Memory bears made out of clothing bring comfort to people whose loved ones have died

Memory bears made out of clothing bring comfort to people whose loved ones have died
Henri Frankova and a memory bear she has made (Henri Frankova/PA)

A woman has made more than 400 memory bears from materials including coats and tablecloths to “help people keep late loved ones close after they are not here any more”.

Henri Frankova started making the bears during lockdown, following a suggestion after she made scrubs for NHS staff at local surgeries.

“The lady that was collecting them said, ‘your sewing is really nice, why don’t you make these memory bears?’ the 46-year-old, who is based in Stockport, Greater Manchester, told the PA news agency.

It took Ms Frankova a year before she made her first one in April 2021, which was made out of baby clothes and posted on Facebook.

BearThe first memory bear Ms Frankova made (Henri Frankova/PA)

Since then, she has made between 400 and 500 bears through her online business called Handmade By Henri Memory Bears, which can take anywhere between eight hours and a few days to piece together.

Customers usually send her pictures of late loved ones or clothing which they used to wear, which she turns into bears.

“Something simple like a T-shirt will probably take eight hours, but a bear made out of a wedding dress could take a couple of days,” she said.

She said she does not draw sketches of the bears, but rather uses ideas in her head to guide the process.

“The customers tell me what they’re going to give me and then my mind starts working straightaway and starts putting it together,” she said.

Bear with hoodA bear with a special hood (Henri Frankova/PA)

She uses a pattern she found from website Funky Friends Factory as a starting point, which contains the pattern pieces for the bear which she cuts out and sews together, alongside the clothing relevant to each bear.

Toy safety eyes are then added, the bears are stuffed, a “little bit of felt” is used to make the nose and an embroidery thread is used for the mouth.

She reflected on some of the bears she has made over the three years the business has existed.

“I’ve made a bear with a winter coat with a hood, and my customer said it made her cry and that was actually the hood that made the bear because it was made for her dad and she said she always remembers her dad wearing that coat with the hood on,” she said.

“There was one where a boy was too young when his nanna died to remember her but his mum had a photo of him and his nanna holding him with this jumper on and the jumper is now a bear, so as he is getting older he can be always reminded of his nanna.”

BearMemory bear made from a jumper which used to be worn by someone’s grandmother (Henri Frankova/PA)

Ms Frankova has also made a bear to remember her mother Maria Frankova, who died with terminal gallbladder cancer in April 2015 in Slovakia aged 79.

Ms Frankova had moved to the UK in 2000.

In October 2021, she said she felt ready to make a bear to commemorate her.

“With the cancer she had, in the last two months she couldn’t eat at all,” she said.

“It’s almost as if you’re dying of hunger because you want to eat but you can’t eat.

“It was horrible and it took me some time to actually put myself together, but it was almost as though making these bears for other people was therapy for me and after a while, I felt I wanted to make one for myself.”

BearA bear made from Ms Frankova’s mother’s tablecloths (Henri Frankova/PA)

The bear incorporated brown tablecloths which were embroidered with purple flowers with green stems by her mother, as a means of showcasing a hobby she enjoyed and was “really good at”.

“I look at my mum’s bear and it helps me to think about her and it makes me feel better,” she added.

She said being able to offer the service to people “means a lot”.

“Doing this and helping people at a time which may be really horrible for them, when their world may have fallen apart, and offering something that might make them feel even a little bit better means a lot,” she said.

“It’s all about memories. The bears hopefully help people keep late loved ones close after they are not here any more.”

More information on the bears can be found on Facebook:

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