Old Bear, or Ivy's Bear, is actually brand-new, well sort of. He's ''Big Dibley' on Barbara Ann's website - that link takes you there. Made for my new grand-daughter! Of course Barbara and Andy's bears look a whole lot better than mine because they are pro's, but I had fun all the same. You can do a course with Barbara and learn all about it, but I forged ahead with youtube video's as my guide. I bought this old merino blanket from a charity shop some time ago and got to thinking that it would make an interesting material to use for a bear. It's super-soft merino and already pre-moth proofed, and made back in those good old days when things said 'made in England' on them.
I photographed these pictures to show the original pink colour of the blanket, and the new colour on top that I got from the coreopsis flowers. I dyed the sections of blanket I wanted to use by first pre-mordanting in alum and cream of tartar, and then a solution made from steeping and simmering the coreopsis flower heads. The blanket was simmered in that solution for another hour before rinsing, and drying out for use. After a couple of hot/cold runs through the washing machine, and a long tumble in the drier, it was as felted up as I could get it. I chose to use only pieces from the edge of the blanket which were less worn.
Next I took the pattern and traced them with a permenant pen onto rigid opaque plastic sheets that I had from a quilt supplier, then cut them out with scissors. So those are my permanent pattern pieces now and they are much easier to work with than paper.
Barbara Ann's Bears supplied me with some marvellous original 1930's boot button eyes! Not really suitable as a play-bear for under 3's.
Last year was a good long warm summer, and my coreopsis flowers kept going right into the beginning of December, even when I pulled the old plants and threw them on the compost heap, they kept on flowering, and I kept on cutting!
There's a powerful lot of dye in coreopsis flowers, and I have more about them elsewhere on this blog.
I dried a lot of mine for the winter, and have them stored in canning jars.
This was my first ever attempt at a traditional bear. Just a word of warning, I would not remake this again from a merino blanket. In my opinion merino fibre is just too soft for the job, and I suspect after his head and limbs have been yanked and turned a hundred times, he will spring some holes! I would choose a more robust blanket to felt next time, or even make him in patchwork.
I'm not sure I got his nose exactly right! But my family told me I was not to change it as he looked distinguished! I think I agree. You will notice I used a slightly darker coreopsis dye on small pieces for his pads and paws, which were double fabric. He was stuffed with cleaned carded 100% wool. I sewed on some decorative patches here and there that aren't photographed here, just to make him look more antique. Nose and mouth stitched in embroidery floss.
His vest is made from 100% hand-spun Northern Ireland grown wool and knitted on 2mm circular needles. Dyes used for this are: horsetail (yellow), madder (red/plum/pink), acorns (grey), logwood (black) and lichen (light brown ribbing areas). The garment was knitted in the round, and steeked. Bow tie dyed in madder root dye. For more on steeking a garment, see my other posting on Edward Bear.