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My Bear Making Process

At Fairy Godmother Creations, we realize that we’re working with materials that have meaning to the person who sends them. As a result, we treat those materials with respect. Here is a description of our process.

 

Assessing the Fur or Fabric

When the package of materials arrives, the first thing we do is check the fur (or fabric) to make sure it can handle the sewing process. Although there are techniques we can use to re-enforce the fur, if we simply don’t believe the fur will hold up, I will call and give the option of having us try and stabilize the fur with the understanding stated under my FAQ or re-package the fur and return it to the sender along with their payment minus the cost of shipping.

If the fur/fabric is in workable condition, I will send an email letting the person know. If there is a question as to how many bears or what size bears we can get out of the piece, I can usually answer those questions at that time.

 

Preparing the Fur or Fabric

We then carefully remove all linings and interfaces from the fur garment. We test the lining material to see if it will hold up to being used as accent cloth for paw and ear pads. On really old coats, the lining material gets very fragile so it isn’t always useable. The garment is then disassembled at the primary seams to retrieve as much of the fur as possible and to allow the fur to lay flat.

For fabric garments, we disassemble the garments so that the fabric lays flat.

 

Placing and Cutting the Pattern

Once the fur/fabric is ready, the pattern pieces are carefully laid out. Since we have to avoid certain types of seams and we need certain pieces to match the fur or nap, this can take quite a bit of time. Once every piece for each bear being made is in place, the pieces are cut.

Sewing and Assembly

The individual parts are machine sewn leaving openings for stuffing each part. The head is sewn, attaching the ears and adding eyes and noses. Once the head looks right, it is attached to the body by hand.  Once the arms, legs, paws are sewn, the arms and legs are attached using plastic joints or locking nuts, bolts and washers so that the arms and legs move. For lighter weight fabrics, we may use a corded joint. Once all of the arms and legs are attached and moving correctly, each limb is stuffed and closed with hand stitches.

Finishing Touches

If an outfit or accessories have been ordered, we will create it separately. An outfit can take several hours to make and each is created uniquely for the bear.

For those not paying for a full outfit, a scarf or ribbon is added.

Finally

We take a picture and email it before putting the final bears into the mail. I usually post the picture on the web site with some information about the project. If I receive a comment from the person after they have received their bears, I add it to the picture on my web site.

Not everyone takes the time to write but I do like to share the projects.

FAQ - Memory Bears in General

What Kind of Eyes do You Use?

I use standard acrylic safety bear eyes for my basic bears. The acrylic eyes are more affordable, long-lasting and look good. They are also more secure so don’t represent a choking hazard for little ones. If someone wants glass eyes, I will use glass eyes. They take a special order and do cost a bit more ($15 per bear) and they ARE NOT for bears being given to little children. Although they are securely applied, glass eyes are attached to a wire that can break if enough twisting and pressure is put on them–making them a potential choking hazard. If someone wants an old fashioned folk-art look, I use buttons for eyes. If you are interested in glass eyes or button eyes, please mention it when you place your order.

Do You Create Animals Other Than Bears?

Yes, I literally have hundreds of patterns from over 40 years of sewing. If you want a cat, a bunny, a dog or some other animal, let me know what you are looking for. You can click here to see a growing gallery of other animals.

How long can I expect to wait before my bear arrives?

I tell people that an average bear order takes about five t six weeks from the day I receive the materials to the day I ship it out. Sometimes we will turn an order around faster though. It really depends on how busy we are and our busiest months tend to be April and May, October and November. If timing is important, just send a quick email and I’ll tell you the current turn-around time. I do try to email updates along the way. Starting in mid September, Christmas reservations tend to keep me pretty busy through to Christmas so I highly recommend planning ahead if you are wanting bears as Christmas gifts.

Why aren’t your bears’ heads jointed?

I try to make bears that can be cuddled and I’m usually working with older materials. In order to joint the head, the bear head and body have to be very firmly stuffed or the head will flop around. This not only makes them less cuddly, it puts extra pressure on the head and body materials. If you want a jointed head, I will do so, but there is a $20 per bear charge.

Do you offer internment of ashes?

Yes, this is a specialized service and is not offered on my order forms but I can place a small portion of ashes in a sealed water-tight container into each bear. For those who would like to do their own internment, I can create a pocket in the back of each bear that you can slide a small locket or container into. If you want internment options, please call ahead to discuss what will work best for you and your family.

How much time do you put into each bear?

Normally, each bear takes 8-12 hours depending on the materials and size. There are some preliminary things I have to do to the fur or fabric to make sure it will hold up to the sewing. With some garments it can take nearly an hour just to properly remove the lining. The higher quality the garment, the more difficult to get the lining off. I often have to adapt my patterns to work with the fabric/fur nap as well and this can literally take hours of switching the pattern pieces around when I’m trying to get several bears from a single garment. In addition, the joints take time to apply and have to have the right amount of tension. And, of course, there is a lot of hand sewing involved.

How should I send my garment?

Pack it into as small a box you can fit it in. I’d prefer not to receive garment bags or cases that need to be returned. If you are concerned about protecting it from moisture, put it into a plastic garbage bag. It will not be in the mail very long–and I remove it from the box when it arrives.

FAQ - Fur Memory Bears

How much fur/fabric does it take to make a bear?

I can usually get the following:

  • Standard small shoulder stole = Two 9″-12″ bears
  • Larger stole or small jacket = Two 14″ bears one 16″ bear
  • Hip-length jacket/coat = Three to four 12″-14″ bears or two 16″-18″ bears or one 20-24″ bear
  • Full length coat = Four to six 12″-14″ bears or three 16″ bears or two 18″-24″ bears

Each bear has approximately 24 pattern pieces. If someone wants more bears from a garment, I can sometimes adapt my patterns to make smaller bears. I don’t like to work with bears less than 9″ though.

Will My Fur Work Well?

So far, I’ve been able to work with any fur that has come my way. However, different fur does handle differently.Here are some of the common furs I’ve worked with so far:

  • Mink, Muskrat, Beaver, Squirrel, Weasl, Sable, Ermine, Opposum, Badger and Persian Lamb all make beautiful bears and I can make just about any size bear from these fur types.
  • Rabbit has very thin hide so I have to treat it a bit more and it tends to shed over the years. However, it does make very cute bears in any size (9″-20″).
  • Mouton and Seal These furs have a very thick hide. The final bears are beautiful, but it is nearly impossible to work with bears under 16″ in size.
  • Fox, Silver Fox, coyote and Raccoon all tend to have very thin hide with long pile fur. However, most coats with this fur are made of strips of fur between strips of leather or suede–which gives added strength to the fur. This works well for coats, but when making smaller items–like bears–the strips of leather WILL show. I try to place the pattern pieces so that none of the seams land on leather strips, but this means there is more waste. If you want me to reduce or eliminate the leather strips, I can do so but there is a $75 up-charge to your total order because it is time consuming to do so. I have to cut the strips off and re-bind the fur pieces together. The fur from these animals is so long, the smallest bear size we work with is 16″.
Can you use smaller fur pieces?

Some people have collars, hats or the kind of decorative stole that is made of several small animals–more like an accent piece than an actual stole. I can make small bears using fur for the head and paws and other fabric for the actual body (which is covered by an outfit). However, I do charge for the bear plus a full outfit to do so.

How do I know if my fur will work?

Most fur that still has its original lining in good shape tends to be useable. Furriers use lining fabrics that allow the hide to keep its oils. Vintage fur can get dried out over time though–actually, it is the hide that gets dried out. If the hide is too dry, the needle holes from sewing act like perforation instead of binding.

For thicker hide like mink, muskrat, wolf, beaver you can test the fur. If you peel back a bit of lining on your garment to expose the hide, try and poke your finger through the hide (preferably not on a seam–though some fur is made up of nothing but seams). If it takes a lot of effort to tear, or if the hide simply doesn’t tear, your fur is probably going to do well in the sewing process. If the fur tears easily or acts like paper once there is a little hole (as long as it isn’t along a seam) then it is pretty dried out.

For thin hide like rabbit and silver fox, this test won’t work because the hide will poke through even if it is in good condition. The best thing to do is send me the fur so I can assess it. There are things I can do to re-enforce most hide (in fact, I rarely have to send a garment back). If you are unsure, you can send the fur to me along with your order.

If the fur simply won’t work, I’ll ship it back along with your returned payment minus the cost to ship the garment back.

Is there any option for fur that is dried out?

Yes, there may be. If your fur is in bad shape but you want me to try and use it, I have a process I’ve developed that has made it possible to use every fur that has been sent to me so far. However, there are no guarantees so I will only attempt it with the following understanding.

  1. If it simply won’t work after I’ve tried, I will return all but $20 of your money.
  2. It requires me to cut the fur in order to create a bear arm and leg. I use a process I’ve developed but I won’t know if the fur will split at the seam until I turn and stuff a sewn piece or two.

If the test does not work and you want the fur returned, I will also charge ($15) to ship it back at that point.

What happens to the extra fur?

Most of the time, there isn’t much in the way of extra fur. Very few people have only wanted one bear from the fur they have sent me so I’m frantically working to get the number of bears they want from the fur. However, occasionally there is a little fur left over. Unless the person who sent it specifically requests to have it back, I will keep it and use it to augment other projects–or use when I want to do a test run on a new pattern or approach (I have a growing collection of prototype bear heads 🙂 .

If I’ve collected enough extra fur to make a bear, I’ll sometimes create one, but it doesn’t happen very often. There isn’t much of a market for people who want to purchase a bear specifically made from real fur and there is a segment of the population that is offended by what I do so I can’t just make a real fur bear to give to a charity auction. The people coming to this site are looking for someone to help them turn their heirloom fur into bears so it is a more personal service rather than a manufacturing process.

I have an old fur coat I don’t want, do you take donations?

Yes, if you have an old fur coat you don’t want I will take it off your hands. I’m not in the market for buying fur but will happily reimburse your shipping costs. Most of the people coming to this web site want bears made from THEIR fur and very few people are simply looking for a pre-made bear made of real fur so it isn’t usually worth it for me to spend money on fur to make bears from. If you have the energy, you might be able to sell your fur through an on-line auction.

Do you use the garment lining?

Yes, if the garment has lining material that can be used for paw pads and ear pads as well as noses sometimes, I will use it if at all possible. I will try to use it to make a scarf for each bear as well. If the lining is just too old (old satin degrades to the point that it simply tears easily), I use satin scraps from my own supplies. If there is a special embroidery element, I try to work it into a scarf when possible.

FAQ - Fabric Memory Bears

How much fabric does it take to make a bear?

I can usually get the following:

  • Standard men’s shirt = Two 12″-14″ bears or one 16-18″ bear
  • Standard woman’s blouse = Two 12″-14″ bears or one 16″ bear
  • Standard pair of pants = Two 12″-14″ bears or one 16″ bear
  • Full length bath robe = Four to six 14″ bears, Two to three 16-18″ bears, two 20-24″ bears

Each bear has approximately 24 pattern pieces. If someone wants more bears from a garment, I can sometimes adapt my patterns to make smaller bears. I don’t like to work with bears less than 9″ though.

I have a couple of shirts from my late husband and would like bears for each of my grandchildren. How can you use them to create five bears the same?

I can use quilting and patchwork techniques that incorporate the different fabrics into each bear. Here's an example:

What happens to the extra fabric?

Most of the time, there isn’t much in the way of extra fabric. Very few people have only wanted one bear from the garment they have sent me so I’m frantically working to get the number of bears they want from the available materials. However, occasionally there is a little left over. Unless the person who sent it specifically requests to have it back, I will discard it.

 

FAQ - Wedding Dress Memory Bears 

How many bears can you get from a wedding dress?

 It does depend on the style of dress, but I can usually get the following:

  • Eight to ten 9″-12″ bears
  • Six to Eight 14″ bears
  • Four to five 16″ bears

Each bear has approximately 24 pattern pieces. If someone wants more bears from a garment, I can sometimes adapt my patterns to make smaller bears. I don’t like to work with bears less than 9″ though.

What happens to the extra fabric?

Most of the time, there isn’t much in the way of extra fabric. Very few people have only wanted one bear from the garment they have sent me so I’m frantically working to get the number of bears they want from the available materials. However, occasionally there is a little left over. Unless the person who sent it specifically requests to have it back, I will discard it. There may be a “return remnants” fee if the remnants are enough to impact the cost of shipping & handling.

FAQ - Other Kinds of Stuffed Animals

How much fur/fabric does it take to make an animal?

With stuffed animals, it depends a lot on what kind of animal you want. If you want something with the same overall characteristics and proportion of a bear, then the bear chart works. If you want something of a different proportion (like a four-legged standing animal) then I need more available fur in larger segments to work wtih. I can usually get the following:

(These are approximate so it is a good idea to contact me and discuss what you want)

Fur Stuffed Animals

  • Small shoulder stole = One 12″-14″ animal
  • Larger stole or small jacket = One 14-18″ animal
  • Hip-length jacket/coat = Two 14″-16″ animals
  • Full length coat = Two to Three 14″-18″ animals

Fabric Stuffed Animals

  • Men’s shirt = One 12″-14″ animal
  • Woman’s blouse = One 12″-14″ animal
  • Pair of pants = One 12″-16″ animal
  • Full length bath robe = Two to three 14″-16″ animals

FAQ - Wedding Dress Converted into Christening Gown

Do You Need to Get Your Wedding Dress Cleaned Before Sending?

If your wedding dress has a lot of dirt and staining–especially along the hem. Then I recommend getting it cleaned before sending it. I do not offer full cleaning services and simply don’t have the facilities to clean a whole dress. If you send the dress without cleaning, I try to work around any stains or heavy dirt but it limits what I can use of the dress materials.

If there is a section of a dress that has some staining/discoloration and we want to use that section, I will cut the section I want to use and try hand washing it. Most of the time, I can get age stains, some wine and loose dirt out this way. However, deep stains–like mud/dirt on the hem and train need professional treatment. If my staff and I have to wash sections of a dress, there will be a cleaning fee of $40-$60 depending on how much washing is needed.

Christening Gown Process

When your package arrives, I take a quick look at the dress to make sure there isn’t anything that would keep me from getting you what you want. Then, I’ll send you a quick email or phone call to let you know the dress made it safely.

Usually, there are several projects being worked on so it can be a week or two before you hear from me again.

When I’m ready to start your project, I’ll make an assessment of the materials and will sketch an overall design approach.

Using the thumbnail and/or photos of projects that have similar design elements, I’ll contact you with an outline of my plan so that you can give input.

From there, we disassemble the original dress, trying to conserve as much of the materials we plan to use as possible.

Dis-assembly can take numerous hours–especially if we’re trying to rescue beaded lace without losing too many beads. If you have asked for the left-over materials, we set aside any parts we don’t plan to use. If there are stains we need to avoid, we will also cut around those so that they don’t accidentally get included.

Once the available materials are in working condition, we start cutting and sewing until the outfit is done. At that point, we take photos and email them to you along with an e-invoice for any outstanding balance.

Sometimes we are fortunate to get to see the outfit on 🙂

What Sizes do you offer?
  • Newborn (weight 8-12 lbs, height 18-24″, intended for 0-3 months)
  • Small (weight 13-15 lbs, height 25-27″ intended for 3-6 months)
  • Medium (weight 16-18 lbs, height 27-29″ intended for 6-12 months)
  • Large (weight 19-21 lbs, height 29-32″ intended for 12-18 months)

If you need a larger size, we can do that, just ask about it.

What is the best way to pack my wedding dress for shipping?

Wedding dresses can be expensive to ship if you have your dress in a preservation box. However, the dress will travel well in the mail if you simply roll it up (like you would a sleeping bag) and put it in the smallest box it will fit in. Don’t worry about crushing it. We know how to get any wrinkles out and it isn’t going to be in the box for very long. If you want to save a bit in shipping expense, cut any netting that may have been used on the under-skirt to give the skirt fullness. That netting is too rough to use on a baby outfit so it is often the part that gets sent back if you ask for the remnants to be returned–why pay to have it shipped in the first place?.

You will find UPS or the US Postal Service to have the least expensive shipping options. UPS and USPS each have a regular routine and their drivers know our business and deliver within a specific time frame each day so we know not to run errands at certain times of the day.

If you’re shipping using Fedex, please try and send a quick email letting us know. Fedex seems to have only one driver for the entire Dayton area and they don’t come at any set time of the day so, if we happen to have stepped out to run errands when they came by, they won’t leave the package even though we have a secure place for them to do so. It means we will wait another 24 hours for them to try and deliver again or travel out to the airport late in the evening.

I would like to get both a girl’s outfit and a boy’s outfit, what are my options?

There are several possible options:

  1. We can make a unisex gown with both a boy bonnet and a girl bonnet. This allows us to use the more feminine elements of the original dress in the girl’s bonnet.
  2. If there is enough fabric, we can make both a dress and a romper, however, that takes a full dress and enough opaque fabric. If there isn’t enough fabric for both, we can use some matching fabrics in stock to augment the fabric from the original dress. We try to use the dress fabrics for the primary garments and the secondary fabrics as base slips and accents. This approach may require an additional materials fee.
  3. For dresses that have a lot of lace and ornamentation, we can create a unisex gown with a detach-able overlay or a ceremonial robe. This has become a very popular option for people with ornate dresses.
  4. Another option is to get a custom christening robe made from your wedding dress instead of a gown or jumper. Ceremonial robes are traditionally more ornate so we can use the embellishments from the original dress and yet it can be used for either a girl or a boy. The robe can go over any standard christening gown or jumper–ask about having a standard jumper or gown made to go with the robe.
How do I know what the final outfit will look like?

You don’t. You can get an idea of our work from the examples here on this web site. I can assure you that the final outfit will be made with high quality and attention to detail. However, each wedding dress that comes to us is individual. When we sit down to work on your outfit, we will sketch out plans to show you before we actually start cutting anything. We want your input while also taking into context the amount and types of useable materials–along with whether you want a girl’s outfit, a boy’s outfit or both.

We use the same overall patterns for every project so you can see some similarities. However, we adapt the patterns to use the materials from the original dress. If there is lace and bead-work, we try to use it in a way that makes sense. If the fabric is heavy, we will use an a-line skirt or the Bishop style, if the fabric is soft enough to hang well, we will use a full, gathered skirt unless you request something different. Every finished outfit is unique and made to be a family heirloom.

How much time do you spend on a gown?

An average girl’s gown takes about 18-20 hours to make. It isn’t just the actual making of the gown, it is also the task of using materials that have already been formed into a dress to begin with. It can take hours to detach lace, bead work and appliques enough to be able to re-task them. These elements tend to be fragile so we can’t just rip them off, we usually have to detach them one sewn thread at a time. In addition, we’re not working with flat, straight fabric from the bolt. We’re working with fabric that has seams and is usually on angles so it can take hours of pattern manipulation to get large enough areas of fabric without seams or buttons that would show up in the final gown.

What do you do with the leftover materials?

If there are left-over materials from the original dress, we do not normally keep them. Most of the time, any real usable materials are used up and all that is left is netting or tulle and we simply have no use for it. If you want them, there is a place on the order form to let us know and we will ship them back with the final outfit. There is an extra fee to cover the extra shipping costs and larger box. If you choose not to have them returned, we will toss them because they simply aren’t usable for any other projects that we may work on. If you do choose to have the remnants shipped back, there is a good chance the most of what comes back is the under-skirt netting.

Can I donate my remnants for making Angel Gowns?

I get asked this all the time. Although there are a couple of organizations that take wedding dresses and make angel gowns for infants that have passed away, most of them are not accepting donations. Those that are, are accepting complete dresses only. These are the primary organizations that I’m aware of:

How long are the gowns?

We offer three length options: Short (above baby’s feet), Traditional length (usually a couple of inches longer than baby) and Long (34″-36″). The length sometimes varies depending on the amount of usable fabric we can get from the dress. If we’re trying to conserve fabric, the length is the primary place we can do so. Unless someone specifies a length we try to get a longer, modern length (30″-36″) if the fabric is available to do so.

Do you make gowns for boys ?

We have a couple of options for boys. Instead of a lacy collar, we can use more of a “little man suit”look with an over vest or, the “Bishop” style has a more masculine look to it while still allowing us to add some of the original wedding dress embellishments. We can also make a boy’s romper instead of a gown and we now offer an infant Tuxedo Jacket.

How long can I expect to wait before my gown arrives?

Most orders normally take about five to six weeks from the day we receive the materials to the day the finished outfit is shipped out. It really depends on what we have going on. If there is a short deadline and you need it in four weeks or less, rush services can be available at an additional charge. If you have a specific date you need the garment by, we will not accept the order unless I believe we can get it to you in time.

FAQ - First Communion Dress

The Ordering Process

Send your wedding dress, along with the order form and a $100 deposit. Include any information that you may have been thinking in terms of style and what it is you want. Once I receive the dress, I will contact you to discuss your options. Then I will create a design sketch based on what we’ve discussed and email the sketch to you. Once we’ve established the design (and estimated costs) the cutting and sewing will begin. Feel free to email me in advance to discuss what it is you are wanting. I don’t like to try and design an outfit without the wedding dress materials in hand because I don’t know how the original dress was made or how easy/difficult the materials will be to use until I see them. However, I understand how hard it is to send your wedding dress off to a stranger without knowing something about what it is I’ll be doing with it so I am happy to discuss it over the phone and through email in advance.

Do I Need to Get the Wedding Dress Cleaned Before Sending?

If your wedding dress has a lot of dirt and staining–especially along the hem, then I recommend getting it cleaned before sending it. I do not offer full cleaning services and simply don’t have the facilities to clean a whole dress. If you send the dress without cleaning, I try to work around any stains or heavy dirt but it limits what I can use of the dress materials. If there is a section of a dress that has some staining/discoloration and we want to use that section, I will cut the section I want to use and try hand washing it. Most of the time, I can get age stains, some wine and loose dirt out this way. However, deep stains–like mud/dirt on the hem and train need professional treatment. If my staff and I have to wash sections of a dress, there will be a cleaning fee of $40-$60 depending on how much washing is needed. At the design stage, I’ll let you know if washing is going to be needed to get you what you want.

How do I ensure the dress will fit properly?

The easiest way is to make sure you get accurate measurements for us to work with. There is space on the order form for specific measurements. We will be using those measurements to set up our dress forms. As long as we have accurate measurements to begin with, we should be pretty close. There is a fitting stage worked into our process as well. Once the basic construction of the gown is done, I will send the gown along with instructions and some tools for letting me know where there may need to be adjustments.

How much is shipping going to cost from beginning to end?

You can expect the following possible shipping costs:

  • Shipping the initial wedding dress & order = $15-$30 depending on courier service
  • Shipping of dress to you for fitting = about $15 (included in the initial price)
  • Shipping the dress back to FGC after fitting = about $15
  • Shipping the final dress to you = about $15 (plus anything for any additional items ordered)
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