- Arts and Design
Miniature Bears: Many Mini Methods
Collecting or Making Dollhouse Style Stuffed Animals
Miniature teddy bears are captivating. We are fascinated -- children and adults alike -- to see anything so small that has so much character. Lack of realism can lessen the ooh factor of these tiny critters. Still it's easier to come by a realistic dollhouse scale stuffed animal than it is a truly realistic dollhouse doll!
There are three ways to give your miniature display this home style touch: make bears, buy them, or upscale them. It's not necessarily that difficult to make one from a pattern, especially if your goals are modest -- to make one that looks charming from a slight distance, but isn't commercial quality or flawless. (I confess... The miniature bunny in the chair started out to be a bear, but it's face was looking not very bear-y, so I gave it long ears.)
As for buying them, they come with a wide range of price tags. There are artisan bears, mid-price ones, and cheap ones that show up around Christmas. If you have a very cheap one, you can customize it to give it a more realistic look.
The purpose of this page is to introduce you to the many mini options.
You will find inexpensive mini bears at general craft stores like Michael's, especially around the holidays. Most are two inches or larger. They are stitched and have a good deal more realism than the little flocked bears that some people use in displays. However -- and this is a big, however -- they won't quite fool the eye. There are a few simple things you can do to make them look more like artist creations. You've probably noticed that artist quality bears have broader, pug noses -- it's part of what gives them their character. Those that are commercially produced have noses that are smaller (and sometimes lopsided in a way that just isn't in proportion to the scale). It's easy to enter from the neckline and dress up that nose. You can use embroidery floss.
What else can give it a bit of boutique style? Seed beads don't make the most realistic eyes. After all, full-scale teddy bears generally have round eyes. You may well want to do a switch out on the eyes. You can also replace the bow. No, you don't have to tie your own -- you can buy fancy bows in very dainty sizes.
The big one there in the picture has had some nose and mouth sculpting, but no switch out on the eyes. (I believe I also trimmed the 'fur' a bit on the muzzle.
Mini Bears for Upcycling
You can hang these bears on a tree -- as is or dressed up a bit. (Perhaps you'd like ribbons and bows and a harp?)
If you want to use them in a room box or dollhouse setting, you may want to alter them a bit. It's relatively easy to redo the nose and mouth. If you can procure some very tiny onyx beads to use as eyes, you can take the realism factor up a notch.
Supplies for Hand Crafted Dollhouse Bears
Would You Believe Upholstery Fabric?
Trying your hand at making a bear from scratch? There are fabrics sold for just this purpose. There's also a widely, available cheaper alternative: upholstery fabric. Are you surprised? Even professionals use it. You'll want to use the kind that is velvety on one side and looks like cross-stitch fabric on the other. It's easy to cut to the right size because it doesn't stretch. It's fray resistant so you don't need much in the way of seam allowance. You can buy it cheaply at fabric stores like Joanne's. You will need to purchase significantly more than what you'll need to make one bear. However, depending on the texture and color, it may also work for dollhouse/ room box carpeting.
You'll want tiny round beads (like Onyx) instead of seed beads. The other required materials are basic: thread and needles, fluff or batting. You'll have an easier time, though, if you invest in tools like tweezers.
A Book of Instructions
This is one of two miniature bear making books that I have used. You'll find a variety of patterns here -- facial expressions are so varied you might be surprised the patterns were made by the same person. Finished bears range from about one inch (perhaps a little less to about five inches). I believe I made the teeny tiny pink bear from a pattern in this book.
There are a lot of patterns out there for those who want to invest in books and PDFs. There are a few free miniature bear patterns: no strings attached, just artists sharing -- or building their web presence.
Videos: Miniature Artist Bears
Interested in purchasing one by an artist -- or just want to get some inspiration for your own work? Many artisans display their collections on YouTube. You'll see that each has her own style. You'll see noses in different shapes and colors and bears with slightly different personalities. They're not all sewn -- I was surprised at the realism of some crocheted miniatures.
You can find exquisite artist-quality creations at a lower price if you buy used. Are you a collector? Look around for creations by World of Miniature. You'll also find artists selling their own work... or the patterns they have created.
I was on the lookout here for dollhouse scale bears -- up to about 3 inches. Some are much smaller.
A Word About Scale
A majority of dollhouses are in 1:12 scale -- one inch equals one foot. A two inch mini would represent a two foot teddy bear in the 'real world'. Thus, most miniature teddy bears tend to represent rather large teddy bears. It is possible to find mini bear patterns in sizes of one inch or less -- they're pretty hard to make, though!
If you're buying at a general craft store, look for the smallest ones that are available.
Salvaging Treasures in Unlikely Places
The flocked bear in the background is something that I got at a gift store when on vacation -- the summer I turned four. It doesn't look like the traditional teddy bear, but it resembles one of those realistic toy animals you see at science and nature shops and at modern toy stores.
Bear Making Kits
It can be easier for a beginner to work from a kit!
There are several designs here in the 1 to 2 inch range. You'll find the site easy to use as kits are graded according to difficulty level.
Black Onyx Beads for Very Tiny Eyes!
Seed beads are not the ideal shape for making miniature bear eyes. They are just not round enough. The standard is very tiny round onyx beads. You'll probably want the 2 millimeter size on hand.