Sunday, July 21, 2019

Hat's Off To This Tiny And Absolutely Adorable Steiff Dwarf Doll!

Do clothes make the man? No, not always, but they can suggest some very interesting things about him! Check out this happy handful - a well attired Steiff dwarf doll - that recently joined Steiffgal's hug. His outfit, materials, and impish good looks make him quite the cover boy!

This petite treat stands 22 cm tall and is fully jointed. His entire body, including his face, is made from flesh colored linen. His oversized hands and feet are remarkably detailed with realistic fingers and toes. His ever-happy face comes to life with a long, light brown mohair beard and eyebrows, bright green and black glass slit pupil eyes, a charming upturned nose, and a open, red smiling mouth. His cheeks are very rosy and he even has a little razor stubble to him! He wears brown velvet shorts, a white cotton shirt, a bright yellow mohair cap, and a bright blue felt vest. His accessories include a leather belt and a Steiff-branded satchel; this is pictured below. When he left the factory in Giengen, Germany over a century ago, he wore oversized wooden and leather clogs. Dwarf retains his tiny, long trailing "f" button in ear as his Steiff ID.

So just who is this dapper dwarf? Steiffgal has two theories.  First, perhaps he is a hybrid of the company's early 20th century Snak and Snik dwarf designs. Snak was made in 22, 30, 43, and 50 cm from 1911-1915. He is known for his mohair cap and pointy nose. Snik was made in 22, 30, 43, and 50 cm from 1911-1920. He is known for his floppy felt hat and upturned nose. This little guy has a mohair cap and upturned nose - suggesting that he shares key traits from both patterns.

It is also entirely possible, given how every Snak Steiffgal has ever seen has a bright yellow mohair cap, that he is 100% Snak. Sometimes, the smallest versions of a Steiff item have little design tweaks from the larger versions. This usually involves simplification of seaming, body shape, or jointing relative to scale. In this case, this diminutive dwarf does not have eye pockets like the larger versions do, and his nose is definitely not crooked! Perhaps Snak's distinctive, long crooked nose just didn't translate well to the 22 cm version. Only this dwarf knows for certain, and he's not talking!

What is certain is his "birth date" and what that means in terms of his presentation. Given his materials, this dwarf was most certainly made in the World War I era (c. 1914-1918.) During this period, traditional, high quality woolen materials used for toy making like mohair and felt were in very short supply. Most of these fabrics were rationed for war purposes like uniforms and blankets; what was available commercially was very expensive and challenging to obtain.  

During peacetime, this dwarf's entire body and head would have been made from felt; here they are made from inexpensive linen. And his pants, which typically appear in felt, are made from velvet. These substitutions saved a significant amount of costly fabrics, and didn't really change his appearance or personality. It is interesting to note that his "signature" and highly visible elements - his hat, beard, and vest - are still made from woolen fabrics. However, the amount of materials needed for these "key" elements was quite small, and these details could have been pieced together from scraps for efficiency. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this tiny linen dwarf has added to the fabric of your day!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

This Unusual Steiff Cotton Plush Jocko Is More Fun Than A Barrel Full Of Monkeys!

No monkeyshines! This week's Steiff special guest is truly a top banana. It's no secret that Steiffgal is crazy for Steiff's Jockos, especially examples from the first half of the 20th century. Check out this really cool, and really unusual chimp-champ and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

This marvelous monkey is sitting, measures 11 inches or 28 cm tall, and is fully jointed. His face, ears, hands, and feet are made from peach colored felt. His face is detailed with an open, felt lined mouth, brown and black glass pupil eyes set into expressive, dimensional eye pockets, a once-white mohair chin, and airbrushed highlights around his eyes, nose, and mouth. His body is made from a light brown - almost khaki colored - cotton plush material. He retains his short trailing "f" Steiff button, broadly dating him from the c. 1936 - 1950 time frame. Steiffgal suspects, given his materials, presentation, and ID, that this Jocko was probably made around 1948 or 1949.

It's easy to have a plush crush on Steiff rarities made from unusual materials. Cotton plush has both a cotton backing and a cotton pile. The best way to describe it is that it feels like a cotton bathroom towel that has been through a number of wash and dry cycles; a little bumpy in texture but with an overall and somewhat smooth feel and dull finish. It is not like mohair, which can be distinctive and prickly; or silk plush, which can shiny and smooth feeling; or wool plush, which is continuous in texture and more "dense." This material was sometimes used instead of the company's more traditional fabrics immediately after the factory reopened for toy making business in the late 1940's as mohair and felt were in very short supply or extremely expensive at the time.
And just what makes this mid-century example more fun than a barrel full of monkeys? Khaki colored cotton plush Jocko is not pictured or mentioned in any of the standard Steiff reference books or catalogs that Steiffgal knows of. He definitely started out life this hue, as he is the same even color throughout - even in his "private" places. Steiff did make a 25 cm, fully jointed dark brown artificial silk plush Jocko as part of its standard, commercial line in 1949. It is entirely possible that this 28 cm example was produced in very limited numbers and from materials on hand. This classic Jocko the Chimpanzee Steiff pattern is so universally beloved, appealing, and well designed that it translates well to fabrics other than mohair. And, it is not terribly unusual to find other undocumented prewar legacy Steiff patterns - like running rabbits, Teddy Baby bears, and Fox Terrier dogs - in "alternative" fabrics from the early postwar (c. 1948-1952) time frame as well. 

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed monkeying around with this unusual and extremely handsome Jocko!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more!
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