In a wooden workshop in Quex Craft Village jumpers, shirts, scarves and more belonging to lost loved ones are being crafted into beautiful memory bears.
The interior of the workshop is a hotch potch of material, stuffing, sewing tools and gorgeous creations from little bears to a colourful giraffe and splendid bulldog, all lovingly made by Cliftonville mum-of-three Emma Hayden.
Emma, 58, moved her business Sew Many Memories to the village three years ago after demand for her memory toys meant the back room in her flat was literally stuffed to the rafters.
She began making the memory bears seven years ago after the loss of her husband Peter aged just 50.
She said: “The reason I do it started when I lost my husband seven years ago and I made some (bears) for the kids. I have always been quite crafty and did upholstery. I had an antiques shop in London then and started making the in the shop and people picked up on it.
“I didn’t want it to be a business, I didn’t want to lose the passion I felt and that giving to people. I came back to Thanet three years ago after my dad had a fall and I was still making them but needed a workshop so I came to Quex and since then it has gone from strength to strength.”
Emma’s route to being an independent craft business has been as colourful as some of her fabulous creations.
Aged 16 she ‘ran away with the circus’ after it came to Margate. It was 1980 and the Hoffman’s circus was in its spot by the railway station when Emma decided to try and get a summer job – with her family’s blessing.
She said: “I was looking after 22 horses, five elephants, two Llamas and a camel! I did know about horses as I rode and had a pony.
“The people who owned it had a son but not a daughter and I became like one to them. I had the best time and then came back in 1982 and went to college. I wanted to be in the police but I was not tall enough so went to secretarial college instead.”
And even that job became an adventure after Emma bagged herself a role with 80s New Wave pop duo Tears for Fears.
Emma said: “I was a massive fan but hadn’t been able to go to a gig in Thanet because I had tonsillitis. They sent me a signed photo and I wrote back and said if ever you need a secretary I’m your girl and that’s how I started working for Tears for Fears!”
Other careers followed, including a job at a racing stables in France, but Emma’s passion is now giving families a unique creation using materials provided.
She said: “I’m making them 24/7. I have the clothes and then cut the pattern, sew them and then, usually at home while I am watching TV, I stuff them.
“It’s not always people who have passed away. I have just made a little bear for a first birthday out of the baby’s first babygrows.
“I love doing them, I get as much out of making them as the people who then have them. It’s very cathartic.”
Emma is currently working on Christmas orders but plans to hold some workshop sessions in the New Year.
She will be teaming up with fellow Craft Village tenant Karen Heywood, from All Stitched Up at Quex, to offer people the chance to make their own memory bears.
The classes will be one-to-one but people will need to be able to use a sewing machine.
And that’s where Karen comes in, For people who want to make a bear but cannot sew, Karen will teach them the skills they need.
The mum-of-three from Manston set up in the village four weeks ago after moving from her previous base at the Old Kent Market in Margate.
The 57-year-old, who has been sewing and crocheting since the age of 5, says it is a skill that she hopes to keep alive.
She said: “I teach under 16s hand sewing and crocheting on Saturday mornings. I do classes for crocheting, sewing, quilting, anything with fabric really.
“I make bespoke items, so someone might come in the shop and see a shawl and then choose their wool and have that made.
“I really want to get people doing crafts and for them to come in and learn something. Once we would all be taught by our grandmothers but now maybe the mums haven’t learnt and not much is done at school. I really like teaching it, especially to 12-16 year olds who seem to have lots of patience and like to learn new skills.”
The workshop sessions will start in the New year but people are advised to register their interest by WhatsApp message to 07904901280.