Toby the Teddy Bear

Google is a great tool. A psychic tool.

The trick to great searching is to hold your question in focus  in your mind. If your mind wanders as it does looking for that elusive spark of interest or inspiration, you may find in your list of search results some surprising, but accurate, links that speak to an inner desire you have yet to voice. At least that’s what happened to me.

I can’t remember what I was searching for, except that it had nothing to do with the outcome. I took it as a sign and promptly signed up for a day long course in making a traditional jointed teddy bear.

I firmly believe you are never too old for a teddy bear and I like the idea that a chance encounter between Theodore Roosevelt and a bear cub spawned such an essential part of childhood.

Bright and early on a Saturday morning I set off into the unknown with that slightly queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach signalling that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could comfortably chew. What did I know about sewing? I can’t even get the hell of a crochet hook.

As I parked my car at the top of the Rietvlei Nature Reserve in Irene I took a minute to prepare myself. It was a good thing as a welcoming party of three Great Danes sauntered in all their gigantic majesty down the path to sniff out whether or not I was a visitor with honourable intentions.

Megan, the creative drive behind the Tin Soldiers Studio chased away any remaining vestiges of doubt by ushering me over to a seat where two old-hands were delicately crafting handmade teddy bear eyes.

I knew I was out of my depth, but as Megan offered me a raft I clung to it with a deep survival instinct. I was going to make a teddy bear come hell or high water.  Karen gave me my beginner’s pack, a needle and some thread and I was off.

The hours passed in a blur of sewing (unpicking) and stuffing. By lunchtime I had crafted the head of Toby the Bear. An entire packet of stuffing had disappeared into his teeny tiny little head in some strange application of quantum physics. Soon he had perky little ears, shiny black boot button eyes and began to resemble a fairly decent first attempt.

My fellow bear creationists were an amiable and friendly group – teachers, grandmothers, young mothers and me. My Afrikaans grew in leaps and bounds during the hours and by the time I went home I found myself quite fluent. Mevrou Kleinhans would have been baie trots. At last I understand what she was trying to teach me – to speak a language you actually have to spend time with people who speak it. You can’t learn a language out of a book, you have to think it. If she were here now, I’m sure she’d make me a celebratory koeksister.

My rapid sewing slowed down in the afternoon as my hands began to complain and my fingers became heavy and clumsier. By five that afternoon, Toby was ready to take on the world. A pint sized teddy bear of magnificent character.

Homeward bound I couldn’t wait to show my family the fruits of my labour, only to find poor Toby had been left behind. There is nothing for it, I’ll have to go back and make him a friend. This time I’ll take my mum along.

If you’re looking for something fun to do, a new hobby or a great way to spend a day with friends pop along to I promise you’ll leave feeling decidedly proud of yourself.

Read Megan’s blog here:


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