A Penicuik woman, who handmakes small teddy bears for bereaved families, has been blown over by the generosity of an American company.
For the past two years Lesley Anderson has cut out the felt shapes for her ComforTEDs by hand before stuffing and sewing the bears together.
She has stitched 1400 bears since starting up the not-for-profit venture, which was set up in memory of her son Chris Bullions who was stillborn 28 years ago at 29 weeks.
As demand for the ComforTED increased, Lesley realised she needed to be more efficient and started looking for a die cutting machine.
“I approached a company in the UK and they said I needed a die cutter made. It had to be the right shape and right size and everything so they suggested I contact the US head office which makes custom dies.
“We went back and forward with emails and they asked what would be the best machine for my needs. A week later they came back and said they had a reconditioned machine they would like to donate to me and they would make me a custom cutter.
“All I had to pay for was the shipping. They did all that for me. I’m so grateful. The machine is worth about $400.
“The machine arrived last month and it is amazing. I can put two layers of felt in the die and it cuts four whole bears.”
Praising the California-based firm Ellison for its generosity, Lesley (52), who lives in Eskhill, added: “In this day and age when everybody is fighting everybody else you have thoughts about people in another country being so kind.”
Lesley, who works with William Purves Funeral Directors in Penicuik, produces white bears decorated with purple stitching and a ribbon.
The idea is that one bear will be placed with the baby and the other given to the family.
“All those years ago you were encouraged to move on and get on with it. But working in a funeral directors, which I do now, I came up with the idea to make these little bears. Nowadays people are encouraged to bond with their child and make memories and have memory boxes.
“I’ve had amazing feedback. It is amazing how a small thing can mean so much to people. I have had people who have lost babies and they keep the other in a memory box. It helps them to feel they have a connection with their child,” added Lesley.
ComforTED is a true labour of love. Lesley said: “I have created a Facebook page and I have stitched 1400 bears – some through work, some through Facebook.” She sends her bears all over the world.
“People keep saying that perhaps I need some help but I think that would take away from what I do. I do it perhaps as therapy and to keep my son’s memory alive.
“I know where he is and visit his grave but I don’t have any memories of him other than not very nice memories. This way his memory lives on,” she added.
Lesley has the support of her husband Sam and son Greig Bullions in her work. Now 27, Greig was born by caesaran section at 32 weeks weighing 2lb 10.5oz.
In 2014 ComforTED won a Butterfly Award which celebrates survivors and champions of baby loss and has been shortlisted again this year. Lesley received a Point of Light award last year.