HowJoyful bear

today my daughter Isabella’s kindergarten class is having a “pajama and teddy bear” day to celebrate the invention of the teddy bear (it’s a fun read if you don’t know the history). yup. that’s how they roll in kindergarten… jealous much? surprisingly, we don’t have all that many teddy bears around the house, and none that she was particularly attached to. so natch, my first thought was hey, bet i can find a pattern to make one… and i quickly came upon a pattern and tutorial by HowJoyful and fell head over heels for it’s adorableness.

photo 3

i printed the pattern and scoured my minkey dot and flannel scraps and started cutting. i thought the pieces seemed a little big, but somehow in the tutorial it looks like a small-ish toy so i didn’t think much of it. skip to the end of the story and you’ll find out that this is a 16″ bear.

photo 1

the pattern directions start with a warning: this is not an easy project. if you’ve never constructed a stuffed animal before, try a simpler pattern first. pffffftt… thought i, can’t be that hard. i know how to sew curves. and while i managed to make the whole thing in an afternoon, i definitely concur with the difficulty! despite that, this was the most fun thing i’ve made in a long time so if you’re wanting to make this little big guy up, here’s some advice:

  • keep those pattern pieces handy, and make sure the cut fabric is labeled (i kept the pattern piece pinned to the fabric pieces until i needed them). all the corners are labeled with letters to match up seams and you will definitely need to go back and refer to pieces as you go along.
  • there are places where you should stop sewing at the SA line, not the end of the pattern piece, so keep an eye on a picture of the finished bear to see if there is a join you should know about.
  • the SA are not included on the pattern, so it’s probably best to trace the pieces onto the fabric, then eyeball the 1/4″ SA as you cut them out.
  • if you want a smaller bear, scale down the pattern a little. however, a larger bear is much easier to sew for a beginner than a small one, unless you’re keen on hand sewing.
  • not mentioned in the pattern: stuff the nose and close off the back so you can form the mouth and nose. i ended up cutting a 4″ diameter circle and whip stitching it around the nose/mouth area. this is probably something toy-makers know, but i nearly didn’t catch it.
  • the directions have you sew up the head/body join last, stuff, and hand stitch it closed. next time i’ll leave a different opening for stuffing (either part of the back or the seat). the neck is not only a difficult place to hand sew closed, but it also takes considerable abuse when yanked around by a kid.

there was definitely some head scratching along the way. the tutorial and accompanying photos don’t necessarily follow each other in order, so you have to jump around a bit. despite that i somehow managed to create this super cute teddy bear!

photo 4

subsequent makes will definitely go smoother (and judging by the jealousy coming from her three siblings there will be more teddy bears), and all in all it’s a pretty quick thing to make. there are a lot of pieces, but you can really pluck along at a good pace. and hey, that one holiday that shall not be named is just around the corner, so go make a teddy bear. it’s FUN!

—lisa g.

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30 thoughts on “HowJoyful bear

  1. Cation Designs says:

    Oh my gosh that thing is huge! Even after I read 16″ I didn’t really think about how that would translate size-wise next to a small human being. It looks like it’s well-loved though so good for you!

    I had a similar experience when sewing up my mole stuffed animals, where I thought oh, I’ve sewn corsets and such, how hard could a stuffed animal be? And then had to eat my words when it turned out to have tricky bits to match up and such.

    • lisa g says:

      thanks! and yeah, there is definitely a learning curve with stuffed animals. it was such a fun thing to make though, chances are i’ll be at it again soon!

  2. cjgal says:

    Adorable! I just made a minky stuffed octopus for my friends new baby o I am loving the minky bear! Thanks for sharing the pattern, I love how you mixed minky with flannel!

  3. Carolyn says:

    Aww, this is really cute! Based on my few adventures in toy making, I agree that it’s more difficult than it sounds, especially as the toys get smaller. Congrats on a very sweet bear! 🙂

  4. Andrea says:

    Okay, Lisa, you’ve inspired me. I just printed out this pattern and am taking deep breaths in anticipation of tackling the whole thing. I can’t believe how many people online have talked about how difficult this pattern is! But I feel like it’s something my niece will love for Xmas, so here we go. Don’t be surprised if I start sending you e-mails asking how the *@%$ do I attach the feet. 🙂

    • lisa g says:

      awesome, can’t wait to see yours! for some reason it was the neck/shoulder/arm join that tripped me up… probably cuz i was tired of reading directions at that point. good luck!

  5. Barbara says:

    I’ve made this bear but still am convinced the legs are not attached right….your bear looks awesome and constructed as a perfect match to the pattern. How do you attach the legs the front end up way shorter than the back? Then it looks backwards ….

    • lisa g says:

      the directions on this bear are sparse, to be sure… i made sure to keep all the pattern pieces handy and matched up the letters on the pieces at intersecting corners and seamlines. without those markings i would have been totally lost!

  6. Barbara says:

    Thanks. I’m going to attempt it one more time. You truly are one talented seamstress! Every thing you have made looks amazing!!

  7. b says:

    your bear is adorable! I think that i’m going to try and make this bear, is there a chance that you still have the pattern pdf file? I tried to download it from her original website but no luck…

    • lisa g says:

      i just checked the link and i had no trouble opening it. i checked my files and it appears that i didn’t save a copy to my computer. might want to try again!

  8. Sami says:

    I really struggled with the mouth on this bear but eventually it made sense. I have yet to find a picture showing what the back of this bear looks like I really got confused when sewing the “back seam” of the leg. My bear seems to have a weird square butt!!!
    I would love to see a picture of the back of the bear or some sort of top or picture showing how to construct the legs specifically. I sew all the time but have never made a stuffed animal before this – it is definitely more difficult than I anticipated but I think that’s because the instructions aren’t all that great. I’ll be making more to perfect it!

  9. Karen says:

    Thanks so much, Lisa G, for all your great replies! I’m making this teddy bear and really struggling. Keep those tips and suggestions coming! Thanks a million! Karen H in Texas

  10. Julie says:

    I am really struggling with the arms on this bear. My front is much smaller than the back, which makes no sense at all. Can you offer any help?

    • lisa g says:

      It’s been so long since I made this I’m not sure I can really help! The front arm should have two pieces, so maybe that’s where you’re running into trouble?

    • Liz says:

      Where are your points not matching up? This pattern is hard because you have to think round instead of precisely matched seams and the instructions are almost as clear as mud. ;). Pin your seams at the corresponding letters first, then determine where the fullest part of the curve is on both pieces and stick a pin in there, THEN you have all the fun of easing in the rest of the fabric so you have a smooth seam. STOP at the sewing line, don’t go into the seam allowance at all. I found it most helpful to push all the extra fabric away from the seam because otherwise you have darts and tucks whether you want them or not. Also, you can’t do this one like most of the other teddy patterns where you complete a front and back and then sew the side seams. Do the head and body completely separately. The body is done as a front and back (sorta) with the bottoms of the feet left out and curse riddled sewing to get the crotch aligned. If it’s really giving you fits, make a bear out of muslin first. Mark your sewing lines and letters and any other landmarks you need in permanent marker on the outside so you can see them and reference them when you’re using the “good” fabric.

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