Recycling old jeans to soothe souls

Out-of-work anthropologist Vickie Hartland has found her groove recycling old jeans to create bears that bring comfort to people around the globe. 

“Making Comfort Bears is my accidental business,” Vickie said when I met her recently at the Cairns Esplanade Markets.

“When found myself out of work, I made a bear for my grandson and put a picture on Facebook then suddenly got orders from all over the world.”

jeansVickie said her Comfort Bears were often used as Grief Bears.  

“People grieving the loss of loved ones have got something they can cuddle.

“When my brother died, his youngest son started sleep walking and we’d find him curled up in a wardrobe or under his dad’s clothes until he got a Comfort Bear.

“For years after my sister lost her husband, she still had his pillow and uniform in a zip lock bag so she could still smell him.

“Another lady whose dad had passed away 10 years earlier still had all of his clothes until she got one of my bears and was able to let go.

Vickie said the Comfort Bears were also ideal for children with autism because they liked a sense of everything the same every day.

“While a child sleeps, you can pop the bear in the washing machine and dryer, then take it back into them and the child never knows it’s gone.”

Vickie’s handmade bears are created from up-cycled denim jeans.

“It’s ridiculous how many jeans end up as landfill. We don’t wear jeans all year round and every season people get new jeans and the old ones end up either in op shops or as landfill.

“My first trade was an upholsterer. I haven’t done it for many years but I’ve gone back to my original skill set.”

You can meet Vickie at the Cairns Esplanade Markets every Saturday, 8am to 4pm by the Lagoon.

Sailing v sashaying at Yorkeys Knob 

For a landlubber more used to hoofing it across cow paddocks than sailing, when ‘Captain Awesome’ spoke of jibing, I thought he was into dancing. 

You know, jiving! That’s the international ballroom dance style which originated in the United States from African-Americans in the early 1930s and popular throughout the 1940s. 

I must get my hearing checked because I soon discovered the word had a ‘b’ in the middle, not a ‘v’, and it meant putting the stern of a boat through the eye of the wind. 

So last Sunday (June 18, 2017), instead of sashaying across a dance floor, I was shimmying across the waves aboard Captain Awesome’s catamaran with two parallel hulls as shoes. 

The skipper’s 11 meter hand-built cat, Pure Spirit, was one of seven vessels to participate in the Yorkeys Knob Boating Club’s Sunday Fun Sail for June. 

Being ballast-free and therefore lighter than monohulls, Pure Spirit was the fastest vessel on the day and scored the largest handicap, starting about 40 minutes after the first boat began.

It wasn’t long before we’d overtaken Endeavour but the other boats proved more elusive.

Nearing the finish line, it was all hands on deck (except mine as I was in charge of the camera) to trim a few precious minutes off our sail time. 

Alas, first position wasn’t to be this month, as announced at the post-sail presentation on the clubhouse deck as food and stories were shared. 

The opportunity to join the club’s monthly Sunday Fun Sail is open to anyone with $10 in their pocket, even landlubbers like me who don’t know the difference between tacking and jibing. That is, if room is available on any of the boats on the day.

You might be called upon to steer, trim or practice manoeuvres under the watchful eyes of seasoned sailors or you might simply enjoy a day out on the water as an on-board spectator.

It’s all part of the fun of learning about sailing while getting up close and personal with one of Australia’s most beautiful regions. 

The experience might even inspire you to put aside some dollars and one day join the event or club as a boat owner.  

Find out more about sailing

For more details on the Yorkeys Knob Boating Club’s Sunday Fun Sail, phone (07) 4055 7711 or email

Yorkeys Knob Boating Club is located at Yorkeys Knob, 18km northwest of Cairns and 42km southeast of Port Douglas.


Cemetery steeped in history

For a free snapshot of any town’s history, one of the best places to visit is the local cemetery.

I’d never considered a cemetery to be a tourist destination until my late husband, Don, and I visited Norfolk Island. Soon after arrival, he made a beeline for the cemetery!

“That’s odd,” I thought at the time. Now I know Don was on to a something akin to a time capsule of local history, full of fascinating stories. 

Don was thought to have descended from a crew member on the Royal Navy vessel HMS Bounty, best known for a mutiny led by Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian in the South Pacific in 1789.

The dark, curly hair and olive skin of Don’s close relatives were reputed to be an indication of Tahitian blood in the family tree.

However, once we returned with the news that many of the mutineers’ children and grandchildren were born out of wedlock, talk of the family’s links to the famous ship suddenly ceased.

Such ‘indiscretions’ of the day were frowned upon, as were the mixing of races and religions.

While evidence of these customs can be seen at most cemeteries, it’s particularly prominent in the Cooktown Cemetery in Far North Queensland, which dates from 1874.

The cemetery layout is an example of late 19th century planning with denominational divisions being apparent with Roman Catholic, Church of England, Protestant, Chinese and Jewish sections. 

Most Chinese and Aboriginal graves are not marked. A relatively recent addition is the Rebels’ Corner where the layout is less structured.

Walking through the Cooktown Cemetery, I discovered many fascinating stories of the town’s pioneers.

They included Mary Watson and her infant son Ferrier who perished on Lizard Island, the Normanby Woman buried in 1886, and Elizabeth Jardine, the wife of John Jardine who established Port Somerset near the tip of Cape York in 1864.

Find out more about the Cooktown Cemetery

For more information visit the Cooktown website. Better still, if you’re visiting the area, take a walk through the cemetery or visit the Research and Archive Centre, 121 Charlotte Street, Cooktown or phone 07 4069 6640.

Cooktown Cemetery

Mary Watson and her infant son, Ferrier, of Lizard Island, are interred in the Cooktown Cemetery.

For unknown reasons, Elizabeth Cooper was buried in a separate section of the Cooktown Cemetery.

Kristian Parkes, who died in 2016, is in the Rebels’ Corner of the Cooktown Cemetery.