Martha Penz created these Teddy Bears, and she will host a class next month on how to make them. Photo by BEN KATZ

SCOUTING AROUND: Penz shows her love of making teddy bears

    Martha Penz loves sharing her knowledge through teaching. She used to teach nursing, taught English while living in Europe and even taught how to make Teddy bears at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown about 14 years ago.
    On Dec. 5, 6 and 8, she will once again share how to make mohair-jointed Teddy bears, this time at the Murphy Art Center downtown. Because she doesn’t care to make money on the bears or teaching others, this time she is donating the total fee for the class – minus the cost of materials, of course – to the Valley River Arts Guild.
    The bears the class will be making are fully jointed and have traditional glass eyes. Penz has created her own pattern for the class to use and will teach the special techniques to cut the mohair fabric. She will make a bear along with the class.
    All participants need to bring are their own sewing machine and a good pair of sharp-pointed scissors.
    The class is for all ages. In fact, Penz said she once taught a 10-year-old boy. When he wanted to bring the bear to school to show his class, she wrote a note to the teacher so they wouldn’t doubt he made the bear himself.
    Bears that Penz has made are on display in the Valley River Arts Guild’s room at the Murphy Art Center.
    She has never sold any of the bears she has made – one she donated to a house for multiple sclerosis patients made $800 in an auction – and the collectible-quality bears are good for gifting. While having a handmade gift may be motivation for some, it wasn’t the reason she started making Teddy bears.
    “The reason I got into was jealousy,” she said.
    Penz said her brother had a bear, while she never did. When she later in Germany with her husband, she fell in love with Steif brand bears but could never afford the high price tag.
    While living in England, she came across a bear fair, where people were selling and making bears.
    “I just thought if they could do it, I could do it,” Penz said.
    She taught herself by reading and then trying out the skills and techniques. While she loves the bears, those who attend the class don’t need to stop with the traditional animal.
    “Once you learn the technique, you can make any animal you want,” Penz said, urging creativity.
    The class runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day with a break for lunch. The fee is $85, including about $40 for the cost of materials. The maximum class size is 10 people.
    Penz does have two extra sewing machines available for anyone who does not have their own.
    For details or to register for the class, email Penz at or visit the Murphy Art Center at 33 Valley River Ave.

Coat drive returns
    Got a good coat that’s not being used? Jim Miller wants you to donate it.
    “There’s a lot of need here,” Miller said. “We’ve observed there’s a lot of people here who need coats.”
    This is the second year Jim Miller State Farm Insurance in Murphy, in partnership with Cherokee County Toys for Tots, is sponsoring a coat drive.
    Donations will be accepted through the end of November, which provides enough time for the garments to be cleaned before being distributed. This year, Murphy Medical Center is providing the dry-cleaning services.
    “That’s a very big help,” Miller said.
    The community can donate new or gently used coats for all ages at several location across the county, including Jim Miller State Farm, Cherokee County Schools, Murphy Bible Church, Big D convenience stores, Wilson Building Supply, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and Cherokee County REACH Thrift Store.
    Toys for Tots will give the coats to registered families next month during their regular distribution of gifts. Families who are not registered with Toys for Tots but need coats can still receive coats by contacting Miller’s office.
    Last year, the insurance company was able to distribute more than 500 coats to those in need. For details, call Jim Miller State Farm at 835-7200.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email,; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message at 837-5122.