Bear Maker Sells at Farmers Market

Jenna Gilbert
Jenna Gilbert
Staff Writer

When she made her first bear, 27 years ago, Barb Fitzgerald never knew it would grow to be such a popular item. When she started, it was just something she was doing for her family.
“I have ten grandchildren so I make bears,” Fitzgerald said. “They each have their own bear. Now I have a great-granddaughter, and I got to make a bear.”
It’s not just her family members that can receive a bear from Fitzgerald, however. She started making them from T-shirts of those who have passed as away. She calls them memory bears and that started when she made a couple for a girl, out of her father’s clothing. Then her sister, too.
“Her sister liked them so well, and she had a lot of her mothers clothes, so I made her about 10 out of her mother’s clothing,” Fitzgerald recalled. “But at that point I hadn’t called them memory bears, I just made them the bears.”
To date, the bears are probably the item she has made the most of and doesn’t plan on stopping. Currently, she’s working on making a bear out of a golf shirt, a material she has never worked with before.
“The one has an emblem on it and I said, ‘you ask her if she wants me to go ahead and cut the emblem out knowing it may not work.’ I don’t know how stretchy it will be and if it will distort anything,” Fitzgerald said.
Memory bears aren’t the only thing she makes that she sells. At her table at the St. Marys Farmers Market, she sells homemade wallets, table runners, decorative pillows, swiffer covers, plaques and some treats. Saturday was her first time at the farmers market this year, with decorative pillows and plaques being new items she had for sale. Some items, she saves for later in the year to sell.
“It’s fun, it’s relaxing sometimes,” Fitzgerald said.
She has been selling her homemade items, with the help of some other women who call themselves the Three Sisters. Although there is four of them in total, the women make a variety of home goods such as bowl cozies, baked goods. The Three Sisters don’t sell their items at farmers market, but they are planning an open house for the first weekend in November.
As for Fitzgerald, she says her new hobby has slowly taken over her home.
“I had everything back in my bedroom. And I said ... nobody plays ping pong downstairs anymore, so I’m taking my machines downstairs and I’m doing everything on the ping pong [table],” Fitzgerald said. “Well now I’m doing things upstairs again in the kitchen on the dining room table because the ping pong table is just a mess again.
“Material here, things cut out there, things that I just had no other place to put. And now … I bought another embroidery machine so I’m getting anxious to learn it.”
A few of the items she had for sale on Saturday had the roughrider like image embroidered on them.
Fitzgerald doesn’t sell her items online, although she does find some of her inspiration from pinterest. That is where she learned to make her swiffer covers, one of her most popular items. The Three Sisters on the other hand, have an Etsy Store where some of them sell some items. Fitzgerald mentioned there is one woman who sells bowl cozies in Indianapolis, where her daughter lives.
“She sold probably 300 last year at just that one show,” Fitzgerald remembered. “I keep thinking I got to come up with something that says ‘Buy me! Buy me! Buy me!” she laughed.