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Bear Facts -- Choosing Fur For Your Teddy Bear
By Julie Wegelin, Julie Wegelin's Sewing Cellar

(As excerpted from The Sewing Gazette, Volume II, Issue II)

Fur Facts

Over the years things change -- not really a profound statement, never-the-less true. Rarely does anything escape change. The teddy bear, born around 1902 (with several claiming to be first in this country or that, this year or that -- it really doesn’t matter unless you are into that sort of thing), has managed to stay around.

On the whole, he appears not to have changed much unless you start to research and find out that the teddy was born pretty much furless! Compared to today’s standard of luxurious fur, the original bears were made from plush or velvet and stuffed with sawdust or wood shavings. Gradually more fur fabrics were added to give bear-makers more choice and selection.

Fabric selection might be the most important decision you will have to make as a bear-maker. No amount of dressing can cover poor quality fur! Nowadays our biggest choice is to use synthetic or natural fiber and we will leave that discussion for another day. The next choice is what length of fur and how to tell if you are selecting quality fur. Fur, or pile, can be described by length and density.

1.) Quality

More fibers in the pile equals more density. Densely made fur hides the backing fabric and is one of the elements of good quality fur.

Test: Curl the fabric towards the backing. If you can see the backing fabric through the pile, the pile is thin. Thin pile will allow to backing to show through the fur on your finished bear.

How will the fur hold up to play?

Test: Rub the pile in a circular motion with your hand. Then brush the pile back into place with your hand. How well the fur recovers is an indication how well it will hold up to play.

The most expensive fur is not always the best quality -- learn to be selective not impulsive. Poor quality fabric makes lousy bears and can frustrate your creativity.

2.) Fur Length

Length refers to the actual length of the pile fibers.

Test: Hold the sample in your hand, with the pile up. Stand a ruler up in the fur. Where the tips of the pile end is the measurement of the pile. Fur length will dramatically change the look of your bear. If you wish to make a bear with the same look as the pattern, use the length fur called for in the instructions. If you are trying to create an original personality for your bear you might want to consider the following. On an 18" teddy bear, a short pile gives the bear a more tailored appearance. On the other hand, a long pile will give the bear a softer more ruffled appearance. If you are working with small bears keep the fur proportionate to the size of the bear. A small bear made in fur that is too long will lose its shape and form and might end up looking like a fur ball!

3.) Fabric Backings: knitted or woven?

If your pattern calls for a specific backing fabric and you want to create the same look, purchase the backing specified in the pattern.

The primary difference in the behavior of the fabrics is the direction of the stretch of the fabrics.

Knitted fabric has a crosswise stretch and should recover it’s original shape once stretched, with little or no lengthwise stretch.

Woven fabrics stretch on the bias and do not readily return to the original shape once stretched.

Other things to consider when choosing fur:

The backing fabric should be tightly woven or knitted. The fabric should be stabilized but pliable. Backings that are too stiff or too soft tend to jam up in your machine and will make your project more difficult than need be.

Coming Soon! 8" Jointed Teddy Bear Project!

More information on Julie Wegelin's Sewing Cellar

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