Featured Mother Bear
While many people knit and crochet bears, only a very special few are able to add the felt heart, that final finishing touch that outwardly shows the love and care that goes into each bear. Of this relatively small group, one person stands out: Jonathan Freed, the only male heart sewer in the bunch.
Jonathan joined the monthly heart-sewing sessions two years ago after learning about Mother Bear Project through a friend on Facebook. “[I] thought it would be a good fit for a semiretired old man who can sew,” he says, adding, “My first sewing bee, and I love it.”
Every month, about 20 people show up at the Turtle Bread Bakery in Linden Hills, Minnesota, to sew red or pink hearts on 400 to 500 bears. Jonathan says he’s “the only guy there, and everyone genuinely appreciates that.” He enjoys the companionship offered by the group, but doesn’t always join in the conversation—“I’m not sufficiently skilled to sew and chat at the same time without pricking fingers.”
Jonathan might not appear to be a natural for a sewing circle. A native of Richmond, Virginia, he moved to Minneapolis to attend law school and ended up owning and running his own marketing agency for 20 years. He now works as an Internet consultant when he’s not sewing hearts onto bears or spending time with his financée, Lisa Feder, and his adult children, Berit and Noah.
But don’t let outward appearances fool you: Jonathan comes from a long line of tailors, stretching back to Kiev, his grandmother’s hometown, where most of the family were tailors. “My Bubbe Yetta taught me to sew buttons on shirts when I was 6 so she wouldn’t have to do it—pretty clever, I’d say,” he explains.
Asked why he continues his family’s sewing tradition at Mother Bear Project, Jonathan points to the companionship he finds in the sewing circle and, even more importantly, the satisfaction of doing something to help children. “When you see the photos of the joy in the faces of the kids that get a Mother Bear,” he says, “then you, too, will be able to answer this excellent question.”
In the meantime, he plans to keep sewing hearts—and encourages others to join in, from knitting or crocheting bears to visiting MotherBearProject.org to contribute. “Keep on knitting, crocheting, sewing and contributing,” he says. “So many more kids need the love.”