What's in that bear??
Sugar and Spice and Everything nice. No? Hmmm. What about Snipes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails? Yuck! Guess not (and who wrote that icky poem anyway?).. The truth is the variety of materials used to produce teddy bears is as varied as the imaginations of the artists themselves.
Without a doubt the Cadillac of furs would have to be Mohair. Mohair is basically made from the fur of angora goats which is harvested and woven through a 100% cotton backing. No goats are actually injured during the harvesting of their fur (basically it's just a haircut), although I'm sure they find the process mildly irritating being somewhat cranky creatures to begin with. I'm sure if goats were allowed to actually have teddy bears made with mohair, they would gladly surrender their coats, shearing themselves right on the spot, as this is the true, traditional fabric of the original teddy bears. Teddy bears made of mohair have lasted since the first bears have been marketed in the beginning of the 1900s. Not a bad legacy to the goats. A close second to Mohair in durability and authenticity is Alpaca Wool. Alpaca, I believe, comes from Llamas - slightly less cranky, although they spit. Because it is a natural material woven into a natural material, both mohair and alpaca can be dyed and tinted to the heart's content of the artist allowing for the creation of some pretty wild bruins. These fabrics are almost always imported and tend to be extremely expensive (in excess of $100 per yard) and therefore lend themselves to producing a much more expensive bear. Again, where teddies are concerned, natural is best and worth the extra cost.
A much more available fabric for bear making is synthetic plush. Readily available at most fabric stores (better quality via mail order) plush can be purchased from $14 per yard for craft fur to about $40.00 yard for the better more dense plush. It's important to note: NO SYNTHETICS ARE HARMED during the manufacturing process. Plush is a quite acceptable material for bears. Care must be taken not to select a too stretchy fabric, though, or the end product will most certainly be an ever expanding bear (with a thyroid condition).
Teddy Bears have also been made from various other materials as inherited mink coats, old quilts, cotton fur fabrics, upholstery fabric, felt, etc., etc., etc. I have even heard of bears being made from clothing belonging to a loved one. Again, the selection is limitless.
Like the fur, a variety of material is used in the stuffing of Teddy Bears today. Most traditional is "Wood Wool," also know as "excelsior." Excelsior, basically just wood shavings, was used in the original teddy bears and is used today by artists for creating "new antiques" or more traditional bears. Kapok, a natural plant material, was used in some antique bears, but is largely passed over today due to the fact that it's feathery fibers can be allergenic. By far the most popular stuffing material today is Polyester Filling. It's clean, nasty buggies don't like it, and it's readily available. Polyester can be lightly packed for a squishy bear or tightly packed for a more sturdy version.
You may have noticed as of late your teddy has been gaining some weight. Artists have discovered adding a weighted material produces a satisfyingly hefty bear. Cuddling these tubby teddies is akin to cradling a baby but without all the drool and post-midnight feedings. Materials such as plastic pellets, glass pellets, and steel shot (hopefully never lead), have been added to the tummies and tushies of our teddies. These should never be used in bears intended for small children but can be encased in a separate fabric bag inside the bear for added safety. Very expensive government studies have shown small items can be hazardous if put into your nose, ears, siblings, etc.
Eyes are the mirror to the soul and it is the eyes that allow the bear to "speak." And placement of those eyes is every bit as important as what they are made of.
Eyes are available in glass, shoe button, button (plastic), and plastic safety eyes that lock on and only the most determined child can remove them. There is also no law, that I'm aware of, that says you cannot stitch your bears eyes. Many colors are available. Again, choices, choices, choices.
Since teddy bears have been around for almost 100 years, many, many methods of holding on those arms, legs, and yes heads have been devised. I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb by saying most artist bears today are jointed with "hardboard" joints. "Hardboard" is similar to the MDF Fiber board you can find in the home improvement stores except its about 1/8" thick and cut into circles.
Affixing them to each other, and the bears, is very simply explained as follows: Inside the arm, leg, whatever, is a round disk through which is inserted a cotter pin or bolt which pokes through the inside of the limb (or neck on the head). This pin/bolt is then pokes through the body IN THE APPROPRIATE PLACE (no Franken-Bears, please) and secured with another round disk threaded over/through the pin and finished off by either curling the cotter pin or tightening down a nut.
In recent years plastic jointing methods have been developed. They're good for beginners or bears which may need the occasional bath, but they often loosen up over time.
Bears From the Pinecone Woods are generally made of either German or English mohair or synthetic plush usually with wool paw pads, stuffed with polyester fiberfill, and look at you through black button eyes of either glass or plastic.
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