Margaret Coombe

I have lived in Westville since 2010 and share my home with hubby, Joe; Zena, my Dachsie‐cross‐Jack Russell and unofficial‐therapy‐dog; two Siamese fighters (Betta fish) and an unknown number of other creatures – don't ask!

Although I recall a teddy bear being a part of my childhood, I never remember actually playing with it. That inclination still persists today. I love the creative process, but when the bears are complete, they all go up for adoption. Once upon a time they all just lived in a box until Joe encouraged me and gave me the confidence to try selling them at markets.

Steiff‐Schulte Alpaca hand dyed variegated shades
Mini velvet hand dyed
Mini velvet hand dyed
Mini velvet hand dyed

My bearmaking begins ...

My sister would take me to various craft classes, as company, and one such class in the late 1990's, was to a teddy bear making class. I was a tomboy (and that has not changed) who could just about thread a needle. I remember going to my mother (who was washing dishes at the time) with some fabric and threaded needle, asking to be shown how to do back stitch!

My style

I enjoy the challenge of designing my own bears. My style has not really changed too much over the many years of bear making. I do find that I am redesigning the limbs of some of my earlier patterns to be a little more rounded and soft. I find that my default size of bear is around 10cm, but I do make larger bears.

All my bears are sewn by hand, as I find that the sewing machine is just not my friend. I would like to make really cutesy type bears, but have given that up as a ridiculous target. The fabric is usually my inspiration and I will go through my patterns to see which pattern will best suit the size of the fabric and the length of the pile.

Top Tips

One thing that my bear making has taught me, is to be flexible. My bears decide how they are going to look (facial expressions do reflect the maker's moods to some degree) and whether they will be male or female. I have learnt to just give in and accept these facts.

Probably my best piece of advice is to make what you enjoy, but don't be scared to challenge yourself or try something different. Add a piece of cotton fabric on the paw/foot pads and even the inner ears.

I just can't think of the best piece of advice I was given... there have been so many and I am still learning.

Favourite colour & fabrics

Definitely white ‐ only because this means that I can dye it! I really enjoy dyeing fabric, almost more so than actually creating a bear. My favourite fabrics are: mini velvet, mohair and alpaca. I am a little bit of a fabric snob!

Fun with hand‐dyeing ...

I have a vague idea of what I want to achieve, but I don't get upset if the results are totally different. I feel that this is very important as often the random dyeing projects turn out really amazing and you can always re‐dye the fabric if you really hate it – give yourself a few weeks of looking at it before you decide.

As a source of reference, I have used the following dye options:

  • Natural dyes

    • Onion skins ‐ boil the skins in water and then strain the water through a sieve. You don't want the skins in with your fabric! Now simmer your fabric in the onion water. The result will be brown, whether you use brown or red onions. To date I have only used this method on mini velvet.
  • ‘Chemical’ dyes

    • Lady Dye ‐ both hot and cold water ‐ follow the instructions for the type of fabric
    • Dye‐IT ‐ again just follow the packaging instructions
    • Vivacor Guarany ‐ this is my current favourite!

Want to know more?

Margaret's bears are available at The Festive Market, Watercrest Mall in Waterfall KZN. You can also follow her on Facebook at Nisbears.

Thank you so much for your contribution and for sharing your story with us, Margaret! Much appreciated!

This is an excerpt from our Bearmaking Bulletin Newsletter dated 6th April 2024.

Be Inspirational

‘Inspiration is extrinsic... it comes from the world around us, but one must let it in and give it a chance!’

All of us, at some time or another, are inspired by a new idea, our environment, a trend, or a person who influences our creative endeavours. In turn, we can also, quite unconsciously, be an inspiration to others. This was the starting point for Teddytech's Be Inspirational gallery. Our invitation to established bearmakers, bear artists and collectors to share their style, tips, influences, etc. in their creative process, is with the hope that it will motivate others to take a creative leap of faith into the unkown!

Click here to view Teddytech's Be Inspirational gallery.