By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Judy Craig is looking for local seamstresses willing to turn out a sloth of cloth bears while learning some new skills along the way.

Last week, Craig, owner of Bernina Stretch & Sew Fabrics on River Road, launched the store’s RARE Bear campaign. Over the next few months, she’s inviting patrons and newcomers to visit the shop for a five-hour sewing lesson that results in a stuffed bear that will be given to a child with a rare disease.

“Each bear gets it’s own tag that’s sewn in with a serial number that is assigned to the maker. When that bear is given out, they’ll send a picture of the child with the bear to the person who made it,” Craig said.

Craig is hoping to turn out a sloth – the name for a group of bears – of  35 bears by the end of June. After just two sessions, she’s already got four on-hand.

The workshops take place in a single, five-hour day with a break for lunch and cost $10, but the fabric is pre-cut and provided free to participants who get to take home the pattern.

Craig’s two students on Monday, March 24, were Betsy DiNitto and Bev Ikeda, neither of whom had experience with the type of sewing required for the project.

“It’s the first time I’ve tried a project like this. I’m used to clothing,” said DiNitto.

Nevertheless, she found some elements familiar. While stitching together her bear’s face, she said it was “like setting a sleeve.”

Ikeda said she was looking forward to putting what she learned to use on other projects that have been lying around her sewing room for years.

“I have a bunch of patterns for stuffed animals like these, but I never quite knew how to start them,” Ikeda said.

For those with experience making patchwork items, it might not take the full five hours.

“I think it really depends on what they’ve done before,” Craig said.

RARE Bear workshops at Bernina are scheduled on the following dates from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: April 19 and 21, May 1 and 13, and June 13.  Space is limited to five-per-class. Call 503-393-0132 to register.

The program is a partnership of RARE Science, which focuses on accelerating identification of more immediate therapeutic solutions for kids with rare diseases and lowering the barriers to rare disease medical research, and Switzerland-based Bernina.