Some people are nuts about teddy bears, and soft toys in general. Show them a cute looking stuffie and they’re like normal people are when they see fireworks, all ‘Oooooh’ and ‘Ahhhh’ and quickly licking their fingers clean before reaching out for a squeeze of said unfortunate bear/ squirrel/ elephant/Catherine wheel.
I’m not one of those people. I like dolls and puppets and I like making them, but I like them to be a bit odd looking. I feel the same about people. Symmetry and cuteness doesn’t usually do it for me, I like a bit of character. I like the eyes to be odd, or the smile to be lopsided. Perfection puts me off a bit for some reason. It’s as though something that perfect on the outside must be covering up something less pristine on the inside. Very unfair of me, I’m sure, but that’s how it is.
So when Ma bought a book on how to make bears (on a whim, we were actually looking for a book on how to knit hats for cats), I didn’t give it much consideration. If she wanted to make a bear, let her. I spend a lot of time in my studio on the dolls, so it seemed good that she would have something interesting to do.
A few days later, with the world obscured by rain, we thought we might have a go at one. I was joining in just to be helpful and get things started, as it’s been a long time since she did any sewing. We didn’t have any fluffy fabric, so we used some pink spotted cotton and diligently made templates and cut out the pieces. I had never made a bear before (or should that be ‘behind’? Let’s settle for ‘previously’.) Naively, I thought I could trust the book. Now, I would like to show you a picture of what happened, when all the pieces were cut out, carefully stitched together and the whole thing stuffed (no stuffing had been bought either, so we used the contents of a cushion). But I’m afraid it would hurt your eyes, and you may never be able to ‘unsee’ it. Suffice to say that it looked way more piggy than bearish and that was not only due to the pinkness of the fabric. We both felt quite disappointed and, to be fair, a little cheated. So we had some wine and put the pinkbearpig out of sight.
The next day, undaunted, we decided to pop out and pick up some proper bear fabric and have another go. This bear came out looking much be(ar)tter – but to me it wasn’t a ‘proper’ bear. It didn’t have moveable limbs and head, and was made with a minimum number of pattern pieces. It was good, but not very satisfying.
Day three saw us making another bear from the book, with the required moving limbs and head, in the proper fluffy fabric, and with great determination and hope.
And this is when I learned not to trust the patterns you get from books. Although the head was good, the body was too small, the arms were far too fat and too short, and the legs were impossibly stumpy. Also the ears were not in proportion and seemed to be set in an odd place. I have never seen such a deformed creature (except for the pinkbearpig, obviously). Depression set in, swiftly followed by some wine, while we regrouped and considered our options.
At this point I had a quick Facebook chat with a friend who has been successfully making bears for years. He reassured me that every bearmaker has a few monsters in the basement where things did not go quite to plan. He also pointed out that bearmaking is addictive and I should be careful.
Bear number four happened a few days later. This time I decided to trust no one, and made so many alterations to the original pattern that it no longer ‘bears’ any resemblance to the one in the book. And guess what? I MADE A BEAR! Not a monster, not a pinkbearpig, but a real proper bear! I quickly handed it over to Ma for a dressing session, and the result will be posted separately. The following day we made another one, different fabric this time, and female, as a companion to the original.
Christopher was right, it is insanely addictive, especially when you design your own instead of relying on someone else’s pattern. I already have a studio lined with dolls, and fully expect to have a living room full of bears by the end of January.
And probably no cushions left.