Title:
Plush toy closure arrangement
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A plush article is stuffed via an opening which can be closed off with a drawstring. The article can be stuffed by hand or with a stuffing machine which delivers stuffing material into the interior of the article via a tube. The opening is also provided with a sleeve which extends into the article. The sleeve prevents the escape of stuffing material from the interior of the article through the opening before the opening is closed off with the drawstring. After the opening is closed, a decorative attachment resembling a belly button can be attached to the article with the drawstring to cover the opening.



Inventors:
Lien, Yaling (Wyckoff, NJ, US)
Ho, Siu Kuen (Hong Kong, HK)
Application Number:
10/420510
Publication Date:
12/23/2004
Filing Date:
04/22/2003
Assignee:
TOYS R' US, INC.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H3/02; A63H3/36; (IPC1-7): A63H3/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
MILLER, BENA B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DARBY & DARBY P.C. (New York, NY, US)
Claims:
1. A plush article comprising: one or more panels delimiting an interior volume and having an opening; a drawstring assembly attached to the perimeter of the opening for closing the opening; and a sleeve having an end attached to the perimeter of the opening and extending into the interior volume.

2. The plush article of claim 1 comprising: an attachment for covering the opening when closed, the attachment being attached to the plush article with the drawstring assembly.

3. The plush article of claim 2, wherein the attachment resembles a belly button.

4. The plush article of claim 1, wherein the opening is adapted to receive a stuffing tube.

5. The plush article of claim 1, wherein the drawstring assembly includes a drawstring having at least one free end.

6. The plush article of claim 5, wherein the drawstring includes a feature attached to the at least one free end.

7. A method of manufacturing a plush article, comprising the steps of: providing a plush article skin having an interior volume and an opening; providing a drawstring assembly around the perimeter of the opening; attaching an end of a sleeve to the perimeter of the opening, the sleeve extending into the interior volume; introducing stuffing material into the interior volume via the opening; and closing the opening using the drawstring assembly.

8. The method of claim 7 comprising: attaching an attachment to the plush article with the drawstring, the attachment covering the closed opening.

9. The method of claim 8, wherein the attachment comprises at least one attachment opening, the attachment being attached to the plush article by passing the drawstring through the at least one attachment opening.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to methods and apparatus for closing a plush article, such as a stuffed toy, after it has been filled with stuffing material.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Plush or stuffed articles such as stuffed toys are typically formed by filling a fabric skin or shell with a resilient stuffing material to create a three-dimensional soft and resilient representation of an animal or the like. Many stuffed toys are manufactured by first sewing the skin together from multiple pieces of fabric and leaving an opening through which stuffing may later be inserted. Stuffing is inserted through the stuffing opening until the inside of the skin is substantially full of the stuffing material, giving the article its three-dimensional shape.

[0003] Plush articles can be stuffed in a variety of ways, using a variety of materials. For example, each article can be stuffed manually, with the stuffing material pushed into the skin, by hand, via a stuffing opening. As an alternative to manual stuffing, a stuffing injection device may be used. Such devices typically include an injection tube which is inserted into the stuffing opening in the skin of the article and through which stuffing material is propelled into the interior of the article. Once the article is sufficiently filled with stuffing material, the injection tube is withdrawn and the stuffing opening closed.

[0004] The stuffing opening can be closed in a variety of ways. For example, the stuffing opening can be sewn closed from the outside of the skin by hand or using a sewing machine. Because, however, the resulting seam is external to the skin, it tends to be thick and scar-like and can detract from the appearance and feel of the finished article. It is desirable therefore to eliminate such a seam to improve the appearance and feel of the article. Furthermore, closing the stuffing opening from the outside of the skin can be a relatively time consuming procedure, especially if great care must be exercised to make it as inconspicuous as possible. Also, special equipment such as sewing materials or a sewing machine are required to close the opening. For simplicity and reduced labor costs, it is therefore desirable to eliminate the step of sewing the stuffing opening closed.

[0005] An alternative method of closing a stuffed toy is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,109,196 to Silber (the “Silber Patent”). A pre-assembled fabric skin is provided with a stuffing opening having a first and a second lip with a filament stitched through the fabric so as to form a plurality of spaced apart loops along the length of the opening. Each loop extends from the first lip to the second lip of the opening with the filament being untensioned so as to allow the lips to be separated. The toy is stuffed by inserting the injection tube of a stuffing machine into the opening between adjacent loops of the filament and injecting stuffing material into the interior of the container through the tube. The tube is then withdrawn and the filament is tensioned to draw the lips into abutment. In this way, the stuffing opening is closed and the stuffing material is retained in the interior volume of the toy.

[0006] A shortcoming of the arrangement of the Silber Patent and of other known arrangements is that some stuffing material can escape from the interior volume of the toy, via the opening, upon withdrawal of the stuffing tube. Until the filament is tensioned, stuffing material under pressure in the interior of the toy can readily escape through the opening.

[0007] Another shortcoming of the Silber arrangement is that it is not conducive to stuffing by hand. The pre-installed, loosely threaded filament loops across the stuffing opening impede the passage of stuffing material and can easily be tangled or caught by human fingers. This limits the applicability of the Silber arrangement to stuffing by a machine, and more particularly to stuffing by a machine having a stuffing tube.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The present invention is directed to a stuffed article method and apparatus which overcomes the shortcomings of known arrangements. In an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a plush article shell or skin, is provided with an opening which can be closed off with a drawstring arranged generally around the perimeter of the opening. A first end of a sleeve is attached to the perimeter of the opening and extends inwards into the interior volume of the article.

[0009] In an exemplary method, the article is stuffed by inserting an injection tube into the opening and blowing stuffing material through the tube into the interior volume of the article. Once the interior volume has been filled with the desired amount of stuffing material, the injection tube is withdrawn from the article. The sleeve prevents the escape of stuffing material via the opening that may otherwise occur upon removal of the injection tube. The opening can then be closed by pulling the ends of the drawstring. The drawstring can then be tied off or knotted to prevent its unraveling. The closed-off opening may have the appearance of a belly button.

[0010] Furthermore, unlike the Silber arrangement discussed above, because there are no filament loops blocking the opening, manual feeding is not impeded. This allows more flexibility in the stuffing process for instances in which a stuffing machine is not available, such as in small-quantity applications in which the cost of a stuffing machine is not justified or in situations in which a stuffing machine has malfunctioned. In fact, unlike known methods that require sewing the opening closed with a sewing machine or the Silber method which requires a stuffing machine, the stuffing and closing of an article in accordance with the present invention can be done entirely without machinery.

[0011] In a further aspect of the present invention, a decorative attachment such as a button or the like can be attached to the article so as to cover the opening after it has been closed off. The attachment can be attached to the article with the drawstring or by any other suitable means. The attachment may also have the appearance of a belly button.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] The foregoing and other features of the present invention will be more readily apparent from the following detailed description and drawings of illustrative embodiments of the invention, in which:

[0013] FIG. 1 illustrates a plush toy in accordance with the present invention with a stuffing opening which is open;

[0014] FIG. 2 illustrates the plush toy after closure of the stuffing opening; and

[0015] FIG. 3 illustrates the plush toy after application of a button over the closed stuffing opening.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0016] FIG. 1 shows an exemplary plush article 10 formed from one or multiple panels 11. The panels 11 may be made of fabric, vinyl, leather, plastic or any suitable material for the article 10 and can be attached together by any suitable means. The individual panels 11 are shaped so that when attached together the article 10 formed thereby takes on a desired form. In an exemplary embodiment, the article 10 may be a stuffed animal and the panels 11 may be formed of a fabric material and attached together by stitching. The assembly of panels 11, prior to stuffing, may also be referred to as a shell, skin or container.

[0017] When attached together, the panels 11 delimit an interior volume. An opening 20 is provided in one of the panels 11 or between two or more panels 11, allowing access to the interior volume from the exterior of the article 10. Stuffing material (not shown) can be introduced into the interior volume via the opening 20 to give the article 10 a three-dimensional shape. The assembly of panels 11 thus forms a pliable container having an opening 20, which container can be filled with stuffing material to give it a three-dimensional shape defined by the shape and arrangement of panels 11.

[0018] In the exemplary embodiment shown, a drawstring 30 is provided around the perimeter of the opening 20. The drawstring 30 is partially enclosed by a hem 28 provided around the perimeter of the opening 20. The hem 28 has a hollow interior through which the drawstring 30 passes. An opening is provided in the hem 28 through which the ends 30a, 30b of the drawstring pass and can be accessed by a user. The ends of the drawstring are preferably knotted or include suitable features 35a, 35b to prevent the drawstring from being inadvertently pulled out of the hem 28. In the embodiment shown, pieces of fabric 35a and 35b are attached to the respective drawstring ends 30a and 30b for this purpose. The features 35a, 35b also facilitate grasping the drawstring ends. The features 35a, 35b can be made of felt, plastic, or other suitable material, and can be attached to the drawstring ends 30a, 30b by any suitable means such as by sewing, gluing, tying, molding or the like.

[0019] In an alternate embodiment, one end of the drawstring can be anchored to the article 10 while the other end is left free.

[0020] The hem 28 can be formed in well known ways, such as by stitching a piece of fabric in a tubular shape around the perimeter of the opening. The opening 20 and hem 28 should be pliant so as to allow closing the opening by pulling on the opposite ends 30a, 30b (or one free end) of the drawstring 30.

[0021] In a further exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a sleeve 25 is attached to the opening 20 and extends into the interior volume of the article 10. The length of the sleeve 25 is preferably greater than its diameter. The sleeve 25 and the hem 28 can be formed from a single piece of material. The sleeve 25 and hem 28 can also be formed from the panel (or panels) 11 in which the opening 20 is located. As will be described more fully below, the sleeve 25 helps prevent the escape of stuffing material from the interior volume of the article.

[0022] In an exemplary method, the article 10 of the present invention can be stuffed to assume a three-dimensional shape that is defined by the assembly of panels 11. The article 10 can be stuffed in a variety of ways, including manually or with the use of a stuffing machine. A typical stuffing machine comprises an injection tube 50 through which a stuffing material is propelled, such as by blowing or pumping. To stuff the article 10 using a stuffing machine, the injection tube 50 is inserted into the interior volume of the article 10 via the opening 20 and stuffing material is propelled through the tube 50 into the interior volume. The opening 20 should thus be large enough to receive the tube 50. Once the desired quantity of stuffing material has been delivered into the article 10, the injection tube 50 is removed and the opening 20 closed off by drawing the drawstring 30. FIG. 2 shows the article 10 upon closure of the opening 20.

[0023] Until the drawstring 30 is drawn to close the opening 20, the sleeve 25 helps prevent the escape of stuffing material from the interior of the article 10. After drawing the drawstring 30 to close the opening 20, the drawstring can be knotted or tied off to prevent the opening 20 from re-opening. The ends of the drawstring 30, including the features 35a and 35b can then be cut off.

[0024] After closure, the opening 20 can be left as is, as shown in FIG. 2. In a further exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the closed opening 20 can be covered with a decorative attachment 40, such as a button or the like. The attachment 40 can have the appearance of a belly button, for example. The attachment 40 can be attached to the article 10 with the drawstring 30 or by a variety of other attachment means. As shown in exemplary embodiment of FIG. 2, the ends of the drawstring with the features 35a, 35b are cut off and threaded through openings of the attachment 40. The ends of the drawstring 30 can then be knotted together to secure the attachment 40 to the article 10.

[0025] FIG. 3 shows the completed article 10 with the attachment 40 secured thereto.

[0026] The present invention is not to be limited in scope by the specific embodiments described herein. Indeed, various modifications of the invention in addition to those described herein will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the foregoing description and the accompanying figures. Such modifications are intended to fall within the scope of the appended claims.

[0027] It is further to be understood that all values are to some degree approximate, and are provided for purposes of description.

[0028] The disclosures of any patents, patent applications, and publications that may be cited throughout this application are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties.