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It is my opinion that the teddy bear face is everything. If you don’t like the face you won’t like the bear and if you love the face you will have to have him. Because of this, I think one should take a top-down approach to designing a bear. This article will focus on the basics of bear face design and hopefully help you make your best bear ever.

Teddy bear height
Rosco by Dot Roberts – Me

Although we are starting with the head we cannot forget the rest of the bear in our designs. The 11 inch bear to the left illustrates the teddy bear ratio of head to body of about 3:5. 3″ head + 5″ body will make a 8″ sitting bear. The legs are about the same length as the body but are attached about 2/3rds of the way down the body adding about 3 inches to the overall height of the bear. The final ratio is

3 head + 5 body + 3 legs = 11 units

So let’s say you want a 15″ bear (standing)
15 / 11 = 1.36 (this is 1 bear unit for a 15″ bear.)

Head = 1.36 x 3 = 4 inch tall head
Body = 1.36 x 5 = 6.8 inch tall body
Legs and arms are the same as the body

If you wanted and 18 inch bear
18 / 11 = 1.63
Head = 1.63 x 3 = 4.9 inch head
Body = 1.63 x 5 = 8.1 inch (body, legs and arms)

Needless to say these ratios are not hard and fast rule. They are guidelines to tell you how big your bear head should be based on the final bear size you are trying to achieve. Once you have decided how big the bear is going to be, and therefor how big the head needs to be, you can begin the design process.

If you have seen a few traditional teddy bear patterns, you will notice a striking similarity between them. A basic bear face has two identical sides and a gusset that runs between them from nose to the back of the head. So to start the process you need to find a pattern. As I stated in the previous article I started with a pattern by Sue Quinn found in How to Make Heirloom Teddy Bears. The pattern called Archie makes a 11″ bear.

Teddy bear face pattern
Diagram 1: This diagram shows a basic bear head pattern. Notice how the letters on the bear face match up to the letters on the 2 pattern pieces.

The height of the Side of the head is approximately the height of the final bear head. The gusset controls the width of the bear head but does not significantly contribute to the height.

Step 1: find a base pattern and use a copier to enlarge or reduce the pattern until the Side of the head is the height of the head you desire. Make sure to enlarge or reduce all of the pattern pieces the same amount so you can use them later for the rest of the bear.

So What Can You Adjust?

  • Width of the head
  • Length of the nose
  • Width of the nose
  • Shape of the nose
  • Cheek puffiness

Head Shape: Adjusting the Head Gusset

We’ve said that the height of the head is primarily controlled by the height of the sides but the diameter of the head (the distance all the way around the head) is controlled by the width of the gusset. If you made a bear without a gusset it would be very narrow like a pillow, very one-dimensional. It is the gusset that makes a bear 3D. The width of the gusset can be adjusted at point C (Diagram 1 above) without changing the other gusset measurements. If you make the head gusset narrower the bear face will get thinner and if you make it wider the face will get fatter. See the Diagram 2 below.

Diagram 2: The width of the gusset at point C or the top of the head controls the diameter of the face.

The original bears gusset’s width is about 1/2 the height of the side head. Side head is 3 inches tall and the widest point of the gusset is about 1.5″ wide, or about 25% of the total head diameter. This produces a round looking face. The widest part of the gusset (C on Diagram 1) should be located at the highest part of the side. It is also where the ears will be attached. From that point the gusset narrows to the bridge of the nose in one direction and the base of the head (the neck) in the other direction.

Adjusting the Snout Shape

pattern diagram
Diagram 3: Snout shape

The shape of the snout effects some the the bears “realism” in that real bears have long, narrow, square snouts not the short round snouts found in many modern teddy bears.

The snout shape is controlled by both the gusset and the side of the head. The side of the head controls the length and angle of the nose. See Diagram 3 to the right.

Most bears have a fairly similar nose angles of around 16 degrees from horizontal. There is not much room for movement unless you are trying to create very exaggerated features.

The length of the nose must be adjusted on both the gusset and the side of the head. The distance from A to B (Diagram 3) must be the same on both the side and gusset. Use a flexible tape measure to ensure a good fit.

The shape and width of the gusset snout section can be varied widely. Below are three bears with very different snouts. Notice that the first bear (the bear on the left) (made by Barbara Ann Bears has a flared nose and exaggerated looks. The bear in the middle has a small, thin, pointy nose. The bear on the far right has a squared off nose.

Cheekie Bears

Another face modification for your bears face is to add a dart to the side pieces. This is more common on big bears than small ones. The dart is usually added to the bottom of the side piece if it is added close to the front of the face it can make the snout more defined and the head a little smaller. If it is added the the center of the piece it can give the bear rounder cheeks. See Diagram 4 below.

Diagram 4: face darts

Below are 3 bears from the same pattern, the only difference is the face dart. Notice that the dart position changes the face dramatically. Bear 1 (on the left) has no darts. Bear 2 (in the middle) has darts near the front of the face. His face is slightly smaller. If you add a front face dart you might want to increase the dome size a little. Bear 3 (on the far right) does not have this issue because the center dart does not pull the dome down. He has fuller cheeks which widen his face at the bottom.

Bear 1 has no face dart – Bear 2 has a dart near the front of his face – Bear 3 has a dart in the middle of the side
Bear 1 has no face dart – Bear 2 has a dart near the front of his face – Bear 3 has a dart in the middle of the side

Making bears can be lots of fun and very fulfilling whether you are making them for a family member or starting a bear business. Don’t be afraid to experiment. I hope you enjoyed my tutorial and that it helps you make the bear of your dreams. Please leave me comments:

© dot roberts, 2020


Bear image from

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