Local business has a unique take on recycling beloved old clothes


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MAKE MEMORIES: Made from clothing that might otherwise have been relegated to the attic, this quilt is one of the products that earned Princeton-based company The Patchwork Bear a place on Oprah’s 2017 Favorite Things list.

By Anne Levin

When a small business becomes one of Oprah’s favorite things, life gets tough, in a good way. Just ask Jennifer Cura, whose company The Patchwork Bear operates from its headquarters above Green Street Consignment on Nassau Street.

Since making the coveted list last November, Cura and his team have been busier than ever creating bears, quilts, tote bags, duffel bags and wedding keepsakes from old clothes. that have sentimental value, but could otherwise be stored in a box in the attic. So a collection of vintage T-shirts could have a second life in quilting form. Baby clothes that a parent can’t bear to part with could be turned into a teddy bear.

“It’s recycling,” said Cura, who has been at Princeton since the business moved from his basement to Hopewell in 2015. “Everyone has old clothes that they don’t know what to do with, and we turn them into memories. People seem to like the idea, and it’s really taken off since we were on Oprah Magazine’s list. It’s been crazy since, but hey crazy.

Originally an architect, Cura was living in California with her husband and young children when, on maternity leave in 2004, she began making quilts as gifts for friends. Teddy bears made from fabric came next. Friends told friends, and Cura was busy. The family moved east a few years later when a Hollywood stylist saw a photo of the bears and tracked down Cura. The handmade bears found their way into the Golden Globe Awards giveaway suite, giving the fledgling business an unexpected boost.

“I have developed a small number of celebrities,” Cura said, citing Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, Angela Jolie, Brad Pitt, Chad Lowe and Jennifer Garner among his clients.

As the bear trade grew, Cura found a new twist. “One of my clients asked me if I could do something with their clothes. I did, and it just clicked, ”she said. “I was going back and forth between making a fabric bear line and this new idea, and I decided to go in that direction. Since then, it has mainly been a souvenir clothing business. “

Cura has five people on staff and others who do contract sewing. Customers who order a bear receive a kit with instructions on how to do it. “You can either just send us some clothes or design the bear and the pin notes showing where you want everything,” she said. “It’s a process, and it’s highly personalized.

The quilts are made in the traditional way, with old-fashioned batting under the top layer of clothing and items supplied by customers. Cura fondly remembers many, some made from police and first responder uniforms, others from Scout badges. The company also makes quilts from wedding dresses. “So instead of a cardboard grave, the dress has another life,” Cura said.

When it comes to bears, personal notes and memories from customers often evoke emotions. “The ones that make us cry are the ones in memory,” Cura said. “They can be very sad, like when a child has passed away. They are the hardest. It’s the same bear every time, but it’s different every time.

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Gladys T. Hensley

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