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 The earliest teddy bears (which are now over one hundred years old) were originally made from mohair and apart from some wear from years of play and loving their fur is still is good condition.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!