photo.JPGOr… she sewed, and found it bearable, making a mock-up Bearables Bear.

But first, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that we had another great report on Sissy’s only eye yesterday.

Several of you know that I want to learn to sew.  Well, last weekend, I sewed.  I am most definitely still learning, but I have a finished object to share and Gretchen Greer has a new beloved that smells very much like Mama and some other unknown to her things.

photo.JPGFirst things first… the disclaimers and credits.  Bearables are a tool in a program through our local Hospice.   We learned of it when they applied – and received – a grant from the Junior League of Charlottesville to fund bear making supplies  -these cute tags, stuffing and such… the fabric comes from the Hospice patient.  (Fall 2012 grants were announced late in 2012 and haven’t been posted to date on our website, but trust me… they got a grant.)  The tag images shared are the property of HoPVa and the Bearables program.  If you are inspired, please follow the link(s) and ask permission.

To become a sewing volunteer, one attends a training (check) and learns about the program, why the bears might have embroidered eyes and noses, but never a mouth, how to care for the fabric for said bear, etc.  Then, she makes a practice bear (check) and someone from the program inspects her work.  (No check, by mutual agreement.)  As a JLC member, I have two options, if ever I am comfortable with my own craftsmanship.  I can either work directly with HoPVa and get on the bear-maker list, or I can let the JLC coordinator know that if ever there’s a call for a group of bears to be made, I’m comfortable getting together en masse (read: with moral support and technical assistance available) to make bears together.

square_125-7eb084ae31c4d5d65bf5f7346a38cdd2c634a6caRight now, my plan is to get better acquainted with my sewing machine (Singer Promise 1409) and then attempt another practice bear on fabric that means nothing to anyone.  Then, due to the regulations of the program (fabric cannot be washed or exposed to pets), I will most likely only offer to participate in a JLC-run program where one of our members whose pets do not rule the roost would be responsible for picking up the fabric and keeping it and the finished bear safe until it arrives at the HoPVa.  Yes, I have the pattern and a PDF copy so I can in theory, make as many practice bears as I need to.

I have also purchased the Colette Sewing Handbook, and will try to use it.

DSC03254Anyway, without further ado, meet Gg’s Mr. Grey.  He’s not symmetrical, he has several hand-stitched spots where I didn’t manage to sew through both layers of fabric AND the interfacing, but Gg doesn’t mind and thinks he’s a nice pillow.  She doesn’t care that Mama took the ladies who were helping me too seriously and paid little attention to seam allowances and failed to tidy up the edges where the four pieces of fabric/interfacing weren’t precisely (or anything in the same ball park) the same…

Again, each seamstress is encouraged to personalize the bears.  The League member showing us the way does nice embroidered eyes and a nose, then ties a pretty ribbon around the bear’s neck, while the most prolific of the bear-makers never does eyes or noses, but always finds an extra to make each bear special.  It might include lace from the special item of clothing, a knapsack accessory or a pocket, but she lets each source fabric – an item of clothing belonging to the deceased, selected by the grieving family member – inspire her.  Gg likes Mr. Grey unadorned…  I’m sure of it.

While I do confess that I’ve sewn with a sewing machine before, this is the most success I’ve had as an adult.  I’m pretty sure there was something seriously wrong with my former machine, as it definitely wanted a lot of tinkering and adjustments, right out of the box.  If I knew then what I know now, I would have returned it… if I hadn’t bought it on super-clearance at a going out of business sale some nearly 20 years ago.  Hem.

My little machine is listed on the Singer site under “very basic”.  Well, duh?!  That’s just what I need.  I can’t imagine I’ll ever want more, but then if we revist my first posts on spinning… well, let’s not and move on, eh?


There’s Mr. Grey’s back.  I’m actually happier with my hand stitching than anything else.  Can you even tell – without enlarging the photo; let’s be realistic here – where he was left open for stuffing purposes?  More candor; if I may be so modest, while I am no seamstress, I have cross stitched and embroidered since my single-digit years.  Oh, and I stuffed him well too, I suppose; he does sit upright all by himself, with only a little encouragement (think bend his head to his knees).

So, I sewed.  I liked it enough I snagged a thread box, a neato pin cushion bottle thingee and new scissors that same night.  Now, I need more fabric, interfacing (the iron-on kind), thread if the fabric isn’t a lot white, and…  ??

But first, I think I’ll re-cover the Knight’s favorite pillow.  If I actually learned anything, I measure, add generous seam allowances all around, cut, pin, sew, shove, hand stitch closed…. right?  It’s a weird, dense pillow that I believe my mother made so long ago we’ll assume it’s a lady pillow and not discuss its age, okay?

Any and all advice is appreciated, because I know several of you are accomplished seamstresses yourselves.

While we’re on the subject – sorta’ – I’m going to make a case for craft-stashes, inspired by Alison’s post.  No one thinks it’s hoarding when a painter has extra brushes and colors, and in fact, we’d all likely find it strange if a baker only bought precisely the ingredients/amounts she needed and never had an extra can of evaporated milk in the pantry, right?  So why are knitters and sewers made to feel like hoarders when they “collect” supplies they know they’ll use eventually?

Granted, all things are relative.  This former sock knitter has an insane amount of single-hank/ball/skein inventory.  Good thing my younger friends are having a baby boom, eh?   Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts… whether they related directly to this post or not!

12 comments on “Bearable!

  1. Nichole says:

    Too cool! I want to learn to sew (someday)… and to do so as part of such a great charity…. win-win!

  2. gmariesews says:

    Love the Mr. Grey – he looks perfect! I am curious – why can’t the bears have mouths? It’s a lovely project and I appreciate that each maker finds a way to make the bears special for the recipient.

    Stashes / collections / extra supplies – sock knitting may or may not happen ever again if you world – but there are so many other things to do with sock yarn besides socks – hats, gloves, fingerless mitts, baby socks, toddler socks – and let’s not forget the plethora of single hank sock yarn shawls. I’ve said it before – shawls are my single favorite gift to make for a pregnant mom. It’s something for her, to drape around her, keep her warm, cover baby as she’s nursing, whatever. Everyone spoils the baby, very few spoil the new mom. As for hoarding – I think the issue comes in when more and more and More and MORE supplies are bought with precious little being used.

    Happy Sunday! g

  3. Sue says:

    Wow, you picked a tough first project. I’d never have my students start with a toy, so congrats on a super job. If you can sew a bear, you can do most anything.

    Yes, crafters are made to feel guilty and it’s majorly unfair. Look at all the nails and screws and tapes and such that a carpenter has and he or she isn’t accused of hoarding. Today was a first. We went shopping for puppy collars and there was a big bin full of yarn on sale. I glanced at it but Rob stopped and asked if it was a good price. I said yes and grabbed a few skeins, but he went back and picked up a few more. Wow!!!

    I have to ask, too, why can’t the bears have mouths? I belong to a group that makes bears for police and fire departments and they all have to have smiling mouths.

  4. Nancy says:

    The more you sew, the more comfortable you will become with your machine. Many things can be done with a basic sewing machine. Mine is a basic machine; it works great for my projects, and the money I saved on the machine, helped me build my fabric stash – a win/win.

    I agree with Sue that the bear was a tough first project, and having completed Mr. Grey, you can now sew almost anything.

    I’m also curious of why the bears have no mouths.

  5. AlisonH says:

    Nancy beat me to the question, although I’m guessing it’s because the mouths would express emotions to a child and it would require perfection–and who knows what that would be.

    Thank you for the shout-out. I was able to find the shades in the colors and strands of laceweight to knit with to add a touch more blue or red or black or gray as needed. It was wonderful.

    And as I was typing this, the hawk flew in and actually let us take pictures!

  6. kathy b says:


    As I was ripping out my log cabin, knowing I’d reknit the blanket…I told myself: One bad round of golf costs as much as this blanket and you dont get another chance on the golf course…

    YOur sewing Chan!! WOW. IM impressed. I cannot even hand thread anything…..
    keep it up! I see a dog tag sewn onto one of your creations……..

  7. Walden121 says:

    Congrats on your sewing! Be careful, it can be just as addictive! 🙂

  8. Bubblesknits says:

    Cute!!! Mine would probably turn out with an extra arm or leg. lol

  9. Amy D says:

    That’s adorable! I’m so happy to see you merge into the world of sewing!

  10. km says:

    Yeah! I need to pull out my machine and sew. I have fabric for aprons. I saw a project on a friends blog and thought of you. She repurposed a VB book cover. Minimal sewing…and cute!

  11. Katherine says:

    Oh thanks so much for your statements on yarn hoarding. I feel so much better about the yarn I ordered this weekend. My work burden is heavy right now and stash enhancement is my way of rewarding myself for keeping a clear head and a civil tongue. I love Gg’s bear and wonder why I have never made any toys for the fur-babies. They tend to prefer soft, smooth toys without fur or squeakers. Hmmmm you may have started something!

  12. Marjie says:

    Do you need purple fabric to make a bear for Sissy? Because I might have some I could send….

    The bear was a great project. Sure, it’s rather hard sewing, but since you obviously followed the directions one step at a time, he came out just fine. Shannon made an elephant from a kit for Ryan when he was born, and she was only 9 then. Of course, she hand sewed everything, so I didn’t have to worry over the machine…

    I always make extra generous seam allowances. That way, if my seam wanders around a bit, it’s no big deal.Other than that, follow the instructions, don’t pay attention to more than the one step you’re working on right now, and you’ll be fine. Heck, you’re ready to tackle a skirt now!

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