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review & giveaway: Crochet for Bears to Wear

Let’s get this out of the way first: I was given a copy of this book to review. But I’m not being compensated for this review in any other way, and the following is based on my honest opinions!

crochet for bears to wear

Crochet for Bears to Wear: More Than 20 Perfect Projects for Your Favorite Teddies and Friends is the new book by Amy O’Neill Houck. A totally original concept, this is a book of crochet clothing patterns in teddy bear sizes. Amy has previously written the companion book Knits for Bears to Wear, so it was about time we saw a crochet version!

In this review, I’ll cover an overview of the book, my experience in making one of the garments for my Fuzzy Bear, and keep reading to the end, because I’ll be giving away a copy to one of my readers!

Overview

Coincidentally, the first crocheted garment I ever attempted was one of Amy’s designs! (I still wear my Sweet Sweater around the house during the winter, although I added a few extra rounds to the bottom and sleeves since taking that photo, to make it extra snuggly.) I was impressed that the pattern was written so that, using a swatch, your own measurements, and some basic calculations, you can easily tailor the pattern to fit you perfectly. Although the patterns in this book are designed for standard 18″ tall bears and dolls, Amy uses the same approach here so that you can customize the garments to fit any favourite teddy, or even a small child.

What I like most about this book is that it uses the same crochet techniques and garment constructions that are used for real clothing, so it’s a great way to learn the basics without making the commitment of a full-sized sweater. If the thought of crocheting clothing intimidates you, seeing how a small, quick bear outfit comes together will hopefully give you the confidence to try crocheting something similar in a larger size for yourself!

It’s hard to be very critical of this book! My one comment would be that I had assumed that the ‘more than 20’ projects would mean there are over 20 outfits included. In fact, each item counts as a project, so, for example, the baseball jersey, cap, mitt and ball count as 4 projects. There are actually 13 individual outfits in the book, although contributions from guest designers Robin Chachula and Drew Emborsky and a real variety of styles and techniques ensure that there’s very little repetition, and every outfit your teddy bear could possibly need is represented.

Making a Garment: My Experience

Although it’s assumed that you’ll be making garments for purchased teddy bears and dolls, crocheting clothing for your own crocheted toys makes it extra special. My Fuzzy Bear, at only 11″ tall (standing), is far smaller than a standard 18″ teddy bear, so I thought that making a garment for him would really put the custom-sizing instructions in the book to the test! I chose the Gone Fishing Vest, although I used a silky acrylic yarn in a rich colour to give it a different look – Fuzzy Bear isn’t really the outdoorsy type πŸ˜‰

choosing a pattern
Fuzzy Bear says “This one please, but in plum!”

As the book explains, before starting to crochet a garment, you always need to make a gauge swatch using your yarn and the recommended hook size. Everybody crochets differently, and if you don’t check that your measurements match the gauge in the book, you could end up with a piece that’s far too large or small. My first gauge swatch, using the recommended ‘light’ weight yarn (Bernat Satin Sport, in my case) and the recommended G hook, was far too small. I actually made 3 swatches (with G, H, I hooks) before I met the required gauge, so it’s a good job I checked!

Next, to take Fuzzy Bear’s measurements using the handy panel in the book, so I could calculate my starting chain length. Here I hit my first little problem: in the front of the book, it explains all the measurements you may need for all the patterns, including the Chest Circumference and Chest Width. But the sidebar for my pattern just told me to “Measure your bear’s chest at the widest point” – hmm, is that the circumference or width? At first I assumed width. The pattern doesn’t explicitly mention that you start crocheting from the bottom and work up, which would have made it easier for me to figure out that it actually means the chest circumference (as the vest is worked in one piece, and the starting chain runs all around the bottom). Note: most of the other pattern customization boxes don’t have this ambiguity, saying e.g. “Measure the circumference of your toy’s chest” instead.

Calculations complete, I started crocheting. I loved the granite stitch used in this pattern – it really adds visual interest while still giving a non-lacy fabric and being easy to crochet. I made the back and then started on the decreases for the first armhole and neck. Here I hit my second problem: as Fuzzy Bear is so much smaller than standard, I had far fewer stitches than the standard pattern. By the time I’d decreased for the armhole AND neck, I had no stitches left to make the top of the shoulder, even after I tried to tweak the pattern!

first attempt
That shoulder (top left) looks horrible – time to frog this attempt

Now, here’s where the customization panel gets even more useful. It takes different gauges into account: I could have stuck with my first swatch instead of trying to meet the gauge, and then used the customization panel to give me the size I wanted! This is a really useful feature if you want to make one of the patterns using a different thickness of yarn – even if your bear is exactly 18″ tall you can still customize the pattern to fit your yarn!

So I returned to my initial G hook (which, as an added bonus, actually gave me a far more even, less floppy fabric) and started over, using my own gauge and Fuzzy Bear’s measurements. I had no problem this time – the numbers all worked out perfectly and the piece came together easily. The instructions were all clear and easy to follow, and the main part of the vest worked up in no time!

main piece completed
A diagram showing that this is the shape you should end up with would have been nice

From there it was just a simple matter of sewing up the seams, and crocheting the patch pockets. The customization panel didn’t mention that I’d have to resize the pockets too, to match the scale of the vest (although that should have been obvious – silly me!) so I made one supersized pocket before I realised my mistake πŸ™‚

I’m really impressed with the result. Considering that Fuzzy Bear is less than 2/3 of the size of bear the pattern was intended for, you can see that the customization panel really does work! And doesn’t he look adorable in his new vest?

Fuzzy Bear in his new vest
A perfect fit!

Fuzzy Bear in his new vest
I love this stitch pattern

Win a Copy!

Now for the fun part! I have a bonus copy of Crochet for Bears to Wear to give away to one of you! To be entered, simply leave a comment on this post before 6am 12 noon EST on Monday April 26, 2010. Make sure you give your real email address in the ’email’ box (only I will be able to see it) so that I can contact you if you win! The contest is open worldwide. Good luck!

85 Comments »

  1. MysticAngel said

    I just found your bear site and am interested in making the vest. Is there any way I can get the vest pattern? N I would really love to make it.
    Thank you much,
    MysticAngel

  2. cheryl mowbray said

    I like teddy bears & making clothes for them .Ihave over 100 bears that i have pick up at yard sale ,little shop and allover . ilove bears .

  3. I just finished a Fuzzy Monkey for my son and he asked for some clothes, I had remembered this blog post and re-read it, after I find a copy I MAY try attempting a jacket for the monkey πŸ˜‰ I have bookmarked this review because it’s an awesome review! a very “human” review- if that makes sense- as you can tell June actually tried it and told us about every step! June’s wonderful work and review make me confident that with patience I could try this book out, it seems like it’s full of information to help anyone make a tiny outfit πŸ˜‰ THANKS JUNE!!!

  4. Carol Williams said

    I love the book and can’t wait to make some outfits for my Mikie bear. Thank you for the review.

  5. Else said

    Thanks for this post, June! I always have questions about making clothes for my bears…this answers some of them. And the book looks cool! Hope I win! πŸ™‚

  6. handmedown said

    Liked your review and the reminder to check the gauge. Something I always have to do it does save time. Thanks for offering so much interesting material and so many adorable patterns.

  7. CJ LaRoe said

    Wow, thanks for such an in-depth review! Many places I look at books wouldn’t have bothered to try out a pattern to make sure everything worked like it was supposed to. I really liked your balance of praise & constructive criticism, it’s really important for the writer (and us consumers) to know what the weak points of the book are in addition to the coolness of the product. I agree completely that the book should have included a diagram exemplifying what the vest piece should have looked like, you can’t have too many pictures with written directions!

    Based on your review, if this book were available locally I would certainly check it out.

    Thank you!

  8. Sandy H-M said

    Have just started making my dear bears and animals with crochet.. Love your patterns by the way, it is what got me started. Have friend having a baby so have started making crochet animals for baby’s room. These outfits would be great for his/her teddies. Thanks for such a great and fair review.

  9. I love Robin Chachula and Drew Emborsky. I watch them on Knit and Crochet Today all of the time.

    I appreciated your honest and detailed review of the book. I LOVE IT! I hope I’m the lucky recipient of the book πŸ™‚

    ~Elaine

  10. Carolyn said

    What a gorgeous bear and just love his vest!! Thanks for the review!

  11. Amy said

    How cute! I’d love to try out some of these patterns! Keeping my fingers crossed for the giveaway.

  12. Toni said

    I’d love to attempt a garment for my tiny koala, although he already has a cape from a swatch that went awry: the rows kept gaining or losing stitches randomly.

  13. T said

    Registering my desire to win your book (and make my bear a vest like Fuzzy Bear’s!).

  14. olivia said

    very cool. I’d love to enter!

  15. Suzy said

    My little girl’s teddies are in real need of a few outfits! – this would be great! Thanks for the giveaway.

  16. trudi said

    Great review and doesn’t Fuzzy look dapper!

  17. Kateryn said

    What a neat idea – and a very useful review! Thank you June for taking the time to test a pattern and giving us such detailed information! I have to admit, it’s nice to see that even you can make an supersized pocket πŸ˜‰
    I was about to make a teddy bear for a child I know, and now I may even venture into some teddy clothing!

  18. Kiersten said

    I have been crocheting for years and am so glad to see this book! I usually make amigurumi or crocheted bags for my kids’ birthdays, but I think this year I will try to make their bears some clothes! Please enter me in the contest πŸ™‚

  19. Jessica said

    Please include me in the drawing – I would love to have a go at some cute soft toy crochet wear!

  20. Marianne said

    Awesome! I have a nekkid bear running around my house right now that I’m sure would be very greatful for some clothes! πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for giving us the chance to win it!

  21. Melissa Murray said

    Absolutely adorable! His vest kind of reminds me of a down vest. And purple and browns are my fovprite colors!

  22. Renee said

    Really super book! Thanks for sponsoring the giveaway.

  23. shee said

    being new to amigurumi and crochet started to make my first teddy bear this week.. I checked the book from amazon and saw the cutest patterns.. Thank you for the giveaway!!

  24. Jen said

    Cute. Cute. Cute. I so hope I get this!

  25. Vicki said

    Very neat book! I made a jacket from her knitting version of the book a couple of years ago and loved the ease of the pattern! Thanks for the giveaway!

  26. Sam said

    Wow, this is such a cute book! And the patterns (with a bit of modification) would be perfect for other amigurumi as well.

  27. Rose said

    This is really cute! I have just started crocheting again and would love this book! I learned about amigurumi and when I found your blog it was so cool! I have two little brothers that already have me promising them tons of stuff:-( since I am a pretty slow crocheter this could take awhile. I would love to win this book! I would buy it but I havent started babysitting yet and dont have the money:-( I love your patterns!

  28. Cynthia said

    Being fairly new to crochet, I thought it was a great idea to make a garment for a teddy bear as a starting point from which to advance. Excellent review.

  29. Teddi said

    Thank you for your honest review of this book. I would love to win a copy!

  30. Desiree said

    How cool! I bet it would be good for other dollies and not just teddy bears.

  31. becky said

    I love this sooo cute, I think I would have too much fun with this book. and your teddy and his new vest look so stunning..

    I just noticed there is a pink bear in the web address bar now πŸ™‚ love it
    as always awesome job june

  32. jane braverman said

    What fun!!

  33. Ellie said

    Oooo I love the review and the book!!! I’m about to start bear making for my soon to be two year old niece and this book would be so amazing to clothe said bear!!

  34. Betsy Pratt said

    How incredibly cute! Growing up in the 70’s, my sister and I learned to crochet and my sis surprised me with an outfit for my favorite stuffed animal – little Henry. He and his outfit are still around, but a new outfit after (!how many??!) all these years is warranted. I think I must get this book!
    Thanks for the opportunity to play along.
    Betsy

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    June Gilbank

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