Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Steiff Elephant Pincushions


Most of us by now are familiar with the precious Steiff teddy bears - the ones with the button in the ear - that fetch huge amounts these days at auction. But it wasn't until recently that I found out more about their very special creator, Margarete Steiff. Born in Giengen near Ulm in Germany in 1847 Margarete was the third of four children. Her father was a master builder, Friedrich Steiff, her mother Maria Margarete. When she was 2 Margrete's legs were paralysed with polio and her right arm was also affected. Margarete fought to lead a normal life. She was taken to school in a handcart by her siblings and neighbouring children. A woman living near the school carried her up into the classroom every day. In spite of the pain in her right hand, Margarete also took sewing lessons, initially against her father's wishes. At 17, she finally completed her training as a seamstress. In 1862 Margarete's elder sisters - Marie and Pauline - opened a dressmaker's shop in which Margarete worked part-time. When Marie and Pauline left their home town some 8 years later, Margarete continued on her ownin a small dressmaking workshop set up by her father. From her first earnings, Margarete bought a sewing machine of her own. Because the flywheel on the right-hand side was difficult for Margarete to operate, she had the ingenious idea of simply turning the machine around! When she was 30, Margrete opened a ready-to-wear felt clothing business to sell clothing and household articles she made herself. Before long, she was able to take on several seamstresses. Then 2 years later came the breakthrough - Margete saw a pattern for a small fabric elephant in a magazine and besed on that design she sewed a pincushion in the form of a small elephant - which you can see above. This little elephant was so popular that she made felt toys for children also. Before 1904 these elephants had no rings in their ears and so they are relatively easy to date. After the elephants came the teddy bears - and the rest as they say is a delightful history! Below you can see a modern special edition version of the elephant pin-cushion.

6 comments:

  1. Oh thank you so very much for this post. I grew up knowing about steiff toys, although my family could not afford to buy any for my brothers or myself. I've always admired the designs of these stuffed toys, yet never before now knew how the company came into being.

    Now you've got me thinking that perhaps I will manage to have a little Steiff something or other for myself, even though I am now a grandmotherly age.

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  2. Thank you for the wonderful post. Interesting to know that, wow talking about being challenged and then the reward in her success for that. Blessings, Sandy

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  3. what a fabulous story. Thanks for sharing it:-)

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  4. As a collector of bears this is a very interesting article thank you for posting it :-)

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  5. Aw, such a sweet tale ^_^ !

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