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

I am just thinking about how long things take me. I make about 2 to 3 bears a week and I tend to work a pretty solid 12 hour day, every day pretty much with one day a week off unless I have a fair then it goes into overdrive.
But I think it's hard to actually say how long I spend on the actual bear.
During my day I might be sending emails, ordering stock, parcelling up bears..all in a days work but not actually bear making.

So I thought I'd  try to work out how long a bear actually takes because that is integral to the price I end up charging.

I reckon a small bear might take me a whole day to draw up, cut out , sew the head , stuff the head and then do the basic nose eyes etc on the head, then the next day I will sew the limbs and body, stuff them, sculpt the paws and feet , sew up the openings and finish the face then  assemble the bear. If I am dressing the bear I will do that the next day. So roughly it will take me 24-30 hours to do a small bear. Add a day and a half  for a big bear as everything takes longer. So I am talking 30 - 40 hours for a bigger bear. That's a weeks work for most people.
Ridiculously a smaller...say 8 inch bear ...can take as long as a big bear...like 30 hours. Probably because it's fiddly and I can't use my trusted methods on a tiny bear. I can't charge what I need on those bears so you don't see me making many.


So how long does a bear take you...in actual sewing hands on hours added together?

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

Plum Cottage Bears Cute Animal Ambassador

Good question, Jenny.  I usually have three bears in work at a time, but I can estimate the time for one bear.  Tracing, cutting, sewing come first, of course.  The head takes the longest time to complete of any of the body parts.  And then there is the nose, which takes work!  I make bears of about 12 inches to about 17 inches, but sometimes I make smaller bears, which are hand sewn.  Overall, I think one bear could take at least two days to finish, sometimes 2 1/2.  I don't costume my bears, because I think that detracts from the mohair, but I can see where costuming a bear could take an extra day.

dangerbears Dangerbears
Wisconsin
Posts: 5,986
Website

Your estimates sound quite accurate to me, Jenny. I've never kept track of the hours, but I think I could make one in two days if I did almost nothing else, so 25-30 hours for a 12 to 14-inch bear? (I don't sew clothes for my bears, but if I knit an accessory, that's another few hours of work.)

Wow! bear_wacko

Becky

binglebears bingle bears
Upstate, NY
Posts: 1,559
Website

Your estimates of 24-40 hours sounds about the speed I work, as well.  Hence, with homeschooling the girls and sometimes lower energy levels due to health issues, I'm really clicking along if I can make one bear in a week.  I'm really glad that you brought this up, because I've been thinking lately that I must be a really slow bear-maker because I just can't make that many bears in a week as I see you and some others do--I just couldn't see in what areas of bear-making I could improve my speed.  Now I understand that you just put in some massive hours in a day---you're my hero!  bear_wub  Well, as my health continues to improve, perhaps I'll be able to make more like 2 bears in a week or at least 3 bears in 2 weeks.  Hey, we gotta have our goals!

desertmountainbear desertmountainbear
Bloomsburg, PA
Posts: 5,399
Website

I am very slow too.  I do not work full time at bear making.  I tried that after I quit my job and found that I did not like it.  I quickly became burned out, so now I work part time for my husband.  I am good for about 3 good solid hours of work on the bears 6 or 7 days a week.  At that rate I can finish a bear in about 2 weeks.  So somewhere about 40 hours a bear.

I am pretty fast at cutting, trimming, sewing, and jointing.  It is the paws and the face that take a very long time.

I really like the process of bear making, so it is ok with me if I do not rush it.

thumperantiques Newcastle, Ontario
Posts: 5,638

Jenny, I like making smaller bears because they don't take me as long.  Dyeing, tracing, cutting and sewing a 4 inch bear takes me about 5-6 hours.  Stuffing head, adding ears and jointing complete bear another 2.  I try to do that much in one day. I usually work in the afternoons and then after hubby goes to bed, so we have the early evenings together.   I stuff the rest of the bear and finish the head and try to shade and distress on day two, along with cutting out any outfit I might be making - about 6-7 hours.  Day three, I finish up the outfit, and the time it takes depends on what it is but approximately 3-4 hours.  So I guess it's about 20 hours for a small, 4 inch bear.  I've never really sat and figured it out before, so thanks for the inspiration. 

With the 6-8 inch bears, it takes me a lot longer to sew and MUCH longer to stuff, so I'd add another 10 hours, for a total of about 30 hours. I can make two small bears a week, fairly easily but have to push to make 2 bigger bears.  The summer is hard to get the hours in as well, but in the winter it's quite easy and pleasant to put it these hours and sometimes more.

tcfolk TC Folk Originals
Tempe, AZ
Posts: 1,553

Oh how I hate to admit this, but I made myself time sheets and I have them on a clipboard on my sewing table, right under the clock on the wall!  Every time I go in to work on the bear, I write down the time I start and the time I finish the session (no cheating!), the minutes spent and finally what I've done.  I spend an average of 20 hours on the bear, but because I have so many accessories, I seem to spend almost as much time on them.  I do not do this full time.  I burn out!  It generally will take me 2 weeks to put in my 40 hours, but if I run into problems, it can take as long as a month!  I do not charge for my problems (it's generally stupidity on my part), but then I am not making a living at this!  Please don't condemn me for having time sheets bear_wacko , I have many of these things to keep track of what I do, too much time in supervision and management in the working world   bear_sad

rowarrior The Littlest Thistle
Glasgow
Posts: 6,212

I timed myself once on a basic 12" bear and it came out about 20 hours, however if I'm making the bears with the 2 tone fur and plucking the muzzle, you can be talking 2-3 hours for that alone!  I guess 20 hours is a good base, with several hours of finishing after that.  I work full time though, so it's hard to monitor if how I've developed as an artist has made me quicker in any way, since I make them an hour or two at a time.

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

I think what happens is your confidence grows so you do get quicker while at the same time you start to be braver and start to experiment and then that adds time on as you do new things.
I have started adding needlefelting detail and if anyone can tell me a way to get it firm quicker I need to hear about it because I think that is adding hours and hours on..but I love it so much I will continue as even though others are doing it I do think you can make it unique to your own designs without treading on other artists toes.

So I think most basic things do end up taking less time ..for which I am grateful as that means I can spend longer doing the things I love doing...the fine detailing of the face and the creating of the character.

Lhearn Critters Creations
Alberta
Posts: 1,303
Website

Jenny so you use one needle at a time needle felting? I found this needle felting holder that holds 3 needles and it seems to felt fast then one. There are other holders that hold more needles. Then in smaller places I just use one needle. It seems to work for me.

desertmountainbear desertmountainbear
Bloomsburg, PA
Posts: 5,399
Website

I only use one, but I have found that wools felt better with certain needles.  Example I use Navajo-Churro,  I can felt all day with a star needle and it will not get hard, but for some reason when I use a #40 fine it felts hard within minutes.  So I felt from beginning to end with a fine needle.

Lhearn Critters Creations
Alberta
Posts: 1,303
Website

I will keep that in mind Joanne. Thanks.

thumperantiques Newcastle, Ontario
Posts: 5,638

Joanne, I am just starting to play with needle felting - I'll have to look and see what make my needles are.  Thanks for that tip.

     hugs,

     Brenda

Gabriele~GJOYfulBears GJOYful Bears
Posts: 511

It takes me, at the least, 1 week to make a small (6" inch) bear, 2 or 3 weeks to make a bear between 8-10" and sometimes months for the larger bears, working on them every day. That is probably because I only hand-sew though, I never use a machine so everything takes much longer. I don't charge for all the time it takes me to make a bear, even though this is now my full time job. I can't charge for the time because i spend so long on my bears.

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

Wow...that is a long time. I sew all my 8 - 10 inch bears by hand and I still do it in 3 days. I started a little grey rabbit yesterday. I worked from about 7 am till 8 last night and I will do the same today..ish so I guess that's 23-24 hours ..with a couple of hours out yesterday tiophotograph the little brown one I'd  finished ...
Tomorrow I am continuing to work on a big cream bear..I am having half a day off on Friday and Saturday ..so I reckon the big bear will be done on Sunday. 
I sound organised but I am not. I started the cream bear at the weekend but was looking through my stash and found the litte bit of greenish brown fabric ..and a bunny popped into my head who urgently needed to be created,
So I sat outside with my sketchbook and a pencil..drew a bunny ...made a pattern and voila ...new bunny. Now I need to tweak the body shape so I have done another in a different fabric. So the cream bear is waiting till the bunny fever lifts.
I guess I am quite a prolific bear maker...but I do have to make ..and sell them ...since I gave up the salon.

The felting needle I use is a # 38 ..I have 40* so maybe I will try some #40's. I can't use the bigger needles.. Like # 32 etc, I find I can't make much of an impression on the felting.I do tend I be working on small pieces though..maybe bigger needles are for big pieces?

desertmountainbear desertmountainbear
Bloomsburg, PA
Posts: 5,399
Website
jenny wrote:

The felting needle I use is a # 38 ..I have 40* so maybe I will try some #40's. I can't use the bigger needles.. Like # 32 etc, I find I can't make much of an impression on the felting.I do tend I be working on small pieces though..maybe bigger needles are for big pieces?

I think that the larger needles are for larger pieces yes, but they are also good to start the felting process with and then you go to the smaller needles to finish the piece and get rid of all those holes.  I

Right now I am using a #36 that is the largest I have, to root fur.  I have never used this size to do this before, I always use a #40, but for some reason the #40 will not grab this fur.  The mohair strands are very thin and fine, and I have to use the larger needle to grab.  So I do think you should have at least a couple of sizes to experiment with, and see what works best with what you are using at the time.

I keep around a 36-38-40, and oh yes, and an inverse needle.  That I use to pull the wool out from the inside.

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

I have a reverse needle...it was through using that I realised why you need to stuff with wool!!!
Doesn't look nice with bits of poly fibre filling poking through!!!! bear_wacko
Thanks Joanne !!

BFB-Lyn Brimbin Forest Bears
NSW, Australia
Posts: 2,030
Website

bear_rolleyes I am a slow worker and every thing is done by hand and I don't do bear making full time. Haven't even worked out how long I take over a bear but at a rough guess I reckon I'm looking at about 1 week if not a little longer bear_original I found that if I speed up a bit that is when mistakes creep in and bear bits are in danger of hitting the garbage bin  bear_grin

Conni Germany
Posts: 1,794

I work on my small, needle felted bears more than 10-15 hours.
I felt very solidly with a very fine needle. I love merino wool. She is very fine, but I love the result.

rkr4cds Creative Design Studio (RKR4CDS)
suburban Chicago
Posts: 2,044

Please don't condemn me for having time sheets, I have many of these things to keep track of what I do, too much time in supervision and management in the working world

   Thelma, I think that's Brilliant! You're waaaay more organized than I am, who would have trouble finding the pencil and the clock on most days...
As to the sizes of the felting needles, the barbs on each size are relative to the size of the needle.
A 36 (32 s not generally available, though some outlets have them; they're used for only the coarsest, thickest. largest fibers) will have a deeper indent in the barb than a 40 will. With this deeper indent, it will be able to 'catch' more fibers to carry inward.

Each breed is also rated in a Micron system, according to its gauge or thickness. Merino is at the very fine end, along with Cashmere and Cormo: baby's garments and designer clothing.  Navajo/Churro is at the coarse end, along with Icelandic, Lincoln and a few other breeds that are not the type typically used for next-to-the-skin-clothing: think rugs.

Especially in the beginning stages, if you used a fine needle e.g., 40 or 42, with its smaller barbs, it normally doesn't pick up the Lincoln fibers as easily as a 36 needle will, each fiber is just too thick to be able to catch very many in the barbs and the needle will just slide past the fibers instead of picking them up.
And a 36 will possibly grab way too many fibers of the fine fiber breeds and not especially bond them together evenly inside at the stopping point of your thrust/plunge as starting with a smaller needle, (38 or 40) creating lumpy bits in very small pieces.
I'm using modifier adverbs here because there are always different variables and conditions that present rule-breakers.
Joanne: I've always wondered at your ability of being able to use a 40 with your fiber. That's great, because I would have thought it almost impossible to grab those big N/C fibers in those small 40 needle barbs.

You may also have come across a small flock owner who breeds exceptionally fine animals and produces exceptional fleeces!! I did read your blog post on cleaning your own raw fleeces but I couldn't quite get a close enough view of the locks w/o handling them to be able to tell... They must be great in order to work them straight away with a 40 though!

From this aspect you can see how it is not the size of your project that determines the size of the needles you use but the breed of your fiber. It's better to first consider what your project will be and then decide what fiber best matches that project: for hand (drape), sturdiness of structure, overall size needed to support its own weight, clothing - next-to-the-skin 'prickle factor', etc...choose a breed of fiber with inherent qualities that will best match what you are developing in your project.  Finally, choose which needles best work that fiber, based on the micron size of the fiber breed.
Thicker fiber use the larger needles to get them started  and finishing with the smaller sizes as the fibers come closer together. Finer fiber breeds begin with the medium-to-finer needles throughout.

This was an off-ramp on Time to make a Complete Bear, but good for those who incorporate NFing.

desertmountainbear desertmountainbear
Bloomsburg, PA
Posts: 5,399
Website

Bobbie,  there is a lady I order from on ebay, her fleeces have a lot of the undercoat and very little of the long coarse hair.  I thought that all Navajo-churro was like this.  She was unavailable to me last year, so I ordered a fleece from another source.  The wool was so clean, beautiful, and long, and expensive.   It had so much hair that I had to separate the coats by pulling out the hair.  I use the hair now for stuffing. 

I ended up ordering  another fleece from my original seller when she came back from her trip.  I know now for sure that all fleeces are not created equal.

That is probably why I am getting away with using a fine needle, because I am felting the undercoat of the fleece.

rkr4cds Creative Design Studio (RKR4CDS)
suburban Chicago
Posts: 2,044

Ah, I should have known! Generally what's commercially available when Navajo/Churro is sold is the longer, outer coat.
And as you can see - it's only suitable for RUGS! - the ones the Navajo nation is famous for.

ScaliWagGrrs ScaliWagGrrs
Denver, Colorado
Posts: 1,157
Website

I have recorded my time on sheets before as well. Though I am not usually totally accurate as I always forget to write some of the time down or I get up to go let the dogs out and up going with them and playing for awhile. But 20-30 hours seems to be the average for a 12" bear/animal. I did do a smaller one at just around 9 hours once though. He didn't have a lot of detailing so that made a big difference.
Beth

desertmountainbear desertmountainbear
Bloomsburg, PA
Posts: 5,399
Website
rkr4cds wrote:

Ah, I should have known! Generally what's commercially available when Navajo/Churro is sold is the longer, outer coat.
And as you can see - it's only suitable for RUGS! - the ones the Navajo nation is famous for.

I have been to the Native American museum out here in Phoenix, and could actually feel the blankets and rugs made by the Navajos and some made in Mexico. There is such a difference in the feel compared to the two.  The wool from the Navajo-Churro makes rugs and blankets very soft and supple feeling. The ones made by the Native tribes in Mexico are coarser, stiffer, not as soft.  I wonder if it is the long stringy coat that helps it have that drape.  All I know is that the command very high prices, I can see and feel why.

rkr4cds Creative Design Studio (RKR4CDS)
suburban Chicago
Posts: 2,044

I have a smallish (20" x24" ?)very-finely textured Yei rug that hangs on the wall here in the studio computer room. I haven't 'felt' it for while so I just got up to do so.
It too is stiff-but-soft. I can't describe it better than that! It's thinnish, never really meant to have been walked on, and both warp & weft loom threads are so firmly packed that it's difficult to actually see where the difference in them is. I would say that this too must come from an undercoat brushing of fibers rather than indiscriminate blending of the two. And yet I know that I have others downstairs in the typical black, gray & white in a larger gray that are more loosely woven with coarser threads. It's fun to look for the Lazy Lines, picturing the weaver who thought they'd do just a little bit more before moving or changing the fiber on the shuttle!
I would think that, as in knitting, the thickness of the yarn used (weft) and the size of the needle (i.e., distance between the warp wrappings) would determine the hand of the resulting cloth, hanging or rug Just a guess though, from uneducated logic...
Native American museum out here in Phoenix - LV that museum!!!

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