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Professor gives old quilts new life as teddy bears

Staff writer

Donna Bagley of Hillsboro buys a lot of old quilts from thrift stores and antique malls, and sometimes people just give her their old quilts.

“Sometimes I get home from work and find one stuffed in the screen door,” Bagley said.

It isn’t that Bagley needs that many blankets to stay warm. She gives old quilts a new purpose, making teddy bears from them. She also makes bears from chenille.

She got the idea to make teddy bears in 1999 when she was in St. Louis, Mo., and noticed stores selling what she considered overpriced chenille bears.

“I thought, ‘I can do that,’” Bagley said. “I knew how to sew, so I just bought a pattern and started working on them.”

She moved to Hillsboro shortly afterward and started selling her bears at Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Fair in 2000. Bagley is the chairperson of Tabor College’s education department and director of graduate teacher education.

Experience has taught her that cutting the pieces for a bear is the crucial step for it to turn out correct.

Bagley stuffs the bears with polyester fiber fill. That makes her teddy bears machine washable.

“I recommend air drying because the dryer machine mushes noses, in the technical sense,” she said.

Bagley will have a booth at Arts and Crafts Fair Saturday in Hillsboro. She expects to be in the second block of South Main Street, facing east near the Hillsboro Ford showroom. She lives nearby, and with help from friends can set up her booth in about 20 minutes.

She also makes custom bears. Past custom-made bears have been made of suits and blue jeans, in addition to quilts and chenille.

Last modified Sept. 15, 2010

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