A woman is making bears and other toys and keepsakes from the treasured possessions of the dead - filled with their ashes.

Paula Steele, 46, uses the favourite items of clothing of the deceased to create stuffed animals, blankets and cushions for their loved ones.

And for those who still want to keep their dearly departed close she uses their ashes to fill them out.

Paula, a part-time seamstress for 24 years, came up with her 'Memory Bears from the Heart' after losing her stepfather Allan to oesophageal cancer.

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She began with a stuffed toy lion which included a sachet of Allan's ashes where the heart would be.

Mother-of-four Paula said: "When I cuddle it, it makes me feel closer to him.

"It gives me a bit of closure and is rewarding for me to know that by making these memory items for others in the same boat I'm helping them to come to terms with their loss.

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"I wanted to make something for myself but didn't want anyone else to do it.

"I thought actually I could do this and I was just feeling ready to take on a new challenge.

"I've loved every minute of creating memory bears for people to cherish."

Paula, of Plymouth, Devon has made 778 memory items for bereaved people in three years.

With every anniversary of her stepfather's death she creates another item for her mum - this year she made a blanket of his clothing and photographs.

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She said: "I just love my job.

"When you're preparing the bears you sit down with the family member and hear all about the person they've lost - you get a real feel for them which helps as you create it."

Some people have asked Paula to add some of their loved ones' favourite belongings to the animal.

She said: "I had someone ask me to put their grandad's glasses on the bear and another a neck tie.

"But mostly they ask for embroidered messages that are personal to them."