Keepsake bear photo tutorial
How to sew a keepsake bear. If you have been looking for a sewing pattern to make a keepsake bear (or memory bear) that doesn’t have joints, and that does have a photo tutorial for every stage you are in the right place. Click HERE to buy from my website shop, or click HERE to buy from my Etsy shop
If you have stumbled across this tutorial and you haven’t heard of Betsy bear before and you would love to see some photos of Betsy bear made by my customers have a look HERE. I have collected together reviews of my Messy Stork sewing patterns HERE.
I am an experienced keepsake maker who has made many hundreds of beautiful keepsakes for my customers from their treasured clothing. In this blog post I have pulled together all the tips and techniques I know so that you can make your own beautiful keepsake bear using my Betsy bear sewing pattern. This bear is designed to look good with baby clothes as a baby clothes keepsake, or with the clothes of someone who has passed away as a bereavement keepsake.
Interfacing your fabric
To strengthen your keepsakes / soft toys, give them a smooth appearance and stop them stretching when they are stuffed I would recommend you always interface your fabric. To do this draw around each pattern piece onto the interfacing. Then roughly cut these out, and iron them onto the reverse side of the fabric. Then cut the pieces out neatly.
Info before you start sewing your keepsake bear
All seam allowances are 5mm, unless stated otherwise.
There is a 5cm scale on the page with the tummy piece to check your pattern has printed out the correct size.
Always cut the excess fabric away from the seam allowances after sewing unless directed not to.
When you draw out / cut out the legs cut out 2, 1 of which is reversed and cut out the oval shaped hole, then draw out / cut out 2 without the hole, 1 of which is reversed. Do the same for the arms.
All pattern pieces have a directional arrow on to use if you are making a bear out of fur fabric.
Mark the top and bottom points on the paw pieces, the eye dots on the face pieces and the point B’s on the muzzle piece. Put a small dot on the top of the arm pieces that don’t have holes – where I have added an asterix – so you can tell which way up they are when you attach them.
Ensure you start and finish every line of stitches with a few reverse stitches to secure, unless directed to do otherwise.
For an explanation of how to nest seams CLICK HERE
Notions – How to Sew a Keepsake Bear
Fabric: If you are using this pattern to make a fur or fabric teddy bear you will need 1/2m of fabric.
Or, if you are using this pattern to make a baby clothes keepsake you will need 8-10 baby grows or an equivalent amount of clothing, or for an adult clothes keepsake 1 medium short sleeve t-shirt or an equivalent amount of clothing.
Interfacing: 1/2m woven cotton iron on interfacing
Eyes: 15mm craft eyes
Wool felt: 3 square inches to make the nose
Embroidery floss: 20 inches to sew the smile
Tracing paper: 4 square inches to make the smile template
Toy stuffing: 500g or 1lb (approx)
A plastic chopstick, or something similar that is long with a blunt end, to insert the stuffing
Tracing paper/baking paper: 3 square inches to trace the smile template
Plus: pins, cotton thread that matches your fabric, hand sewing needles, scissors, plus pinking shears if you have them
Sewing the front face and ears
1 – Stitching the muzzle is probably the hardest bit of sewing your keepsake bear. So have a read through first and go slowly. Pin the first of the darts with the fabric right side to right. Put one pin near the edge of the fabric to secure by point A and the other 1cm from the end of the dart shown as point B. Sew from the edge of the fabric at A, towards point B so your stitches come off the fabric at B. Cut your cotton about 3 inches or so from your fabric and then tie your loose threads. Don’t try and do reverse stitches by B as tying is stronger. Repeat for all the darts in the muzzle
2 – Sew the face pieces together from point C to point D
3 – Pin the face piece to the muzzle piece right side to right side so the top central dart seam of the muzzle is lined up with the face seam at point C and point E of the muzzle is against point F of the face. Pin all the way round then sew.
The muzzle is slightly bigger than the face to create the fullness when stuffed. Just ease the fabric round so the fabric is distributed evenly. When you sew the muzzle to the face do it with the muzzle dart seams uppermost so they don’t catch in your machine’s feed dogs (the zig zag strips that stick up from your sewing machine’s needle plate)
4– If you are using craft eyes insert these now. Make the holes where they are shown on the pattern
5 –Pin the ear pieces together in pairs. Sew around the outer seam as shown by the dotted line
6 – Turn the ears right side out. Put a small amount of stuffing in each one – you need enough to make it plump push the stuffing towards the top half of the ear so there is no stuffing for the bottom 1cm of the ear, and pin so it stays there. Hand stitch the bottom of the ear closed. Leave the pins in place until after you have stitched the back of the head on so the stuffing doesn’t get into the seam
Assembling your keepsake bear’s head
7 – Lay each ear on to a face piece so the side of the ear you want to face forwards is laying on the right side of the face fabric between points G and H
8 – Sew the ears onto the face using a 3mm seam allowance so they don’t move out of place when you stitch the back of head pieces on, this seam will be hidden from view when you attach the back of the head
9 – Stitch the 2 back of the head pieces together from point I to J
10 – Pin the back of head pieces to the front face so that the face central seam at point D is lined up with the back of head central seam at point I. Pin the back of head pieces to the face pieces right side to right side so point K is by point L both sides then pin all the way round. Sew from point DI to point KL one side, then turn the fabric and sew from point DI to KL the other side. By sewing the seam this way you will get a smoother forehead. Do not cut the excess fabric from the seam at point K/L as you will need this later to get the head / body lined up nicely.
Sewing the bear’s body
1 – Start by sewing the 2 tummy pieces together, right sides together from point M to point N. Snip the excess fabric away from point M but NOT point N
2 – Stitch a row of guide stitches from point Q to R 5mm away from the raw edge on EACH of the 2 back pieces (this is not sewing the 2 pieces together). Then stitch the 2 back pieces together but only for a couple of centimeters at the base from O to P as shown by the dotted line. Do NOT sip the excess fabric away at point P or R.
3 –Stich the tummy and back pieces together at the side seams as shown by the dotted line on the pattern. Do not stitch round each of the semi-circular indentations.
This has now created the body. The oval holes that you have created are where you will attach the arms and legs. To get a nice neat join where the tummy and back central seams meet nest the seams. To do this push the fabric of the back in one direction, the the fabric of the tummy in the oppoosite then slide together so they lock together then pin and sew. For a better explanation see the Info Before you Start Sewing section at the top of this post.
4 – Cut the excess fabric away from the seam allowances at the top and bottom of each arm and leg hole. Then iron some little bits of interfacing onto these open seams by the limb openings to stabilise them.
Do not cut the excess fabric from the top by the neck seam as you will need this later to get the head / body lined up nicely.
Sewing the bear’s Limbs
1 –This way of attaching limbs may seem counter intuitive or complicated compared to how you usually attach arms and legs. Just follow the steps and the result will be a keepsake bear that looks jointed but isn’t.
Lay the first inner arm onto one of the arm holes of the body right side to right side. Check the back of the arm is facing towards the back of the bear. Pin, then sew all around the hole, make sure you finish your stitches exactly where you started so there is no gap. Clip the curves, being extremely careful not to snip through the stitching.
Repeat for the other arm.
2- Lay the first inner leg onto one of the leg holes of the body right side to right side. Check the toes are facing towards the tummy and pointing upwards towards the neck
Ensure the bottom of the 2 holes are very carefully lined up or your bear will not sit up straight. Use the same technique for the leg that you just used for the arm. So pin all round, then sew all round then clip the curves, being extremely careful not to snip through the stitching.
Repeat for the other leg.
3 – Push each of the limbs through their own holes from the right side of the body through to the wrong side.
4 – Pin one of the outer arms, ie one without a hole in, to the inner arm, with the fabric right side to right side. Sew all the way round.
Clip the curves all the way around the arm, use pinking shears if you have them, don’t snip through the seam.
5 – Pin each of the outer legs, ie the ones without holes, to the inner legs, right side to right side. Sew all the way round from S to T as shown by the dotted line.
Clip the curves and cut the excess fabric away from the seam allowances by points S and T to make attaching the paws smoother.
Paws – How to Sew Perfect Paws on a Memory Bear
1 – Attach the paws to the legs one at a time. Attach them with the right sides of the fabric together. Pin center point U of the paw to the end of the seam S of the leg. Then pin center point V of the paw to the end of the seam T of the leg, make sure the edges of the fabric are perfectly lined up. First push the pins through from the paw pad to the leg fabric. Once you have pinned all the way round, turn the leg over and insert pins into each gap pinning from the leg fabric through to the paw fabric.
2 – Put the paw pad face downwards on your sewing machine to sew. Go slowly and carefully. Getting a really smooth line of stitches now will make your finished bear look really neat and well presented. Once you have sewn all the way round so you finish stitching where you started, clip the curves. Snip as close as you can to your stitches without snipping through them. The snips allow the fabric to curve nicely once it is stuffed. If you skip this stage it will pull your fabric out of alignment
3 – Take out all the pins and clip the curves, or use your pinking shears, all the way round the paw. As before, be careful not to snip through your stitching line.
Attaching the keepsake bear’s head to the body
1 – Turn the arms and legs through so they are right side out. Pin the tops of the arms down so they don’t get in the way of the neck seam. Keep the bear’s body wrong side facing out
2 – Turn your bear’s head through so the right side is facing out.
3 – Pin the head inside the body so that the fabric is right sides together. Ensure the central dart of the muzzle is lined up with the central seam of the tummy and the side seams of the head are lined up with the side seams of the body, nest the seams and pin.
Now pin multiple times to secure and sew all the way along the neck seam.
4 – Sew the head closed from J to W at the neck seam. Sew the back closed from Q to O.
You will be left with a 5cm gap, from R to Q – this is your turning and stuffing hole.
Turn your bear through the turning hole, so that he or she is the right way out. Stuff your bear, stuffing the limbs first, then the head, then the body. Use little pieces of stuffing and push in firmly using a plastic chopstick or knitting needle or something similar. Make sure the paws in particular are well stuffed to show off their shape, and the nose the same.
Once you have finished stuffing, stitch the turning hole closed with a ladder stitch. If you want a really firm bear, don’t ladder stich it closed immediately, wait 24 hours then add more stuffing before ladder stitching closed.
How to Ladderstitch
If you would like some guidance on how to ladderstitch, CLICK HERE.
Completing your keepsake bear
1 – To create the nose and mouth. Cut out your felt nose and pin into position on your bear – so it is 1cm below the face/ muzzle seam and sitting nice and central.
2 – Trace the smile template from your pattern including the dotted line and the arrow. Pin the tracing paper onto the bear so the arrow sits against the neck seam, and the dotted line is centralised on the bear’s muzzle. Push pins through the smile line on the tracing paper into your bear at approx. 3mm intervals
3 – Pull the pinheads out a bit away from your bear’s face, so you can lift the paper up and see where the pin enters the fabric. Lean around the paper to push a pin directly (not through the paper) into the bear’s muzzle at exactly the point where the first pin entered the bear’s face, take out the first pin. Repeat one at a time for all of the row of pins so your bear’s smile is marked out by pins, and the paper is removed. Check your pins are in a nice neat curve, adjust a bit if necessary
4 – With your embroidery floss, lift the bottom edge of the bear’s nose and push your needle in so the end of the embroidery floss will be hidden by the nose felt, and come out by the first pin of your bear’s smile, pull the needle through leaving a tail of around 2 inches so you can tie off at the end. Stitch with back stich along the smile.
5 – If you push your needle in and out of the entry points marked by the pins it will stay neat.
6 – When complete take the needle and embroidery floss to the point where you originally started under the nose, and tie to secure. Snip off the excess embroidery thread.
7 – Whip stitch all the way round the nose in a matching thread to secure it onto your bear.
Your bear is now complete!
Copyright and Use of this Pattern
I ask that you please respect the amount of work that has gone into making this pattern. This pattern can be used to make keepsake bears and teddy bears to sell through your own shop or at craft fairs. However, within any written description of the item for sale please credit Rachel Leggett at The Messy Stork with the pattern design. You do not have permission to make a copy of this pattern to sell, or to offer it for free distribution.
Thankyou, and I hope you enjoy!
If you have enjoyed sewing Betsy Bear and would like to try some of my other patterns, here are the links for some of my other tutorials