When the first Beanie Babies hit stores in 1993, it was hard to imagine they would become a national phenomenon. But Ty Inc. sold more than 100 million of the simple beanbag toys in the next three years, and their popularity exploded among children and collectors. This success may be partly due to their simplicity--Beanie Babies have the same basic design as the classic teddy bear, and like most stuffed animals, fabric is the primary material used in production.
The primary fabric used to make a Beanie Baby is the synthetic plush that makes up the toy’s outer skin. Traditionally, plush is made from silk, rayon, cotton or other textiles that have a thick pile. This is what makes the fabric feel lush and silky to the touch. The synthetic version used for Beanie Babies has the same rich texture but is made from surface-washable polyester fibers.
Stuffed animal manufacturers often use unique synthetic plush fabrics to distinguish their products. Ty Inc. has patented several fabrics, including a soft terry cloth called Tylon. Although Tylon is mainly used on the larger stuffed animal line of Beanie Buddies, some newer Beanie Babies also are made from the fabric. Fuzz the bear, released in 1999, was the first Beanie Baby to have a fuzzy outer covering made from heat-crimped Tylon.
Despite their name, Beanie Babies are not actually filled with beans. Polyester fiberfill is mixed with small plastic pellets to create a soft but poseable stuffing. The pellets were originally made from polyvinylchloride but, in 1998, after lengthy discussions with Greenpeace, Ty Inc. switched to polyethylene pellets, which are considered to be more environmentally friendly. Polyester fiberfill is a common textile used to stuff household objects, such as decorative pillows, couch cushions and comforters.
Many Beanie Babies are issued with decorative ribbons that are tied in bows around their necks. This ribbon varies in thickness, although most are less than 1/4-inch wide. Ty Inc. uses several types of ribbon fabric, including satin, grosgrain and organdy. Millennium the bear has grosgrain ribbon interwoven with metallic gold thread, while Cabaret the cat has a sheer, iridescent pink organdy bow.
Yarn & Thread
The stuffed animals feature whiskers, antennae and other appendages made from yarn or thread. The black yarn used for Canyon the cougar’s whiskers is a typical example of the fabric found on mice, bunnies and cats. Some Beanie Babies also have decorative embroidery done with standard polyester thread, such as the Chinese character embroidered on Chopstix the monkey.
Some Beanie Babies are issued with accessories or outfits made of different polyester fabrics, such as flannel, denim and tulle. For example, Bride the bear has a wedding veil made of synthetic lace, and Dear Grandpa the bear has a plaid flannel bow tie. There are several ballerina Beanie Babies that each wear a tulle tutu, and Sparklers the 4th of July bear has denim patches on his paws.