Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: Beyond Bears

I recently received my copy of The Dragon Charmer’s new book. I had preordered it and received it while I was sick. Always nice to have new reading material when stuck in bed, too bad there isn’t some magical service that would do that for us.

The title is Beyond Bears: How to draw, design and sew your own stuffed animals
(With 6 never before published animal patterns for you to make!)
The back cover asks if the reader is tired of making soft animals from other peoples patterns and ready to make their own.

Now I love a book of patterns, but I love a how to Design Patterns even more. I have a few books on designing cloth dolls and animals on my bookshelf and I reference them when I am designing something new, or trying to explain to someone else. “Seeing in 3D” is something that comes rather natural to me, and I sometimes have a hard time explaining it to someone else for whom it does not come easily.

The book is in full color, the pages are not glossy. The 6 patterns included are actually on a CD so you need a computer to print them off, but you don’t need to be harsh on your book to photo copy the patterns out of it!

The book starts off with the basic supplies of the craft, covering the different fabrics and jointing systems used.
Almost half way through the book, Jennifer covers the basics of pattern creation using a rather standard Teddy Bear pattern as the base. She shows how to alter it to create different looks. I have seen this type of information presented in other places, and it IS good information, particularly if you are designing bears and want to make a bear look a certain way. Jennifer covers how to create different arms, legs, tails, wings and ears, but she doesn’t show a head shape that ISN’T a bear head in this section.
I think including other animal head and body shapes in this section would have benefited the book greatly, especially when it is titled BEYON Bears.

The next section is the assembly of the pattern, even covering such basic stitches as Ladder, Whip, and Satin stitches.
Last are the 6 patterns included in the book, well actually on CD. Each pattern has a page all to itself with a large photo and some instructions.

The CD contains 1 PDF with all the patterns in it. Which makes printing off all the patterns at one time nice and easy, but if you only want to print off one pattern, you will have to scroll through the document to find which pages you need, then print only those pages.

I like that the patterns are on a CD so that I do not damage the spine of my book trying to get the patterns photocopied out of it. (This also reduces the risk that the page wasn’t perfectly flat in the copier and the pattern is now no longer true.)

I have some issues with this book, I am confused if it is designed for the beginner who wants to make plush animals or the advanced plush maker.
I see it being for the beginner with the covering of BASIC stitches and differences of material, also the inclusion of patterns.
But it is obviously not for the beginner in that it doesn’t walk you step by step on making the patterns in the book, in fact some of the patterns written instructions are only a couple of sentences long. You must reference the other portions of the book if you have no knowledge of the craft.
Since I do not work with fur, I found it annoying that the some of the animals have their fur shorn, but there are not really instructions on how to do that.

I LOVED the section on Finding Inspiration and copyright, I think that needs to be said more.

Another issue I have with this book is the photos. They are lovely and well done, Jennifer includes photos of several of her other patterns throughout the book, but many of them are not labeled. A reader would need to spend some time looking through photos of all of Jennifer Carson’s patterns to find the correct image in order to order the pattern. Had a name had been included, a simple word search on the internet would lead them straight to the pattern they were interested.

 I think the biggest issue I have with the book is the cover image. The Unicorn Brandywine is NOT one of the patterns included in the book. Now *I* knew this when I ordered my copy, but I can see how others may not. I feel that if a book has patterns included, and say so on the cover, the cover image should be one of the patterns in the book.

The patterns that are included in the book are lovely and I am really wanting to make Grandall the Gryphon.

You can purchase the book, and other patterns from Jennifer Carson on her Etsy Store or on PatternMart.
Patterns are also avialable for instant download on Craftsy and consider following Jennifer on Facebook to hear when she has a new pattern out.

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