How to Make a Memory Bear

How to Make a Memory Bear

Last year we lost someone very dear to us. My husband’s grandmother passed away at 86 years of age. She had a long, happy life and touched everyone who met her. She was such a loving and selfless person with a spunky sense of humor. She will be sorely missed.

1 grandma ardie Grandma was an avid sewer (or sewist if you prefer), so I am willing to bet she was tickled pink when I decided to rummage through her clothes to find a variety of items I could use to make special memories bears. I used a lot of items that I knew were her favorite pieces and also some that I recall her wearing for special events. I also tried to find clothes that were made of a variety of different fabrics and textures.

Simplicity 5461 bear patternWhen it came to making the bears, the first thing I had to do was find a pattern. I wanted a fairly easy pattern since my plan was to make 10 bears, and I wanted the bear to be large enough to showcase the different fabrics and would sit unsupported. . I ended up choosing Simplicity Sewing Pattern 5461 (affiliate link) which was for a ‘classic’ 22-inch stuffed bear. While I did have some bear patterns that were simpler, I liked that this one had several pattern pieces because my hope was to use around 5 different fabrics for each bear.

Once I had decided on a pattern, I had to prepare the fabric. I simply cut apart each item along the seams so I could lay them flat. Grandma would have been really proud because any time I ran across something with buttons, I cut the buttons off and saved them for a different project.

cut apart the clothes to make fabric

With the different pieces of recycled fabric all ready to go, I chose 5 different fabrics for each bear and then simply followed the directions that came with the pattern to make each bear. The only trick was to make sure the different fabrics were spread out to different parts of the bears. For the eyes and nose, I bought packages of black safety eyes (affiliate link) and noses from the craft store.

As a finishing touch, I made tags to sew into the back of each bear. I used my favorite graphics program — Corel PaintShop Pro (affiliate link) — to design the simple tag and then printed them on fabric printer sheets (affiliate link). Cut them twice as big as you want them, fold in half, and press so they look like tags you would find inside garments or on a purchased stuffed animal. Sew in place and that is it!

make a custom tag for memory bears

Like I mention previously, I made 10 bears. Grandma had 5 daughters and then another who she was a foster parent to for many years. They were all very happy when they each received one of these bears:

7 Memory bears for the sisters

I also made a bear for each one of my three kids.

memory bears for my kids

Finally, here is the bear my husband and I proudly display. This was my prototype. Originally I was going to make each bear out of 2-inch squares, but it was so labor intensive I only made one.

patchwork memory bear

I know grandma would be very pleased that I recycled some of her clothing into these keepsakes, and I know everyone who got one was very pleased. I hope this post inspires you to do something similar if the situation arises. Keep in mind, a memory bear can also be made for happier occasions. For example, it would make a very fun way to use some of your kids favorite clothing after they outgrow it.

Disclosure: As noted above, this post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for details.

65 thoughts on “How to Make a Memory Bear

  1. What a treasured memory! You have inspired me. I am busy cutting my dad’s shirts apart to make a lap quilt for each of his 9 grandchildren

    1. Hi Brandy, I made these bears for my family members, ut have also made them for others…

  2. I did something similar when my father-in-law passed away. I made several very simple teddy bears for the grandchildren. I took one of his button down shirt and made a pillow for my mother-in-law. For the grandbaby he never met, I made a baby quilt. Sewing with the person’s clothing really is a lovely way to keep their memory alive.

  3. I so luved the pictures you shared of the memory bears, I’m rummaging thru my fathers old shirts as we speak as we just lost him feb thanx for the inspiration to get started with a grt craft! Yours truly Susan

  4. I made my mom a quilt out of my dads flannel shirts just after he passed. They were married for 50 years and 1 week. She sleeps with it even in the summer! I love this idea, now I know what to do with the rest of his shirts! Thank you for the inspiration!

  5. I will check to se if I can get some of my girlfriends clothing, she died of cancer Feb 3rd this year 2014, and I know her sister, son and grand-daughter would enjoy a keepsake like this. Thanks for the inspiration. I miss her terribly.

  6. What a terrific idea – I’ve already got lots of teddy bear patterns which could be used for such a project – and some bits of fabrics to make the odd sample or two. Would you mind if I were to take the idea and run with it in my Cuddlies store?

    It actually makes a change from memory quilts, and is so much quicker!

    All the best and thanks for the idea.

  7. What a brilliant idea. These bears are so special and I’m sure will be treasured and well loved for lifetimes!
    Thanks for linking to A Round Tuit!

  8. I was looking through pinterest and found a picture of my very first memory bear ever and it linked back to your page. The blue plaid bear with a cowboy hat on I made from one of my fathers shirts when he passed away 3 years ago. I have made almost 400 bears now and have altered my pattern several times to get a better quality looking bear. Flattered that you like my bear, not sure how I feel about it being in your banner like it was made by you. If you choose to use any of my memory bear pictures please leave a link back to me.

    1. Hi Dawn, Not sure what you are talking about because I obviously do not have a picture of a plaid bear with a cowboy hat… It sounds like someone else has perhaps taken your image and then added a link to my site using it. I have no control over that, but if you let me know where you found the photo and link perhaps we can both urge whom ever it is to remove your picture. Let me know where this link is and I will do what I can… Sorry for the misunderstanding!

  9. Go check out the page there is a link there that takes you to this page here. Looks like they may have used one of your pics too then.

    1. Hi Dawn,

      Now I see what you mean… You really need to contact that site because it looks like what they have done is downloaded both of our pictures and posted them and also pictures from other sites and included some links. I have nothing to do with this site and I have not used your picture in anyway so there is nothing I can do on my end… There is a contact page. I would urge you to contact them and ask them to include a link to your page (it looks like they did link to some sort of shutterfly page with your pic on it?) or remove your picture.

      1. Thank you. And Im sorry for any trouble I was. At first I thought it was your page. Feel free to delete any of my coments here on your page. Good luck with the work you do.

  10. Can I use ladies knit shirts for the bears? My mother-in-law passed and I’d like to use some of her knit shirts to make something special for her grandchildren.

    1. Yes, I used some knit shirts. To help with the stretching, you can back them with some fusible interfacing.

  11. A friend had put a picture of a bear they made on Facebook, and I thought it was so wonderful….wished I had some of my dad’s things (he died 41 years ago) and his wife just passed today (my step mother, but loved an greatly appreciated by ALL) and I thought about them when we were at the house… I’m going to volunteer tomorrow to make the bears for the family.
    Thank you for sharing your fabulous idea! It has touched many I can see by the comments!

    1. They will treasure them forever Marcia! I have several of my grandpa’s flannel shirts here that I intend to make more out of!

  12. How long did it take you to make each bear? I made some similar bears and it was 3.5 hours each.

    1. Hi Ginger, I am not really sure how long it took to make one because I did 10 of them in more of an assembly line fashion… 🙂

  13. love these bears. I am going to heave a go at making a couple. Just worried about getting started. I am going to use outgrown babygros but I am worried that the material will stretch too much when the bear is stuffed. do you have any tips

    1. Hi Jennie, if you back the fabric with a thin, fusible interfacing, it would really help with any stretching!

  14. Hey!!! Has anyone ever come across a pattern for memory bears using a baby sleeper pj’s? I’d like to make one for each of my kids.

    My mom also just passed away I. November and I’d love to make a bear for my sisters out of something of moms.

    1. Hi Alecia, The pattern I shared here should work well for either one. I made these these using clothes from my husband’s grandmother who passed…

    2. I am looking for this also. I am looking for a pattern to make a teddy bear using baby’ sleeper and cap. Lots of bear patterns but having a hard time finding a pattern to make a bear out of a sleeper.

      1. What I have in mind does not necessitate taking the sleeper apart, but using the cap to make head/face and attaching to sleeper neck opening.

        1. Hi Leska, That sounds interesting. I haven’t seen a pattern like that. Let us know if you find something, or come up with something yourself!

  15. I have made bunting from cotton shirts but the most popular gift of this sort I have made is a memory monster. Each is individual but all have big pockets inside their mouths to hold photos or other precious memories. Adults and children all enjoy these. They are big enough to cuddle but small enough to fit into bed.

  16. Hello, love your Memory Bear !!! I want to make one for my Mom with Dad’s shirts and 1 for myself with my husband’s shirt…..both have passed away.
    I purchased the pattern you had a link to but i have a “stupid” question:
    How do you get the front body in one piece from the fronts of the shirts using the existing buttons ? Eagerly awaiting a reply. Thank you soooo much,
    Linda Rohland

    1. This is a tricky one Linda! Because of the curve of the pattern pieces and the belly, I am not sure how you could do it using this pattern. If I were you, I would find a pattern that the belly of the bear is one piece….

  17. Hi, Sherri:
    I have making bears using this exact pattern for about 2 years. I sell them on Etsy (luvnstuffies) & also at a local boutique. Most of my sales have been to friends & word of mouth. I love making memory bears most of
    all (have had some interesting things happen while making some…) & I made a series of 7 18″ bears for a lady from her father’s western plaid shirts with the vests & bandanas to match. I charge for the bears, of course, but I do it because I love to. Best of luck to you! Check out my shop & convoy me & we can chat!

  18. I am trying to figure out how to cut the baby sleepers to make a Bear? I have looked all over, Can you help?? Thanks, Barbara

    1. Hi Barbara,

      The easiest way I have found to do this is to cut the article of clothing apart at the seams.

  19. I did this last spring with some plaid shirts my favorite uncle wore. I made several stuffed Beagle puppies. I gave them to the wonderful caregivers at his residential care home as part of my thanks for the sweet tender care they so generously gave. My siblings each wanted one, too. Thank you for sharing the idea.

    1. Hi Renee, I made them! I explain how in the post. 🙂 Thanks for visiting.

  20. I am trying to make my grandson a small quilt for him to have as a memory from his first birthday we used strips around his high chair of different fabrics for a dr.suess birthday so that is what I am using and left over I want to make one of theses bears thank you so much for the inspiration .I am not a big sewer but like to try .

  21. I love the little tags you made! I would like to know what is your “favorite graphics program.” The design and lettering are so cute. Would I need to purchase the program or would it perhaps be available online?

    1. Hi Sue, I use Coral Paint Shop Pro for my graphics program (I edited the post now to include this info. 🙂 It is not a free program, it is just one I have been using for almost 20 years. You might be able to achieve a similar look using a free graphics program.

  22. Thank you so much for responding with detailed information … you are a most helpful person. I appreciate you and wish you many blessings!

  23. I cannot find this pattern anywhere, it is out of stock everywhere I look. Do you have any other pattern suggestions please?

    1. Hi Rebecca, I have been searching around and so far anything similar has also been out of stock! I will keep searching though. I did find a free pattern you can download from McCalls that is pretty similar. You can find it here: Please not though, you do have to sign up for their email newsletter to download any of their free patterns, but I thin it is a small price to pay. 🙂

  24. June 19, 2016 Just found this. I love it! You must have tons of
    patience !!! You can also get this pattern under the Simplicity
    pattern number 9227, which I found on E Bay for $1. Can’t wait to try it for a new nephew coming soon !!! Hope I do as good a job as you did.

    1. Thanks for sharing your tip about the pattern! Good luck with your bear — have fun!

  25. Is there any way to get this pattern anymore? I want to make a few using my kids baby clothes but the Simplicity pattern is unavailable.

    1. HI Debra, If you read through the comments, there are some other options shared… ALso, if you use my link to the teddy pattern I used, they do have some other bear patterns shown on that page. You can look through and see which one appeals to you the most.

    1. Hi Debra, there are some variables, but the base fee for the bears is $50…

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