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Teddies Tended At Yorkshire Bear Hospital

A Yorkshire woman mends much-loved teddy bears from around the world at her home in Ripon, North Yorkshire.

Dot Bird bought her first vintage teddy bear at an antique shop in Leeds 20 years ago. Her hobby became a full-time job, and now she is internationally renowned as an expert restorer and repairer of traditional soft toys.

Dot specialises in teddy bears made from the 1900s – when the ubiquitous toy first appeared – to the 1960s.

She has treated poorly old bears from as far away as Australia, America and Europe.

Some hold enormous emotional significance for their owners. One elderly woman's teddy, which Dot repaired after it was attacked by her dog, was her only memento of her parents who died in the Nazi Holocaust.

"A lot of times you are dealing with a childhood friend,” says Dot. “It is a great honour for me to be able to look after the bear, and restore it for someone, because it has been so precious."

"I never know what I'm going to get through the post, and when I open up the box containing the teddy bear, it's always a surprise. Some can be very quick to repair, others can take a long time.

"Sometimes I get a little frustrated when I have spent a whole day dyeing a piece of fabric to match the teddy bear and it still is not right, and I have to start again the next day.

"But then I remember that I am working with someone's precious teddy bear, and the history behind it," she added.

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