Seamstress stitches memorial Teddy bears from deceased loved ones’ clothing

Works includes homicide victims, military families

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shirley Wright is known as “Crafty Shirley” in her Facebook shop, but she didn’t start that way. Up until about 3 years ago, Wright didn’t know how to sew. She inherited her sewing machine after a friend’s loved one passed away. She didn’t touch it for several years, until one day she sat down and got to work.

“No clue at all. Hit YouTube. I tell everybody I studied at YouTube University. It was just something that came naturally,” Wright said.

That soon sparked an undiscovered passion. Made from the clothes of people’s loved ones, the bears Shirley creates are truly one of a kind.

“Every single one is unique. I want to make sure that that family, when they look at that bear that they see the family member," she said.

From military bears to newborn announcements, her designs run the gamut. One of her current projects include stitching together a bear made from the uniform of a Jacksonville Sheriff Officer who died several years ago.

For Wright, some of her most meaningful creations are through the Justice Coalition. She attended the “Seasons to Remember” event last December when the bears were presented to the grieving family members.

"When they receive a bear, there is happy and there is joy. And something tangible that they can touch that links them to the past," Wright said. "That can't be replaced. You can't buy that kind of happiness."

Always a doer, Wright is expanding her craft. She has also learned how to put photos on a bear.

With a growing passion and no plans to slow down, Wright said the greatest reward is knowing she’s making a difference.

“It’s where I can help the community. It’s where I can help people. That’s why I keep doing it. I love these Teddy bears, I love them.”

Not all of Wright’s bears are from tragedy. Many are joyous. They can include birth announcements, “I love you” gifts, and even soon-to-be deployments. See all of her designs here.

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