Patricia Clanzy-Hodge introduces us to her Tweedies, the original Shetland and Welsh tweed bears and paperweight mice.'Just how did a tiny seed of an idea develop into small tweed mice and beautiful huggable bears? 'It’s a question I often ask myself as I disappear under a pile of fabric and yarns. My grandmother was a Shetlander teaching me to knit and sew at a very early age. Wool shops with their countless shelves of brightly coloured balls of wool were irresistible.
My tweeds come from two Mills, Jamieson’s Spinning Ltd in Shetland and Trefriw Woollen Mill in Wales. Jamieson’s is situated in Sandness on a remote western corner of Mainland Shetland and has specialised in yarns from native Shetland sheep for five generations. Trefriw is one of the few remaining woollen mills in Wales. Both Mills have been family owned since the late 1800s, and complete all the processes of yarn and cloth production under one roof, starting with fleeces from local native flocks. The rich colour combinations achieved in the cloth and yarns are echoed by the big, bright, colourful ears and clothes on each bear and mouse.
Shetland Mice – created 2003 - ears large and bright , embroidered features, large flat bottomed pebble in the base, tails and paws in plaited pure wool yarn, hats and aprons in softest felt. The Funky Mice pictured here have knitted hats and scarves.
Shetland tweed bears – 2004 - two sizes, can sit unaided, legs go floppy when picked up – so easy to hug. Embroidered features, hats and scarves handknitted in complementary woollen yarns.
Welsh bears and mice followed in 2006 using woollen tweed and yarns from Trefriw.
Each collectable has its own unique character, name, edition number, and a request to the new owner to look after it. At a summer craft market in Ludlow bears were being taken back to Japan, Canada and Finland.
Selling - direct to the public through craft fairs, agricultural shows, National Trust events and sometimes the International Teddy Bear Fair. We have also supported the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales.
Website - features all the bear and mouse designs and offers an on-line purchase facility. Advertising is through the UK Teddy Bear Guide, Welsh Country Magazine, and “Coontin Kin” in Shetland – a worldwide publication.
It was never my intention to mass produce and flood tourist and craft shops. It is their mark-up that helps to increase the price of handmade goods.
I would like to wean people away from cheap foreign imports with large carbon footprints in terms of airmiles, and towards high quality locally “grown” products. We are a wasteful society hooked on obtaining “something for nothing” and caring little for the costs to the planet in producing it.
Recycling – an ethos reflected in Tweedies. Once a bear is cut out the scraps are collected and used as stuffing. Nothing is wasted. Even the threads removed from our new tweed teddy bear cushions during fringing are gathered and recycled.
Recycling service for tweed garments - an excellent way of remembering a loved one or “regenerating” a tired, outdated skirt or jacket into a beautiful cuddly Memory Bear.
2012 Fleecy Bears – will be made from soft fleece blankets. Many children use these as comfort blankets but once outgrown what could be nicer than turning it into a Bear to hug and cherish for many years.
Next stop for us is the Frost Fair – a three day event at Attingham Park, a National Trust property near Shrewsbury – 2nd, 3rd and 4th December.
I love making my Tweedies, each one is a real little character. I will continue to make them and care for the planet through recycling and sustainability as long as I can.