Hoo Bears by Helen Oliver
“Guz-bri, I shan’t tell you again - put that catapult down!!” ...confiscating the little bear’s catapult, Helen wondered whether bear making had been such a good idea after all!” Guz-bri
“I’ve always loved teddies,” says Helen, “I’ve still got Edward, who was given to me on my first birthday, but I’d never considered collecting them before, let alone making them!” It was in 1992 when Helen asked her husband, Steve, for a collector’s teddy bear as a Christmas present. They visited Stratford Teddy Bear Museum where she picked up a magazine and was astonished at the hundreds of bear shops, makers and fairs listed inside it - “I had never imagined the bear world to be so large!” says Helen. Steve presented her with Josh, a Crafty Bear by Shirley Latimer.
“Shirley told me that if Josh was Helen’s first collector’s bear, then I should be prepared for an expensive new year,” says Steve, “and she was right!” Helen immediately became a collector, and started visiting bear fairs and shops in earnest. At a Cheltenham fair in 1993 she purchased her first bear kit. “I was very proud of Clancy,” she explains, “his eyes and nose were a little lopsided - but he didn’t seem too concerned about it! I’ve always enjoyed sewing, making my own curtains and soft furnishings, but I had never considered making a bear before.” She then bought a piece of mohair and a pattern, and again was pleased with the result but felt the bear would look better with larger feet and a fatter tummy, and so set about designing her own pattern. “The result was a total disaster - unrecognisable as a teddy bear, but after several alterations and two more attempts, I was happy with ‘my bear,’” says Helen. More patterns followed and gradually a small collection of bears of various shapes and sizes started to build up.
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