Baby Butch – A Guide to Bear Making

This is the story of the birth of one little bear.

He is not the best, the cutest or the most lovable little bear,

I have a special place in my heart for my first born bear, Baby Butch.


Who Needs Help from a friend?

Judy Butcher

I asked a friend, who probably wishes to remain anonymous, to make me a bear, but she told me she would teach me to make it myself. We both had busy lives and other things to do, and it didn’t happen, and so she was asked to run a workshop at a quilt group meeting. For whatever reasons that didn’t happen either, but even if it had, I wouldn’t have been able to attend because we had moved half way across the state. I decided to make a bear anyway. Surely it can’t be too difficult!

First up, pick a pattern. Finding the collection of books and magazines was easy because they had just been unpacked and put on the shelf.

There was a head in the first book I opened which I liked. So! It’s meant to be a brooch and there’s no body, only a head. OK. Look at more patterns, pick a body, make it a bit longer, a bit fatter and add a couple of darts.

The arms which belong to the pattern will do the job, but without the separate paws. I thought I’d like to try just clipping them.

Next, legs, preferably bent ones, but the only ones I can find are too big. To fit the body, head and arms already chosen the leg has to be about the same size as the foot on the pattern. Freehand is the quickest way to scale things down if you can draw a bit, but in this case it would have been quicker to find a photocopying business in our new hometown, including the explanation of why it had to be just a smidgin smaller than the third copy, and bigger than the fourth to fit the body.

I am a quilter so making templates is easy, so is marking fabric. I even remembered to reverse pieces as required, then cut it out. I only re-cut the bits I marked sideways on the fabric. And the upside down gusset, though the latter would have been better if I had re-cut it before I had started joining it to the side head.

Stitching the head together was fun, and I stuffed it to check the shape. Then removed the stuffing because I couldn’t find the glass eyes and had to use safety eyes, which need to be inserted before stuffing.

Stitching around the arms was so easy! But it wasn’t so easy to stuff until I had unpicked a bit. Then almost forgot to leave openings in the legs. And of course, ditto the body. Some people learn from their mistakes, but not all, not straight away anyway! Eventually all the bits were stuffed and openings closed.

By now I was feeling like an experienced bear maker. I remembered my friend explaining that any fur caught in seam lines should be eased out with a needle. Did that.

I clipped the nose, paws and bottom of the feet. The last two were my own innovation, and I was really proud of that.

If you are going to use button joints with buttons from your collection, allow about 3 hours to find four matching buttons. It took no time at all to actually attach the limbs after I found the buttons, though I had to guess the placement, as I had so carefully marked the positions on the inside and not used a tailors tack to mark the position on the outside as I have since learned to do.

At this point, if the arms and legs had been longer I had a great looking monkey. Something was missing, and it took a while to work out what. Ears! Something else was missing too, some felt padding behind the safety eyes, but the head was very firmly attached to the body so I made a note to remember that in the future.

Oh help! I have made thousands of rag dolls and their faces are just so easy. Why aren’t bears faces that easy? I finally got something resembling s nose at the pointy end of the face, and discovered by mistake that if you pinch the sides together with a few firm stitches from side to side it made it look half presentable. I’ve since read directions for a bear pattern which includes just that instruction and I wonder if other bear makers have learned their trade by mistake.

All done! Without any help from a friend! But judging by the look on Baby Butch’s face he would have appreciated the presence of a competent mid-wife at his birth. Or is he just worried about what sort of brothers he will get? Baby Butch is one of a kind and nothing like the bears I have seen and loved and wanted to make. However, he has got me hooked on making bears. He has two brothers, and more on the way.

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