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          Collector Bears....... Bears for Children    part two    

It is generally assumed that a 'collectable' bear sits with his buddies on peoples shelves, and is hardly handled, a hug now and then perhaps; but a child's toy bear he's their constant companion, their bestest friend, in the midst of their games, there's Ted. He quite literally is loved to death. So Ted must be able to stand-up to the rigors of childsplay AND be hugable, loveable, soft and safe, for we entrust Ted to our beloved child. In Ted we trust!         Much thought then must go into the creation of a childs toy bear and its important to address all safety concerns.

Choosing Fabrics.
What a 'collector' bear is made from is itself an open-ended question/discussion, as the possabilities are endless, but for a childs toy bear fabric choice is of prime importance.  Cheap fabrics of various kinds, should be avoided, especially cheap 'plush fur' sold at many craft outlets. It is often made from inferior materials and is highly inflammable.         Children tend to chew and suck their toys ( my 13 month old son, firmly believes in 'Conquer by Suck' of his toys.)     When chewed/sucked the textiles threads of inferior fabrics disintergrate, the dyes will often run ( many dye pigments are considered poisonous ), fur tufts come out and can be swallowed or inhaled,
( inhalation of minute fibres can cause serious health concerns : please also be aware of this when making-up bears!)         Buy your fabrics from a reputable dealer one who knows their supplies and can vouch for them.     When buying from a roll, read the safety label on the fabrics bolt, if you have concerns don't buy it.   If buying faux fur fabric ( what a mouthful, huh? ) as used in clothing, much of whats available sn't hardwearing and may not be suitable for toys.    
Alwas make certain your fabrics are colorfast ( test wash a small sample ), and do consider shrinkage of fabric after washing, preferably wash your fabric before use.   Sonner or later Ted does get grubby what with all those games and outings he has, and although its far gentler to give him a hand-wash bath, most parents throw Ted in the washing machine for a good once-over,  good fabrics will stand up to this inferior ones won't, its advisable you know how the fabrics you use will cope.           Plush is a man-made fabric, un-like mohair, wool, cotton, linen, etc. which are natural.  Plush and  other fabrics also, are made from chemically synthesized raw products.  Natural fibres take dyes far more readily but synthetic fibres require strong chemical dye baths.    When buying fabrics, woven or woven-backed fabrics wear better than knitted or knitted-backed fabrics, this is especially true with plush, although knitted-back fabric is more readily available.

Ins & Outs.
Filling materials are also a major concern.  Many fillings are made from recycled product and are not entirely hygenic.  Foam crumb is un-acceptable, as is polystyrene foam balls ( as used in bean-bag chairs. )  Woodwool (excelsior ) should be avoided, sheeps wool is debatable: its excellent but some people are alergic to it,  Primarilly soft spun polyestor fibre ( polyfil ) should be used.  Glass beads should not be used, plastic pellets should only be used if encased in a fabric bag within a bag inside Ted, but its better not to use them at all, they will always be a choking hazard.    Don't even ever consider lead shot!!!!!!
Only plastic safety eyes/joints should be used, never glass eyes which can break on their wires, or shatter, and other jointing methods apart from safety joints should not be used. A safety joint
assembled  stays in place and cannot be removed, unless it is sawn off.
If using dyes and paints, used to accentuate features on bears, becareful as many pigments are extremely poisonous.  Be wary when using felt, its not always colorfast and as its often purchased in small squares its content can be dubious and the safety o the dyes used.  Wool felt is the desirable felt.
Before beginning a bear, count out your pins and account for each one before filling Ted!  Pins can and do get lost inside bears, so take precautions.  Preferably ues tailors tacks to mark and baste your fabrics, but if using pins, glass headed Quilting pins are the better choice, their size makes them easier to see and find.    Children are notoriously rough on their toys so all seams should be double seam stitched for safety.  Seams do develop holes and children love to let their fingers explore inside them in the hope of discovering whats inside Ted!   Double seams make it harder for them to do it.  If using a sewing machine make absolute certain, that your using the correct sharp needle, correct  thread in bobbin and on spool and that there are no skipped stitches at all.
Bears for children under 2 should not have a ribbon around the bears nek, as they can cause injury or worse, strangulation to the infant. (If you really do want a ribbon on the bear , enclose a swing tag advising to REMOVE ribbon before giving to an infant. )  Bells, buttons, trimings, loose clothing should not be on bears for young children, but consideration should be shown for all ages.  Bears should not have any kind of armature as children sit, lie on and cuddle their bears and it can cause problems ( my son also believes in 'Conquer by Sit' ), so its imperative toy bears do not have any sharp edges, projections, anything within oron the bear which could be considered dangerous, or questionable in regards to safety.
We label our childrens bears with detais of what they are made from and the age group we believe it most suitable for. We also like to inform of any possible allergy concerns no matter how remote.  Included is a paper swing tag  with the above information and washing/cleaning instructions and advice "To keep for further reference" printed on it. Each bear has a removable safety label sewn into seam, advising of suitability for children of what ages. 
With bears for children its far  better to be safe than sorry
Enjoy our bear related articles and don't hesitate to contact us with your opinions, and ideas for possible articles, we love hearing from you. The first article is about 'collector bears and toy bears '  At the end of the article is a note on up-coming topics.
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              Antiquarian techniques for new bears
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