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danceswithteddybears Dances With Teddy Bears
Pacific Northwest
Posts: 697

Hi all!
I'm still pretty much a newbie at bearmaking and was wondering why stuffing tools are used.  This may be a strange (even dumb) question, sorry if it is.  I know there are large and small stuffing tools, I have some, but I've found using my fingers as stuffing tools works better.   My bears are usually 12 inches or under.   
What benefits are there for using bona-fide stuffing tools and do you all use them?  I seem to have more flexibility using my fingers than wooden stuffing tools.  I can stuff firmly this way. 
Again, sorry if this is a silly question, but I've really been wondering about it.
Thanks!
   Laura  bear_flower

SueAnn Past Time Bears
Flower Mound, Texas
Posts: 20,239

SueAnn Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

Just remember, Laura . . . there are NO silly questions on Teddy Talk.  Don't know if you recognize the name, Ted Menten, but he is a very well known bear artist who goes way back to the early days of bear artistry.  He's the only other person I know of that stuffs with just the fingers and his bears are rock hard.  So, if it works for you, don't rock the boat - you're in fine company.  I actually use a TORX screw driver to stuff, as it has always worked the best for me and saves my arthritic hands.  I use it to make bears from 6" all the way to 33".  But, there's no rule that says you have to use any kind of tool to stuff, so do what's right for you.

Linda Benson Bears
Tasmania
Posts: 562

I don't use what most people would regard a stuffing tool, it's a round file I "borrowed" from my husband's chainsaw bag about 20 years ago. It does me for turning through and for stuffing. It's very effective at getting the stuffing  just whereI want it. I use the same tool for all my bears, my minis and my big boys too. I travel around Australia alot, teaching, so like to keep my tool kit to a minimum,  if something can multi-function so much the better! Hugs

BootButtonBears BootButtonBears
Adelaide
Posts: 2,837
Website

Hi Laura, I think this is one of those questions that whatever works best for you, go with it.  I use stuffing sticks, and my favourite, a chop stick, as my fingers are just not strong enough to pack down as hard as I like.  It must be getting old!!  If you find your fingers work best, I think that is great.  If you find however they are getting a little sore after quite a bit of stuffing, a stuffing stick or any related tool can really help ease the pressure.

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

I use a mixture of two things..a chopstick..and the ULTIMATE STUFFING TOOL..which is great for getting into nooks and crannies. I find that I can't get into the tiny gaps in between the stuffing..and I tend to stuff the nose/ muzzle last...after generally filling it for shape and so I really need a stuffing implement for getting back at the nose.
My sister, however, is an absolute whiz at stuffing with her fingers..and even manages the limbs this way...no tools at all...

Shelli SHELLI MAKES
Chico, California
Posts: 9,939
Website

Shelli Retired Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

My fingers hurt if I don't use that same ULTIMATE STUFFING TOOL Jenny mentioned to help out, and I'm not even arthritic; I just pack that stuff in there hard and my fingers get tired and sore after a limb or two.  Plus I make larger bears so it's kinda hard to get all the way down to the end of the limbs.  If my bears were a bit smaller I might do it differently.  I think the tool helps in my case, but absolutely, if you don't need it, then don't use it.  Whatever works for you is what is best!

danceswithteddybears Dances With Teddy Bears
Pacific Northwest
Posts: 697

Thanks for all your input.  Sue Ann, I recently "discovered" Ted Menten's books and I love his bears, and his writing.  I have several of his books now,  with one on the way.  Good ol' eBay.  And Linda, that file you "borrowed" oh so long ago from hubby sounds great, you should patent it!
I found a large lot of chop sticks, new in package, at a garage sale this morning for 50 cents.  I'd been thinking about trying them for a while now.  My fingers do get tired and sore, but I can't seem to maneuver stuffers very well, so I'm eager to try chop sticks.  Maybe I'm doing it wrong.  I've never really seen how it's done, just photos in books.  The more bears I make the more I'll probably need a better set of stuffing tools than my poor fingers. 
Right now I'm struggling with embroidered noses.  I've tried every which way and most my noses turn out a scrunched up mess.  I know, practice, practice, practice.  I'm eager to learn and I rarely give up, so one of these days I'm bound to make a descent nose and then I'll say, "Oh, that's how you do it".
You all have helped me and so many others in so many ways.  You are appreciated beyond infinity!!!
  Hugs
    Laura   bear_flower

danceswithteddybears Dances With Teddy Bears
Pacific Northwest
Posts: 697

PS: Where can I buy the ULTIMATE STUFFING TOOL?  Is it still available somewhere?
Thanks!!!
    Laura   bear_flower

Linda Benson Bears
Tasmania
Posts: 562

I'm sure that after one of my workshops many men are missing their files from tool sheds or are sent out on a mission!! Ha ha.

Laurie Laurie Lou Bears
Norfolk
Posts: 3,245

I have always used my fingers for the larger parts but use my forceps for the smaller parts as I use these to hold the stuffing when I push it in.You have to be careful though with any pointed type tool though so you don't slip and put a hole in the mohair but after a while you will find you know how much pressure to use.
Laurie :hug:

EvaJ EJ's Crafts
Fort Mohave, Arizona
Posts: 829

I use dowels to stuff my bears.  I buy a bag of different sizes at my local craft store and then I sand on end so it is rounded and a little pointed and sand the rest of the dowel until it is smooth.  This way I have different sizes for the different sizes of bears.   This has worked for me for a lot of years but what ever works for you is best.

Eva bear_smile

MerBear MerBear Originals
Brockville, Ontario
Posts: 1,540

I use ultimate stuffing tool as well and absolutely love it.  I did a search here for you and this may help:
http://www.teddy-talk.com/viewtopic.php?id=688
otherwise try searching Donna Mettling and ultimate stuffing tool on goggle

Marion

Nancy D Dog Patch Critters
Titusville, FL
Posts: 512
Website

I used a hemostat for turning and stuffing for years. About 6 months ago my thumb started to go numb when using them or scissors. I purchased one of the small ultimate stuffing tools and it works great. I still use the hemostats for turning but try to keep from using my thumb.

Donna Donna's Duin Bruins
Burbank, CA
Posts: 900

Hi Laura,
I'm the one that sells the Ultimate Stuffing Tool.  They come in three sizes now.  There is a new size for smaller bears.  The head is not as large as on the original Ultimate Stuffer.  I used chopsticks and my thumbs for stuffing until I found the Ultimate stuffers.  I noticed a difference in my hands after starting to use the Ultimate Stuffer, no more pain!  I still use my thumbs occassionaly but not very often.  The ribbing on the end of the Ultimate stuffer grabs the fiberfil and moves it right where you want it.  Helps get rid of those air pockets.
You can email me or send me a PM if you want more info.
Donna

anuchka Angel Devil
New York, NY
Posts: 12
Website

I try to minimize my use of specialty tools because I'm rather minimalist (as you can be and still sew), but like a lot of the other folks here, my fingers are just not strong enough to stuff entirely by hand.  I use whatever is handy to jam the fiberfill into my creatures' little limbs, including paint brush handles and scissors which work great but you risk poking straight through the bear if you aren't careful... ha.

Eileen Baird'sBears
Toronto
Posts: 3,873

bear_original I use the eraser ends of (cheap) pencils, which I buy at the rate of a dozen for $1 at the dollar store.

The eraser ends really grip, twist and pack the stuffing, and the pencils are long & narrow enough to reach into small areas.

It does help to trim the eraser to about half height to prevent it breaking off.

Even so, my birthday's coming up, and I'd love to own a real ultimate stuffing stick!

MerBear MerBear Originals
Brockville, Ontario
Posts: 1,540

Donna .... I guess I didn't realize you were you!
I bought the ultimate stuffing tool a couple of years ago and just can't do without it. I don't make too many small bears any more, mainly 12" - 15".  this tool is certainly one though that I'd want to have on that desert island if I got stranded!

Marion

kellydean k e l l y d e a n & c o m p a n y
Narrowsburg, New York
Posts: 718
Website
walkswithbears wrote:

I recently "discovered" Ted Menten's books and I love his bears, and his writing.  I have several of his books now,  with one on the way. Hugs Laura   :rose:

I met Ted at the second show I did in the TB world.  he was the guest of honor at a first-time show being held in a *convention center in an industrial park in northern New Jersey.  there were only about 30 exhibitors and about 12 collectors, so we had a lot of time on our hands and spent most of the show visiting with other artists.  Ted shared a number of his teddy-bear-tricks with us that day, but the ones that really stuck with me were his stuffig tips.  he had a stuffing tool of his own design that looked rather like a large wood screwdriver (he gave me one!) but his special little tip was that he left a small hole open in each body part that he wanted to stuff firmly, and after he closed the piece, he used his stuffing tool to force more stuffing inside.  I really took this to heart, and started leaving small holes in the butt & shoulders & tops of the legs and using them to really cram more stuffing into my bears.  I stuffed rock-hard for years, going regularly through huge 40lb boxes of firm-pac from Spare Bear Parts and developing terminal carpal and rotator cuff injuries in the process.  then I met him again a few years ago and during the course of our conversation, thanked him for the tips he had given me as a newbie, but queried how one earth he had managed to stuff that hard for so many years and still be mobile, bemoaning my tortured arm.  he asked my process, and when I got to the part about forcing more and more polyfil into the torso through the butt-hole, he started laughing at me.  apparently, he pretty much stuffs with excelcior, which doesn't have near the compression factor of polyfil and no wonder it felt like I was stuffing a bottomless pit!

I also occasionally forgot to close said butt-holes, and people would pick up a bear at a show, slip a finger up his butt and say, "wow, this is really realistic! is he supposed to have a hole there?"

anyway, I stuff rather softly these days and use armeture a lot to hold things in shape.  I have an assortment of different-sized wooden stuffing sticks with egg-shaped handles that I get from Teddies of Mt Holly (these are great on the wrist) but what I use the most are my tweezers.  I have an entire set of medical tweezers that I bought from an industrail supply company.  they range from 4" to 12" and there is one that's just the right size for any job.  most have blunt tips and don't puncture the fabric easily, but espcially usefull is a pair of 6" tweezers with a 3/4" bend at the tip.  they are sharp as a needle and useful for poking tiny bits of stuffing behind the nose & for trapunto work or stuffing pawpads.  I also use a mini blunt needle-nosed pliers a lot, and I couldn't live without my 6" vise-grip pliers

I use mostly pellets, glass & excelcior these day, and find it is easy to stuff larger bears with my fingers using excelcior.  I love using this stuff and can't believe I used polyfil for so many years.  I used to buy it by the truckload, and now I buy a little bag at walmart once in a while.


*(the space was so huge most of us actually drove our cars to our tables to unload and set up and we took one of the empty booth spaces and made a small 'artists lounge' in the middle of the showroom.  there were rolling cloth screens across half the hall, and on the other side of the screen they were holding a kids karate tournement.  talk about a disasterous show!!!  hiyyyyaaaaa karate!!!!  ooouffff!!!!!! echoing through the showroom all day)

Laura Lynn Teddies by Laura Lynn
Lexington, KY
Posts: 3,647
Website

Laura Lynn Banner Sponsor

I also use Donna's ultimate stuffing tool.  I had the hardest problem stuffing noses evenly until I started using this!  I would wack anyoe on the head who tries to sneak off with mine  bear_whistle    :crackup:

Kelly that story is too funny....   :crackup:

am_bears AM BEARS
Derbyshire
Posts: 84

Hi

I use wooden spoons for my larger bears, Chopsticks for my medium bears and for my mini bears a pair of long tweezers and these are brilliant because you can take out as well as put in...  Unfortunately though I am rather ham fisted and have wrecked a lot of bears by stuffing them too vigorously...I tend to rip the fabric if I don't go really carefully.... :redface:   

Andrea

Linda Benson Bears
Tasmania
Posts: 562

Oh boy Kelly, I remember feeling one of Ted's bears years ago, I couldn't believe how hard he got it! I was almost convinced there was a concrete form under the fur!! Personally I prefer my bears to have a little bit of huggability, so I don't stuff rock hard. a matter of taste, really. Sounds like you could have had a bowling competition at that show, with the lanes down the middle of the hall! (I've been to a few  shows where we could have fired a gun down the middle of the hall!):)

danceswithteddybears Dances With Teddy Bears
Pacific Northwest
Posts: 697

That story was hilarious, Kelly.  I could picture all events described.  Thanks for a really good laugh!!!
You all have really creative stuffing tools. I especially like the pencil eraser, Eileen.  Great idea, think I'll try it.
I got in contact with Donna and her Ultimate Stuffer looks like one terrific invention.  Definitely gonna get one, or two, since they come in different sizes.
Thanks all!!!
   Laura   bear_flower

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568

I use a "stuffing fork"..... my favorite one was a gift from my parents while they'd been traveling in Arizona and found a bear supply shop... that was years ago... the shop is gone and if I EVER loose this thing I will have to quit making bears!!! Seriously!

I've found a pretty good substitute though..... Stuffing Forks by Barbara Willis http://www.barbarawillisdesigns.com/supplies.html
stuffing_forks.jpg

Basically it's a heavy duty (German most likely) doll needle with the eye snipped off part way down to create a two-tined fork. It grabs stuffing and puts it right where you want it. The one shown has been pressed into a plastic handle. You can make these yourself with duct tape around the bottom of the needle (snip the point off first) to form a handle or perhaps you could make one out of fimo clay and bake it on. By the time you've done all that it's easier to just buy one!

If I ever do loose my favorite suffing tool I'll try Donna's..... everyone loves it!!

And a note on using your hands to stuff....... it's a great way to develop tendon problems in your fingers! Trust me... I have the scars from surgery to prove it! I stuff rock solid (though I've been trying not to lately) and that's really hard on the ol' fingers. I developed "trigger finger"s ... and I was in my mid-30s when I had surgery.... had nothing to do with aging..... I don't think!) Please take care of your hands!!!!
:hug:

Plum Cottage Bears Plum Cottage Bears
Long Beach, CA
Posts: 2,151

Plum Cottage Bears Cute Animal Ambassador

Everybody has his/her own favorite stuffing tool, I suppose!  I still use my wood-handled dowel stuffers from Edinburgh, in several sizes.  However, for packing in the stuffing, I also use a Stanley screwdriver with a four-inch grip and a six-inch "blade."  Ironically, the Stanley screwdriver is shaped like the wedge-ended dowel stuffers.  Since I do not make minis, but have always made larger bears, it serves except for the occasional handsewn little bear.   bear_original

Jellybelly Bears Jellybelly Bears
Australia
Posts: 4,066
Nancy D wrote:

I used a hemostat for turning and stuffing for years. About 6 months ago my thumb started to go numb when using them or scissors. I purchased one of the small ultimate stuffing tools and it works great. I still use the hemostats for turning but try to keep from using my thumb.

Nancy, I'm experiencing this now, numbness on my little and ring finger and down my hand, and its where I put pressure when using my jewelery pliers, much like hemostats.....so, I am off to buy a ultimate stuffing tool!  I wasn't convinced this was my problem until hearing your story, thanks for sharing  :hug:  and its so good to hear it comes in a small size  bear_thumb

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