I have found that I am an expert at unpicking, fixing, so many years of bear making have found that their are no short cuts. Take your time, tack, and I hand stitch all my bears .
I make use of plastic template sheets to trace patterns onto. This way I can keep the pieces forever and if working with a tricky mohair can lay the template on the right side of the mohair and get an impression of what it will look like.
When working with mini bears, make sure that you use a good fray/stop check as nothing worse when stuffing a mini bear and the fabric frays out. Test on a small piece of fabric as some stabilizers when dry can be as hard as a rock , making especialy the nose area difficult to stitch.
Needle felting is a good "fixer" especially when the gusset/head seam line take their own direction.Felt a new face. Drop some paint or wax on the muzzle- save it by needle felting over it.Drop hot wax on the pawpad, needle felt pads.
Of course my pattern pieces are kept together either in a plastic box or ziplock bag, however the ears cannot be controlled, either they join the socks and wander off, or one of the dogs decide it is a good thing to chew on.
And lastly enjoy what you are doing and learn from your mistakes.
Becky wrote:Buy a box of disposable surgical masks at the pharmacy and wear them when you're trimming the fur from the seam allowances (maybe even when you're cutting out the pieces). Breathing in a lot of tiny fur fibers is hard on the old lungs.
Also wear the masks when stuffing too...
WOW, I don't lose parts either...I keep them in a zip lock bag and only take out what I am sewing on...the sewn parts go into a project box until ready to stuff them and assemble! I love the advice about making all the pieces into patterns...eg. two legs, two arms. I have more than once cut out two left legs!
Have any of you used "electric hair trimmers" to trim the mohair? I have a very small one that I just tried out and it worked so well...no more sore fingers from all the trimming!!!
My advice is dont' get discouraged. Many new bear makers see all the wonderful creations made by other bear artists and want theirs to look just as good...well when you are starting out that's just doesn't usually happen....it's a learning process, so don't expect those first few bears to come out looking like you've been doing this for years.
Also instead of fretting about the overall look of your first creations...pick one thing in particular that you'd like to improve and just work on getting that better....for example the nose or setting of the ears, etc.. Keep improving on just the one thing til you get it the way you want...then move to another area you'd like to improve, etc. You will see your improvements and be encouraged by the success which helps you to keep going :-) (Btw, this is a ever ending process)
And last, but not least...ask questions....Many wonderful bear artists will help you along the learning path if you just ask questions. As I was taught by my father at a very young age....a question not asked is a question never answered.
I echo what Mary said... never give up! It takes a lot of practice and trial and error to get the bear you want. We all started at the beginning. Each bear you sew can be like a stepping stone to where you eventually want to end up.
Also, for those who would enjoy creating realistic animals, I encourage them to try eyelids as one of the first steps... it's amazing what a difference something so simple will make to a realistic animal.
Another hint if using faux fur or synthetic furs..take the time to line each pattern piece with calico or muslin....the reward is a lovely bear that hasn't got that "puffy" look after stuffing as he or she has stretched some when stuffed.
Time spent on this practice will heap rewards on the overall look of your bear or critter..
I want to add: Always double check (on bought patterns) if the length of the gusset corresponds with the length of the side parts. I nearly ruined a head because the gusset was too short; glad I hat cut it longer and could repair it because I wouldn't have enough fabric to make another one.
Good one Katy
Once I bought a meagre quarter of hand dyed coral moral only to find I had two left arms!!! I ended making SMALL bear out of it in the end but I was really upset about it.
The bear maker Gertie Wiggins once told me she did this with a leg and ended up making a pirate bear with a peg leg!
I've done this but with the body. What I find now helps me keep track is I mark an "x" in my reverse pieces. That way I know I have one of each for head and body and two of each for the rest. Sometimes on mutiple piece arms or legs with different colour toes it helps you figure out what goes were. I attached the wrong piece to a leg the other night and had to pull it all out again. Ahhh!
Take a piece of cotton, and thread the pieces of the bear onto it in the order that you need the pieces. if you sew the legs last then the first piece to go on your thread is the footpad then two opposite leg pieces, then pawpad two opposing leg pieces etc. This way it is a good check that you have all your pieces, that they all match and there is less likelihood of losing bits.
This is all great advice :-)
My best advice would be to keep all of your patterns in a sketch book, it would be so awful if you couldn't recreate your favourite designs! I put my cut out pattern pieces in a little envelope and stick it to the same page as my drawing :-)