This is the story of some very special custom handmade teddy bears that I made for my friend, Lori. When Lori's brother passed away suddenly last year she asked if I could make some of my custom teddy bears out of his old t-shirts as memorial gifts to all of his siblings, nieces and nephews. I told her I would be honored.
It took me about six months to make fourteen teddy bears. It's a big family. Fortunately, I had a few months to get them all done.
Lori lives in Alberta, Canada and I live in Maryland, so we had to do all this long distance. Lori picked out the first t-shirt I would use and mailed it to me. It had a big beautiful dragon on it and I saw lots of possibilites for the bears. We met via Skype so I could show her how my pattern pieces could be placed so that different parts of the design ended up on different parts of the bears. A few hours later I had a pile of tiny t-shirt scraps and nine stacks of teddy-bears-to-be and I got busy sewing.
I took photos of each teddy bear in progress and shared them on Instagram and Twitter so my friends could keep track of the story of this family of bears as I went along.
Hint: If you're planning to do a lot of hand sewing, take care of your hands. Keep your favorite lotion nearby. And I highly recommend leather thimbles.
When I was close to finishing the first nine bears Lori sent me another shirt for the remaining five bears, a white shirt with an argyle pattern and an interesting texture. Again, I had fun choosing which parts of the design would end up on what parts of the bears.
All fourteen teddy bears were completed and delivered in time for Lori to distribute them at the Brown Family Reunion last month. She lined them all up on a bed and brought everyone in to see them and choose the one they wanted to keep. Lori says, "Losing Mike was devastating to our family, and missing him is part of every day. Having a small piece of him to hold onto, with these beautiful bears, is a comfort.... The bears are another way to heal our broken hearts."
You can go to my Flickr gallery of Mike's Teddy Bears and see a photo journal of this project with views of the teddy bears in progress and all four sides of each finished bear.
Find more custom teddy bears in my Etsy shop
and let me know if you have a special project you'd like me to make for you.