Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Tutorial

Welcome to my new "Tuesday Tutorial" series!  I'm sharing some important tips and secrets that I've learned over the years as a teddy bear-maker.  Some of these tips are straight from the patterns I sell on Etsy.  Heck, when I'm done, you could cut and paste these "Tuesday Tutorials" together and basically make one of my pattern instructions for free!
 
Today, I'll start by explaining a relatively basic technique that has a MASSIVE impact on your bears. 
Sewing in the head gusset. 
 
This is something that plagues even the most experienced bear-makers.  I've seen plenty of muzzles from quality bears have the gusset sewn in off-kilter.  Basically it comes down to this:  If your head gusset is not in the center, your bear's nose will look crooked when you are finished.  You are aiming for as close to perfection as you can get.  Notice I said "aiming"--don't go crazy here!  My personal mantra here is to go for the "best I can do."  Some say that a head gusset which is a little bit off can add personality.  I agree.  But TOO much off and it's . . .   Just.   Not.   Right.
 
So, with your two "side head" pieces together, stitch from the bottom front of the neck to the tip of the nose.  After that and it's time to carefully pin in your gusset.
 
TIP #1:  I always mark the center of the head gusset on the fabric so that I can place the exact center of the gusset’s nose on the center seam of the two head pieces. 
 
After I get this placement right, I pin the sides of the gusset around the bear’s head.  Make sure that each side of the head is pinned evenly.

TIP #2:  Use a LOT of pins to secure your pieces together—the mohair can get pretty slippery when sewing. 
 
I pin with the pins perpendicular to the seams (with the pin heads sticking straight out along the seams) so that I can go right over the pins with my sewing machine, especially in tight or curvy areas.
 
I'm rather particular, so I sew each seam twice on my sewing machine—first with a longer, basting stitch and then with a tighter, sewing stitch.  However, if you prefer, hand sewing works just as well.  When your pieces are securely fastened either with pins or by hand-basting, use a backstitch (picture below) with heavy-duty thread to sew tight and small stitches.  You may also want to go over your seams a second time with a blanket stitch (below) to make them even stronger.

 
 
 

TIP #3:  Start by basting JUST the nose to prevent the fabric from slipping or shifting to the side.
 
I first machine baste both sides of the nose and then continue sewing by basting up and over the top of the head and then down the back side of the head and ending at the nape of the neck.  Then I baste the other side of the head by beginning at the nape of the neck and finish where I started at the side of the nose.  I find that this method of sewing each side of the gusset prevents the gusset from shifting off-center when sewing.  It’s frustrating to pin and sew a “perfect” gusset only to find that it has shifted to one side during sewing making the nose lop-sided.  And by basting, if anything isn’t satisfactory, it is easy to pick out the offending stitches and re-baste them.  When I’m happy with the way the head is basted, I then go over the seam with a tighter sewing stitch.

TaDa!!  A nicely centered head gusset and no crooked noses!  Do you have any tips for sewing in head gussets?  Or do you have any questions about what I've written?   Let's hear them in the comments so that we can all learn together!

Love and Hugs,
Cheryl


10 comments:

  1. Someone told me a trick long ago, (I forget who now) I do pretty much the same as you. But before I start pinning the gusset to the head pieces, after the nose is stitched across, I fold the gusset in half lengthwise to find the center. I put a pin in the center of the gusset, and I pin it down to where the two head pieces are already stitched together. (the chin area) I pin it right in the seam. This keeps that gusset perfectly straight as I go ahead and pin the sides in.
    I like this new tutorial segment you are doing Cheryl, I look forward to seeing more tips. I love learning new ways.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Joanne! Yup! That's about what I do. Folding the gusset in half lengthwise and then mark the center. I tried a pin, but found that I liked being able to undo the pinning and still know where the center was. Perhaps I should include a drawing to make my words more clear. :-)
      Thanks again!!
      Hugs,
      Cheryl

      Delete
  2. Can't wait to see more of these posts Cheryl! I do my noses the same way. Basting really makes such a huge difference as soon as you get the sewing machine involved. I used to be too scared to machine sew the gusset head because I like to pin the curved part in a way that wasn't sewing machine friendly. Marking the center also makes I huge difference. Usually I like to pin the center and then one of the ends and do one side at a time rather than sewing it continuously. I end up not poking myself as much as well as not having to deal with going over that middle seam of the two face pieces.

    Happy Sewing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Laine!! I machine baste my bears, but I can see how hand-basting one side at a time from the center out to the end does seem like it would be a lot easier than having to hand sew over the center seam. Thanks for sharing this!!
      Hugs,
      Cheryl

      Delete
  3. Turotials are always good to read. It is nice seeing how other people go about their work. I do the same as you, although I do do the head by hand.
    Hugs Kay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kay!! I think a lot of people find that sewing the head by hand makes it more accurate. I just find that I don't have the patience! (grin)
      Hugs,
      Cheryl

      Delete
  4. sewing the seam isn't the only factor in getting the nose centered....stuffing evenly also comes into play. I do feel so sorry for those bears whose faces are lopsided!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely!! Thanks for sharing this, Bettina!! Stuffing evenly is SOOOO important to the whole bear. Sometimes, it's unbelievable about how stuffing can impact the look of a teddy.

      In an earlier blog post, I shared how to move fiberfill around with a sturdy needle if you find some problems with evenness AFTER you have already finished stuffing your critter. It can be found if you click on "Tutorials" in the Labels section of the right-hand sidebar.

      Thanks again for bringing up this very important topic, Bettina!
      Hugs,
      Cheryl

      Delete
    2. and I thought I was the only one to do that!! LOL ...I have a friend who makes bears ( from patterns etc.) and about 95% of her bears have lopsided faces. In the beginning I tried to encourage her to see the problem... no luck. I have given up and just feel sorry for the bears!!

      Delete
    3. Oh, poor dear bears!! I'm sure you had her look at them in a mirror--too bad that didn't help. Well, what's really the most important thing is that SHE loves them and is pleased with how they look! Perhaps she likes the extra character the noses bring to her little guys. We all like different things--that's the beauty of life! I've met SOOOOO many people who don't like how my bears look and have said so to my face or at least so that I could hear them. :-) I think that many find the eyelids I add creep them out.
      Hugs,
      Cheryl

      Delete

Your visits to my blog truly touch and warm my heart. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! I am sorry that I cannot allow any Anonymous comments anymore--I have been getting an unbelievable amount of spam. I hope it is not a terrible inconvenience to any of you.