SEARSPORT — Louise Seekins possesses enthusiasm for sewing — expected when one has been sewing for more than five decades — and uses her affinity for the craft to spread cheer and love to her customers, and through donations of profits towards organizations supporting those with Alzheimer’s.
She has sewn an array of items such as quilts and memory T-shirt quilts, items for her children and costumes for the 15 children’s community theater plays she has directed, and has taught the art of sewing to 10 people between the ages of 10 and 35.
“I love to sew,” the Searsport resident said. “I love the smile on the face of a student when they finish their first sewing project, the delight in a child’s eyes as they spin in a newly made sundress and I love the look on a young actor’s face as they look at their reflection for the first time in their costume.”
A few years ago, she turned her sewing skill into a way to generate additional income by launching Maine Squeeze Designs, a line of handcrafted teddy bears she touts as being among the safest handmade bears on the market for little ones.
“My bears are made of soft flannel with hand embroidered faces so they are safe for even the youngest child with no buttons to break off,” she said of the bears.
Her start in making teddy bears came upon a friend’s request a few years back, when a close friend had a student who had just lost their father one spring.
Asked if Seekins would make a couple of memory bears from the dad’s flannel shirts, Seekins was honored and touched as the embroidered faces helped bring the bears’ personalities came to life.
Each bear is uniquely handcrafted from an overflowing stash of fabric from Marden’s, either brushed cotton fabric or soft flannel fabric.
The bears, stuffed with poly-fil, measure 18 inches and, aside from being soft and cuddly, boast hand embroidered facial features to provide reassurance the bear is infant safe.
From each sale, Seekins donates 20 percent of her profits to organizations assisting those with Alzheimer’s, a move stemming from a personal connection — namely, her mother’s 2012 diagnosis with vascular dementia.
“Through hours of online research I learned so much about the various types of dementia, Alzheimer's being the most popular,” Seekins said.
Each year, a group representing Brewer Woodlands Assisted Living and Memory Care, where Seekins’ mother resided the final five years of her life, participates in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event.
One year, Seekins joined the group and heard what she described as amazing stories, spurring an energy “like no other” in Seekins.
“This year I choose not to join in the virtual walk, but instead to give the donation in the form of snacks for the staff's break room,” she said. “The staff that work with our loved ones, who find themselves dealing with so much they don't understand, become family. These staff members are the ground floor of research through staff meetings, family meetings, note taking, administering meds, trying a new technique to communicate, and sharing a smile, laugh [or] dance with a resident who just the day before had a negative outburst.”
Bears can be purchased either through her Esty store for $36 or at Country Blessings in Bangor. Tea Mainea in Winterport has carried the bears in the past, but has briefly stopped due to an abundance of caution for cleanliness and sanitation amid the pandemic.