Early Bear Designs
Teddy Bear is the name traditionally given to a toy bear with a long body and a back rear hump that may be placed in a seated position and is made from shaggy mohair. Today, any stuffed toy bear is referred to as a teddy bear. The first commercially produced stuffed bears were made in 1894 by German toymaker Gebruder Sussenguth. A few years later, Steiff introduced a line of toy bears. It wasn't until 1906 that children were introduced to "Teddy Bear" by E.J. Horsman, an American toy manufacturer. Each of the early bears was created with a unique "fur" coat. Sussenguth and Steiff bears used mohair fabric for their exteriors. In 1954, Welsh toy manufacturer Wendy Boston introduced a bear with synthetic, washable fur. Some collectable toy bears today are still made from mohair, but most are constructed using synthetic fur fabric, even if they're not intended to be washed.
Patterns and Cutting
Every commercially produced bear is cut from fabric pieces with the use of a pattern. Manufacturing companies use cutting machines, while smaller makers hand-cut layers of the imitation fur. The body is sewn from four individual pieces, resulting in a centre seam down the middle of the bear. The arms and legs are cut using pattern pieces or metal templates. Most bear legs have front and back pieces, although some more complicated designs use a separate paw pattern to create a "hand." The rear of the head is cut from two pattern pieces, and at least three pattern parts are used for the front of the head and face. Companies patent and guard their designs and patterns, particularly those for the bear snout and eye section. Ear designs use a minimum of two pattern pieces for each ear. Most imported bears are constructed in large sewing operations, with any particular machine operator completing only one seam on the toy for hours at a time. A supervisor moves the pieces to various operators to complete the body and head shell.
Interior stuffing for teddy bears varies widely. Early bears were packed with stiff straw that gave a rocklike appearance. The stuffing was so durable that many antique bears have not lost any of their interior stuffing, even after more than a century. Dean's Rag Book Company sold cloth-printed, cut-and-sew bears in 1908, with directions that asked home seamstresses to stuff the bear with cloth scraps and feathers. With the passage of consumer toy protection acts, stuffing for toy bears is regulated and includes requirements for the use of newly manufactured stuffing, usually a mixture of poly-foam materials. Early commercially made bears were hand-stuffed, but today's bears are stuffed by machines that move the toys down an assembly line. After a bear is filled, workers use commercial sewing machines to close the small hole that was left open to insert the interior stuffing.
The last element in each teddy bear is its facial features. The first teddy bears wouldn't pass the rigid testing and safety standards that are in place today. Early manufacturers, such as Steiff and Horsman, inserted glass eyes into the exterior fur. Noses were also made of glass. Modern bear designs are safety tested and when official approval is given, they are mass-produced using a special safety clasp that attaches to the rear of the nose and eyes to protect against removal. Some companies attach the eyes to the fabric pieces before they're sewn, while others insert the plastic face features after the bear shell is sewn but before the stuffing is inserted.
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