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driftybear Posts: 6

I'm new-ish to the art of sewing (by hand) teddy bears, so far I've only used some patterns from the mobear store. I have a book with patterns too, though I haven't used them. I realize that a lot of a bear's character is from being sewn, stuffed, assembled, and groomed. Though I am quite sure that with the patterns I have, I cannot attain the characters I imagine. I know I need to be able to put together my own patterns, but I can only begin to guess how to get started with such a task. I have a few ideas, but they're rather complicated so I decided I should ask those who have experience for whatever hints, tips, or methods you may be willing to divulge. I very truly enjoy making bears, mostly the expressions of the people I give them to when they find out I sewed it by hand. Two years ago I couldn't even thread a needle, now its became a task I put a lot of love into. So, okay, how do I go about learning to create my own patterns, and ultimately bring the bears I've imagined to life?

Oh, and thank you for your time and consideration, I really appreciate having somewhere to go to ask about such things. bear_thumb

MerBear MerBear Originals
Brockville, Ontario
Posts: 1,540

I used a lot of artist patterns to learn the ins and outs of how to put a bear together - and also consulted several  books. Nancy Tillberg's and Jennifer Laing's books in particular are extremely helpful in getting you started.


cjsmum Happy Little Souls
Posts: 230

Although I haven't read Nancy's book, I totally agree with Marion in suggesting Jennifer Laing's Design Book- Teddy Bear Art. I went to one of Jennifer's workshops eons ago at The Teddy Bear Hug and learnt sooooo much, she managed to get all of that information plus more into her book, she absolutely helps you to understand design principals so that you can design a bear that you envision. It saves a lot of test runs with the bonus of understanding what you are doing, not just fluking it!

Mo Beary Mo Bear Designs
Redcliff, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 1,536

Hi and welcome to the board!

I also couldn't thread a needle or sew a stitch before I started making bears :crackup:  :crackup:  :crackup:   And the looks on my families faces when I produced a bear made by my hands was priceless!

I made a lot of bears using others patterns and then decided to try it on my own.  Im not sure who told me this but the dimensions they went off of were:

Design the body or the head first.  The head is half the body length (so if you designed the head first measure its length and double that for the body length) the arms are 1/2 - 3/4 the body length and the legs are 3/4 the body length.  Now these don't apply to every bear but I found it great for first starting.  I don't use these rules any longer but it did give me a guideline to start from.

Hope this helps and makes sense!

Laura Lynn Teddy Bear Academy
Nicholasville, KY
Posts: 3,653

Laura Lynn Banner Sponsor

LOL!!  I just answered your other post about the same ? - and also recommended Jennifer Laing's book.  It is a wonderful resource for learning how to design your own patterns.  You can find it on Amazon: … ative=9325

Lisa q.D.paToOtieS
Near Fredericksburg, VA
Posts: 1,349

Funny you should ask this question because I just posted something about this in my Blog entry for today!  I usually draw a sketch for my bear first and then looking at the sketch, I cut out all the parts using paper towels.  For my head, I usually fiddle around with the gusset at first knowing that it will be similar to the profile of my head.  Then, I baste one of my side pieces to the gusset to see if it's the right length and if it will work.  It sometimes takes me a couple of times before I get the gusset right.  It really depends - I have good days and bad!  I take the other side of the head that hasn't been basted and lay it on the table with the body piece underneath and I place my arms and legs where they are supposed to go.  If it looks like a bear, then I make up my prototype using those pieces as my initial pattern.

Here's an example of how this last piece I was working on developed.  His name is Nervous Nelson and I'm working on him as a free pattern to put on my Blog.

First the initial drawing:


Then, the prototype in felt:


P.S.  My favorite book for learning how to make your own patterns was "A Bear of Your Own" by Rotraud Illisch.

Hope this helps!


Summer5 Pawssibles
Loon Lake, Saskatchewan
Posts: 571

Nancy Tillberg offers some excellent on-line courses on bearmaking and creating your own patterns. Good for you if you haven't sewn that long.  Obviously you are hooked on bearmaking.  I have been making and designing bears for over ten years and I still can't get enough of it.  Welcome to our addiction.

SueAnn Past Time Bears
Double Oak, Texas
Posts: 21,702

SueAnn Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

There is a lot of info in our library on patterns, also.  Look right above your first post on this thread and you'll see a little smiley waving his arms.  Select "Patterns" from the drop-down menu.

Michelle Helen Chaska, Minnesota
Posts: 2,897

I love Jennifer Lang and Nancy Tillberg books. I also know Nancy Tillberg has classes on line for design. I understand they are great. Here is the link:

I also recommend this book by Ted Menten which you can find on … 964&sr=8-2

Kelly Blondheart
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Posts: 289

Ted Menten has a pretty all inclusive book on design as well, but the best teacher is trial and error.  I come from the old school set where we just had to sit and look at bears and think really hard what we wanted to accomplish and to do it.  You'll figure it out as you go along.  bear_thumb

driftybear Posts: 6

Thanks so much for all the helpful references. I wouldn't have had any idea where to look. At the moment, I've picked out some fur and gotten a "Sailor" pattern (Lisa Pay) from Intercal. I've been working on putting it together for my mother's b-day, coming along nicely so far. Keep your fingers crossed for me, LoL.

NiokaBears Nioka Bears
Posts: 50

While Christine Charles doesn't offer any classes on design, she does have some great classes on bearmaking, sculpting, painting mohair etc Written in terms that are easy to understand PLUS she offers all the email support you need.....I have never met ANYONE as helpful as this lady when you have a problem! You can find out more about them on my website here:

Hope this helps someone!

All Bear All Bear by Paula
Posts: 5,162

I always think the first step towards good design is research.  Before I started work on my own patterns, I spent a great deal of time reading books about vintage bears, studying other artist's styles, visiting shows, taking magazine subscriptions etc, etc.  Once I had a sound idea of the mechanics and variety of stylistic approaches to bear making, I picked up a pencil, some card and a large eraser.  I think when you are starting out, the best place to start with your design is probably the head because once you have the head in place, you can then decide what you would like to achieve from the body and limbs.

I'd start with a basic head design ... two side pieces and a central gusset.  For me, it's important to get the side pieces perfectly shaped first, so that I can then design my gusset to fit that shape. 

When I design the side head I think about things such as how long I want the muzzle to be (bear in mind this will be affected by the width of the gusset too) and what angle I would like it to be.  Muzzles have a big impact on the bear's overall look.  With this in mind, I consider the angle of the base of the side head piece, ie., straight bottom and straight muzzle should make the bear look straight ahead (this is also dependant on the body shaping as well, of course).  Slanted base will affect how the head sits on the body, but it will also affect whether the bear looks into the owner's eyes, etc. 

I also decide how deep I would like the muzzle to be, a narrow chin will give an entirely different style of bear head to a deep chin for example and will affect what style of nose and mouth shaping I can stitch for him. I also work out if I want my head to have a neck and if so, how deep it should be ... once again, considering the angle of the neck shaping and how that will relate to the head position when fixed to the body ... and how that will affect the impact of the bear's head on the overall design.

When designing the side head piece, there are many things to consider and best of all, to experiment with.  For example, think about the shape of your bear's forehead, do you want a low forehead, or a deep forehead? if you want a low forehead keep that part of your design gently curving from the muzzle, if you want a higher forehead, swoop it more upwards.  Consider the shape of the back of your bear's head (yes, even the back is important) and decide how you want your head to look, I prefer a curved back of the head, rather than a flatter head, so I draw my patterns accordingly.  Also, if your bear is to have a humped back, consider how the head shaping will work with the body ... a humped back may work well with a curved back head, but will probably work less fluidly with a flat back head.

It's also important to consider the overall size of the head you are hoping to achieve.  Consider the depth from the top of the head to the base of the neck and decide if those proportions will work for your planned bear ... too narrow, too deep, too wide, too shallow, all can throw the best planned proportions askew!

To be honest, the best way forward is to use that pencil to make sweeping strokes on the card and keep sweeping those strokes until you like the look of what you've drawn ... erase any lines or curves you are unhappy with.  Don't try to be too creative at first, just work on a simple, beautifully proportioned head and when you've achieved that, you will have achieved a template to develop future designs.  Get your head made up and then move onto the body design ...

By the way, I haven't talked about the head gusset here because there are many ways to design it effectively and we talked about that particular subject here recently, so a quick search on TT should bring up a wealth of information for you to read.

Don't forget to let us know how you get on and what problems you encounter along the way!

ivuska.h Anavy teddy bears
Posts: 153

Could you please write something more on the gusset designing? Because I'm trying to design a new head for my bears and I'm quite satisfied with the side pieces of the head but I cannot figure out the gusset...  bear_angry

eatcakevintage Eat Cake! bears and vintage
Ormond Beach, FL
Posts: 242

When I first started out making bears, I cut the head out of muslin, sewed it together, and stuffed it. From there I made any changes to the shape and altered the "pattern." Even though I don't really use patterns, it seems the bodies and limbs of my bears are pretty much the same with each bear.

I also looked at other artists' bears and studied how the gusset and sides went together. Measured the scale of the bear, etc.

I'm working on a dog now that has a gusset at the top of the head and the bottom also to give it that "pug" look.

It's fun to experiment, use muslin or a cheap faux fur.

All Bear All Bear by Paula
Posts: 5,162
ivuska.h wrote:

Could you please write something more on the gusset designing? Because I'm trying to design a new head for my bears and I'm quite satisfied with the side pieces of the head but I cannot figure out the gusset...  :mad:

I see you've signed up for the 'A-head of design' challenge ... I hope you have the pattern piece now.  I think if you read the other challengees' thoughts as they work on their designs, you may find some helpful advice for your approach to desigining the gusset. 

Also, this is a really useful thread ...

ivuska.h Anavy teddy bears
Posts: 153

Yes, I got the pattern piece, thanks  bear_original  I signed up because I want to learn making gussets and this is a good oportunity bear_original

eatcakevintage Eat Cake! bears and vintage
Ormond Beach, FL
Posts: 242

I almost forgot that another thing I use when making a new head shape is a flexible ruler. You can get them in art stores or online in different lengths. Once I make the sides of the head I use it to get the curve of the gusset and then just draw it out. You get the right curve and the right length.

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