Monday, 4 March 2013

Meet Puff the Dragon

I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to Puff.
Meet Puff the Dragon
Puff is a dragon and he was made for Dave by his mother, probably before 1983, although Dave cannot be absolutely certain. Puff has stayed with Dave all these years, although he says he was stolen for a brief while after Dave returned from University. As you can see, Puff is a fine specimen of a dragon, but whilst Dave is very fond of him, he has spent a good few years snoozing on top of a wardrobe. His peaceful retirement ended when M spotted him a month ago and asked:-

What’s that?

Puff was duly retrieved, admired, explained, dusted off and promptly adopted by a happy

Once you take a careful look at Puff, you can certainly see why he is so endearing. He’s big to start with. Heavy and very well stuffed. Puff is a toy with presence, gravitas, charisma.

Construction wise, he’s complicated and heavily sculpted, one limb having as many as 13 pieces carefully sewn together. Trim has been carefully applied to give the impression of teeth. His tail still curls around suggesting he once had an adequate counter balance so probably stood on his back legs. The remnants of broken wires can be felt through his once fully posable claws. A reinforced padded tongue lolls out of impressive jaws. His underside is quilted. He still wears his original collar along with name tag. Puff represents many hours of careful sewing, love and attention to detail that my mother-in-law poured into him.

Lack of opportunity and time may have deprived me of my sewing machine, but I can’t help myself when I see something this beautifully, lovingly made. I need to know how Puff was made!

Sadly, my mother-in-law is no longer with us, so I couldn’t quiz her. I asked Dave instead. He told me Puff came from a pattern in a book he had browsed through many times. He said his mother also made a dinosaur called Posh Paws and he admired something called a Heelow Monster (which turns out to be a large American lizard - the gila monster - I live and learn).

Posh Paws I was told, starred in a children’s television show called Swap Shop that Dave loved for its dinosaur content. I didn’t get to watch much television as a kid, so I just nodded. Apparently Posh Paws was this huge purple dinosaur and Dave’s Mum made him one which he promptly loved to death. My mother-in-law, ever ready with her sewing machine made him a second one to replace the first.

A call to my father-in-law revealed a partial title of the book the pattern these three toys allegedly came from - Posh Paws and Friends - which I quickly resolved to Making Posh Paws and his Prehistoric Friends by Jane Gisby, published in 1978.

Cover photo from
Alas, Dave took one look at the cover and shook his head. Apparently the book he was thinking of had Posh Paws and Puff on the cover beside some little rocks.

At this point, all I had to go on was that Dave would recognise the cover, it had dinosaurs and dragons in it and the book must have been published before 1982. The search engine at AbeBooks came to the rescue revealing How to make Dinosaurs and Dragons by Pamela Peake (1976), which doubling back to Amazon revealed the cover:-

Cover photo from
That’s it!” cried Dave.

But is it?

Dave then said there may have been a third book with the gila monster in it. However, no matter how you look at, that is Puff on the cover so this book would answer the question of how to make a toy similar to him. Not that I want to make a replacement for Puff, he represents Dave’s past and is a link to his mother, who we both agree would be delighted that M thinks so highly of a toy she made all those years ago.

Still my wishlist has several new additions to it; I not only added the two books above but a couple of others from Pamela Peake who certainly seemed to know her soft toys.

For those who might be interested, take a look at:-

Creative Soft Toy Making - Pamela Peake (1974) (I swear that’s Humpty Dumpty off Play School on the cover!)
Making Soft Toys for Children - Pamela Peake (1988)

While undisguisedly vintage, the reviews are good and as the books are instruction manuals I’d hope they’d be as relevant today as when they were published.

Puff sleeping in the living room and accidentally wrapping his jaws around Snake! (3 March 2013)

And now I’ll leave you with another picture of Puff, who no longer sleeps on top of a wardrobe.