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by Rita Vainius
Once upon a time, there lived a girl whose favorite pastime
was playing with her teddy bear named Toodlums. So begins Sandi
Silvestri's Bear Tale, which went from just loving bears to actually
making them. Throughout her childhood, many in her family fostered
Sandi's inherent handwork abilities. There was Grandma Julia,
who loved to crochet and embroider, Grammy Anna, who taught Sandi
to crochet and tried to teach her how to tat and Aunt
Marce, who lovingly hand-painted eggs.
For many years Sandi's skills and talents lay fallow due to
her busy schedule. She finally reached a point in life, when
disgruntled by her former job, she yearned for an avenue of self-expression.
One day, at the height of her frustration, her best friend Donna
Henasey (featured in our July Gallery) suggested that she begin
making the bears she had loved so much since she was a child.
At first Sandi hesitated; she hadn't touched a sewing machine
in years. But the more she pondered it, the more appeal the idea
held. Finally, in July of 1998, she gave it a try - an outlet
for her creativity was found, a business was born, and a dream
began to be fulfilled!
Wanting the name of the business to convey the joy and love
that bears can bring to life, Sandi called upon her friends to
assist. Her friend Linda came up with "Grin and Bear It",
which suited Sandi's sentiments perfectly and so it was thus
christened. Sandi decided she wanted the bears she herself crafted
to have a unique identifying name. Since she's the proud "mom"
of 3 Golden Retrievers, lovingly referred to as "The Boys,"
her husband's brainstorm, "Boyz'n Bearies," was another
With Donna's encouragement and guidance, Sandi learned how
to combine various furs with complementing or contrasting colors
and textures. Donna employs tapestry fabrics and Sandi found
she also reveled in the stunning effects these produced. Another
friend, Judy Machemer, urged her to use some of the beautiful
fabrics available to quilters, to construct the paw pads. That
idea turned out to be a hit as well.
One discovery Sandi made on her own was the threads she now
uses almost exclusively for the bear noses. On an impromptu visit
to the local stitchery shop, Sandi was enticed by the Caron Watercolours.
She imagined the eye-catching effect they would produce on her
bears. She tried some out and was absolutely thrilled by the
results. The colors in the thread brought out the colors in the
fur and the various fabrics used to construct the paw pads. She
was so excited, she wanted to share her find immediately with
her "partner in crime." Now both Donna and Sandi use
the Caron Watercolour threads on almost every bear.
--Puddie and Puddie's
There are times when a particular personality of bear calls
out for that extra special touch. Then Sandi calls on another
seamstress buddy, Susan LeVine, of SuzSewn to dress her bears.
Susan's business is primarily doll clothing, but with a few small
adjustments, the outfits work their magic on Sandi's bears.
Always looking for other ways to enhance her bears, Sandi
is about to embark on a new project - taking her first quilting
class. Together with pal, Judy, she will be shopping her way
through a regional quilt show and partaking of the seminars available.
Sandi intuitively senses that the quilts will be an extremely
complimentary product to her bear line.
Always eager to try her hand at something new and different,
Sandi is currently working on other huggable and lovable furry
critters. She never ceases to be amazed by how each creature
comes to life in her hands, right before her eyes. Parting with
them is always such sweet sorrow! In addition, Sandi is now also
selling quality-manufactured bears by Ganz Cottage Collectibles
and The Bearington Collection in order to give her customers
a broader spectrum of bears from which to choose.
As Sandi's bear making saga attests to, she has not built
this business alone. It is through the love and support of her
family and many friends that she has been able to achieve the
success, delight and satisfaction her passion for creating bears
--Allie and Callie
If you'd like to communicate with Sandi, e-mail her at email@example.com or
write to her at 4723 Ryan Court, Reading, PA 19606. Bears can
be purchased directly from Sandy. She also has selected bears
from the Boyz'n Bearies and Bearington Collections available
for purchase on the web at http://www.amishcountrygifts.com/teddy.html.
Coming this fall, Sandi will be offering some bears and a select
group of other gift items on E Bay under her seller ID of boyznbry.
She accepts both Pay Pal and X.com for purchases on E Bay.
Description of bears shown, in order of appearance:
Dulcinea: Dulcinea's name, meaning sweetness, suits her perfectly.
Everything about her is soft, from her imported synthetic polar
bear style plush, to the texture of her paws made of soft taupe
upholsters velvet to her sweet nose, stitched with Watercolours
James Edward Justice: This little guy is a dressed
in patriotic garb, with a white bib and red, white and blue bow
tie. He's constructed from white-tipped gray imported synthetic
plush, with blue German glass eyes. His nose is stitched with
Briana: Briana is a Golden Memories Bear, made for
a special friend in loving memory of 3 old dogs that passed away
within a very short time span. Briana is made from light gold
imported synthetic plush with amber German glass eyes and a nose
stitched with Watercolours Burnt Toast. Her angel outfit, created
by SuzSewn, features hand-stamped celestial designs on white
Chloe: Chloe is a soft lavender plush bear who is ever
so very huggable and made to fit nicely right on your hip, making
her the perfect gift for the little girl in your life. Chloe
sports a lovely floral ribbon, two deep purple hair bows. And
a nose stitched with Watercolours Peach Sherbert for the perfect
Puddie: Puddie is made from Schulte brown tipped white
imported plush and has brown German glass eyes. This plush is
remarkably soft with a lovely silvery sheen. Puddie has tapestry
paw pads, sports a taupe leather bell collar and a nose stitched
with Watercolours Clove.
Puddie's Friend: Puddie's little friend is made from
light gold imported synthetic plush, ultra soft and touchable.
Her eyes are amber German glass eyes; her paw pads are deep gold
upholsterer's velvet and she is further embellished with two
sweet pink bows that adorn her ears. Her nose is stitched with
Watercolours Burnt Toast.
Ling: Ling is a deep forest-green plush bear. Ling's
paw pads are created from Hoffman's 1999 Challenge Fabric, in
a gorgeous Oriental motif, which contains brilliant yellow, blue
and red flowers, edged in metallic gold. Her nose is stitched
with Watercolours Passion.
Fully Dressed Wedding Bears: These happy newlyweds
are made from white ultra plush, and have noses stitched with
Watercolours Clove. Their wedding attire is hand sewn by SuzSewn.
The bride is stunning in a lovely satin gown with sheer sleeves
and train. Delicate machine embroidered flowers grace the hem
of the gown. Her veil is composed of two tiers of delicate tulle,
with edging. She is carrying a bouquet of white and antique pink
roses. The groom is dressed in black pants, a pleated bib, with
a gray satin cummerbund and bow tie. A black top hat finishes
off his dashing attire. Hang tags are customized with the names
of the couple, with their wedding date as the bears' birth date.
Small Wedding Bears: These adorable newlyweds are made
from white ultra plush and have noses stitched with Watercolours
Opal, complimenting the white-on-white theme. The groom is replete
with an elegant white bib composed of tiny stitched pleats and
a bow tie. The bride is daintily dressed in a two-tiered lace
and tulle flounced collar. Her double-tiered veil has a white
rose in the center and stitched edging. She carries a bouquet
of white roses. Their attire is hand sewn by SuzSewn. Hang tags
are customized with the names of the couple, with their wedding
date as the bears' birth date.
Allie and Callie: Sandi's favorite bear duo is a pair
of mother/daughter bears designed for her friend, Linda. They
are made from white-tipped light beige imported synthetic plush,
with black German glass eyes. Their noses are stitched with Watercolours
Desert Sage and their paw pads are made of teal ultra suede.
Allie, the mom, is wearing a crocheted doily that Sandi's grandmother
made. A delicate porcelain pin holds the doily together. Callie,
the daughter, has ivory lace with a complimentary porcelain pin.
Nouveau Nouveau, a company specializing in hats and hat accessories
for Teddies, made the hat Allie is wearing.
To all teddy bear and animal lovers: Loving furry critters
is not restricted to the stuffed variety. Sandi and pal bearmaker,
Donna, are also actively involved in assisting a couple of animal
rescue organizations by donating gift baskets for raffle. Both
ladies are committed to all animal life and strongly believe
in adopting rescued animals. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit
the Higgins Fund, which provides funds for dogs in need of extraordinary
medical treatment. To view some of the wonderful gift baskets
available, please visit
Additionally a select assortment of Gifts for Dog Lovers from
Sandi is available at http://www.amishcountrygifts.com/dogs.html