I still have not done my first fur bear... but definitely buy Nancy Tillberg's book: Teddy Bears with a Past.
I was lucky that our library had a copy... but after I checked it out I knew I had to add it to my permanent collection! I get TONS of my bear books on Amazon... I'll often get the used ones... at great prices!
I have made several fur bears and I agree that you need Nancy's book. It will have all of the info you need in it. I would be interested to know how you like working with fur. I personally prefer mohair to anything else I've used. The fur makes a beautiful bear but there are some differences. I made a bear with coyote fur (all from a recycled coat) and I vowed never to do that again. I itched and sneezed the whole time. I will tell you that mink seems to be a favorite to buyers and it is beautiful. It is probably one of the easiest to work with.
Do get Nancy's book--it's the bible on fur bears. You need to line with muslin or linen, and cut very carefully, trying to avoid getting the pelt-joining stitches in the wrong places. If you're going to trim, I'd check the undercoat of that piece--I had a problem with a mink undercoat that refused to trim evenly. Very clumpy. Like the top fur, the undercoat seems to vary with the part of the animal it comes from.
For what it's worth, I'm working on my second fur bear. The first is mink, the second Mongolian lamb. Both are easy to work with, having nice supple pelts. Thicker pelts might be a problem. I've also started a mohair mini to go with the lamb, and I've got to say that mohair is MUCH easier.
But I love the look and feel of the fur . . . none of mine has shed, including a piece of rabbit I used with the mink, but this might be a matter of the quality of the tanning. I don't really know. Febreeze makes an anti-allergen spray.
I haven't tried the sewing machine on fur, but I did buy a package of glover's needles, which make hand sewing much faster and more comfortable. I no longer need a thimble--the glover's needles have a chiselled tip which flies through the pelt. I also got some artificial sinew, which is great to sew with. It's very strong and just a bit sticky, so your backstitches stay tight, and you can separate the strands into whatever thickness you need. Highly recommended. Both are available at www.tandyleather.com
Hope this helps!
Hi Kim Bee!
I have been making real fur bear since 1999 and it is quite different than working with mohair. As of recently I have been sticking with mohair as I am finding it more fun at the moment.
The main differences between real fur and mohair is that real fur does need to be lined and working with it is quite messy and fiddley. You also need to be aware of the direction or grain of the fur. It often goes in different directions unlike mohair where the nap is always even.
Trimming the face takes great care and more time but the results can be really beautiful. Just make sure you take your time and use really good scissors, like mustache ot hair cutting scissors as they have a serated edge and "grab" the fur as you cut as it tends to slip otherwise.
Tandy Leather has some really good sewing needles designed to sew through leather. They are very sharp and have a three bladed edge. Definitely a must when sewing with real fur.
I have found that I often sew the entire bear by hand especially on the thicker furs like fox, coyote, beaver and a few others. You will have much more control when sewing real fur by hand...it can be verey slippery.
I also use alligator clips instead of pins. You never want to use pins on real fur and they leave a hole.
Nancy's book is also a very great resource!
Let us know how it goes for you.
Hi Lousie, I have to tell you that people who have a bear made from thier Grandma's coat are so happy to have a bear to look at instead of the coat in a closet somewhere.
I would recommend doing a few first before tackling someones coat just so you have a good feel for how fur "behaves"...or "acts up" in some cases.
You could buy an inexpensive coat from ebay and give it a whirl. It 's a challenge at first but very rewarding in the end.
Go for it girl!
One of my favorite furs to work with is alpaca fur (not the manufactured type but the real fur on the hide). It is soooooo incredibly soft and very forgiving of mistakes in trimming. This fur not only makes a gorgeous bear but is very easy to trim with super results.
There are two kinds of alpca fur Suri and hy.....something ruther...it stars with an HY. Suri is very silky and lays a bit flatter like this tan bear.
This white bear is made from the HY... alpaca fur. This type has a thicker pile and a sink-your-hand-in-feel. I like this type the best.
This brown and white bear is also the HY....(so soryy I can't remember the name) alpaca.
Alpaca fur comes in so many natural colors. White, cream, brown, caramel, grey, peach, tan, and any combination of these colors.
A great source for this type of fur ebay.
I am also a fan of fox fur of any kind...especailly arctic because it is soooo thick and beautiful. I would not start with fox fur though as it can be quite a challenge at first....and be prepared for a mess. I ususally try to do all my cutting outside.
It seems like each type of fur has a "personality" of it's own. Mink makes a very nice bear but can get a bit tricky with trimming the muzzle to make it look really smooth.
Red fox is really gorgeous fur. It has so many colors. I'll post a few pics .
You guys are getting me all excited about trying fur bears. I just ordered Nancy's book (the one I didn't yet have) for the foundation level stuff I know she's so great at supplying.
Those of you with some experience in buying furs for use in bears... what kinds of price points do you see? I'm curious about whether a "good price" for an old coat would be $20 or $200, as I really have no idea. Please advise with whatever price ranges you can! Thanks.
It is worth spending a bit more to get a decent fur coat. I spent $200 on an lynx fur coat that would normally retail for more than $5,000. It was absolutely stunning and was a coat that was kept in cold storage. Sometimes you can stumble across a great find like this.
A fox fur coat can go anywhere from $50 to $300 for a used one and even much much more for a very good coat.
Mink is probably the easiest fur to find on ebay for a decent price. I paid $75 for a white mink which was very good. You just have to really look around and stay away from old yuckie poorly taken care of coats.
As always with buying this sort of thing on ebay ...it is buyer beware. What one seller may say is great condition may not be in your book. I can't tell you how many times I have bought what looked to be a very nice coat then turned out to be in too poor condition to use for a bear.
There is a lot of great used fur coats out there...ya just gotta look.
you gotta try it- there is nothing quite like your first mink bear, unless it's selling your first golliwoggins.
A site I like is Gabriella's Furs. Sandra is the owner and Gabriella is her beautiful dog.
Sandra is knowledgeable fair and honest. Also very fast!
I have a beautiful fox sleeve that was sewn on the diagonal and it screams for a rather large fat tummy....so now I need to find the rest of the fur to put it together.
Dive in and go for it-post a picture and have a great time
Dilu-yikes, still being serious :P
PS Shelli- don't forget a $300 coat will probably make 4-6 bears depending on the size.....so when you compare mohair with real fur, I think it's very comparable-
What do you think Judi?
PPS I haven't tried Judi's aligator clips, but I have used the large paperclips-they held the fur away from the needle really well-
Judi told me about the aligator clips ages ago and I still haven't gotten to Walmart....
I gotta get out of this furfactory!
One flaw to be aware of is the location of splits, or places where the seams have opened. If they're around the pockets or the shoulders, don't worry too much, because both spots are under a lot of stress (hands and hangers). Elsewhere, splits can mean weak skin, which can mean that the whole fur will come apart when you tug on the seams.
Also, examine the photos carefully for guard hairs on the fur. Sometimes they're almost completely worn off! I bought one of those--not for very much, but the photos were fuzzy. It looks good sheared, though :rolleyes:
The first fur that I bought was a mink jacket off of ebay a few years ago when I wanted to try a fur bear. I got it for $10.00 and it was already taken apart and ready to use. I recently bought a full length mink coat at a yard sale for $20.00. It has a rip under the arm but other than that it is in very good shape. I also have two fur coats that were given to me. Now my problem is that I really prefer to use mohair more than anything else. But there is a market for the fur bears also. I couldn't pass up a $20 coat that I can make several bears out of and what do you do when someone just sends two coats home from work with your daughter?
Millie! Thank your lucky stars :D
Shelli, it takes me a long long time to lay out pattern pieces on fur, because you've got to consider both fur and skin sides, and match color, pattern, texture and sometimes thickness. I think this is the hardest part of working with fur. Once the little beasts are cut out, the rest is relatively easy. In my brief experience, lined fur stands very well up to all sorts of needle sculpting, turning, and other tortures. I've even done it a second time on the same head, without wrecking the fur.
If the little pelts are well matched--and on a high-quality coat they are amazingly well matched, considering their size--you don't have a problem with nap.
I have a local furrier who's promised to let me help clean out his garage full of bits & pieces, plus a seller of used furs downtown who will look out for any kind of fur I need. It's well worth searching for these people--very nice, and not very expensive. No shipping!!! :D
Right now, I've got a cold room full of furs and a headful of ideas, and not enough time to do either of them justice. Too many students--I thought I'd get some time off in the summer, but new ones keep calling.
One of my daughters was trying to get past my furs to her storage shelf, and said it was just like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe--she expected to find snow, a lamp post and a satyr on the other side, not pots and pans!! :lol:
Good points ladies.
Also, in my opinion, I do not like the fur coats that have a strip of fur, ususally fox, alternating with a strip of leather. I have found that bear buyers do not like these types of fur bears....neither do I. I want to be able to pet my bear without seeing leather stripping.
If you have a chance to see a fur coat in person...give it a gentle tug. If it tears, stay away. The fur should also feel clean...not coated, like with a smoke residue. This takes away from the softness and over all quality of the fur.
Smell it. You don't want a mildew or musty smell.
Run your fingers through the fur. If it sheds easily, don't buy it.
An older fur is not nessecarily a bad fur. If it has been well taken care of it will work fine.
Bend the fur coat...pick up a sleeve and bent it. Is it stiff or is it nice a pliable? Stay away from stiff coats as the leather backing is dried out and will crack, crumble, or disintegrate.
A good fur coat should feel nice, smell nice...or at least not yuckie, and look nice. In other words it should appeal to your senses...except taste!...please don't lick the furs!:lol:
I envy you Eileen...having access to all that fur...lucky girl!
I almost envy me too, Judi :D
I got 10 pieces, mostly coats, some wraps, for $200. That's $200 Canadian!! I probably could have talked the man down, but I wanted really good vibes. He buys old furs, most of them very nice, some not, and sells them on eBay under the name Rockho. If there's anything anyone wants in particular, let me know and I'll call him. He's happy to deal.
Among my finds was an ultragorgeous Russian mink hooded jacket. It's got those pesky leather strips between the pelts. :mad:
Judi, have you got a method for eliminating the strips? Maybe some way to resew the pelts together without destroying them?
oh..and YES Dilu, you can get several bears form a fur coat. The lynx coat I bought was full length so I was able to get about 6 16" bear from it.
Also Eileen is so right about matching the fur in terms of direction, thickness and quality on both sides, the fur side and leather side. Once you start using a coat you will find that it is not even throughout and there will be parts you won't want to use.
I have seen fur bears where the fur on one ear is longer than the other..of the fur on one side of the face is longer than the other. It is very important to have both side even. EVerywhere...and itr will really show up around the paw pads if it is not even. You can trim it somewhat but then it will change the tips of the fur.
I bought hair thinning shears to correct some of the thickness differences. They thin down the fur without changing the tips of the guard hairs. I don't use these often but when I need them it makes quite a difference in the overall finished bear.
ALso if you are going to get into fur bear then I would invest in a really good pair of hair/fur scissors. The will have a serrated edge that grabs the fur as you cut. Otherwise with regular scissors it has a tendency to slip while you cut.
Eillen I usually try to stay away from furs with leather strip but I have used them, and what I do is cut strips of fur from a different part of the coat and very very carefully glue them over the leather strips, but only in the areas where the leather strips really show. If done well, you cannot even tell it have been done.
It's time consuming but worth the effort.:)
Thanks again, Judi :D
I surely do need those serrated scissors--this looks like a venture into a beauty supply store.
What a good idea for covering those leather strips. Is there a glue available that doesn't dry out the pelt?
A few posts have suggested otherwise, but . . . I can see that a water-based glue might dry the pelt, but what about fabric glue? It's designed to be washed, so it shouldn't absorb moisture.
By the way, does anyone know if the problem of a dried up pelt is a matter of water loss or oil loss? I know that moisture can rot a pelt, but do furs actually have much of a water content. I need to know how furred pelts are tanned, I guess.
I'm supposed to be working on T.S. Eliot, :P
I don't work with fur bears, but I do groom my dog for show So one hint I do have is that groomer's suppliers are often better sources than beauty suppliers for scissors to work with fur!
Right now, my dog scissors are getting more work on the animals I'm making than the dog! The hair-thinning shears can work wonders- get as many teeth as you can afford. i have a 42-tooth shear, which is nice and smooth. Ebay often has some nice ones; www.petedge.com is another good source.
And, BTW, Murph my llama says that that second type of alpaca is huacaya.:D