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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 😉

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 🙂

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. Nicole said

    OMG!!! I would love to win the book my daughter wants me to make her clothes for all of her stuff animals.

  2. Tami said

    Oh what a great combinations, crochet and bears. My two favorites. I would love to win this book. Thanks so much for the giveaway and thanks for the great information.

  3. Lisa said

    After reading your review I may have to check this book out, which I otherwise wouldn’t have done. The customization options sound really interesting and a good introduction to clothing construction with a much smaller time and yarn commitment. Thanks for the review.

  4. Alina said

    wow, I love how the vest turned out for your bear. thanks for sharing it with us!

  5. grandmalolly said

    A very good review! I’m so pleased that you made something from the book, and explained the steps, and it’s refreshing to know that someone took the time to actually put the book through it’s paces, so we would know what to expect! Thank you, June!

  6. MelodyJ said

    I would love to have this book. So many fun ideas.

    melodyj(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. I really like that you reviewed this after doing one of the projects. Sometimes I read reviews that are just after looking at a crochet book, which is not as helpful.

    My five year old is in love with stuffed animals, so this could be an awesome way to surprise her with some clothing for her animals.

  8. Kate said

    I would love to learn how to customise clothing for my bears and amigurumi! I hope I win 🙂

  9. Anne Marie said

    What could be better than crochet and bears – what a great idea.

  10. Katherine said

    It looks like a great book! I really appreciate how you walked us through your experience of actually using the book, rather than just giving us your impression of it. I’d love to win 😀

  11. Astaryth said

    OMG! I love this! Making the little clothes for the stuffed animals is such a cute idea. I’ve seen it, but haven’t tried it. This book looks so cool, I’ve added it to my ‘wish list’ 🙂

  12. Jennifer said

    I would love to have a copy of this book! My son has a Build-a-Bear and keeping him in the “lifestyle” is gonna bankrupt me ; )

  13. as most of my crochet efforts to date have been for my bears i am very much looking forward to this book. fuzzy bear looks very distinguished in his vest!

  14. Patricia Hagins said

    i really enjoyed your reveiw, it’s nice to see someone to be so honest on there work. i have to said this book would be awesome to have at hand. i am one that wasted a ton of yarn trying to make myself a swearter more then once. one day i would love to be able to make crocheted clothing for my daughters. they love to wear crocheted clothes and they have to buy them. i can’t even make them anything, because i don’t know how. and what is so upsetting, is they are still waiting for me to learn how to make cloths. i would truely enjoy winning your book for my daughters. thank you for your time june. take care, be happy and safe.

  15. Lynne said

    I have machine knit a sweater for a bear…well….eerrr… it turned into a dress. It was my first one and haven’t made another. I’m much more adept at crocheting.

    Thanks,
    Lynne

  16. Terry Sargente said

    What a nice book.

  17. Christin said

    Those r soo cute i know my bunny and bear bear would love to wear them!!

  18. Lucie said

    The book looks great, my stuffed dinosaur really needs new clothes. ^^
    Love your blog, I learned to crochet a few months ago thanks to your tutorials !

  19. Jess said

    I’m so happy to see a review of the book! I’ve seen it on a couple of blogs now, but no one explained if it was good or tested it out. Thanks for doing this, I’ll add it to my xmas list!

    *Here’s hoping for a win!*

  20. Aimee said

    What a cute little book! My son recently got a “Build-a-Bear” so has been loving dressing up his teddy bears! This would be the perfect book to give his teddies their own wardrobe rather than wearing my sons clothes!

    p.s I love reading your blog June and all your crocheting tutorials have come in so handy for me that I am constantly recommending them to others!

  21. Jenn said

    Your review was very good – I’m grateful for time and energy you put into the review to make it thorough. I would love a copy of the book!

  22. Brinn said

    Ooh, ooh, me! I have a little stuffed frog I really want to clothe. Clearly I need cute crochet patterns for him. : ) I’d love to win a copy of this book. (And if I don’t win, I’ll definitely look into getting it anyway).

  23. tiffany said

    love the look of the book can’t wait to pick one up or win it lol

  24. Ooh, this looks like a really cute book, I’d love to win a copy! 🙂

  25. Christine said

    I noticed that Drew the Crochet Dude mentioned this new book on FB the other day. The only crocheted outfits I’ve made have been for barbie dolls, it would be great to read through and learn how to scale up/down patterns properly – I assume this skill would also translate to human clothing. Thanks for the honest write up.

  26. Mack said

    I would love to have this book! The first thing I ever crocheted was a little dress for my stuffed bear and I’ve wanted to make more but I have become comfortable with following patterns. The problem is that I can’t ever find a pattern with the right size! This book with the size customization would be perfect!

  27. IdaDown said

    The vest looks very cute. Thanks for writing such a (refreshingly) thorough and honest review.

  28. Kim Thorpe said

    What a great book! I have bears all over my house that need some crocheted clothes!!
    I would love to win a copy of the book.

  29. I’ve had my eye on this book! Looks so cute.

  30. June said

    Great review of what looks like a fun book!

    I have several bare bears who could certainly benefit from receiving a copy of this book!

    Thanx for the great info and the chance to win a book!

  31. Melissa said

    Nice review! The book looks fun and I’d love to win a copy!

  32. What a great review! I love your results, especially as you say, for changing the size so dramatically. I have more than a few naked bears that need clothing!

  33. Helen said

    I’d love a chance to win the book, it looks like my daughter would love a lot of things made out of that 😉

  34. JJ said

    Excellent book review. I think it was very thoughtful of you to give us an honest review of the customization panel. I hope I can win a copy of the book. I have been following the tour since Day 1.

  35. Anamaria said

    I love that granite stitch–and would love to win a copy of this book!

  36. I really need to make a bear now and get on with some of these wonderful clothes! Thank you for telling us about this great book.

  37. kris said

    looks like a very cool stitch pattern and book! great job working someone elses pattern!

  38. Rachel said

    Ooooh, this would be delightful! I got the emails about the book, and am wishing I could justify spending any money right now! I love that stitch pattern, too; it’s awesome!

  39. Paradox said

    Your bear is supercute in the vest. 😀

  40. Claire said

    Lovely review! The vest looks great on the bear! Very cool how it tells how to custom-fit your bear! This would be great to make clothes for childrens’ stuffed animals! Looks very cool!

  41. Martha said

    This will be great for my bears and my neices.

  42. Thank you for the honest and thorough review, June. I love the fact that the book is so helpful when it comes to adjusting the patterns.

    I’d love to win a copy, but if not I may look into buying this myself. I’ve got a kit to sew a teddy bear for my little man, and it would be wonderful to crochet it some clothes too.

  43. Cheryl said

    OOOH ME ME ME PLEEEEEEAAAAAAAZZZZZZ!!!! I love this idea! And I LOVE you June! He He xxxx

  44. Cora Shaw said

    I love how you set up the story of crocheting the vest. I love Amy’s designs. In fact my fist pattern that I crocheted of Amy’s was the Baby Doll Dress. It is my go to dress in the Spring and Summer. Amy’s designs are clear and concise, so i am sure this book would be too.

    Cora

  45. Kirsty said

    This book looks excellent! I really want to start crocheting clothing some day, so the idea of making miniature versions first really appeals, since I won’t have to use too much yarn to experiment. Plus, I can start clothing my amigurumi! Bonus!

  46. Sarah said

    Never having quite managed to be brave enough to make a full-sized anything, the idea of getting a grounding by making outfits for fuzzy friends is great! Thanks for the thorough and honest review.

  47. Sarahwww said

    I have 3 ( ok, 2 1/2 at the moment) grand daughters… I really NEED this book! LOL!

  48. Diane B said

    That was a great review. I’d love to win this book!

  49. Cindy G said

    Okay, I’m hooked! After reading your review, I find that the idea of making sweaters and such in mini as a way to help me gain some confidence before making a full size is brilliant, and would love to get the book for that reason alone. Of course it helps that I have a couple of nekkid teddy bears sitting right beside me, too 😉

  50. Susan G. said

    This book looks wonderful, I’d love to win a copy!

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