Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Quartet of Old British Teddy Bears

Have spent most of the afternoon gently cleaning up a quartet of very old British bears, with a view to listing them on eBay, some time in July. To tell the truth, I quite often buy them and then find myself hanging onto them for a while, like rescue dogs in foster homes, getting to know them better. Sentimental, I know, but there you go. The one on the left - in good condition, though he does have a little trouble with his neck - is probably an old Chiltern. He has a little sewn in label at the back, which only says Made In England, but he is very like my own, elderly Mr Tubby Bear (who I would never ever dream of selling) and he (ie my own bear) is definitely a Chiltern Hugmee - with typically grumpy good looks. The bear in the picture looks as if he once had a solid nose, which has fallen off. His mohair is excellent, thick, and in good condition. When I was cleaning him, I turned him over, and he gave a little grunt, so his growler is working - sporadically. None of the others have labels of any sort and I've spent time with reference books, considering what they might be. The two in the middle could be old Chad Valley teds - they have that look, particularly the sweet faces and the rexine pads. The big bear on the right is difficult, because he is missing an ear, his nose is replacement felt, and so are his pads. A tiny bit of archaeology, at the side of one of the felt pads, reveals what looks like a knitted pad beneath - but there could be something below that. His head with its broad benign forehead, and low set eyes, looks like a Merrythought, as do his chubby legs and well shaped ankles - but - he has a very definite hump on his back, which I didn't think Merrythought bears had! It can be really hard to identify old bears, particularly when certain recognisable features are missing or have been replaced. Quite often I'll list them on eBay with some question marks, and people will email me with information about them.
If they are very grubby clean them gently with a soft cloth with foam from the top of a mild soap solution - you should never soak old bears. Then I wipe them with a clean damp cloth and dry them with a hair dryer and a very soft clothes brush. A bear collector tells me that she sometimes gives them a little final spray with a weak solution of fabric conditioner before drying, and I've done this on long haired bears, with great success. If a bear is very dirty, you may have to repeat this process a few times - it can be very effective.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Old Roses

I've been neglecting The Scottish Home for a while, partly because I've been away in France, and partly because I've been too busy with various writing projects. Now I'm in the process of getting my eBay shop up and running again and plan to add a few textile articles to this blog - but meanwhile, the roses in the garden are at their very best. I love roses, though I must say I'm not the world's best at looking after them, don't use chemicals on them at all, but tend to feed them and let them get on with it. Which is another reason why I grow nice, strong, old roses! Some of the best roses I have ever seen can be found at Holker Hall near Cartmel in the North of England, which was where I got the idea of growing large Himalayan roses through trees. The simple flower illustrated is from a bush called Rosa Richardii, or the Crusader Rose, also known as the Holy Rose of Abyssinia, one of the oldest roses in the world, with a fascinating history. I bought it years ago from the wonderful David Austin Roses. It forms a low, dense bush, like a wild rose, and although it doesn't repeat flower, it does remain in bloom over quite a long period. Every so often I grow impatient and hack it back a bit, but it always comes again - and like the historian I am, I appreciate it as much for its history as for its unique beauty!