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Bears by design help children

Above: A combination of bears created by Sylvia Turkington and Joan Haigh, that will help support Camp Erin. Below: The women display their favorite bears, with Turkington holding a “knitting bear” with its own knitting needles.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Above: A combination of bears created by Sylvia Turkington and Joan Haigh, that will help support Camp Erin. Below: The women display their favorite bears, with Turkington holding a “knitting bear” with its own knitting needles.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

Not many people can call themselves an experienced bear designer.

Yet for Dorothy Bell, Eileen Oldham, Sylvia Turkington and Joan Haigh of Coupeville, creating small fashionistas for children is almost a four year hobby.

After dressing the bears in their knitted clothing, they are sent to “Camp Erin,” a specialized weekend for children and teens grieving the loss of a loved one or battling a life-threatening disease.

“The children find a teddy on their beds along with blankets or quilts provided by another group,” Turkington said. “It helps them realize they’re not alone with their recovery.”

Haigh first heard about the project at Everett’s “Great Yarns” four years ago. She said she left the store with three bears cradled under each arm.

“And Joan believes in involving her friends in whatever trouble she gets into,” Turkington said, jokingly.

Each fall, the women’s trunks are packed with teddy bears that sport their own names and personalities.

There is an Indian teddy bear in Turkington’s collection, riding atop a camel; Ru Pauline, a masculine-looking princess bear; and a teddy bear holding its own set of knitting needles.

“They do tell you who they are, by the expressions on their faces. You just have to figure it out,” Turkington said.

Haigh explained that one friend, who had just picked up a bear, said on the ride home that the bear “told her” he was Peter Pan.

“I really like to play with the personalities,” Haigh said. “And I use a lot of bright colors.”

Many of the accessories are detachable and things like scarves, sweaters and hats can be traded among the children.

All of Haigh’s creations go directly to the camp, while Turkington sends her bears to an auction for the Jamie Moyer Foundation in October. The foundation supports Camp Erin.

Every year, hundreds of bears are donated from areas such as Everett, Snohomish and Coupeville. People as young as 5-years-old up to age 90 have designed and knitted their own clothing.

Turkington said to get a head start on next year’s volunteer work, people can call Coupeville Yarns at 678-3261.

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