Friday, July 19, 2013

When is a scrap a scrap?

I have been making bears for many years now.  When I first started out I didn't have much of a fabric stash and finding suitable fabrics was a real problem.  Remember, I'm referring to the bad old times before we had Loubear, and even before internet.  Some of you haven't been alive that long. I ordered miniature bear kits from Emily Farmer in America once, it was arranged by airmail and fax.  The transaction took about six weeks to organize.  Then she had a query on my order and phoned me at 2am... None of us budding bear artists had learned the time difference between continents off by heart back then, and we were delighted to meet another kindred spirit at any hour.  But I digress.

So I didn't have much of a fabric stash, and when I made a bear it was often from a square of velvet or felt or a fat quarter of fabric that I ordered specially.  Being a miniature bear maker, I carefully saved all those offcuts for making and accessorizing miniature bears.  Sometimes I used the scraps, and sometimes they got added to my growing stash.
A few decades down the line, I have also acquired the scrap stash of two or three bear makers who have gone out of business.  I'm a hoarder, I can't resist the temptation to carry more scraps into my lair.  One day I had to admit that I could not shove open the door to my store room anymore, and what was in there was becoming a definite fire and rodent hazard.  Not to mention that I could never find something when I needed it, and ended up buying fabric rather than hunting through the stash.  Last December I dragged all the boxes into my workroom.  First I just gloated over my treasure trove, then I devised a plan to get it organised.
I now have my fabrics sorted according to type - mohair, velvet, felt, suede, whatever.  With a flourish of sophistication I also sorted the various fabrics according to colour.  Want a small scrap of grey suede?  A micro piece of long pile white mohair? Just ask me, I know exactly where to find it!
The only thing I didn't find much of in my stash was scraps of time.  It will take me several lifetimes to work through all the fabrics I've got.  No matter, sometimes the joy is in the having, not the using.
So what do I use my scraps for?
Today I spent several enjoyable hours matching up miniature bear patterns with suitable scraps.
It's handy to have these little baggies all organized and ready to grab if I suddenly find that I'm going to be away from the studio and will have a scrap of time on my hands to sew, like when I go to the doctor, saves me from biting my nails or reading germy magazines :-)

When is a scrap a scrap, can't be used and should not be kept anymore?  NEVER!
See the footpads that I am cutting out of this scrap?  There are only a few millimeters of fabric left all around, Won't even be able to cut footpads for a microbear from that.  But the scrap does not become useless.   Tiny scraps can be snipped even smaller and kept separate to be used as stuffing.  Antique bears were sometimes stuffed with cotton waste; scraps of thread and cotton that have been shredded.  This is what gives those bears such a lovely solid feel.  I keep my stuffing scraps for when I make larger vintage style bears, and use it in the tummy and legs to give them weight and heft.

Mohair scraps are a different matter when it comes to making teddy bears.  Sometimes the scraps are just too small, and the fur too long to cut miniature bears from them.  What to do?
Patchwork!  I start by selecting and sewing small scraps into blocks or strips.
Then I join up the blocks to form a fabric.  Don't worry about colour, fur length, or direction of the pile.  The crazier, the better the effect.
Once you have a big enough piece of patchwork fabric, you can make a bear from it.  This gentle giant was made by Rose.

Wishing you a lovely weekend.  Gotta go rummage in my scraps!



  1. Fantastic idea, thank you. And Rose's bear is wonderful, he has so much character.

    Happy Weekend, and enjoy rummaging. (o:

  2. Thanks, Joyce. I have just finished sending out this week's online lessons. The rest of the evening is mine to wallow in scraps!

  3. Wow Megan,
    Love your bear, would like to see in real!!!!
    I want to see those scraps one day, I sure that pile huge!
    Will have one day as many too???


    1. Collecting scraps can be a hobby all by itself. I love going through the tiny bits of fabric and remembering which bears I have made from it. Can't keep every bear, but maybe one can keep a bear that has a bit of every bear in it!