Posts Tagged ‘keepsake’

Bearing up to travelling glories

Friday, June 24th, 2022

Back in the days when I was reviewing clothing and equipment for outdoors and travel magazines, I was sent a lot of products which would be used for the period of the review, and then might end up being stored away somewhere. Ultimately, I gave away piles of clothing items to the likes of Rohan’s “Gift your Gear,” or to homeless charities. There was a point when I wondered whether every homeless person in Norwich was wearing something I’d donated.

But my early 1990s Karrimor Alpiniste fleece jacket kept on going. It travelled extensively over the past 30 years or so, but has also seen vastly more use at home – what these days you might call my “Go To” fleece jacket. Why? It was a combination of the slimline cut in a lightweight Polartec fleece fabric, comfortable across a wide range of conditions, and the pocket layout. It had a very shallow scooped back – just enough to make some difference when in more active use, but not so much to look out of place when worn to the pub! It also had a detachable hood which snapped on to press studs around the collar, although I tended not to use that so much. I suppose I could have kept it going by having a new main zip fitted, along with new Lycra trim on the cuffs and bottom hem, but the fabric itself was wearing a little thin, so it was probably not worth refurbishing.

It’s also taken several years and one or two medical episodes including Covid to make me realise that I’m not going to be travelling up to six months a year the way I used to any more, but it would be nice for that favourite jacket not to end up simply in a recycling bin. So how to draw a line under a particular part of my life without forgetting it entirely? I’m something of an arctophile – whenever I travelled, I always had a small bear called Bill with me. Apart from being my devoted travelling companion, he was a great icebreaker in situations that might warrant a little levity, and on occasion he also conspired to get me into trouble! And so I asked talented bear artist Marcia Hastings of Clumsy Bears to transform my Karrimor Alpiniste fleece jacket into a keepsake bear, something that will sit in my lounge and remind me of extraordinary times past.

Apart from the Alpiniste fleece, my travelling clothes of choice tended to come from travel clothing company Rohan. I was great friends with the company’s founder Paul Howcroft, and pretty much every time I saw him he would thrust a pair of trousers or a jacket into my hands with “Tell me what you think of this.” Rohan’s lightweight, pack small, easy care clothes matched my style of travel perfectly, and there wouldn’t have been a single trip on which I wasn’t wearing something from Rohan. So to complete my keepsake bear, made from fleece which has travelled all over the world, his dungarees have been carefully crafted from a pair of Rohan Bags shorts which no longer fit. Here we have the only Rohan Bags dungarees in existence!

Marcia admits that some aspects of the project were rather more challenging than usual, not least because I wanted to retain a flavour of some of the features of the original garments, including zips and embroidered logos. And the fleece certainly had worn pretty thin – she had to add some subtle reinforcement here and there to ensure the bear kept his shape.

As you can see, the resulting bear is a truly handsome little chap, and a credit to Marcia’s artistic skills. The only thing left now is to come up with a name for him!