A while back, I designed a brown bear plushie named Cocoa. He sold out a couple of months ago, and due to the amount of work involved with putting together my Hogwarts house mascot series, I hadn't found the time to make new ones. Right before the craft fair last week, I was able to not only make a few more, but slightly update the pattern as well. I also had been meaning to alter the bear pattern slightly to make a similar bear in a different color, and last week, I released a new black bear plushie named Clover!
Lately, I've been going through older plushie designs I really liked and improving them slightly as I get better at pattern and plushie making. I did this pretty recently with Felicia the fox, and I'd hoped to do the same with Cocoa the brown bear.
In order to work on an existing pattern, I compare the current plushie to its 2D pattern. Because patterns sometimes turn out a little funny once you sew and stuff them into a three-dimensional object, it can take a few tries to get it just right. If there's a spot that needs to be wider due to the stretch (or lack thereof) of the fabric, I can pull it in that direction in the Illustrator file I designed. Then, I print out the new pattern, make it into a plushie, and compare that to the first one. Eventually, I reach something I'm happier with and that becomes the new pattern!
The updated Cocoa isn't too far from the first version, but the little things make a difference to me and I hope to continue to update my older designs as I learn more about how to make them look as great as I can.
My next project was to design a similar character who ended up being Clover the black bear. Even though she has a pattern rather close to Cocoa's updated pattern, the experience of making her ended up being pretty difficult. It turns out that the black fabric I picked out this time was very soft. This is excellent for the finished Clover bears because she's super snuggly, but it makes it a little bit tougher when I'm working with the sewing machine. Making quick turns like the bear's ears and tail can be tricky, especially with a very soft fabric because it sometimes stretches and gets stuck when you try to pull it around.
On top of that, I have a lot of trouble seeing the outline I need to follow with the sewing machine because of how dark the fabric is. This might be easier if I had some sort of chalk to use, but many of the chalk pencils I originally tried didn't show up on fleece. I've taken to using markers instead (disappearing or just regular ones, depending on whether it shows through), but they are barely noticeable here.
Because I've mostly taught myself to make my plushies and all of my designs are original, each one has a separate challenge for me to work on. Even if I start out working on it the wrong way, I eventually figure out an easier way to deal with the issue. That makes this job all the more interesting and helps me to learn and improve my skills as I go!
If you're interested, both Clover the black bear and Cocoa the brown bear are now available in my etsy shop, Fairweather Friends! For the next few weeks, I'll be making lots of plushies for LeakyCon Portland, but I hope to continue to pop in and show you some of what I'm working on!