What Materials Are in Stuffed Animals?

By James Holloway
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The first commercially available stuffed animals date to the early 1900s. Although stuffed toys had existed for centuries in the form of rag dolls stuffed with fabric offcuts, the stuffed bears of the early 20th century revolutionized the toy market. Today, stuffed animals are one of the most common types of toys for children and are sold in hundreds of varieties. These toys are made out of a wide range of different materials.

Outer Covering

Stuffed animals have a variety of outer coverings. Early stuffed animals often used a soft plush fabric for the bear's "coat." This fabric was originally made from mohair, but today is usually made with synthetic polyester fibers. Fake fur is similar to plush but with longer fibers. Like plush, it is usually made with synthetic materials. Some stuffed animals are covered with plain fabric, sometimes printed with designs. In many stuffed animals, several types of covering may be mixed together in a single item. For example, a stuffed lion might have one type of covering for its body, but use fake fur for its mane and tail.

Stuffing

Early homemade stuffed toys were stuffed with material readily available in the household, such as straw or fabric scraps. The use of fabric scraps led to the name "rag dolls." Other materials used as stuffing in toy animals include cotton, wool or kapok fibers. "Beanie Baby" stuffed animals took their name from the plastic pellets or "beans" used to stuff the toys. As with most elements of stuffed animal production, synthetic fibers and materials, such as polyfill, are increasingly common in stuffing used for toys.

Details

Most stuffed animals have details such as eyes, noses or mouths. Noses and mouths are often depicted using thread sewn onto the covering. Alternatively, they may be made from shapes of felt or other items attached to the toy. In some cases, eyes and noses are made from buttons or other household objects. Other details often sewn onto the covering include lines to indicate spaces between the digits.

Accessories

Stuffed animals often have accessories such as clothing or ornaments. In some cases, this is part of an established character. For instance, Paddington Bear toys wear the character's signature duffel coat and sou'wester hat. These accessories are often made from felt or another durable fabric. Other common accessories include bows or ribbons, which are often used to distinguish "boy" bears from "girl" ones. These ribbons are made from satin or, more frequently, from synthetic materials.

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.