How to sew a memory bear
If you already read my first 6 tips, welcome to the 2nd installment. If you didn’t and you would like to read that post first then click here.
When you first look into sewing a memory bear it can feel very daunting. You need to choose a pattern, and you worry what will happen if you get stuck. Or you have a pretty good idea but you want to make sure you do a perfect job and just want some extra tips to make sure your bear is perfect.
I am an extremely experienced keepsake maker and I am so happy to be able to share this info to help you. So here are 6 more tips:
1. How to make a memory bear with jumpers or sweaters
Some fabrics need extra prep time in order to be made into a memory bear. Woollen knits such as jumpers look amazing when sewn into bears, they just need you to stabilise them before you cut into them so they don’t unravel.
When sewing keepsakes with knitted fabrics, first draw around your pattern pieces onto a woven cotton interfacing. Next cut out your interfacing leaving a margin of around 1/2″ around each piece. Place your interfacing onto the piece of the jumper that you want to use. Iron it on. Then sew a line of stitches just inside the line of the pattern piece all the way around. You can use a zig zag or a small straight stitch, just ensure this line of stitches will fall inside your seam allowance so they are hidden. Then cut out the pattern pieces out and sew together as instructed by your pattern.
Tip: If you have a delicate or damaged piece of fabric to use, a good interfacing will stabilise the fabric so you can work with it more easily.
2. Pay attention to the seams of your bear
When you sew a bear, check for all the instructions the pattern writer gives you to help with the construction. How you treat the seams will have a big effect on the finished appearance of your bear. So where you want to get a neat junction of seams such as underneath a bear where the 4 body sections come together it is always best to nest the seams. For a lovely explanation of nesting seams see this great blog post from Caroline at Sew Can She
Where you have curved seams always clip your curves. I find the fastest way to do this is with pinking shears. This stops the fabric in the seam allowance pulling against the curve which will give a wrinkled appearance.
Trimming the fabric away from the ends of seam allowances is something I often recommend in my patterns – you will spot the directions in the photo tutorials. It stops a bulk of fabric that can cause wonky sewing lines. Again following this step will make the outward appearance of your memory bear neater.
Or sometimes it’s best to cut away all the excess fabric altogether such as here on Betsy bear’s forehead.
You may feel like the seams are hidden so not very important, but treating them right will massively improve the standard of your finished keepsake.
3. Stuff your bear’s nose right…
There are two areas on a bear where your stuffing technique is crucial – their noses and their paws. More on the paws in a mo…
To get a good, firm, not wrinkly bear nose you need to stuff it well. Use lots of little bits of stuffing and pack them one at a time into the nose area pushing firmly with your stuffing tool. Hold the bear’s nose area with one hand and then really pack the stuffing in slowly and carefully pushing it against your hand to make sure the whole area is filled.
Secondly when you sew your felt nose onto your finished bear use a 100% wool felt or a wool mix felt. Although polyester felt is cheaper it will go bobbly really quickly which will let down all your hard work.
4. Sewing beautiful bear paws
You will need to start by placing the paw onto the leg so it is lined up correctly, pin all the way around. If the fabric is not evenly spaced take some pins out and reshape. Pin from the paw pad through to the leg, and then pin between all of your first pins going from the leg to the paw pad.
Sew the paw to the leg with the pad flat against your sewing machine, and take care that your sewing line stays an even distance from the edge of the fabric. Once your stitching is complete make sure you clip the curves all the way round so it’s nicely rounded. In the bear above you can see how the paws are perfectly rounded with no wrinkling.
When you stuff your bear’s paws, stuff them firmly with small amounts of stuffing. Pack the stuffing in tightly with your stuffing tool, and check the shape as you go. In you have a bulge or an airpocket now it will remain out of shape in your finished bear.
5. Other stuffing
In addition to stuffing your bear’s nose and paws as already described here are some tips for stuffing the body. To ensure your bear sits up straight when finished – Stuff the limbs and head first, then sit him or her upright on their bottom on a table or desk to stuff the body. Stuff downwards into the body cavity and check your bear remains sitting symmetrically as you go. I only worked this out recently and it really helps!!
Also stuffing settles a lot. So to keep your keepsakes wrinkle free, stuff your keepsakes firmly and then add more stuffing around 24 hours later and then ladderstitch closed.
6. Sew a neat ladder stitch to close
I have found that sewing a line of guide stitches on the turning / stuffing hole really helps. It helps stop your interfacing and fabric separating when you stuff your completed keepsake (which can happen). It also helps your stitches stay evenly distanced from the edge of the fabric so you don’t get a dip or a bulge!
As you sew your stitches use as small a needle as you can so you can take tiny stitches. And finally keep the threads that go across at a right angle to the raw edges. Keeping the cotton at right angles -so it literally looks like a ladder will prevent the wiggly effect you sometimes see on a ladder stitch.
If you are really struggling to get your ladder closures neat then use a detail from the clothing to cover the ladder stitched area.
If you missed the first post….
of 6 insider tips to sew memory bears here’s the link to read it
And if you would love to see my memory bear and other keepsake patterns click here for my pattern shop. All of my bear and animal patterns come with photo tutorials. In the photo tutorials I walk you through exactly how to use the tips and techniques from this post, plus I share photos of every stage of making so that you can sew a gorgeous professional quality memory bear of your own.