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Bringing life back to old bears - Refurbishing love

by Deborah Reader

14 Aug 2022


Bringing life back to old bears - Refurbishing love
Everyone loves a teddy bear but where did they begin? It is said that the very first bears appeared in the early 20th Century on the shelves of toy makers Morris Michtom in the USA and Richard Steiff in Germany. These bears appeared almost simultaneously, although each maker probably wouldn’t have known of the other’s existence as transatlantic communication in the very early 1900s was not good. 

Legend has it that Morris Michtom asked permission from the then US President, Theodore Roosevelt, if he could use the President’s nickname, Teddy, for his bears. Richard Steiff created his first bears for his Aunt Margarete’s toy making company in Germany.

Personally I believe that teddy bears have been round for ever and I have been making, repairing, renovating and otherwise making my life around teddy bears for as long as I can remember. My oldest bear is my own and was given to my mother over 90 years ago when she was only 4 years old. In time Ted came to me and has been re-stuffed, recovered, stitched and sewn with a variety of materials many many times. Last year he had almost reached the end of what could be done for him in bits and pieces so I decided that he really needed his own complete renovation.

When I renovate bears and other soft toys, if I can, I take them completely apart. Each piece is then carefully washed in the gentlest of soaps and then lovingly stitched back together again, re-stuffed, holes strengthened and darned, new eyes and facial features added if necessary and so my Ted and many others are given a new life.

Each toy is different and the approach to the renovation is carefully planned to allow for as much as possible of the original bear to reappear, whilst giving strength and integrity so that the bear is able to go on for many years to come. I take great pride in each renovation, after all they have been and still are, someone’s soulmate and everlasting friend.

My crafting life has many avenues: machine and hand knitting, machine and hand embroidery, cross stitch, tapestry, needlework and sewing and the design of unique knitting and cross stitch patterns, but my first love is bear making and renovation of vintage bears.

I am a great believer in recycling and not wasting earth’s precious resources. As I am an avid knitter, I inevitably end up with lots of ball ends, all that yarn not quite enough to make something else, so what to do with it? Silly question really – make a teddy bear, of course, and so the Ludlow Bear was born, named after the beautiful market town in Shropshire, England. All my ball ends are knitted into one long ribbon of fabric and Ludlow Bear is cut from this fabric using a genuine 1930s pattern. Each piece is lined and sewn into a unique bear, different every time. I apply the same process to memory bears which I make from others’ precious and treasured garments.

So, if you come across the word ‘arctophile’ you will know who it is – it’s me – bear lover. Where would we be without them?


Find out more about Deborah's work by visiting her channels here:
Instagram: Ludlow Ted
Etsy: ArdreeCraftsCo

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