Monday, June 10, 2013

A bunch of bears, old and new.

I love bears. They're some of my favorite animals, so I've designed lots of different types and styles of bears for Fairweather Friends since I started a couple of years ago.

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!


  1. Hi Lauren!

    I have a couple quick questions for you. I've been wanting to get into making things for a long while now (embroidery, needlefelting, cross-stitching, you name it!), but just haven't had the chance to -- now that I've graduated college, I have some free time on my hands!

    You've inspired me to try to make my own plushies, because yours are just so adorable and it looks like a lot of fun! However, I have little-to-no sewing experience. I was wondering, when you first started making these, did you have a lot of sewing experience under your belt already? Did you start using a sewing machine right away, or did you hand-stitch them at first? I'm just trying to figure out what kind of things I'll need to get started. If all goes well, I'd love to start up my own etsy shop in the near future :)

    Anyway, thanks for decreasing world suck by sharing your little cuties with the world! I appreciate you taking the time to read this. Have a lovely day :)


    1. Hi Krista!

      I had lots of crafting experience, but I first learned to sew by making early versions of these plushies. I made them the same way I make them today... the main parts with the sewing machine, and the small details and faces all hand-sewn. I was nervous to learn the sewing machine, but honestly it's very simple and I picked it up quickly.

      Good luck and have fun! :)

  2. I just stumbled upon your blog through the Passionfruit marketplace, and I'm so glad I did! These plushies are absolutely adorable. And I love what you said about tweaking your patterns as you go. I have an Etsy shop too and I am always making changes. Best part of the creative process! Definitely adding you to my Bloglovin.

    1. Aww, yay! I'm glad that you like them. Thank you so much! Especially because I learn so much by making more and more items over time, it seems silly to just stick with the older patterns. As the years go by, I spot little things that looked fine before but I know that I can improve them after I've had more practice.