BG seamstress turns sewing into artform PDF Print E-mail
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA | Sentinel Lifestyles Editor   
Saturday, 08 December 2012 09:23
Kathy Morrow with Memory Bears. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Kathy Morrow with Memory Bears. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Hand Kathy Morrow a bedraggled old chenille bedspread, your grandfather's "seen better days" favorite old shirt or your own circa 1980 wedding dress with massively pouffed "Princess Di" sleeves that no daughter of yours will ever wear on her big day.
Then step back and watch her create magic with a needle and thread.
Morrow, a Columbus native who moved with her husband to Bowling Green in 2006, got her start as a doll and stuffed teddy bear artist many decades ago.
She herself doesn't aspire to the title artist, even though her many fans and customers insist it's warranted.
"I'm a seamstress," she said simply. "I mostly make Raggedy Ann dolls" - 188 of them at last count - "but I also make clothes and quilts for my grandchildren" who range in age from 1 to 21.
She quit her job as a legal assistant in April and now spends more time than ever at the sewing machine.
"I made my oldest daughter a king-size quilt out of all her children's baby clothes."
Some of the quilt squares were decorated with the little pockets from grandson Weston's shirts or bows and other accoutrements from granddaugher Samantha's clothes. Morrow even removed labels like Levi or Gap and incorporated them into the quilt.
Her favorite square is highlighted by a red lady bug applique that formerly decorated the black and white seersucker checked dress that Samantha wore on her very first day of school.
A friend who saw the finished quilt asked Morrow to make one for her but Morrow had to say no. "It took months; it was a labor of love."
But whenever she can grant someone's personal request she's happy to do so.
One of her neighbors brought clothing that had belonged to the woman's now-deceased mother. She asked Morrow to make snow white teddy bears and dress them in outfits made from the cherished items of clothing. Morrow obliged, creating three bears for the woman and her two sisters, and two more smaller bears for her nieces.
When Pemberville resident Betty Kahlenberg saw the "memory bears" it gave her an idea.
Widowed several months ago, she asked Morrow to make bears for each of her eight grandchildren. For Christmas this year, the boys will get boy bears wearing jaunty little bow ties made from a blue plaid shirt that was a favorite of Kahlenberg's late husband.
The girls will get girl bears lavishly dressed as brides with pearl and feather-bedecked veils.
The clothing was made from Kahlenberg's own 39-year-old wedding gown.
"It was a great way to use my gown that was going nowhere - and a nice remembrance of my husband," said Kahlenberg.
Morrow says nobody had ever asked her to make memory bears before, but she enjoyed the project.
"Making these bears from the wedding gown is something they'll always have as a keepsake of their grandma," said Morrow. "It's very intimate, very personal. It means so much."
Both of the memory bear owners appreciate the attention to detail that Morrow puts into her creations.
"She matches the eyes of the bears to the eyes of the grandkids," Kahlenberg noticed.
Authentic Raggedy Ann dolls purchased in stores always have a heart on their tummy embroidered with the words "I love you" inside.
Morrow goes them one better. She personalizes each doll, embroidering "I love Aubrey" or "I love Sarah" or whatever the little girl's name is, inside the heart.
Her very first Raggedy Ann doll was made in 1966 for a niece's Christmas present.
People used to want Raggedy Ann and Andy sets, but she says that trend kind of died out. Now, most folks only want Ann.
"I used to sell them in consignment shops, but it's so much more fun to handle it myself from beginning to end. You know the child" and can dress the doll or bear in the child's favorite color.
"If it was for a child's nursery, if it had a Winnie the Pooh or Noah's Ark theme, I would choose a fabric for Raggedy Ann's dress that would coordinate with that."
Some years ago Morrow began adding stuffed rabbits to her repertoire. "I figured out how to do a little tail coming out of the bloomers."
That's where the chenille bedspreads come into play. Old chenille makes a great bunny rabbit and often the old white or pastel spreads, now yellow or ivory with age, make the bunnies look like antiques.
People generously donate chenille blankets for her latest projects. She also keeps on the lookout for antique pillowcases with tatting and lace, from which she makes angels.
Morrow picked up her love for sewing from her own grandmother at a very early age.
"I can remember sitting on her lap at the sewing machine, learning how to guide the material while she worked the foot pedal.
"What she first had me make was clothes for my dolls," including a beloved Tiny Tears doll. "I hand-sewed them."
"I think that's why I like the Raggedy Ann dolls especially, because they're so much hand-sewing."
Last Updated on Saturday, 08 December 2012 09:27

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