Thursday, March 13, 2014

Project 52 - Miniature Bear Making - #1

Make a Stencil For Small Parts

Let's start with something small.  Templates.  Or big and fat.  Fingers!
If you have ever traced templates for a miniature bear on to fabric, you will know how difficult it is to hold those tiny pieces down and trace around them.  Especially the paw pads and the ears.  Once you are halfway around the template, you have to move your finger so you can trace around the other side, then the template slips and you lose your position on the fabric.  And for good measure, you draw some lines on your finger instead of on the fabric with permanent marker.  Oh, the aggravation.

Here's a simple solution. 
Instead of making templates for very tiny pieces, make a stencil.  Much easier to position on the fabric, and you can hold down the edges while you are tracing.
Tip:  Using a template, you are tracing around the outside of the template line.  Using a stencil, you will be tracing on the inside.  When I cut out a stencil, I cut outside the template line, so that the stencil will be just the right size when I use it to mark out on the fabric.
With miniature bears, accuracy is everything.  It is important to have a sturdy template.  Thin card is fine for a set of templates that you will use only once or twice.  Template plastic is much sturdier.  I use old x-rays that have been cleaned with bleach and hot water.  

Here's something interesting I came across in Debbie Kesling's book How to Make Enchanting Miniature Bears.  She uses rubber stamps to transfer pattern templates on to the fabric.  This is a good idea if you are going to use the same set of templates many times - having a rubber stamp made can be costly.  This technique also presumes that you will always have a piece of fabric that is square.  When making miniature bears, I often use scraps, and need to fit the pieces in according to the shape of the fabric.

This is my book page for week one.

In this miniature bear making series, we are using the Angus pattern, which you will find in my Etsy Shop, and on the Tin Soldiers Website.
I have made a few page templates if you would like to copy mine, but it could also be fun to make your own.  Every week, you will find printable templates for Project 52 HERE .

Looking into the future, next week we are going to spend more time on making perfect footpads and paw pads.  The week after, we are going to make a pair of spectacles.  If you have a bit of time and a scrap of mini bear fabric, make a head for Angus so that you can custom fit his eyewear.  You don't need to make the rest of the limbs if you don't want to.  Over the next months we are going to make Angus into an Easter bunny, a clown, a panda... you can always use the head with one of the  body options in a future lesson!

Have a question about miniature bears?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment on this post.


  1. Hi Megan,

    This a great project, thank you for putting all of this together, it looks like it was quite an undertaking.

    I have a craft book where I keep my sketches of patterns and decided this would be the safest place for Angus and the lessons for making him. I do like your idea of the deck of cards too.


  2. What a great idea. I love the template for little bears. Thanks so much for your tip.
    Hugs Kay

  3. Hi Megan, I like your stencil idea, but it's quite tricky cutting it out. Any tips? I have always used old x rays, as is, never thought they could be cleaned.
    This project is so exciting, I look forward to the next post.

    1. Hallo Lee. You could use a scalpel or carpet knife and cut the stencil on a piece of cardboard to protect your worktable, but I have a horror of blades. Use sharp scissors with a pointy end and be careful! I usually fold the template plastic in half and make a rough X-cut in the centre of the part I want to cut out, then work my way to the edges and cut out on the line.

  4. Hello Megan

    Love the whole concept! Brilliant!! My work colleague and I will be giving it a bash .... have to do something to keep out of mischief!