There are many options for stuffing your bears. Some readily available from major craft stores and can be used to make most types of bears, but don’t stop there — look a little harder! Here are some other options think about for your next bear.
Available from most craft stores. 100% polyester can be non-allergenic, washable, lightweight, and airy — good for toys and cushions. This can be an economical stuffing and there are many grades available, some offering no-slip qualities. These premium options are usually the result of the fiber being opened in the processing. Look for siliconized, as it will resist bunching.
Wood shavings, also known as wood wool, is used to describe the finer grades of wood excelsior. There are many grades based on the thickness and the width of the shaving. The first teddy bears were made from mohair, commonly used for upholstery, and excelsior packing as stuffing, along with boot-button eyes. Use wood shavings to create an antique-style bear. It’s available from good package suppliers.
Another option for antique-style bears is the natural fiber extracted from the husk of the coconut. The brown coir from the ripe coconut is used for packaging and padding, while the white coir from unripe coconuts is for finer things such as string, brushes, rope, etc.
Wool is the natural fiber from sheep and other animals — cashmere and mohair from goats; qiviut from alpaca and the camel family; and angora from rabbits.
Wool has a few qualities that separate it from hair. It is crimped, elastic, and grows in clusters. The crimp make is easier to spin. The amount of crimp corresponds to the fineness of the wool fibers. Fine Merino wool may have up to 100 crimps per inch, while coarser wools may have as few as two. Hair (called kemp on sheep) has no crimp and little ability to bind into yarn.
Sheep shearing is the process by which wool fleece is cut off the sheep. Scouring is the process of cleaning the greasy wool (still containing lanolin) before it can be used for commercial purposes. This can be as simple as a warm-water bath or a complicated industrial process. Wool noil is the short fiber left over from the combing process, since it’s shorter it has less value. But it’s great for stuffing since it’s dense and has better memory than polyester.
Some interesting facts about wool: 25% of the world’s wool comes from Australia, 18% from China, 17% from the United States, 11% from New Zealand, and others (including the United Kingdom) less than 3% each. Most wool is sold by auction, based on grade. The finest bale of wool ever auctioned was in June 2008 and sold for a record value of $279,000 in Melbourne, Australia.
A blend of wool and polyester filling combines the density of wool with the easy packing of the polyester. While not readily available, it’s well worth finding a perfect blend!
Cotton: Sweet Dream 100% natural cotton is great for trapunto work.
Corn: Created from 100% corn fiber, it’s sustainable, hypoallergenic, and washable. Brands include Australian-made Innergreen and Nature-Fil. Corn fiber is hypoallergenic and washable.
Bamboo: 100% rayon fiber made from bamboo is a renewable resource grown without pesticides or fertilizers.
Snow fiberfill: This is made from 100% virgin polyester and the fibers separate very easily — it looks like freshly fallen snow and is used for displays.
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.
Want to comment on this post? Join our conversation on Facebook!