Don’t Poke the Bear

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Yesterday, February 1st was the first Reveal date for The Endeavourers, our new art quilt group, and our theme for this quarter was ‘Nature’. My full post for the quilt I made for this challenge, including both my thoughts and the making process, can be found on The Endeavourers blog and also at the bottom of this post. Here is a summary.

It is called ‘Don’t Poke the Bear’ and uses the bear (which I hope looks like the world) to represent  Nature and is based on the idea that if you poke a bear, or cause sufficient disturbance to the natural balance of the environment, it can be expected to roar and fight back.

IMG_2343The tear is for the suffering and loss of individuals, species and habitats that is occurring in the interim and with a special sadness for the state of the oceans, which are filling with plastics at a shocking and unsustainable rate. A particular inspiration for this aspect of my quilt was the short video below, which is the saddest I have ever seen.

I felt very reluctant to contribute such a sad quilt and blog post to our first art quilt reveal, which is an exciting and joyful event, but my hope is that perhaps by making this quilt and sharing the video I will add a small voice to all those who are campaigning for a dramatic reduction in the use of unnecessary, and especially disposable single use plastics.

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I hope that you will visit my fellow Endeavourers. Their response to the Nature theme has been amazing and you can find a wonderful variety of beautiful, inspiring and uplifting art quilts on our group blog.

Janine @ Rainbow Hare


Here is the full post:

Don’t Poke the Bear…


When the word ‘Nature’ was drawn as the subject of our first Endeavourers Quilt theme, I was more than a little daunted. My impulse was to try to make a small quilt that would somehow encapsulate a sense, or a least an aspect, of the natural world as a whole and yet it is so vast!

And I really wanted to make something inspiring and uplifting (or at least cheerful) for this first reveal (and I apologise to my fellow Endeavourers for failing in that because because this first reveal seems like the most inopportune time for a sad post) but, truth to tell, although I love being surrounded by countryside and the starry owl filled nights and the ever changing seasons and the antics of the wild creatures, Nature as a whole, with its current mass extinctions and the degradation of the natural environment, fills me with concern.

How this led to a bear baiting analogy is something for which I can’t altogether account but some recurring thoughts that kept coming into my mind were an image of the world in photos taken from space, the phrase ‘Don’t poke the bear!’ and this stanza from The Burning of the Leaves by (Robert Laurence-Binyon)

“They will come again, the leaf and the flower, to arise
From squalor of rottenness into the old splendour,
And magical scents to a wondering memory bring;
The same glory, to shine upon different eyes.
Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.
Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.”



So I decided to make a bear as globe-shaped as possible using some map print fabric and I originally considered having some people with a stick to suggest that when provoked to a point Nature can be expected to roar back.


But too much of the story was missing in that, even if Nature can roar at us (metaphorically) in storms and tsunamis and floods and droughts and suchlike, it overlooked the enormous and irreplaceable loss both to individual species and habitats and to diversity. So I decided to leave out the people and have the bear floating alone in space. And that was when I chanced upon the saddest video I have seen.

And I added a tear for the albatrosses.

For the albatrosses themselves and for all that suffer similarly and for Nature as a whole that we have come to this.

I hope that one day I will be able to make a sequel to this quilt with a happier bear…and I’m sure my future Endeavourer quilts will be happier as I’m really not in the habit of making sad quilts!

Making the Quilt

I hand quilted my background from the back using the stripes in this fabric as a guide and using ordinary sewing thread.
I used a piece of black lined from and old dress for the front and the quilted gave a subtle textured effect.
For the bear, I cut a head and a body shape in scraps of Soft and Stable and basted my print fabric onto them. This was an experiment and seemed to work quite well but the flatness and print made the bear-ness of it very indistinct.
So I marked with a frixon pen and stitched over the features in thick lines with two strands of dark brown embroidery thread. Then I slip stitched it to the background adding more stuffing and, finally, went around the embroidery with some lines of needle sculpting using using a thin cream sewing thread. The tear is crochet using six strands of embroidery thread.
Thank you to everyone who is joining in with this challenge. Although my offering, this quarter, is not very cheery, I’m very happy that we are all sewing along together and I’m very much looking forward to seeing all the other Nature Quilts and, of course, to the next theme, Janine :)

12 thoughts on “Don’t Poke the Bear

  1. soma @

    I think your Don’t Poke the Bear art is beautiful, Janine. Sad yes, but beautiful. It is a topic that is very close to my heart. Forgive me for not watching the video, I won’t sleep for weeks if I watch it, but I am definitely not ignorant of the situation. Nature is kind but powerful. I truly believe that mankind is part of nature and we will HAVE to learn to live WITH nature, instead of trying to bend it to our will. Your little bear is beautiful, hibernating, waiting for a better day. One day it will wake up to a greener land, playful and happy. I am grateful for artists like you who create such evocative art.

    -Soma xx


  2. Catherine

    Hi Janine, this is such a different style for you. It is great to see you pushing the boundaries and with such a difficult subject too.
    Use of plastics has really hit home with me too. My WI group has joined the National Federation of Women’s Intitutes #showthelove campaign which aims to cut the use of plastic. I intend to buy all my fruit and veg from a local shop where everything is sold loose or with paper bags and not the supermarket where it all goes in thin plastic bags or uses black plastic trays. Also boycotting Waitrose coffee as the cups cannot be recycled. I’ve just finished crocheting a garland of green hearts (the symbol of the campaign) to decorate the tea table st our next meeting. If only everyone took small steps it would add up.
    Well done on highlighting the problem.


  3. Jules

    Oh my word, that chair is fantastic, I loved the dress when you made it and to have a chair in it as well, is just lovely.
    I keep looking at my welsh dresser and thinking how nice it would look painted and I do think – when I have the time!


  4. Ruth

    I shy away from the sadder aspects of nature which doesn’t help anyone so it is good to remember our impact on the world. We have had a recycling programme for years now but it seems that we aren’t doing it right as unsuitable or contaminated plastics ruin the collection so we are trying harder to get it right. A little step but it’s a start. Love the balloon!


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