A meaningful holiday gift for your family members
Many years ago I saw a picture of a calico memory bear in a magazine and thought it was a wonderful way to turn the clothing of deceased loved one into a cherished keepsake.
I was facilitating a lot of support groups at the time so I presented the idea at a spousal loss group: I would find someone to sew if they brought in the fabrics. The next week group members brought in bags of their husbands’ and wives’ clothing. With the Simplicity Pattern in hand, I met the woman who’d agreed to sew for us—and a few weeks later she called to say the bears were ready.
Tears came into my eyes as I walked into her workroom and saw the long line of tall patterned button-eyed black nosed bears sitting on the work counter. The seamstress was crying as well, saying she had gotten to know each person as she put their bear together. She also said that even though all of the clothing had been washed, the scent of the person who had worn the clothes remained.
Needless to say our next support group meeting was an emotional one. No one was prepared for how beautiful the bears were—or how special.
The story of the seven bears
Before I give you the information to make your bear, I want to tell my favorite memory bear story.
Margaret’s husband had died of cancer, and she was really struggling. Initially she had given me several of her husband’s Hawaiian shirts for one bear. When she saw the finished product she decided to have six more made for family members, and then found she couldn’t give them away.
A month later she came to our group meeting saying she had a story to tell.
Margaret had cancelled her fall trip to the Tahoe cabin she and her husband had owned for 30 years. She just couldn’t imagine making the drive alone. However, a neighbor had recently called and said she couldn’t wait any longer; she had to hire someone to take care of a maintenance project before the winter season. Disgruntled, she packed for a couple of days and started the drive to Tahoe.
As Margaret drove up to her cabin driveway, she saw her neighbor at his mailbox and honked her horn. He walked over to her car, leaned into her open window, and gasped!
What did he see?
Six calico bears sitting in a line in the back seat—and one seat-buckled into the passenger seat! Margaret pretended there wasn’t anything unusual about the interior of her car. In turn, the neighbor took her lead and pretended he hadn’t seen seven bears!
Heady with success Margaret extended her “first year” strategy by putting her “main” bear into a large tote to take to social activities she once enjoyed with her husband.
Each week the group looked forward to Margaret telling her latest funny story about where she and “bear” had been the previous week. Everyone was aware that Margaret was slowly healing—and that their laughter was helping them heal as well.
What you need to know to make your own bear
I have been involved in the fabrication of over a hundred bears for families who have suffered the loss of a spouse, child, sibling or parent. Without exception everyone has loved their bears. One even made it all the way to Australia!
If you have a sewing machine and elementary sewing skills you probably can make your own bear. Woven patterned fabrics are best. That said children’s clothing is usually made of knitted fabric, which has a lot of stretch. Since the stuffing is packed tightly, buy the most expensive press-on fabric backing so the knits won’t stretch.
The Simplicity Pattern 5461 is available at the Amazon (link below) or at your local fabric store. I know you won’t regret having a bear of your very own!