I wanted to do something different for my latest Minerva Brand Ambassador project, so I decided to see how many things I could make from a metre of fleece. I started with two bears, using the white reverse of the fabric as a contrast for the ears.
Since Lockdown 1.0, I haven’t done much sewing – the majority of things I made were face masks for friends and family. I wanted to sew something as a Christmas present for K, but what do you make a young boy who loves dragons? A dragon backpack of course!
I’ve made plush toys before, but this would be the first backpack I’ve ever attempted…. I like to make things challenging!
My original plan was to use some glow in the dark fabric paint on the eyes to add an extra fun little detail. However, the glow paint I’d purchased online was a ‘lucky dip’ when it came to colour, and I ended up with pink – perfectly fine, but I didn’t really want this dragon to have pink glowing eyes! So I stuck with the pattern’s recommendation and appliqued the felt eye pieces onto the face.
This fleece fabric is surprisingly slippy – it behaves almost like a fake fur rather than fleece when you’re sewing. As a result, the zip on the main pocket isn’t the neatest of stitching.
I had a Union Jack patterned fat quarter lying around, which worked perfectly for the pocket lining. I didn’t want anything too dark, as it would make it quite challenging to find something in the bag otherwise.
After a while of fighting the fabric, I tried an alternative technique – placing a layer of calico fabric against the feed dogs when sewing. That worked like a dream, allowing the fabric to feed through evenly, and no more squished stitches!
Because the dragon needed to be stuffed and the fabric had a slight stretch, I wanted to make sure the seams would allow some stretching, so I trimmed down the calico to as small a piece as possible. Ideally I would’ve used a tear-off fabric stabiliser or even tracing paper, as both of those could be fully removed after sewing. But as usual, I didn’t have either to hand, and I really needed to get this dragon finished!
As an optional extra in the pattern, there’s a hidden pocket in the dragon’s tail. I thought this would be a neat addition (which I didn’t point out when I gave K his present – I wanted him to discover it for himself), so not only is this my first backpack make, it’s also my first attempt at sewing in an invisible zip (albeit without an invisible zipper foot)!
My only other slight mishap was when I stitched the strap to the wrong side of the dragon’s paw (oops!) and had some well-nigh impossible unpicking to do to resolve it. But thankfully you couldn’t see the mistake once I’d finished.
And I can safely say that K loves his new backpack – after he’d opened it, he put the bag on his back and ran round the room shouting “I’ve got wings”!
Sympathy bears weren’t something I had originally set out to make. But after I made Caramel, I heard that a friend’s cat had died. That’s the kind of time when you would give that friend a sympathetic hug. However, said friend lives in a different country, which made it impossible to give a hug in person!
What better way could there be of sending a hug, than posting Caramel as a hug through the post?
You can probably tell that Caramel was the first bear I made from this pattern, as he’s not entirely accurate compared to my later makes. But despite his lack of visible nose (I didn’t have any suitable black fabric to hand when I made him), he gives a lovely hug, and that’s what matters.
I’d purchased the fabric online which doesn’t always make for a success with faux fur. But I was pleasantly surprised how tactile this fake fur is! There’s the usual shedding when you’re cutting and sewing, but once the bear is made there doesn’t seem to be any further shedding of fur.
I made Rusty from the same pattern, but using a tie-dye effect Cuddle Plush fabric (also known as Minky), which has a much shorter pile. So although both bears are made from the same pattern, Caramel’s facial features aren’t as defined – even with his body-coloured nose!
Fast forward to 2020 and even for friends living closer to home, it’s obviously not suitable to give them a hug when they need one. So when a local friend’s dog passed away, I knew just the thing to make.
Meet Duster, who was made from a long pile rainbow fake fur. This had a much thinner backing fabric and wouldn’t be something I was happy using for a child’s toy, but for a sympathy bear it worked really well.
My friend’s dog was long-haired, so I thought the long pile of this fake fur would work well to run her hands through in the absence of her faithful companion.
It’s the kind of project where you strongly hope you’ll have no need to make any more soon, but if you do then they aren’t too challenging to make!
The pattern is from Simply Sewing issue 24, but unfortunately it’s not available as a back issue. You can, however, download the pattern templates from their website – gathered.how. One important thing to note, is that templates downloaded from a magazine’s website do not include instructions, so if you don’t have issue 24 then you would need to have some toy making knowledge to know how everything should fit together!
I’ve also made some larger versions of these bears, but for sympathy bears I think this is the perfect size.
Pattern: Simply Sewing issue 24 Fabric: Premier Plush from FabricLand Rainbow Faux Fur from MIBS Tie-dye Cuddle Plush from Plush Addict
When you think of polar bears, you probably think of snow, ice, and generally cold weather. But this particular polar bear wanted to enjoy a hot summer – or at least as hot as the weather gets here in England! So here is Martin the Polar Bear, who has taken a liking to watching cookery shows on tv.
Usually when sewing with faux fur, it’s recommended to trim the fur in the seam allowance. This makes the seams easier to sew as the fur isn’t sliding about all over the place, but also it means it’s easier to stop the fur getting caught in the seams.
I didn’t bother with trimming the fur, as I didn’t feel the pile on this faux fur was long enough to need that. I got on fine, apart from one point on Martin’s neck where I’d not actually caught the backing fabric in the seam. If I make another polar bear from this fabric, I think I would just trim down the fur in the seam allowance on both sides of the neck seam, and leave the other seams untrimmed.
As you can tell, Martin made himself at home quite quickly – I hadn’t realised he could reach the computer keyboard from the chair… think he was trying to find some recipes he could cook.
I will admit I started making the Polar Bear last year, with the aim of him featuring on my blog before Christmas. Unfortunately ‘real life’ got in the way, as it has a tendency to do, and although I finished the bear, I never got as far as the blog post! So here we have the not-quite-so-seasonal Polar Bear UFO.
Having made Frank the Not Quite a Polar Bear, I couldn’t resist making a seasonal looking bear to go with him! I used the same applique idea for the Polar Bear’s paws, but picked out some silvery plush fabric instead of the brown. I also trimmed down the white faux fur underneath the applique sections just to try and get my zigzag stitches to lie a little neater. I could’ve brought the applique in a little more from the edges though, as once I finished sewing the Polar Bear there’s not a particularly noticeable gap between the paw pad and the side seam in places!
Rather than the blue eyes I used for Frank, I thought it was better to stick with a more traditional brown for the Polar Bear. I can’t say the bear looked overly pleased at having to wait for me to take his photo while he was still inside-out though! I get the idea he’d rather I hurried up so he could be stuffed!
Ok, so I will admit that this pattern was for a Polar Bear…. and wasn’t actually quite so large either – but when has that ever stopped me?? I printed the pattern off at 200%, pieced the pages together and made myself a brown bear who is the perfect size to cuddle while watching tv.
I found the blue eyes at Hobbycraft and couldn’t resist making a blue-eyed bear for a change… hence the name Frank after Frank Sinatra (Ol’ Blue Eyes). This pattern is completely different in its style to the previous bears I’ve sewn, so this was an interesting challenge using quite sleek faux fur on a pattern I’d never tried before!
His nose is made from black plush (minky) fabric which made a nice change from needing to embroider a nose on a bear… although it was quite hard to get the stuffing to stay in his muzzle for some reason.
I deviated from the pattern to add in some paw pads made from some oddments of plush fabric I had lying around. I think this livens up his paws a little, and makes him look even cuter – what do you think?
Frank seems to have made himself at home already, and claimed the tv remote for his own!
Do you remember ages ago when I was working on the Jumbo bear pattern by Emma’s Bears? Well, I’ve finally got him finished!
Jumbo lives up to his name – he’s so big, he takes up the entire chair! So at the moment, he’s sitting on the floor, looking out of the window.
I didn’t have the right size eyes, so his eyes are a little smaller than intended, and I think I was a bit stingy on stuffing as his head really could do with a bit more padding in places. But for my first time sewing such a large bear (and having to hand stitch some seams because my sewing machine struggled), he’s come out really well!
Yes that’s right, the pear-shaped project is finally finished! Yay!
I machine stitched the arms and legs, but hand stitched the paw pads – they were just too small and fiddly to even attempt to sew by machine.
The main problem came when I realised I’d sewn the limbs ready to attach for a non-jointed bear, but had forgotten to add in holes in the body to sew them in (oops). I had to be creative with a way around that, which results in carefully trimmed the fur on the body where the limbs would be sewn on (the only way it’s possible to see the back of the fabric) and sew the limbs directly to the body.
Ok, I’m calling Willa “finished” but he still doesn’t have a nose…. he’ll get one (eventually), but for now he’s finished.
Think back to last year, and the fake fur I purchased ready for Christmas…. yes that’s right the green is the same as the bat I made earlier this year, and this is the project I mentioned that had gone pear shaped!
Willa is a smaller plushie than I’ve tried making before, and it’s proving more fiddly on the smaller pieces. The head was reasonably successful though, and I even attempted some fur trimming around the muzzle to try and get a better shape.
As usual, I’m leaving the nose and mouth embroidery until the very last minute…. that can make or break a plushie, which means it’s the most nerve-wracking part!