The build of the Old Teddy Bear
Clues to a bear's identity can often be found from the way they were assembled by the maker.
Some of the more important are...
Hand-sewn seam... Construction of a jointed teddy bear involves stuffing the body last, once the bear is nearly finished.
Although most of the body unit will have been machine-sewn, a small area will have been left for inserting the stuffing and which has to be sewn up by hand. In the vast majority of cases, this seam will be down the bear's back, however, a few Teddy Bear makers such as Steiff, Bing and Farnell, sewed up their bears down the front seam.
The hand-sewn seam is usually possibly to identify by the quality of the stitching, and possibly by some puckering along it. Be careful however, sometimes bears can end up with both back and front hand-sewn seams if they have been repaired!
Fabrics... Mohair and Plush Fabrics ... Mohair Fabric, made from goats' wool and feeling very like real hair, has always been the superior fabric for making Teddy Bears. It wears very well, and can be cleaned, but it can become threadbare over generations of play.
Silk plush fabric and other new fabrics were introduced in the 1930s and other synthetics became widespread from the 1950s.
Stuffing ... Most early bears were stuffed with wood wool (wood shavings). Lighter stuffing’s such as kapok and wool shoddy or waste were introduced from the 1920s, although the bears often still had their heads stuffed with wood wool.
Alhough softer bears are generally later, hard, wood wool-stuffed bears were still made until well into the 1950s, particularly on continental Europe.
Wendy Boston and other un-jointed bears were stuffed with foam rubber - which can crumble to dust.
Pads... Early high-quality bears had felt pads while poorer quality ones were made of brushed cotton.
From the 1930s, a painted cotton material called rexine, imitating leather, was introduced, and velveteen materials were also popular in the 1930s - 1950s.
Other postwar bears can have a shorter-pile, different coloured fabric on their pads.
Stitching ... The number of claws on the bear's paw pads or their paws can be important when comparing your bear to ones found in books, as can the design of the nose (assuming you know these to be original, or accurately restored).
English manufacturers Merrythought, Farnell and possibly Deans, sometimes stitched a "webbed" claw pattern onto the bears paw pads rather than normal straight claws on the back of the paws.