When I’m at the stuffing stage, I always work on the head first. This is the most time consuming piece to finish, as this is where all the character of the bear is formed, so in fact today will be only part 1 of the head.
This is where I grab my trusty stuffing stick (which is effectively a dowel with a flattened off end, and a handle), my chopstick, my forceps, and a large bag of bouncifill stuffing. There are many grades of toy stuffing, but the stuff you get at bargain basement rates in your local craft superstore are, well, exactly what you expect from bargain basements quality-wise… My many bear making friends favour a few different high end brands, and there are some that like to use woodwool as well, but my favourite is Bouncifill. Now I realise that this is considerably more expensive than the basic stuff, but it packs like a dream, and I don’t get lumpy bits, as it allows me to work and blend it inside the piece I’m stuffing (and I buy it by the bale anyway, which makes it cheaper).
To stuff, you use small pieces and gradually add them. While it’s very tempting to just shove large chunks in there, it does not make for a happy and smooth finish! This is roughly the size I use for each piece I stuff in (note that this is in its uncompressed state):
Stuffing, especially the head, is time consuming to get a nice, smooth finish, which is to the density you would like. I admit I’m a fairly firm stuffer, which takes me longer than the softer stuffers, but especially in the head, I found this gave the best results. Using the stuffing stick in the beginning, I start in the nose and get a ‘base fill’ in there which is fairly loosely stuffed, then I move to the top of the head and work down, firming up the nose as I go past it. Then I check for any holes in my stuffing and use a mixture of the stuffing stick, chopstick and forceps, depending on the size and location of the hole.
Now I’m happy with the stuffing, I remove all my tacking stitches:
At this point I dig out my ‘position eyes’. These are effectively eyes on a pin, and come in sets (usually mini, small and large, depending on the seller) Because of the pin back, you can move them around the head to find the best place for the eyes.
I don’t want to actually insert the eyes at this point, but I need to see where they’re going so I can do the rest of the face around. On some bears I would do some needle sculpting to create the eye sockets and bridge of the nose, however this wee guy looks just fine as he is. If I were though, I’d use topstitching thread, and starting at the end of the muzzle, create a zig zag of stitches to build up the bridge of the nose, finishing just next to where the pins for my eyes are, going back and forth a few times to create my eye sockets. Please note that I’d have broken out the big guns for this, using my doll needles, since they’re sufficiently long to allow me to do this easily (why are they doll needles though, and not teddy needles? Enquiring minds want to know…)
Tune in next week for the finishing of the head…