Posts Tagged ‘bear in progress’

Aging doesn’t come naturally to me. I am hesitant. I am far from brave. A dash of color here, a trim there, some sandpaper…

Dear readers, please don’t be alarmed. I am talking about aging the little bear who’s pictured two posts down having a quiet conversation with another bear in progress. When I’m facing a little bear with scissors, some form of stain, and fine-grain sandpaper, it sometimes seems that I should apologize to the little soul before I begin, during the process, and even afterward. And, not being the brave sort, I hesitate to go too far, because, gulp, the fur doesn’t grow back!

Last night before bed, my daughter entered the room where I was working on aging the little bear. She said, “Oh, he’s cute!” and asked to hold him. When she saw him up close, she exclaimed, “He looks old!” I just smiled and told her that’s what I was aiming for. I only hope I can get the “loved” part in there, too.


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For the past few weeks, I have had my bears in progress sitting on my bed. Two of them always seem to end up in what looks like a conspiratorial pose, or one in which they are having a long chat or are looking lovingly into each others’ eyes…I always smile when I see them. I thought I would share a snapshot of them with you, even though they are not finished–a sneak peek at my sweet little chums in progress–and tell you what I think they might be discussing.

Quiet Conversations

“Goodness, when do you think she will finally finish us?”

“I don’t know, but it’s been years in my case.”

“Mine, too!”

“Did you know that she is a proofreader during the day, and she’s a wife and mother, and she works on us in between everything else?”

“Oh! What’s a proofreader?”

“She makes sure that the written word sounds good, looks good…that kind of thing.”

“But why has it taken her so many years to make us?”

“She and her husband adopted their two teenage daughters last year. That took a long time.”

“I’m sure it did!”

“But you know, I’m really very glad she has come out of her bear-making hibernation so we can be loved and adopted one day, too!”

“Me, too!”

“By the way, though it has taken a few years for her to make you, she is going to ‘age’ you some more. Your fur is what they call ‘vintage’ upholstery mohair, and she has already given you some worn spots on your ear, forehead, and muzzle. Her mom collected antique dolls for many years, and so she became a fan of antique teddy bears. She has made one other ‘aged’ bear; he looked well loved. And that’s what she wants for you.”

“Oh! It must be a good thing to be loved.”

“I think it must be.”

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Herr Grünhosen

Herr Grünhosen

The fur has been flying here in the New Avenue Crew studio! The four very patient bears I have in the works are finally seeing quite a bit of progress. (I would even venture to say that they’re excited that they all might be finished soon.)

The last two days I’ve been sewing feet, jointing limbs to bodies, trimming and shading a face, stuffing a foot–and removing a head from a body, cutting the body apart, redesigning said body’s pattern…like I said, the fur’s been flying around here.

Why did I part a head from its body? Well, many years ago, in a fit of creative energy, I modified one of my head patterns and drew up a body to go with it. I cut the pieces out of a lovely curly batik mohair and sewed them up, then worked on the bear’s head. I was on a roll! I wanted this to be a bigger bear, but, well, I got a little carried away with the size of the body. This poor bear, patient soul, has been waiting for me to rework his body these many years. So yesterday, said parting of head and body occurred. Today I hope to finish redesigning the body, do some arms and legs to go with it, cut them out and sew them up, and joint this sweet bear. Of course, the other three bears may call to me during this time, and I may get sidetracked and work on one of them…things like this have been known to happen here in the studio.

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Bears in progress

Two little bears in progress

About two weeks ago, I was bitten by the bear bug. Again. (And I am so glad about it. Creating my Crew members brings me a lot of happiness.) I have made the trek to the basement numerous times since being bitten again to feel the mohair, see what (or should I say who?) I might have in progress, haul supplies upstairs, and otherwise immerse myself in the bears again. Last week while assessing the situation, I found that I have three bears with faces (who like to look at me with their big eyes and plead with me to finish them), one stuffed head, and at least two more bears-in-a-bag, cut out and waiting for me to start them officially.

Remember this bear in progress? In the post called Have Stuffing Stick, Will Stuff, I chronicled the saga of actually inserting stuffing into the head of the bear shown here. Since that post (which was written almost two years ago, but I’m sure no one will notice that), I have finished stuffing the head! This is quite a feat, dear reader. And…drum roll, please…I embroidered the bear’s nose and mouth! As if that wasn’t enough for me, I also needle sculpted the face a bit, trimmed the muzzle (almost finished with that), and trimmed and readied the ears for attaching to the head. This sweet little eyeless face is looking up at me from a dainty old teacup on my desk as I type.

Please stay tuned as I attempt to grab enough time in the next week or so to finish this little bear who has been waiting so long. And then I need to turn my attention to the other three with the pleading eyes who have been waiting just as long, just as patiently.

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Of course, one also needs a sewn bear part that’s had its seams combed and has been turned right side out. And stuffing, lots of stuffing.

From my basement travels, I’ve managed to locate a bear (well, a very flat one) who is mostly sewn and has been waiting patiently for a few years (well, many years) to be stuffed and finished. The mohair is a pretty peachy-pinky color, very subtle, which makes me think this will be a girly bear. Now that I’ve decided it’ll be a girl, I’m sure it will be a fight to the finish to have her end up that way. Typically, I don’t know until the bear is finished and looking back at me whether it’s a boy or a girl. I’ve heard other bear makers say the same thing, I’m relieved to say. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds! I’ve put a bow around a bear’s neck, thinking it was a boy, only to be pondering about it later, wondering whether I should try that bow on his head…and voila! Yep, she was a girl bear the whole time.

But back to stuffing. Yes, I must confess that I, Debora Hoffmann, picked up the aforementioned stuffing stick and the head of the rescued flat bear on Monday evening and actually inserted stuffing into the head. Wow! Happy dance!

Girly Bear\'s Parts

I would love to tell you, dear reader, that I finished stuffing the bear’s head and moved on to another task on this poor bear, but sadly, that is not the case. I had to retire for the evening. But I long to get back to it, to finish up the bear’s head. One of the next tasks will be to sew the footpads onto the feet, and I am not looking forward to it. I need some sort of magnification for my sewing machine–or I need a new pair of eyes. I am finding that not seeing very well makes for more mistakes (I have an art background, not a sewing background), and I detest ripping out the great, tight seams that my machine sews…because, for one, I have to see up close to do it! Sigh.

Back to stuffing again. There are probably as many ways to work with stuffing as there are bear makers. I tend to pull mine into ropes and then push it in with my stuffing stick, which is shaped like a T (see the picture above). I remember way back when I was first making bears that I made balls of stuffing, but I like the ropes better, though it takes time to make them. The right stuffing can give such a nice, round shape to a bear’s head or body or foot, but it can’t tame a bad hair day. Though I will not be taking a picture that shows this, this formerly flat bear head, which had been waiting patiently in its bag with its other parts, has, um, a bit of a cowlick in a couple of places. Talk about bed head. But I think a little judicious misting and smoothing here and there will help the ol’ girl. Let’s just not mention it to her, shall we?

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