Thanks for bearing with us while we were away on vacation. We only arrived back yesterday and since then we’ve been feeling a little bit grizzly, owing to our jet lag. We are slowly clawing our way back through our mountain of washing , but although we are feeling a bit fuzzy at the moment, we decided to paw-se our unpacking because we cubn’t wait to tell you about our beary exciting adventure, which happened while we were away!!!
(Ok, enough of the bear puns :D, we know they’re un-bear-able ………… sorry, couldn’t resist one last one).
So, one morning of our vacation, Phil and I decided to see some of the sights around Stowe, Vermont where we were staying overnight during our road trip (beautiful town by the way … seriously, you should visit!). Our Inn Keepers for the day, George and Mary Anne at the Brass Lantern Inn (which we would highly recommend! It was by far the prettiest and most beautiful Inn of the trip, and when it comes to hotels we don’t say that lightly!) showed us on a map where there were some really pretty waterfalls, about 1/2 a mile along a little woodland trail. So, we added it to our list of things to see for the day and as it was only about 5 mins from the Inn, set out pretty early and were there for about 10am, which must have meant we were the first people on the trail that morning.
So, there we were happily wandering along, thinking to ourselves that this was a very peaceful nice little woodland walk with not a soul around and what pretty waterfalls there must be at the end, and we had gone about 1/2 a mile when we turned a little corner and found this fellow ………………………….. !!!!!!!!
Now, I would like to say that I was totally calm and collected, but actually I think I said something like ” Bllllleeeeuuuuurrrgghhhhhhh, PHIL a BEAR!!!!!!!!!!!! ” and then ran about 50 ft away. Phil was much much braver and had the camera with him so stood his ground and managed to snap a few (shaky) pics before the bear realised Phil was bigger (and hairier he he he) than him and he ran off (we reckon he was around 4ft from the top of his back to the ground …. like the size of a big dog.)
Being the city dwellers that we are, we were TOTALLY not expecting to see a bear. We had NO idea what to do in the situation (our bear encounter knowledge was sadly lacking) and I was a complete big girl and more or less ran back to the car jibbering something about “What if the bear has gone to get his friends and come and get us!” while Phil filmed me.
It was an exciting morning.
Phil had been talking all vacation about wanting to see a moose, but decided that this was more than enough wild-life encounters for him for one holiday … although we did manage to snap pics of a few other critters during our two weeks.
So, to celebrate having made it out of the woods with all four limbs and to remember our first big wildlife encounter, I decided it might be a fun plan to knit a slightly smaller and less frightening bear of my own.
Actually, all joking aside for a minute, we really are very thankful that the bear was only a smallish one (he / she looked pretty thin from the winter) and seemed to be quite young. Although it happens very rarely, actually running into an adult bear in the woods isn’t a laughing matter, especially grizzly bears, which this one thankfully wasn’t, and especially especially mama bears with cubs, which double thankfully this one wasn’t. If either of those situations has arisen this might have been a less jovial tale. In retrospect I wish we had read some guidelines on what to do in this situation before heading out into the woods without thinking first, as it turns out that running away is exactly the WRONG thing to do in this situation! Luckily there are plenty of guidelines available online, such as these from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, which you can find here.
Ok, public service announcement over, back to knitting.
The idea to make the bear by knitting him really came from my bff and oldest friend Leandra, who lives stateside (we made a bee-line to go and spend some quality time with her and her amazing family after our road trip!). She is a very talented crafter and knits the most beautiful stuffed animals for her cute as a button little-man who just turned one, and has even been known to knit snugglies for slightly older members of the family too! Case in point, this is the amazing giraffe Leandra whipped up while we were there. She also knits fun and very cute kitchen towels and has just decided to open her own etsy shop! Hurray! You can be sure we will share the details of that with you as soon as its up and running (and be first in line ourselves!)
To knit my mini brown bear, I used a Denise Powell’s ‘Little Bear’ pattern. I found it on Patternfish and instantly fell in love with it. I wanted a proper ‘bear’ like bear, rather than a teddy, and this pattern fit the bill perfectly. The pattern cost me $6, which all in all isn’t bad really, although it does mean that unfortunately I can’t share it with you on here, but you can follow this link to get your very own copy.
The original pattern is designed to make a cute little polar bear (the finished bear is around 5 inches high and 7 inches long), and is knit in a feltable wool (more on that below) so that the final product can be hand-felted before stuffing, to give your little bear at cute fluffy exterior.
But, as I was knitting a black bear, rather than a polar bear I tweaked the pattern slightly to give the bear a slightly shorter neck (I can assure you from personal experience that black bears have pretty short necks! 😉 ) so you can find my changes to the given pattern below.
Make: Little Black Knitted Bear
You will need:
Denise Powell – ‘Little Bear’ Knitting Pattern
Around 50g of feltable wool in Black (and a tiny bit in Tan to use for the nose …. around 2 meters is more than enough) – I used Paton’s Classic Wool, which I have had the most luck with felting, but in theory any 100% wool yarn should felt well after knitting, just make sure it has no acrylic in it at all.
A pair of straight needles (I used size 3.5mm, US 4) as recommended by the label on my wool, so if in doubt double check with the yarn you are using).
A pair of rubber gloves, some hot (hot!) water and a squirt of hand soap for felting
A darning needle
Stuffing for the inside of the bear
Black and white embroidery thread for the eyes and nose.
1) Knit – First things first, knit up your bear following the pattern. The pattern recommends that it is suitable for any competent beginner which I would agree with, really you just need to know how to cast on and off, knit, purl, make 1 and swt (slip wrap turn).
The pattern is knit flat and makes a long bear outline, starting at the bears rear, knitting forward to the nose and then continuing on to the underside of the bear.
I pretty much followed the pattern, apart from in the neck which I shortened to make him more black bear like.
(Pretty amazing view right? …. that’s the Maine coast. It makes us smile)
These are the changes I made:
Skip rows: 35, 37, 39, 41, 45 and 69, 72 and 73.
As black bears have brown noses, I changed to a tan coloured yarn for rows: 47 – 60.
Once your bear is finished knitting, he should look something like this –
2) Sew him up – To sew up the seams of your bear you simply fold him in half at the nose and sew the underside to the topside, making sure to match seams as you go around (I found that attaching each of the 4 feet together first helped to keep everything lined up nicely). Make sure to leave an opening at the back for stuffing him later.
3) Felt – Hand felting a bear is really pretty easy. You just need to run yourself a basin of very hot water and pop a squish of hand soap in. Then submerge your bear and give him a good rub and mash all over in the hot water. You will find that after around 5 mins of swishing and working him in the water the definition between the stitches will have reduced and the wool will look considerably more matted. The longer you carry on the more felted your work will become. Also, if you want a very tight felt you can run the work briefly under very cold water for a few seconds in between hot water felting which will shock the wool fibres and tighten up the knitting.
Once your bear is as felted as you would like him to be, take him out and stuff him with some paper towels and leave him in a sunny place for a few hours to dry out.
4) Stuff and sew up – After your bear has dried thoroughly he is ready to stuff. I used some basic washable polyester fibre stuffing which I bought at my local craft store to stuff him with. Then I sewed up the little hole I left for stuffing using some more black wool.
5) Add a face! – Once he was finished I used some black and white embroidery thread I had kicking around to give him a little face.
(Ewky, check out the drizzly rain in Edinburgh today … definitely doesn’t feel like vacation any more.)
I decided to call him Trent. Actually, Trent has a brother, Terrence, which is still living in America, as I ended up making two bears – one who is still living with Leandra and her little guy, and one who came home with us!
Cute little fella isn’t he!
Here we are hanging out together.
And now we are trying to be menacing and bear like.
So, there you have it, by far the most exciting thing to happen to us all year! Now that we’re home it should be back to regularly scheduled programming, but thanks for sticking around while we were off having fun. We really appreciate your patience.