DIY: Recycled Cashmere Teddy Bears

Gift cycles tend to come in waves. You have graduation season, the wedding seasons, and then a few years later… babies. As we prepare for our upcoming trip to Denmark, we had several new births to celebrate. I wanted a gift that was sweet and personal, affordable but also a little luxurious. This craft was a great solution. Meet the teddies:

blueteddyclose teddiestogether

Sewing these little buddies requires moderate sewing skills, but the pattern is easy – if you’ve sewn any clothing, slipcovers, or pillows before I bet you’ll be fine. Most of the supplies can be purchased at any fabric or craft store – the cashmere can easily be found on Ebay, or in local thrift and discount stores (especially towards the end of winter).

Supplies:

  • Old cashmere sweaters (you can use ones with small holes or stains and just cut around them). A women’s size XL was enough for two teddies for me, a smallish size medium would only fit one.
  • Sewing thread in a matching color
  • Sewing machine
  • Embroidery Thread in a contrasting color
  • Embroidery Needles
  • 2′ of patterned 1/4″ – 1/2″ ribbon per teddy
  • Stuffing

Directions:

  1. We begin with a process called “felting” the cashmere wool. Regular knits snag and pull easily, and require very careful seaming to prevent tearing. But felted wool is much sturdier, and it’s easy to do at home. Just cut apart your sweater at the seams (ending up with two sleeve pieces, a back, and a front), and put in a mesh bag. Throw it in the washing machine and wash a few times on high heat. It’s fine to throw it in with other clothes – in fact, heavy loads like denim can spead up the process. Then put it through the dryer, also on high heat. The fabric is felted when it has shrunken up, and is thicker and sturdier than the original fabric. The mesh bag is optional, it just keeps the fuzzy lint in your washer down to a minimum.
  2. Go to Singer’s Brazilian website for the template (pdf) and instructions I used. I realize the directions are in Portugese, so just print off the templates and stick with me for the rest of the story 🙂
  3. Cut out the template pieces and tape together the top and bottom half pieces on each sheet.
  4. Using a permanent marker, trace the templates on the back side of your cashmere. The front side of the fabric will have the vertical knit stripes, the backside has less distinguished zig-zap horizontal stripes. You should have two side pieces, in opposite directions, and one back piece.
  5. Pin the two side pieces front-side together, and mark where the dots on the template show you to start and stop sewing.
  6. Set up your sewing machine. Make sure your bobbin has the correct color thread, it will show. I used an overlock stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance, and that worked perfectly.
  7. Sew along the edge of the template, going along the face and down the belly.
  8. Remove the fabric from the sewing machine and pin the two side pieces to the back piece (front sides together, as always). The outline of the side pieces should align perfectly with the back piece when the face and tummy bumps are pulled out.
  9. Sew around the outside of the teddy bear, starting on the inside of one of the feet, just near the bottom curve. Go all the way around, stopping when you get to the outside of the other leg.
  10. Turn your teddy bear inside out to make sure everything is looking good. This is your chance to correct any mistakes.
  11. This is the best time to sew on the facial features – when the hole to the inside is still large enough for your hand but the bear is put together enough that you can see how it will look. I chose to do all of the details just in embroidery thread, so it’s safe for infants, but if your bear is for adults or older children, you could use buttons or other fun findings for the features.
  12. Thread the embroidery needle with about 2′ of thread, and tie a double knot at the end. Push the needle from the inside out near the outside of the nose area. Pull it through to the outside, then push it back in on the opposite side of the face, about 1/2″ higher up. Then pull it back up directly across from the first stitch, below the second one, and feed the thread up to the top left corner. This will form the “X” for the nose. I also pulled the thread up in the middle and formed a loop around the intersection of the “X”. This keeps the thread in place.
  13. For the eyes, repeat the threading of the needle and the double knot. Pull the needle and thread from the inside out in the eye-spot. Tie a double or triple knot as close to the fabric as possible, then pull the thread back inside, and knot again. Repeat for the other side.
  14. Take a small bit of stuffing and push it into each ear. Sew a straight stitch (not overlock, just regular stitch) along the border of the ear. This defines them, keeps them a bit floppy, and prevents the stuffing from falling out of the details.
  15. Turn your teddy back inside out.
  16. Starting about 1″ back from where you left off, continue to sew around the outside, stopping about 1″ from your original starting point.
  17. Turn your teddy right-side-out and stuff him. Stuff him good. Get as much of the fluffy stuff as you are able into all of his little fuzzy details – use your fingers to shape areas like the face, neck, and tummy. The fabric will stretch a bit and get softer over time, so firmer is better right now.
  18. Take a needle and your matching thread, and sew up the remaining hole by hand. I think it’s okay if this part looks hand-done, it is nice when things show their origins a bit.
  19. Tie a ribbon around the neck, squeezing it tight enough to stay put and create a bit of neck definition. I used a little sewing thread to tie a little knot in the center of the bow to keep it from unraveling.
  20. Depending on what kind of ribbon you got, you may be able to use a match or candle flame to melt the edges of the ribbon. This will keep it from unravelling. Be super careful not to light teddy on fire though! Try it on a scrap piece first.
  21. You can use an old shaving razor to clean up any extra fuzzies or pilling, and make sure to trim up any loose threads. If your embroidery left any snags, you can use a paperclip or toothpick to push the snags back inside.

These little buddies are just adorable – the chubby tummies and little bitty eyes are quite charming, and the cashmere is so soft! After making two for friends’ babies I’ve been tempted to make one for myself.  Give it a try! For about $7 each, they’re an affordable experiment.

Advertisements

3 responses to “DIY: Recycled Cashmere Teddy Bears

  1. I have to go to a baby shower, and if I had any knowledge at all of needles and sewing, this would be too perfect! Until I get more crafty, I’ll just have to stick with Etsy.

  2. Oh I wish I had so much more time to be crafty! I have to plan ahead and block off a Saturday. I do love Etsy though – it just gives more craft-time envy though, because I think, “I could totally make that, if I just had the time!”

  3. I checked these out on etsy, and yours are WAY cuter than anything I currently see for sale. Have you considered selling them?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s