When working with real furs (recycled coats) these tips can help you create a well-constructed and high-quality finished bear.
1 Find quality pelts to work with. While inspecting the garment, you will also need to see the leather. This is really only possible with garments that have a French hem that can be lifted away. If you can’t see the pelts try to feel if they are soft and pliable. You do not want to be working with damaged pelts that are dry and brittle that will tear like paper when turning. Another point to note here is some garments while they may not look like it, have thin leather strips between thicker sections of fur. This creates a beautiful coat, but you will be limiting the size pattern you can place as you will need to avoid the leather pieces.
2 When working with mink the leather pelts are light and easy to sew, while rabbit and other furs can be a lot heavier. If you wish to work in the other furs you may need to swap out your needle for a “leather needle” This fine needle has a triangle point that slices through the heavy leather. When working with light furs a sharp needle will suffice.
3 Lining the leather will give it strength. Use fine woven muslin for this process. Trace the pattern onto the leather, apply a thin coat of glue and add the fine muslin taking out any creases. If the pattern is too light retrace the pattern once more to ensure the lines are visible for cutting.
4 Reduce the number of holes in the fabric using a firm backstitch. Always go back into the previous hole. Take a slightly longer stitch length than normal, as you do not want to perforate the leather.
5 Take your time when turning though the pieces, right side out. Wiggle the pieces gently in your hand while using curved forceps. Never pull hard or poke the piece as you will end up creating a hole or tearing the piece.
6 Take the time to trim the face with very sharp scissors and tiny snips, never cut across the fur, always in the same direction. This will reduce the visible cuts in the fur. Take layers only ever cutting a few millimeters off at a time.
Australian bear artist Helen Gleeson runs Bare Cub Designs, where she offers her own creations as well as patterns and bear-making tutorials. She also runs the website Easy Artspace, which aims to help artists start their own businesses. E-mail your questions and topic suggestions for this blog to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.