All posts by fran

holidays

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas-time – we did despite everything.

Almost two weeks of snowfall, gifts, wintry walks, sledging, good food, cozy films, some knitting and a mountain of chocolate. It sure was wonderful, but it’s nice to start getting back to normal too.

Our little gifts this year included second hand toys and locally hand made soap and sugar free treats. There were no hand knits this year, but that’s something I hope to remedy in the new year as I have plans for knitting for my little family. More on that later. Perhaps next year it will be only hand-made gifts under our tree…

bear making: mohair

Bears can be made from a variety of fabrics: synthetic fun fur, shrunken woollen jumpers, wool felt, velour or velvet. Bears can be needle felted, knitted or hand sewn from scraps.

But I almost always use mohair. Mohair bear fabric is made from the hair of the Angora goat which is dyed and then woven into lengths of pile fabric and secured on a strong cotton backing.

Mohair has a a beautiful, lustrous finish, is versatile and very forgiving to work with and best of all long lasting. The earliest teddy bears (which are now over one hundred years old) were originally made from mohair and apart from some wear from years of play and loving their fur is still is good condition.

The largest manufacturer of mohair today is Steiff Schulte based in Germany. It is the mill producing the fabric from which the famous Steiff bears get their furry coats! I tend to buy my bear fabric from two sources, one in my native England, the other based in Germany. It is also possible to purchase mohair directly in teddy bear fairs – nothing quite beats stroking different furs directly in the bolt of fabric!

There are many different finishes, lengths and shades of mohair to choose from. As I tend to work on a small scale I favour the “sparse” finish but I also like ratinée, distressed and straight!

In a future blog post, I’ll talk about working specifically with mohair as it’s quite different from any other fabric I’ve sewn with before!

felt with the heart

A small cocoa coloured mohair bear sits holding a pink handknitted woollen heart.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.

Helen Keller

I came across this quote by Helen Keller one blazing hot day at the end of summer. It was during a moment when I was really struggling to know which direction to take for my wool work, and even more struggling to find the courage to pursue it. That day, these words resonated deeply with me and helped me overcome some of the creative & personal obstacles that were blocking my path.

I want to begin the month of October by reminding myself of these words, because they sum up so much of how I feel about the creative work I am slowly endeavouring to pursue here.

a small, quiet companion

“In a world where everyone seems to be larger and louder than yourself, it is very comforting to have a small, quiet companion.” Peter Gray .

I have a particular fondness for making traditional style teddy bears, the smaller the better. Their fur is made from mohair fibres woven onto a cotton backing. It is produced in Germany and has been used in toy making for over a century.

I design and make every single bear myself, sewing mostly by hand but also occasionally on my vintage Singer sewing machine. Just before a bear is finished, I given them a “woollen heart”, carefully filling their head, limbs and finally tummy with local-to-me French wool. From soft to coarse, lofty to curly, crunchy to smooth, crimped, short or long, the wools of French native breed sheep are as varied as the landscapes in which they are raised.

My bears may be small side, but with their woollen hearts they embody for me a sense of unwavering inner strength. Small enough to fit into the palm of a hand, they can sit happily on a bedside table, be slipped into a handbag or project bag. A small, but reassuring companion, always by your side and forever ready for whatever encouragement you need. Making these small bears helps me to pursue my life with greater courage and hope. It is forever my hope that every time I send a new little bear out into the world that they will become a dearly loved companion for whoever needs a little more quiet strength in their life.