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Recycled sweater bear: Joti Marra coaches you on creating these cuddly creatures.

Let's face it. Finding the perfect holiday gift for a picky "customer" can be frustrating. Children can be the pickiest of them all. But these bears are sure to please. They're irresistibly cute and cuddly, and the recycled materials, including organic stuffing you can feel good about them cuddling up to, can teach the recipients a little something about caring for the planet. What's more, they're incredibly simple to make--for parents and children alike. So, you and your child can even work together to make gifts for their friends and create a special holiday moment. Don't have any children on your gift list? Make a smaller version of the bear (or use the sweater's sleeves for a different shape) with a little heftier stitch for reinforcement, and pass it along to the canine or feline in your family. You can even sneak some catnip in there for your kitties. They'll appreciate getting something you made out of materials you had lying around rather than a new toy you'll be sad they tore up so quickly!

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Materials: An old sweater, sewing scissors, a needle, thread, felt (for eyes, buttons can also be used), embroidery floss, and wool batting for stuffing (preferably organic wool)

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one

Cut a square approximately 16 inches by 16 inches from your sweater. (The size of the square can vary depending on the size of the sweater used and desired size of your bear.) Cut off the ribbing to use later. Fold your square of sweater in half, knit side facing in and purl side facing out, and hand sew up the top and sides using small straight stitches.

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two

Turn what's now a rectangle inside out and stuff with your wool batting. You can find great unbleached wool stuffing and plant-died wool felt online at www.weirdollsandcrafts.com, or look for local fibers. Then, dose the bottom of your bear by sewing long basting stitches along the bottom edge of the circle. Once you've arrived back where you started, pull the thread until the hole begins to close. Use your finger to push the raw edges of the sweater in and then sew the hole together.

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three

To make ears, take approximately 10 inches of embroidery floss and tie off the top comers of the soon-to-be bear about an inch and a half down from the tip. To secure them, throw a few stitches through the sweater and tie off. To create the head, take about a foot and a half of floss and wrap it twice around the middle of the bear, approximately six inches down from the top, and tie off. Don't tie too tight--just enough to delineate the head from the body!

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four

Now, decorate. You can cut felt circles or use old buttons as eyes and sew them into place with colorful floss. The fibbing from the sweater makes a great scarf, or use a small piece to fashion a bow. There are so many options; let your imagination be the limit!

Joti Marra is a multi-talented, craft-obsessed Ashevillian who has been finding creative ways to make things since she first learned how to hold a crayon. To see more of her work, visit www.forestcreature.etsy.com

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Title Annotation:HANDS ON
Author:Marra, Joti
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
Words:545
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