I'll start with a background summary. (I'll call my client by her first initial only, just because I'm not sure if she would be okay with me using her name, and I'd like to surprise her with this post.) Sadly, E's father died last year. Her mother saved some of his favorite sweaters, and both E and her mother wanted to use them in a way that would preserve their (and his grandchildren's) memory of him. E came up with the idea of making them into bears -- one for each of her three children -- to be given as Christmas gifts. This is where I come into the story.
E wanted three bears that were cuddly and soft, and each slightly different from the other. Other than those basic parameters, she gave me complete freedom with the design. She also gave me three sweaters to work with. One was cotton and couldn't be felted, but the other two (one red and one blue) were soft and luxurious cashmere. When I felted them, they grew even softer and more lovely.
Since I wanted the bears to be substantial enough in size for good quality snuggling, I used fleece (to match the now-shrunken-sweaters) for the back of each one. This allowed me just enough sweater fabric to make the bears about 18 inches tall: one red, one blue, and one a combo of both colors. I used an oatmeal-colored felted sweater from my own stash for the inside of the ears, and acrylic felt sheets for the faces. Everything else was cut and sewn from E's father's sweaters.
I sometimes got a bit teary while I worked on these -- they wouldn't exist if not for the deep loss of a loved one. But I also really love the idea of this project, as well as the medium. I've been fascinated for a long time with memory: how we remember things, people and events, and the objects that spark or help us retain those memories. And this seemed like such a perfect and positive way for a child to be reminded of their grandfather. I also always enjoy sewing with beautiful, tactile, and repurposed felted wool, especially cashmere!
The best part of this project, though, was the message I received from E just after Christmas: "Just wanted to let you know how much my mom and the kids loved their grandpa bears. My mom was thrilled when she saw them and the kids absolutely love their bears. My 10 year old said it was by far her favorite gift."
What do you think? Would you like to see a tutorial for these "memory bears"? I already have a pattern and I