Monday, May 17, 2010

on the merits of toy knitting

snuggle buddy 2
batty cuddles

This charming face belongs to a little bat. He is a bat snuggle buddy who has been washed and blocked and is waiting patiently to go and meet his new best friend. In the mean time, the Little Pea took him for a test flight:

flying snuggle buddy

Last week's toy was a bear made from organic cotton, using a Jess Hutch pattern. I'm still planning to combine the organic cotton and the basic snuggle buddy pattern to make some more floppy little snugglers for one or two of the other babies in my life.

I'm all the time downloading cute toy patterns and then finding myself dissatisfied with the finished product because the stuffing shows through no matter how tightly I try to knit it (last week's bear being a case in point). The instructions always say "knit tightly!" and tell you to use needles smaller than the ball band recommends, but pull and strain as I might, my stitches are never tight enough to hide the stuffing. And you know, getting carpal tunnel is not the reason that I took up toy-knitting. It's really not that fun to strain your finger tendons - and toys are supposed to be fun, not to make you mutter and curse under your breath.

This bat was actually an exception, since the yarn I used (Berrocco Plush) is super-nubbly and the stuffing couldn't make itself seen if it tried. Despite the no-felting, I am happy with it.

But generally speaking, I really prefer a felted toy. I like knitting things that will be felted because you can knit easy-breezy big old sloppy loose stitches, and in the end not one smidgen of stuffing will show. I like felting because it's approximate - like cooking, which I enjoy, as opposed to crafts like book-making or carpentry which require precise measurements and straight lines and other skills that I will never master. Felting is an even more laid-back iteration of knitting, which is already a pretty approximate, don't-overthink-it kind of craft to begin with. And really, I think that's the sort of attitude you need when making a toy.

Lately I've been thinking about making some more birds' nests, a great felting toy. I hope to share some more birds in their nests in a few weeks (trying to be realistic about my pace at completing projects these days). It will be done, some time. I'm not going to strain my finger tendons over it.

snuggle buddy 1

Friday, May 14, 2010

free pattern friday::sundrop

sundrop hat 2
one day i'll take some better photos!

This sweet sun hat will take your baby or toddler from the playground to the beach and back again. The brim is worked in a tight gauge to give it some firmness, while the body is knit in a looser gauge with a simple but pretty eyelet lace design that adds a little ventilation. Add the optional ties if your little one likes to yank off hats (and who doesn’t?). This is a fun, quick summer knit. Find a bright summer color that you like, and use a firm, washable cotton or cotton/linen blend yarn.

1 ball Lion Cotton or similar worsted-weight cotton yarn
US size 3 double-pointed needles (3.25 mm)
US size 7 double-pointed needles (4.5 mm)
US size 7 crochet hook (4.5 mm) – or whatever you have on hand that’s close
tapestry needle
stitch markers in 2 colors
Use whichever needle sizes you need to get the correct gauge!

larger needles: 15 stitches / 24 rows / 4 inches
smaller needles: 20 stitches / 29 rows / 4 inches

0-6 mos (6-18 mos, 18 mos – 3 years, 4-6 years)

0-6 mos: 14 inches
6-18 mos: 16 inches
18 mos – 3 years: 18 inches
4-6 years: 21 inches


Using smaller needles, *cast on 19 (20, 21, 23) stitches, place a marker, repeat from * until you have 114 (120, 138, 150) stitches.
Place a marker in a different color to mark the end of the round, and join to knit in the round. Knit 4 rounds in stockinette stitch (K every round).
R5: K1, P1 to end (this ridge will stop the brim from rolling any further).
R6: Knit

Decrease round: *K2tog, K to 2 stitches before the next marker, SSK, slip marker. Repeat from * to end. 12 stitches decreased.
Next round: Knit
Repeat these last two rows until 54 (60, 66, 78) stitches remain.

hat body
Change to larger needles.
Knit one round, removing the markers as you go (leaving in place the marker that marks the start of each round).

Next round: Knit, adding the eyelets for ties as you go (optional!).

How to add eyelets: K 14 (15, 16, 19), YO, K2tog. K 24 (28, 30, 38), YO, K2tog. K to end.
Even if you’re not sure whether you will want to use the ties, I think it makes sense to go ahead and make the eyelets, so that they’re there if you need them. They won’t look funny if you don’t end up using them.

Knit 2 more rounds.

Next round:

For the 18 mos-3 yrs size: Knit this round, decreasing by 2 stitches, spacing the decreases evenly throughout the round.

For the 0-6 mos (6-18 mos, 4-6 yrs) sizes: Knit this round, increasing by 2 (4, 2) stitches, spacing the increases evenly throughout the round.

For all sizes: 56 (64, 64, 80) stitches remain.

Next round, begin Quatrefoil pattern.

quatrefoil pattern
Round 1 and all odd rounds: Knit
R2 and 3: Knit
R4: K3, *YO, SSK, K6. Repeat from * until 3 stitches remain in the round. K3.
R6: K1, * K2tog, YO, K1, YO, SSK, K3. Repeat from * until 2 stitches remain in the round. K2.
R8: Repeat round 4.
R10: Knit.
R12: K7, *YO, SSK, K6. Repeat from * until 1 stitch remains in the round. K1.
R14: K5, * K2tog, YO, K1, YO, SSK, K3. Repeat from * until 3 stitches remain in the round. K3.
R16: Repeat round 12.

For the 0-6 mos size, you will only knit the quatrefoil pattern once.

For the 6-18 mos and 18 mos-3 yrs sizes, repeat rows 1-8 of the quatrefoil pattern one time.

For the 4-6 yrs size, repeat the whole quatrefoil pattern one time.

Continue knitting in stockinette stitch until hat measures 4.25 (4.75, 5.5, 7.75) inches from the point where you changed to larger needles.

decrease for crown
R1: *K2, K2tog. Repeat from * to end.
R2: *K1, K2tog. Repeat from * to end.
R3: *K2tog. Repeat from * to end.
Repeat row 3 until there are 10 stitches remaining on your needles. Trim your yarn tail to about 6 inches and pull through the stitches, leaving a small eyelet open to top off the crown. Fasten securely inside and weave in the end.

sundrop hat 1

ties (optional)
Using the crochet hook and 2 strands of yarn held together, crochet a single-chain chain that measures about 28 (32, 36, 42) inches long. Tie off tightly, weave in and trim ends. The chain will run around the outside of the hat across the back, down through one eyelet and back up through the other, passing under the baby’s chin (it does not run around the front side of the hat). Tie it in a bow on the outside of the hat where baby can’t easily reach it – for a crafty baby, this may mean that you may need to tie the bow all the way on the back side of the hat rather than just above the eyelet on one side. Babies can be awfully crafty, can’t they?

Weave in any loose yarn ends. Wash and block your hat.

I have found through painful experience that many bright cotton yarns are not particularly color-fast, so do wash this separately the first few times to make sure the color doesn’t run and ruin the rest of your laundry. You might consider adding a small amount of white vinegar to the water when you block the hat, to help set the color (unless the yarn ball band gives you different instructions).

non-commercial bit: These are free patterns and you are welcome to use them for all the non-commercial purposes you like. However, you may not reproduce the patterns to sell, and you may not sell what you make with them. You may donate what you make with them to charity, and you may use them for charity fundraisers only if 100% of the proceeds are donated to the charity (and by charity I don't mean your kid's college fund). Thanks for understanding!

Saturday, May 08, 2010


bear with sundrops
may i distract you with this cute bear in the garden?

I said there would be a pattern on Friday. And here it is Saturday.... and here we are patternless.

Sorry about that.

The pattern is ready but lacks a suitable picture. This is often my big hold-up with a new pattern. This is one of those dumb cases where I knitted the thing (two of them, actually), and then gifted it without getting any suitable photos. So, I will either have to knit another in a size to fit the Little Pea and then enlist her in a photo shoot (dicey! could take ages! photo shoot may go badly!), or I will have to bite the bullet and use the thoroughly unsuitable photo that I already have. *sigh*

Anyhow, my dithering has cost us a patternless Friday, and for that I apologize.

In the mean time, here's a cute bear! I made him with Jess Hutch's Henry pattern, just as a way to try out some Lion Organic Cotton that was on clearance at the fabric store. The Little Pea has so far shown no interest in him whatsoever.

Now I'm working on a snuggle monster for my friend's little one. I was in the yarn shop yesterday and they had one of these Fuzzy Bunnies made with a free Lion Brand crochet pattern. I don't crochet, but the Little Pea has a store-bought toy just like this - it's basically a washcloth with a bunny head on it (except hers is a duck).

The yarn I grabbed for this reminds me so much of Oscar the Grouch - so instead of a bunny, this little thing will be a friendly monster. I started it yesterday afternoon and I'm just about to make the head. Quick and fun! I may try an earthy one next in organic cotton, since I still have plenty of that clearance yarn left.

Coming soon though will some more birds and birds' nests. The Little Pea loves her nest of birds so much, I think that nests may become the new Official Baby Gift around here. I'm thinking of hummingbirds next - adorably tiny!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

happy happy may may!

It's May!

Flowers are blooming like crazy and the garden is giving up salad like nobody's business. Things are nutty-busy at work and the Little Pea is growing so fast and eating so much that I can't seem to prepare meals fast enough or frequently enough. But this beautiful breeze and the general spirit of "hooray spring!" makes it all so much fun.

So... in the spirit of spring growth and rebirth, I have some exciting news to share:

First, there's a free pattern coming your way this Friday. Wahoo! It's about time! This will be a quick, fun summer baby knit. Stay tuned!

Also... maybe I've mentioned once or twice three hundred times on this blog how much I love Blue Sky Alpacas line of organic cotton yarns (and all their scrumptious alpaca yarns too). I've designed quite a few little items with their yarn, and this month they are featuring my Bumpy Jacket & Hat as their free pattern of the month! Whee!

Suri Merino
packed in a Pretty Cheep project bag

Thanks so much to the Blue Sky Alpacas staff for the shout-out, and especially for the luscious little bundle I received from them in the mail as my thank you: two skeins of Suri Merino in the most amazing earthy orange color you've ever seen. It is as soft as... well, as a suri or something. What should I do with it??? I'm thinking of an elegant fall scarf or cowl for me. Any suggestions?

I also have a long-overdue thanks to Géraldine from Filature du Valgaudemar, one of the oldest family-owned spinning mills in France. They have been spinning since 1830, and today Géraldine is producing wonderful yarns and hoping to infuse France's traditional knitters with more of the energy and fun that we're all sharing through things like Ravelry, Knitty and our neighborhood Stitch & Bitch groups (apparently the French knitters might have a little catching up to do... allons!).

Merci beaucoups!

Anyhow, Géraldine translated one of my patterns, the Mossy Jacket, into French, and in the spirit of trans-national knitterly love, she sent me some wonderful Muande yarn from her mill! She chose two colors for me: Flamme and Souris. What a lovely gift!

So, folks... any thoughts? How should I use these two sweet little packages of yarney love???