Teddy Bear Hospital: Two Bears Saved from Uncertain End

(This article first appeared in the April 2013 issue of Teddy Bear & Friends magazine)

As the days roll into the spring here in the U.K., the poor bears continue to arrive, it seems the slightly warmer days don’t help their joint problems, unlike us humans.

Jessica, the Irish Tara bear; before was a sad site when she arrived at Teddy Bear Hospital.

After restoration, Jessica seems to enjoy her new stuffing, eyes and stitch work.

Irish Tara Bear
This first little bear is most probably an Irish Tara bear. As you can see, she was not looking very happy and had various problems, including splits in the fabric, a sewn-on arm, saggy stuffing and no eyes. She was rescued by a bear lover who happened to be passing a house where she saw a lady putting the bear out for the refuse collection.

When our bear lover asked if she could have the bear, the lady said yes, if she really wanted it. The lady’s name was Jessica, so our rescuer named this little bear after her, not knowing that later on I would discover a name tag while restoring her.

I began work on Jessica by removing the stitches holding on her left arm to release the top of it, then I opened the back body-seam to remove the broken arm joint. I added extra excelsior stuffing to both arms to bring them back to shape, then fitted her left arm with new joint components and re-jointed it to her body. I lined and repaired the splits in the body fabric, slightly loosened her stiff head and right arm joints then topped up the body with excelsior before closing the back seam.

Once I had Jessica a little less floppy, I turned my attention to her legs and pads. Her pads had been re-covered years ago with remnants of fabric, but these had become tatty, worn and thin, so I removed them. Underneath the cover of her left foot, I discovered a name label hanging on to the tiny remains of the original footpad. I telephoned the new owner and asked if she would like me to reattach the label to Jessica’s new pad, and she agreed this would be a good idea, even though the name is “C. Whitfield” and not “J” for Jessica.

I repaired the small splits and tears in the leg fabric, then added extra stuffing to both legs. All four pads were re-covered with mid-brown wool felt, following the size and shape of the original hands and feet. Then the name label was sewn to the new left footpad. The final part of this restoration was to fit her with a new pair of amber glass eyes and resew her mouth, following the old mouth’s stitch holes for shaping.

As she sat and looked at me, I thought how her name suited her, despite the initial on her label being the letter C. Her rescuer said the same, so this sweet little teddy bear will henceforth be known as Jessica, regardless of her initial.

The owner of this Chad Valley bear found him at a good price, but he needed some TLC.

After some cleaning and repairs, he feels like a whole new bear.

Chad Valley Bear:
This lovely little Chad Valley bear was bought by a collector in an antique center here in England at a surprisingly cheap price for a late-1930s/early-1940s bear. I’m not quite sure how much was paid for him, but his new owner told me it was between £15 and £25 ($23 to $40), which is an absolute bargain.

As you can see, he had a few problems to sort out—his new owner thought perhaps the antique dealer was glad to get rid of him in the state he was in, but luckily she could see he had a lot of character and was happy to send him to me for the necessary repairs.

I began his restoration by gently brushing through his remaining fur to remove some of the dust, then gave his fur a very careful surface clean. I managed to remove more dust from the balding areas, but sometimes this is not always successful—often the backing fabric is very fragile and any friction, no matter how gentle, can damage the fabric.

Once I was happy with the cleaning process I left him to rest and air-off overnight.

The following morning I resumed by repairing a couple of small splits in the back of the body fabric and securing the back of one of his ears to his head. Once this was completed, I began work on his paw and foot pads. There was very little remaining of the original felt pads, so I selected some wool felt in a matching color for new pads. He needed a little more kapok stuffing in both arms to bring them back to shape, then all four new pads sewn into place.

This little bear had retained his lovely original Chad Valley coal-shaped nose stitching, but he needed new stitches for his mouth. The final job was to fit him with a pair of amber glass eyes so he could see again. As he looked around with interest, I couldn’t help thinking how lucky his new owner was to find such a cute little guy at such a great price.

Dot Bird lives in Yorkshire, England, where she runs a teddy bear hospital and restores antique and vintage teddy bears.

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