about worked ok.
Having made those three bears, there was a small piece of fabric left. No way near enough to make another cuddly, but I thought it might work to make a small covered sketchbook. I didn't have enough to make the exact size listed in that pattern, so my covers are just a little larger than the 6x4" plain record cards I used on the inside. I also used double-sided fusible buckram rather than cardboard, and skipped the batting to make the buckram easier to fuse once it was slipped in place. That gives a thinner cover, but I don't think that's a problem.
I felt that eyelets would give a better finish than sewing a circle or a buttonhole around the punched hole, so I added some 4mm eyelets. Deviating slightly from the pattern again, I threaded a piece of DK yarn through the eyelets and card inside to hold it all together, instead of using binder rings.
This sketchbook would make a neat present for a young wannabe artist, or even for someone a little older who just likes sketching or painting. You could make it into a calendar, or even a bullet journal. I'll be using mine to draw some seasonal pictures, and the beauty of the removable pages is that if I want to, I can reuse the cover next year by just adding new record cards on the inside!
Thank you Minerva for sending me this fabric! It was great fun to pick out some suitable items to make, and also to try challenging myself to use as much of the metre as possible while still being able to fussy cut some of the pieces. I hope I've helped to get you in a Christmas sewing mood, and have given you some inspiration on what to make from this fantastic fabric - I think I have Christmas all sewn up!
Dragon's Flame Designs
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