Saturday, April 29, 2006

Smith Bears

Smith Bears:

For a limited time, I'm offering to make Smith Bears for anyone who would appreciate having a bear made from the piece of clothing of a loved one. My price is $50 plus $5 shipping and handling.

The Bears' Story:

If ever you've experienced the death of a loved one, then you understand the difficulty of deciding what to do with possessions left behind. Suddenly every photograph holds new meaning, and every scribbled note becomes a treasured keepsake. Just seeing the old, scuffed shoes beside the backdoor produces an almost intolerable sadness.

When my dad died two years ago, at the age of ninety-one, we were left with so many things: broken watches, scraps of paper, pieces of fabrics from his years of working in the clothing industry...all testaments to the unique personality that "made up" my dad. You could open a TV Guide, and out would flutter a piece of paper with one of his many notations: the time and date of a particular program he wanted to watch or record; a new medicine he might try; his blood pressure readings. My lovely mother managed to deal with these small items, but even she stumbled when she cleaned out Dad's closet and found his jumpsuits.

Yes, my dad was a little old man who wore jumpsuits. Mom just didn't have the heart to donate such personal items of clothing to Goodwill or the homeless shelter. Some of the suits were torn, stained, patched, hemmed up.... but they were his.

Contemplating the jumpsuits, I told my mom that perhaps I could use them in a project. Making quilts has been a passion for many years, and I thought about using the material in a unique quilt honoring my dad. But the more I studied the clothing, the more I wanted to make, not just one single thing, but several items that could be shared with other members of the family: my daughter, my sister, my niece and nephews, and of course, Mom. The decision to make bears was born!

Birthing the Bears:

Four bears were born, all different, and each with his/her unique personality. Together they are the Smith Bears, named after my father, Smith Killebrew.

Blue Bear, made from the shabbiest jumpsuit, has special honor on our piano. His paws are made from one of Dad's ties, and he sports one of Dad's many watches. The jumpsuit patch was sewn on his front, and he has blue button eyes, just like my dad's blue eyes.

Red Bear also has blue eyes. Pieces of tie fabric were used for paws and the inside of her ears. She wears my grand-daughter's baby shoes. Her yellow ribbon, like the ribbon on Blue Bear, comes from flowers sent to the house when my dad passed away. Red Bear belongs to my daughter.

Tan Bear holds court in my mom's house. His eyes are traditional black-button eyes, and his paws and inside ears are made from tie fabric. White Bear sports a slightly different look with his jaunty necktie and handkerchief folded into a pocket on the front. An angel tie-tack holds the tie in place. Sometimes White Bear wears his glasses.

Making and Selling Smith Bears:

For a limited time, I'm offering to make Smith Bears for anyone who appreciates having a bear made from the clothing of a loved one. My price is $50 plus $5 shipping and handling (U.S.A. only). Contact me at if you wish to order a Smith Bear.

Please understand that I am NOT a professional toy or bear-maker. I cannot guarantee that the bear will look exactly like you expect it to look. Finished bears are not perfect; they are "hand made." Each bear assumes his/her own personality in the making. The bear will be what the bear will be.

Smith Bears are approximately 20-inches tall and require (at least) 2 yards of useable material, which must be fairly good quality, like 100% cotton, and sturdy enough to be made into a bear. (Since I work on a regular sewing machine, I am not able to accept denim at this time.) The material must be clean... freshly laundered... If I am not able to get enough useable fabric from the article(s) of clothing, I do reserve the right to supplement material from my personal stash.

As much as possible, I try to honor special requests, such as color of eyes or using certain tie fabrics for paws. If you have ties and/or ribbon to use, please send it (clean) along with the material. Paws can also be made from the same fabric as the rest of the bear.... or I may use my own tie fabric and ribbon. Please specify any particular requests.

About My Dad:

My dad enlisted in the Navy and served aboard an LSM during World War II. While training with the group of men who manned the ship, he was informed by the ship's doctor that a certain medical condition could keep him from going to sea (and thereby staying out of active duty) for the duration of the war. He chose to serve aboard the ship. My dad was not the type of person who would let down the captain or crew.

My father was an honest and loyal man. He loved his family, his church, his country, his pets. He made the world a better place, and we miss him.

Additional note:

You can convert a favorite photo into a cross-stitch chart. Contact me at for information. Cost: $25.

Visit my "garage sale" at for a listing of quilt books and cross-stitch kits.