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yosemitebearworks Oakhurst, CA
Posts: 64
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Hi everyone,

Although I loooooove real fur bears (one of my most prized possessions is a panda by Lori Leeper), I have never made one myself.  I just was given a beautiful mink stole that is too nice to use just for jacket trims, etc. -- so I'm tempted to try making a bear (or two) from it.  Before I started, I thought I'd better ask for some of your good advice. I have heard that one of the main things that is different in using real fur vs. mohair is that fur must be lined -- do you use muslin or something thinner?  What other pitfalls do I need to be aware of?  What about stitch length?  Do you trim the seam allowances ?  My biggest worry is trimming the muzzle -- any tricks there?  I worry I won't get a 'smooth' trim.  Winney, or anyone else with advice would be most appreciated.

Thanks,
Donna

Gail Bear With Me Enterprises
Posts: 1,319
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Hi Donna
I would highly recommend that you purchase Nancy Tillberg's book" Teddy Bears With A Past" It will tell you everything you need to know about working with real fur. As the book will soon be out of print I would suggest you try to get it sooner rather than later. You could contact Nancy directly from her website www.kranbearys.com
Yes you do need to line every piece and I use muslin for this, you also need a leather needle in your machine. After making fur bears for several years I am just now trimming the muzzle- prior to this I would just trim around the eyes or in the case of long fur use an ultrasuede inset muzzle.
Hope this helps
Hugs
Gail

Shelli SHELLI MAKES
Chico, California
Posts: 9,939
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Shelli Retired Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

Donna, I've never made a real fur bear but I've read many discussions on the subject. One thing to be aware of is that it's often very fragile, and inconsistent in spots, so it can sometimes tear easily.  I've heard people speak about conditioning it with various oils, glycerine, mixtures, etc. -- you really have to find someone more knowledgeable to advise on specifics, like Nancy, whose book comes highly recommended by many -- to keep it supple and prepare it for the hard working over it will take while stuffing and finishing.

It's also apparently very hard to get a smooth trim on the muzzle, although again, I have no personal experience with this myself.

I met Lori at the Nevada City show and she is an absolute delight, as I'm sure you already know.  Why not use her as a resource and write her directly, not for any of her "trade secret" stuff, but for some tips & pointers on trimming real fur down smoothly?  I feel certain, given her warm and sharing personality, that she's offer you lots of information quite happily.  And this is one area that seems more open than others to general inquiry; it's probably just a matter of which tool to use, etc.

Hope this has been marginally helpful.:/:P:/

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

Donna,
I have been making real fur bears since I first started making bears in 1999.  Mink is one of the hardest furs to get a smooth muzzle.  The best advice I could give there is to use an electric razor on the top of the muzzle.  For sculpting the cheeks I use mustach scissors as they have a serated blade and grab the fur as you cut.  You will find that if you use regular scissors, the fur can slip and you'll get an uneven look.  If you use a machine stich that is very small it may cut right through the the leather backing , so I make my stitches a bit larger.

I line my bears with a good sturdy muslin.  Some peolpe sew on a machine with real fur...and sometimes I will too, but only the larger peices.  I always sew the heads by hand.  It is really important to pick the fur out of the seams, especailly with mink, or it shows through on the right side.

Like Gail said too, Nancy Tillbergs book is really a great source of information too.

Good luck!

GRIZ_resz.jpg
Just wanted to show you one of my real fur bears made from mink.

SueAnn Past Time Bears
Flower Mound, Texas
Posts: 20,576

SueAnn Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

WOW, Judi . . . what an extraordinary piece!  Wonderful!  bear_laugh

Dilu Posts: 8,574

Donna, I know how you feel

But if I could have an unqualified success, only one year in to bearing,I just know you can do something absolutely fabulous

I would def. line it with muslin.  I lightly glued my muslin pieces to the pelt pieces.  I kept the seams glue free because I wanted to pull the muslin just a titch-maybe 1/32 tighter than the real fur.  I wanted the stuffing process to push against the muslin and not the pelts themselves, yet not be too loose so that the pelt hung too loosely or looked like the bear had been on a starvation diet.  It worked. 

Also I took everything off the fur, the lining, the interlining, and the blacklining ( when I could get it off.) I did this so that I could examine the pelt seams and test each one for strength.  This way I could lay out the patterns on the areas I had confidence in. 

I know Winney tends to hand sew, but I machined all the pieces except the actual muzzel.  I used a leather needle and 2.5 cm stitch width. The pelt had a soft supple feal to the leather.  When the pelt is stiffer, like the sable ones I am working on I use a 3cm stitch.

To sew the ears on I used a modified ladder stitch and went across and then back so the the rungs of the ladder stitch alternated into the empty space from the first trip across.  Did that make any sense at all?

Also I used the really big paper clips to hold the pieces together while sewing, slipping it off when you get to it.  The paperclips  were great!  The big paperclips helped hold the real fur hairs in so that there wasn't a probelm with stiching the fur into the seam. 

Because the first bear was mink I used one of the quilting blue water erasable pins to out line the pattern pieces.  ( you know the one I mean) I used the white pencils on the sable but this was still hard to see.

Because of my lack of experience I sort of cheated.  I designed a face muzzle that I could make out of matching suede.  It was considerably less harrowing than trying to do a mink muzzle, I didn't / don't have any idea what I am doing there.  Will practice.
The sable bears will have a sable muzzles.  But I will practice on the scraps.  YIKES!  The shaving will still be a scary experience.

I know you can do it.

Show a picture when you finish

Judi your bear is fantastic.  Wow!  Took my breath away!
And I am ordering that book today...bet it could have helped on my first one.

Dilu

Winney Winneybears and Friends
White City, Oregon
Posts: 1,103

Me too, I mean.... get a hold of Nancy's book for ALL the right stuff on real fur bears. Fabulous bear Judi!

First thing you do is carefully remove the lining and be observant for any weak or damaged spots .
I look over the fur really well FRONT and BACK...then on the skin side I mark in red any areas to avoid using.
I mark the DIRECTION of the fur nap in black with arrows. to guide me when placing parts later

I use muslin to line every part , cut the muslin parts out then stick them onto the skin with a roll up office glue stick.

I overcast all my parts together before any machine or hand stitching.

If you use a 1/4' seam then you could trim the seams .... I only trim seams IF it needs it on some parts.

I use a regular machine needle on OLD furs as it makes smaller holes than leather needles .The stitch is a little longer than the  usual 12 per. inch for stitching ...maybe a 10 per. inch. Test your machine  on a sample piece of fur.

I use strong thread...like Guttermans or Metresone for maching stitching and hand sewing.

Make your openings for turning parts bigger than usual for a bear.

Trimming the muzzle ....I do little as possible with some furs.....You want to be sure all the head pieces do not have any " empty" spots where the fur is missing or leather strips may have been sewen to hold the pelts together.
Of course you would have pre-selected the best fur for the head , ears, at the start .

I use 4" German brand scissors to trim but there may be a better way as suggested, give it a try on a piece of scrap fur.

You will want to trim at least minimally , under the eyes cutting across the fur but going in the SAME  direction as the fur " grows " . Then after you emb.the mouth you can trim that also going in the SAME direction as the fur " grows".
Trimming mink so it is nice and dosn't look choppy is mainly dependant on keeping the scissors level and always cutting " with" the nap .

If you get Nancy's book she will have so much more in photos to guide you ...... Winney

Winney Winneybears and Friends
White City, Oregon
Posts: 1,103

Hi Dilu.. I don't have any problem sewing the edges  with the office glue..it is so light . I use to use white glue and water which was a  real stiff problem .

I only hand sew the head, soles and paws on real fur...using a back stitch.

I do not emb. the nose except sometimes on tiny bears. I do my trademark custom leather nose.

I don't turn a seam allowance under at the ear bottoms, overcast then hand stitch to the bears target ear spot.

I stuff the head firm but not hard..the rest is understuffed on purpose to keep stress off the pelts.

                                                                                         ..............Winney

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

Thanks for the nice comments gals!

Dilu, You might want to try alligator clips instead of paper clips.  They hold the pieces together easily, accurately ,and won't slip at all.  As you sew on the machine you just slip them off.   And, they're super easy to put on and take off.  I love them!

Eileen Baird'sBears
Toronto
Posts: 3,873

Beautiful Bear, Judi. I weep with envy . . .

When you speak of picking the fur out of the seams, do you mean a)from the front, after the seam is sewn, b) from the back, before the seam is sewn, c) from the back, after the seam is sewn? What about trimming the fur off the seam allowance before sewing?

Help

Eileen

Listing Service Listing Service
My Mother
Posts: 85
Shop

After sewing, pick the seam before turning the piece.  Then pick the seam again after turning.  This way you don't have to worry about sewing perfectly along a trimmed seam.

Check the seam after picking.  With a dense fabric, you may need to resew the seam to tighten it up.

The end result should be nearly invisible seams and no more dark lines in the seams of tipped fur bears.

Dale

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

Eileen,  Thanks for the comment about Griz (mink bear above).

What works best for me, is, I tuck the fur into the seam before I sew it.  After the seam is sewn pick all the fur out from the wrong side...when you turn the piece to the right side, pick the fur out of the seams here too.  I use a thick needle to pick out the fur.  It can be a pain sometimes, but worth the effort for a nice finished piece.

Hope this helps.

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

Dale, we must be typing at the same time!:lol::D

Eileen Baird'sBears
Toronto
Posts: 3,873

Thank You Judi and Dale!! :D

What an incredible treat for a beginner, getting instant expert advice!!

Eileen

Listing Service Listing Service
My Mother
Posts: 85
Shop

Judi,

Not only were we typing at the same time, we must have been looking oner each other's shoulders.

Eileen,

Expert...eh?  If you mean "used to be pert" I probably qualify for that.

The first bear clubs were started as places to share ideas, collections, knowledge, sources, etc.  I still subscribe to the notion that if any of us want to succeed, all of us have to succeed.

Dale

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

Shelli Retired Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

Dale wrote:

Expert...eh?  If you mean "used to be pert" I probably qualify for that.

The first bear clubs were started as places to share ideas, collections, knowledge, sources, etc.  I still subscribe to the notion that if any of us want to succeed, all of us have to succeed.

HAHA! to your first statement, Dale... and HEAR HEAR! to your second.  I share your sentiment exactly.

Dilu Posts: 8,574

Great Ideas one and all  thank you thank you thank you....

Dilu

Dilu Posts: 8,574

Judi,

Just pulled your bear up so my own honey could look at it.  Believe me; everything about this guy is understated, so when he said

"Hmmm That's very nice"  he was really saying, 'WOW!  You need to learn that, WOW she's a real artist.'

Well he's right

OK so maybe I was a little manipulative, I want to get a SHAVER
so I showed him hou you are able to artistically sculpt with it.

just laying the ground work...

Dilu

yosemitebearworks Oakhurst, CA
Posts: 64
Website

Wow!!   I'm away for the day and come back to a mountain of great info.  I'm going to have to go over all the great responses again 'cuz I have just returned home from a Mother's Day visit with my hubbys family -- but just wanted to say thanks!  First on my agenda is to order Nancy's book.  And then go back and drool over Judi's gorgeous bear for inspiration.  He is something else!!  More later, but just know I appreciate the time you've spent to help.:D bear_laugh bear_laugh

Hugs, Donna

Laura Lynn Teddies by Laura Lynn
Lexington, KY
Posts: 3,649
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Wow!  I was just thinking yesterday that I really need to try a mink bear from a stole I have... Then I come here and see all this great info!!!

Speaking of Nancy's book(s)... I got them both from our library first (I tend to do that...to "preview" a book b4 buying) but then later that same night went and ordered both of them... they are terrific!

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

Dale,
Love the patriotic flag but I think we would all really enjoy seeing  one of your bears or a picture of you. bear_originalbear_happy  Maybe you could add one to one of your posts.

How about we start a teddy bear club.  I nominate Dale for President.  Any seconds?

Dilu,
that's funny what you said about your hubby.  Mine too has little to say about them except.  Yaeh, that looks great.  He says that to all of them.  When I ask for more specific responses...he turns it around and pulls out a Holstien Dairy amgazine and asks my opinion of a certain cow.  He is really funny.  Actually he is very supportive of my bears and even brings people who visit our farm up to the house to see them.

Laura,
my Sugar Babe gal, give the real fur a try.  It is a different experience.:)

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

Hello ! SInce we are on the subject of real fur bears.........

I don't want to turn this in to "Judi's Gallery" but I thought it would be really neat to show all of you three other real fur bears I have made from the exact same design as the mink bear pictured in an earlier post.

I think it is really fun to try different furs with identical patterns and see how different the outcome is.

I started making bears using real fur.  I only tried mohair a couple of years later and a friend of mine said it very well...regarding going from real fur to mohair...". ...is like a hot knife in butter."

Anyway, here they are.  First one is , I believe American SableSHERWOOD_RESZ.jpg

second bear is made from real alpaca fur,again, the same design.POLAR_GRIZ_RESZ.jpg

Third bear is red fox fur.REDFOX_GRIZ_RESZ.jpg

Laure Fool's Gold Bears
San Luis Obispo, CA
Posts: 351

Judi,
I'm not planning any real fur bears in the near future, but I can't just ignore these beauties.  You have an amazing gift for presenting the epitome of baby-like appeal.  I bet your bears sell FAST.:D

Hugs,

SueAnn Past Time Bears
Flower Mound, Texas
Posts: 20,576

SueAnn Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

They are GORGEOUS, Judi!

yosemitebearworks Oakhurst, CA
Posts: 64
Website

Judi,

I can't think of anything more fun than to have a "Judi's Gallery"!!  These beauties are great!!!  Thanks for sharing them with us.  Could you tell us how big the bears are?  The mink stole I have is the same color as the first bear you posted, made from the caramel-colored mink.  If I know about how big your bear is - I can get an idea what size pattern to use for mine.

Donna

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