Margarete Steiff

An extraordinary seamstress with a big dream

Appolonia Margarete Steiff was born in Giengen on 24 July 1847.  A lively child, she tragically became ill with polio at 18 months old. After this she was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Despite pain in her right hand, Margarete went to sewing school and by the age of 17 she had completed her training and was a skilled seamstress.

Margarete’s father converted the family home, building her a work room and a small tailor’s shop.  With the first money she earned, Margarete bought a sewing machine.  But she was unable to turn the wheel with her right hand, so the machine was turned round, allowing her to drive it with her left hand and guide the fabric with her right. By 1877, she was running her own felt clothing business and employing several seamstresses from the local area.

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