UPFATE (6.04.2019): A variation of this story was published in Issue 16 of Junkies magazine!
To start from the very beginning, this is a story of one family that came to Australia in search for better life 20 years ago. They never managed to visit the place they left behind again. But they had several objects that came with them as memories of their life in Ukraine. One of them was this brown kids’ winter coat made from artificial fur.
This is a very typical piece of child’s clothing produced in USSR for cold winters. in fact I had a very similar to that one myself when I was little! The family could not give it away when their daughter grew up as the memories this simple coat held were just too valuable to get rid of them. So they brought the coat to me asking to transform it into a toy to keep it and pass it on to the next generation instead of it accumulating dust in the wardrobe.
It was such a pleasure to unpick a vintage piece of clothing discovering how it was made! The whole coat was put together with invisible synthetic thread and the lining, which was really good quality cotton/poly sateen, was doubled with real cotton batting. They used it a lot in old days for winter clothing. Interestingly, cotton batting pieces like that were also used to wrap around the feet instead of winter socks by people who had to work outside a lot. I know that because my father is a builder (he is a professional welder) and they work outside regardless of the weather, even if it is -20 C. So in those really cold days he wrapped his feel with pieces of batting to keep them warm.
Originally I planned to make one large bear. I wanted to make one that looks like a real animal. To develop the pattern myself from scratch I studied bear shapes for quite a while and eventually came up with the pattern. After cutting the bear pieces though I thought that some of the fur scraps are to big and I suddenly decided to make another little bear for the second younger child in the family. Little cute teddy bear.
I started looking into Teddy Bears and I loved the image of old fashioned Teddy with movable joints dressed in vintage clothing, traditional English toy. I then came across a free vintage 1907 Teddy Bear pattern and I knew this is what I am going to make! I had to study how Teddies were made in old days to keep the authenticity, how to connect joints, what materials to use for it, how to embroider the nose and create facial expressions – there is the whole science and a lot of little secrets of Teddy Bear making! The free pattern I found included only the bear itself, so I created the clothes patterns myself to make them the way I imagined.
A very talented friend of mine Yulia made beautiful glass eyes for both bears. She designs and creates unique glass jewellery pieces, you can see more of her work here.
I have been trying to practice zero waste working process for quite a while, so any fabric and threads leftovers are never going to the bin in my house. I keep them for other creative projects. But this time I felt wrong keeping these memories. It was a very special order filled with very special family memories and I wanted to keep them intact. I used all the fur and lining scraps as well as all the threads from the unpicking process as a stuffing for both bears adding some natural latex pieces as needed.
After both bears were complete I only had 7 buttons left from the fur coat I was originally handed. And a broken tooth brush that snapped when I was turning little bear’s pieces inside out. 🙂 (I used this old tooth brush as a multifunctional tool in my sewing machine too box).
I will keep the buttons as my personal memory of this amazing project I had a chance to work on.
This is how this story of two bears, seven buttons and a broken tooth brush was born. Did you like it? Would you like to transform your personal piece of clothing into something memorable like that? Let me know in comments or contact me! 🙂