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How-to

How do you bear it?

This little guy is up against the wall in a lineup with a dime to give you an idea of his size.

When I read a colleague’s blog about her first sewing experience, it reminded me of my bear making. I am not a stuffed toy fan. I’ve never even been tempted to whip a toy together for a gift. But one afternoon some years ago I stepped into a specialty shop for collectible bears and got another view point. There’s a whole history to bears—they are political, literary, and artistic. That’s the element that pulls me in; I’m always looking for the art in every project. The miniature bears and, well, a pig caught my attention.

The piglet was hand sewn and stuffed from the finger of a pink kid glove. His length was the diameter of a dime. In the showcase he was surrounded by tiny bears. They were all made in the same way: hand sewn, stuffed, with movable arms, legs, and heads. I was bewitched. Over time, I bought a bear or two and even decided to try my hand at making one.

The key to a successful miniature bear is getting the hair in the right scale. You can’t make these out of just any faux fur. When the whole leg seam is only 1/2 inch long, regular thread seems like rope—so it takes the finest of thread and an equally fine needle to sew. You can see the results of my efforts above.

I tried to find the original shop to link for you, but I think it’s closed. But there are two other places you might enjoy visiting to see some other versions of these cute little critters: Sheri’s Collectible Bears or The World of Miniature Bears.

While I was surfing I found the smallest of all bears—only 1/4 inch long. I don’t imagine its legs move, but you can tell it’s a bear and that’s impressive considering its size. Check out Jenny Wren Dollhouse Miniatures.

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  1. marye | | #1

    Such cute bears! I have made minatures & regular size bears But have not made any for several years. I even had a lady contact me some year ago to turn her grandmother's real mink fur stole into a bear. That was not easy making the first cut! She named the bear "Minky" & even let me keep a small scrap of fur. This article makes me want to get out my copy of "Making and Dressing Miniature Bears".

  2. AlaskaJean | | #2

    I wonder where those tiny bears are made? The price is less than $7.00! I can't imagine doing one for that!

  3. lvixen | | #3

    I think part of the reason the extremely tiny bears from the link are so inexpensive is that they are flocked clay, not sewn. They are still amazing for such a small bear, but they are a tiny sculpture, not stuffed.

  4. Sunchild | | #4

    Isn't it wonderful to discover a whole new world of expressing your creativity! I was privaliged to have learned how to make my first minature bear from a minature artist from Holland. She gave us serval patterns ranging in sizes from 2" up to 3" and carefully doled out the fabric for each bear we chose. I made a blue bear and even though I had made full sized bears, the method was very different...for one thing....don't cut the piece out all at once! Just cut out a head...sew it together, this keeps the pieces all in one place until you are ready for the next tiny part! I did finish Blue beary just in time for him to take a trip home with a wonderful couple from Japan!
    I have made only one minature bear in real mink since then and he was under 4" tall. I normally make my real fur bears no smaller than 5 1/2" since the length fur can get in the way of turning. They are a very wonderful way of using up that collar on Granny's coat!

  5. glory1963 | | #5

    Why would you want use Mink or anything from a animal???

    To make a bear or anything!!

  6. gretchenn | | #6

    the majority are not flocked over clay - they are hand sewn in Asian countries where the labor cost is minimal. this is one of the reasons people have trouble with the price of an Artist bear, plus the size is small - so the price must be, also?!? they actually can take longer to create than a large bear because of the intricate hand sewing involved.

    and to answer "glory1963" the mink in question is always from reclaimed coats, collars, etc. there is nothing wrong with this, if the artist choses to work in this medium ...i bet you wear leather shoes.

    try a google search for : miniature artist bears
    to see some amazing needlework ~

  7. glory1963 | | #7

    No ,I do not wear leather shoes or have a leather purse or anything leather for that matter!!!

  8. emmyt | | #8

    I don't see anything wrong with using MINK. They are nasty creatures. They didn't have any problem helping themselves by eating the fish in our pond so why shouldn't we use their fur if we want to.

  9. glory1963 | | #9

    Well, emmyt they do have to eat to stay alive..

  10. autumn | | #10

    EmmyT -- the mink did not KILL you to eat your fish. You have to KILL mink to use their fur. Besides, don't you also like to eat fish?

  11. User avater
    Jayann517 | | #11

    Years ago I went to a Doll and Teddybear show and bought a kit to make a 2" ballerina bear. I took it to work with me and sat during my lunch time sewing it by hand. It took about a week this way but she is beautiful and worth every minute I spent on it.

  12. shellylee | | #12

    Thanks for sharing your pictures of the miniature bears. You have a real talent to be able to sew something so tiny. I also like how each bear has their own little personality by the way you position each ones facial features.

  13. rkr4cds1 | | #13

    I'm a Fiber/Textile Artist, specializing in Miniature Teddy Bears since 1990, and you've finally hit the subject that's in my back yard!
    First, World of Miniatures is not considered Artist bears by those in the field: they are manufactured bears, made individually with production techniques by workers in Asia. The company owners now live here in the US.

    'Artist' teddy bears—standard larger bears—were only developed in the 80s by the van Port family in the Northwest. It is a relatively young Collectors' market.
    Artist bears are OOAK (One Of A Kind) or made one at a time in VERY small, limited series (usually less than 5 or 10.) My work was also 2" to 3" tall, sewn 20 sts to the inch, vintage long pile, either Malden Mills' or similar fabric, turned right-side out, stuffed, extensively needle- and scissor-sculpted, shaded by hand. This is labor intensive work and one 2" teddy may take well over one week to design and create: accessories and clothing are all extra time. (I now Needle Felt 2" - 3" realistic bears out of wool fiber)

    Insetting paw pads, hand-sculpted noses, Yes-No mechanisms, specialty studio techniques for jointing and other trade secrets which set each artist apart all add to the time it takes to create these tiny treasures.
    And unlike the artists who have the space in standard-sized bears, in which to work out all of these features, we miniaturists must make all of them work and look natural and in perfect proportion and scale—and all within fractions of an inch!

    Please don't think of or dismiss miniatures as what you will see in an internet search for 'artist miniature bears' as was suggested below - World of Miniatures comes up near the top of that search by dint of number of sales, because they offer a very inexpensive product and can afford to put it into every type of retail and wholesale outlet available. These aren't considered 'Artist' bears, even though each prototype was designed by an artist (I was solicited several times to design for them and several other companies but their timelines are too short):

    Please search for 'MINIATURE ARTIST TEDDY BEARS' - all 4 words, that will take you to the sites of hundreds and hundreds of individual working artists from all over the world, displaying a wide range of the types of techniques incorporated from every other type of Sculpting, Needle Felting wool/fibers, theater-work, metal work, jewelry design and other craft, and the majority use Mohair fabric, Sheep's wool, Alpaca and man-made fibers (rayon, nylon..) as the fabric for their bears. A small percentage of us recycle animal coats (mink/fox/etc) into teddies but do not use new pelts.

    To see some cream-of-the-crop work, there is an international online competition in its final phase right now - inviting viewing and voting from the general public. This final vote is for Best of Show from among the top place winners in each category.
    To see some EXCELLENT, OOAK, ARTIST, TEDDY BEAR and other animal work, please visit
    http://www.bearsandbuds.com/URSA2009/URSAAwardsCompetitionFinalRoundofV
otingBearsandbuds.asp
    and cast a vote!
    Thank you Threads, for giving me the opportunity to explain the difference in miniature teddy bears; why the ones seen in the Hallmark shops and W.O.M. will cost under $20 and true Artist bears may cost $750+.
    But the Beanie Baby-type are good in that they foster a love for these tiny treasures and, as tastes mature, one may seek better quality and begin to look around for it, through internet searches, eBay sales, trade magazines and teddy bear shows. Then—real artist - collector connections are made and a new world opens up!

  14. rkr4cds1 | | #14

    Sorry, the URSA link won't wrap correctly and open.
    This 'TinyUrl!' is good for 30 days; the competition closes 10 September; there's more than enough to time to use it!!

    http://tinyurl.com/ktseyy

  15. lennie77 | | #15

    Here's a Panda Tote Pattern I designed. No, it's not minitature, but your darling bear reminded me of it. Lift the head and put your stuff in under the neck. The arms are the handles.

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