Sewing Animal Dolls Part 2: The Bear Doll Sew-Along

Hi Everyone, I'm Shari Fuller from Thimbles and Acorns! Of all the stuffed animals out there, I think a good old fashioned “Teddy Bear” is still my favorite. My preference for bears may have started with all the lovely bear stories I grew up reading - Winnie the Pooh, Paddington, Corduroy, and Little Bear to name a few. All these bears have such exceptionally friendly reputations that one can not help feeling a particular kinship with a “Teddy Bear”.

Stuffed animals have been loved by children everywhere throughout history, but the popularization of them is credited to a woman named Margarete Steiff.

Margarete was born on July 24th, 1847, in Gien, Germany. When she was just 18 months old, she contracted polio, which left her legs paralyzed and the muscles in her right arm very weak. Always cheerful and determined, she set out to find her way in the world and decided to go to sewing school. Her physical challenges made it very difficult for her, but she persevered and completed her training at the age of 17.

In 1862, she began her career working as a tailor with her sisters and saved her money to purchase a sewing machine, the first such machine in her hometown of Gien.

Over the years, she built up her business and moved from tailoring to manufacturing clothing and household articles, employing several seamstresses. In 1879, she found a pattern for a stuffed elephant that she intended to market as a little pincushion, but found that the little animal became exceedingly popular as a children's toy. The unexpected success of the little stuffed elephant led to the founding of Steiff Manufacturing in 1880 where she began designing other stuffed animals to add to her toy catalog.

1902, Margarete's nephew, Richard Steiff, designed a stuffed bear with moveable arms and legs and cuddly mohair fur fabric. Margarete was a bit skeptical about whether this bear would become very popular, until an American trader, placed and order for 3,000 of them. It is all in the timing you see.

In 1905, President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, a renowned outdoorsman, was on a Mississippi hunting trip. The president wasn't having much luck and was feeling a bit discouraged after most of his companions had bagged an animal. In an effort to please their boss, some of his attendants cornered a black bear which they clubbed and tied to a tree for the president to shoot. To their surprise, the President refused, calling the act unsportsmanlike. The sad part of the story is that the bear was so badly injured that the President had to have the poor bear put down to put it out of its misery. The act caught the attention of a Washington Post political cartoonist, Clifford Berryman, who illustrated the episode for the paper. Soon afterward, Berryman's symbolic drawing caught the attention of an American toy maker, Morris Michtom, who was the trader that ordered 3,000 of Margarete's stuffed bears.

Michtom sent one of the stuffed bears to the president, asking permission to use his name, “Teddy”, for the bears. That is how this particular stuffed animal got its iconic name. This beloved toy would go on to become a classic toy and collector's item, inspiring famous storybook characters such as “Winnie the Pooh”, “Paddington”, and “Corduroy”. While the original story of the “Teddy Bear” is bittersweet, President Roosevelt eventually ended up helping a lot more bears than he hunted with his creation of the United States Forest Service and his expansion of National Parks.

In honor of the “Teddy Bear” I am going to use my stuffed bear doll pattern for our tutorial (in the next video). However, if you have a particular fondness for any of the other patterns, the instructions are pretty much the same for each one, so this demonstration will be relevant for whichever animal doll you choose to make.





October 13, 2022

I have a Cat on my to-do list! :O)


October 13, 2022

Thanks for making this so easy, Shari. Do you think you ever create a cat pattern?

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