How to Sew a Memory Bear
How to Sew a Memory Bear. I am an experienced keepsake maker who has made many hundreds of beautiful keepsakes for my customers from their loved ones clothing. In this blog post I have pulled together all the tips and techniques I know to show you how to make your own beautiful memory bear.
The pattern used in this blog post is my Charlie Bear memory bear sewing pattern. My Charlie Bear pattern is available from my Etsy shop CLICK HERE to buy.
Info before you start
All seam allowances are 5mm, unless stated otherwise. When you cut out the arms cut 2, 1 reversed for each arm and cut out the oval shaped hole, then cut 2, 1 reversed without cutting out the hole. Do the same for the legs. There are photos at point 5 to help you.
All pattern pieces have a directional arrow on to use if you are making a bear out of fur fabric. Mark the center points of the forehead and paw pieces. Ensure you start and finish every line of stitches with a few reverse stitches to secure, unless directed to do otherwise.
There is a 5cm scale on the page with the tummy piece, to check your pattern has printed out the correct size.
If this is your first time sewing a memory bear it is advisable to make a practice bear first, to ensure you get your bear that you want to keep forever perfect.
Fabric: If you are using this pattern to make a memory bear you will need 1 medium adult short sleeve t-shirt or an equivalent amount of clothing.
Or if you are using this pattern to make a furry teddy bear you will need 1/2 m of fur fabric, ¼m contrast fabric for the paw pads and inner ears. Please note your finished bear will look plumper than the ones pictured here as the fur will add bulk.
1/2m woven cotton iron on interfacing, I use number 8028 from the Empty Bobbin click here to go to their online store
Eyes: 15mm craft eyes, also known as toy safety eyes
Nose: 2 square inches of wool felt
Smile: 20 inches of embroidery floss in a colour to match the nose felt
Toy stuffing and a plastic chopstick, or something similar that is long with a blunt end, to insert the stuffing
Tracing 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 body
Here are all the stages and photos for how to sew a memory bear
1 – Start by sewing the 2 tummy pieces together, right sides together from point A to point B. (1&2)
2 – Stitch the 2 back pieces together but only for a couple of centimeters at the base from C to D as shown by the dotted line. To keep your ladder stitch closure neat at the end of your bear making – it is a wise idea to sew a guide stitch from Z to the neck seam on each back piece now, sew it 5 mm in from the raw edge of your fabric so it is the same depth as your other seam allowances. You are not stitching any pieces of fabric to one another with this stitch, just creating a row of stitches on each piece.
3 – Stitch the tummy and back pieces together at the side seams. To get a nice neat join where the tummy and back central seams meet nest the seams. For an explanation of how to nest seams see here
Only stitch the straight lines as shown by the dotted line on the pattern, do not try to 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 (3).
4 – Cut the excess fabric away from the seam allowances at the top and bottom of each arm and leg hole. Then iron the seams open where you’ve just snipped. Ironing some little bits of interfacing onto these open seams by the limb openings to stabilise them is recommended (4).
Sewing the Limbs
5 – When you cut out the legs cut 2, 1 reversed and cut out the oval shaped hole -these will be your inner legs. Then cut 2 legs, 1 reversed without cutting out the hole – these will be your outer legs (5.1).
When you cut out the arms cut 2, 1 reversed and cut out the oval shaped hole -these will be your inner arms. Then cut 2 arms, 1 reversed without cutting out the hole – these will be your outer arms (5.2).
Lay the first inner leg on to the leg hole of the body with the fabric right side to right side. Check the toes are facing towards the tummy and pointing upwards towards the neck seam (5.3).
Ensure the bottom of the hole is very carefully lined up or your bear will not sit up straight. Sew all around the hole (5.4).
Clip the curves, being extremely careful not to snip through the stitching (5.5). Repeat for the other leg.
6 – 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. Clip the curves.
Repeat for the other arm.
7 – Push each of the limbs through their own holes from the right side of the body through to the wrong side (7).
8 – Pin each of the outer arms, ie the ones without holes in, to the inner arms, 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.
9 – 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 E to F as shown by the dotted line.
Clip the curves and cut the excess fabric away from the seam allowances by points E and F to make attaching the paws smoother.
10 – Attach the paws, to the legs one at a time. Attach them with the right sides of the fabric together. Start by holding the paw pad so it is facing you and pin center point G of the paw to the end of the seam E of the leg. Then pin center point H of the paw to the end of the seam F of the leg.
Make sure the leg fabric edge is exactly lined up with the paw fabric edge. Working out from those 2 pins gradually pin the paw pad to the leg fabric pinning from the paw to the leg all the way round at approx. 1cm intervals. (10.1) Continue pinning all the way round. If you have any leftover fabric remove a few pins from the sides and gently shape it to fit.
Then turn the leg / paw over and pin in between all your first set of pins, pinning from the leg fabric through to the paw fabric. (10.2)
You will now have a lot of pins! (10.3)
Put the leg /paw fabric paw side down on your machine. (10.4) Then sew round really slowly.
Take out all the pins and clip the curves, or use your pinking shears, all the way round the paw. As before being sure not to snip through your stitching line.
Sewing the Front of the Face
11 – First make sure you’ve marked dot K on your cheek pieces, it is 1cm above the top of the dart (11.1).
Fold the fabric of the first cheek right side together so that the letter I’s are touching each other, and the fold goes through point K (11.2).
Sew with a 5 mm seam allowance from point I to point J. Then with the needle down in the fabric lift the sewing machine foot and pivot the fabric and sew straight to point K and off the edge of the fabric. Tie your loose threads once you’ve sewn off at point K as it’s stronger than doing some reverse stitches (11.3).
Sew the second cheek the same way. Next, sew the 2 cheek pieces together from point L to point M (11.4).
12- Pin the forehead into place on the cheeks so the centre point of the forehead O lines up with the cheek centre seams where they are joined at point L, and the edge of the fabric by point Q is lined up with the edge of the fabric at point N. Sew all the way round from point Q to O to Q. Snip the excess fabric from the seam allowance by points N and Q. You have now created your front face.
13 – Mark up where to put the eyes (13.1).
Make the hole to insert just below the seam so you don’t snip through your stitches (13.2).
Push the craft eye through the hole you have so the eye is sitting on the right side of the fabric (13.3)
Push the back on all the way so it is tight against the fabric (13.4).
Ears and the Back of the Head
14 – First put the RSTU markings on one inner ear and one outer ear. Pin the ear pieces together so that the inner ear with markings is attached to the outer ear without, and the outer ear with markings is attached to the inner ear without.
Sew around the outer seam as shown by the dotted line. Turn your ears right side out.
Starting with the ear with the inner marked fold the fabric at point S so that R and T are touching. (14.2) Then fold again so that S touches U. Put a couple of stitches in to secure.
Fold the other ear following the instructions and it will become a mirror image, then secure the fold with stitches.
15 – Lay out your ears and front face as shown in the photo with the inner ears facing up and the ear fold pointing towards the bottom of the cheek (15).
Pin the ears to the front face so the inner ear lays onto the front face fabric. The fold in the ear needs to lay just below the forehead/ cheek seam, so you don’t have a big bulk of fabric to sew through. Tack the ears onto the front face using a 3mm seam allowance so they don’t move, this seam will be hidden from view when you attach the back of the head.
16 – Stitch the 2 back of the head pieces together from point V to point W. (16.1) Clip the excess fabric from the seam allowance by point V.
Pin the back of head pieces to the front face so that the center of the seam at point V is lined up with centre point P. Pin the back of head pieces to the cheeks so point X is by point Y then pin all the way round. (16.2) Sew from point P to point XY one side, then turn the fabric and sew from point P to XY the other side.
By attaching the back of the head to the front of the head in 2 phases you will get a much smoother forehead line than if you sew straight from XY one side round through P to XY the other side.
Attaching the Head to the Body
17 – Turn your bear’s head through so the right side is facing out. Keep the bear’s body wrong side out.
Pin the head inside the body so the fabric is right sides together.
Line the central seam of the cheeks up with the central seam of the tummy, nest the seams and pin. Then line the side seam at one side of the head up with the side seam of the body, nest and pin. Line the other side seam of the head up with the side seam of the body, nest the seams and pin.
Now pin multiple times to secure, and sew all the way along the neck seam.
18 -Sew the head closed from W to the neck seam. Sew the back closed from C to Z.
You will be left with a 5cm gap, from Z to the neck seam – this is your turning / stuffing hole.
How to complete your memory bear
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. However if you want a really firm bear after the first stuffing, don’t ladder stitch it closed immediately. Put it to one side for 24 hours then add more stuffing before ladder stitching closed.
How to Ladder Stitch
Start sewing from just before the end of your original seam.
Dip your needle in and out of the fabric on the left of the closure hole just outside your guideline that you created at point 2
Take the thread across horizontally to the right-hand side, dip in and out just outside your guideline.
Return with a horizontal movement to the left and dip in and out.
Continue to repeat until you have a neat ladder shaped line of stitches. Keep your horizontal lines truly horizontal to the vertical line of the bear’s opening and do little stitches when you are dipping in and out, then you’ll get a neat finish (18.1) and (18.2). Gently pull on your stitches to pull the opening completely closed, and tie closed.
Sewing the nose and mouth
21 – To create the nose and mouth. Cut out your felt nose and pin into position on your bear. (21.1)
Trace the smile onto your tracing paper (21.2), including the dotted line and the arrow at the bottom.
Pin the tracing paper so the arrow sits against the neck seam, and the vertical line that goes through the smile is pinned into the central seam of the cheeks.
Put pins through the dotted line into the central cheek seam above and below the smile. Now push pins through the smile line on the tracing paper into your bear at approx. 3mm intervals.
Remove the pins that are through the central seam – these were just to centralise your bear’s smile.
Pull the pinheads out a bit away from your bear’s face (22.3), 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) in to the bear’s face at exactly the point where each of the first pins entered the bear (22.4). Take out the first pins and remove the paper.
Check your pins are in a nice neat curve, adjust a bit if necessary.
With your embroidery thread, start backstitching from the center of where the bear’s nose will sit – so the end of the embroidery floss will be hidden by the nose felt– leave a tail of around 2 inches so you can tie off at the end. Stitch with backstitch down the central seam line to the center of the smile.
Continue to backstitch from one end of the smile to the other. If you push your needle in and out of the entry points marked by the pins it will stay neat.
When complete take the needle and embroidery thread to the point where you originally started, and tie to secure. Snip off the excess embroidery thread.
Whip stitch all the way round the nose in a matching thread to secure it onto your bear.
Your memory bear is now complete!
If you have some fabric left over and you really want something easy and pretty to sew with it have a look at my heart shaped cushion / pillow here.
Copyright/ 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 memory 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!