Tuesday, April 7, 2020

my grandma

It's been many years since I wrote about anything personal on here, but I have so much I want to say about my grandma, who was very special to me. All my life she was a major inspiration for my creativity, so I thought it appropriate to share some of that story here.

My grandma, Dorothy Mitchell, passed away on March 30, after her fight against cancer. She told me once that she wanted to make it to 100, and she was so tough I really thought she could, but she missed her 95th birthday by several weeks. The quarantine meant that the only family who could be with her at the end was my mother (her oldest daughter). Family was always so important to my grandma, it breaks my heart that they could not surround her with their love and care in those last few weeks. I had meant to visit her in June, and now I can never see her again.

I have so many memories of my grandma, though. She was a quiet person, perhaps a bit shy (like me). She loved to garden, and read, and cook. She especially loved to make things, and when younger had worked as a home-economics teacher. She was accomplished at sewing clothes and all sorts of other useful things, giving them to family and friends, or selling them at church sales. She made quilts for her grand- and great-grand-children. I still have the two she made me when I was a child, tattered and well-loved after so many years. She was also very good at knitting and crochet, and the toys she made me were some of my favourites (perhaps inspiration for my future career?) I loved her drawings too. They were sweet and full of character, and much better than I think she gave herself credit for.

My grandma's presence accompanies so many of my favourite childhood memories. As a child I lived in the same small village where my grandparents lived, and where my Mom has lived most of her life. We visited my grandparents regularly, and their house felt as much like my home as any place I've ever lived. Their property was quite large for being in town (about an acre, I think), with many gardens and trees. It felt like a whole world to explore when I was very young. There was a play house tucked away in one corner, and if we* asked nicely, my grandma would give us bits and pieces to decorate and play with. In good weather, she would make us a picnic lunch - usually peanut butter and jam sandwiches with grapefruit juice. We drank the sour juice quickly, before eating the sweet sandwiches. My grandparents had a huge vegetable garden, and we could pick what we liked to eat, if we were careful. I could quite often be found amongst the carrots, sometimes not even bothering to wash them before munching them down. All along one side of the garden were raspberries canes, and we spent many summer mornings picking buckets of berries, eating all the biggest ones, of course.

The house seemed so large too, when I was young (my mom is one of six siblings, so they needed the space growing up). My favourite place was the "breakfast room" just behind the kitchen. It seemed to be always sunny, and was where my grandma kept all her sewing and craft supplies. There was a bench around the table there, and inside the benches were all sorts of things we could use to make whatever we could imagine. We stuck everything together with flour-paste we'd mix up in old plastic mugs. I have so many memories of the big front room too, which was both dining and living room. There was a large table at one end, to seat as much family as possible. Family dinners were usually some sort of roasted meat, with plenty of garden vegetables and salads, followed up by chocolate cake or cookies. At the other end of the room there was variety of chairs and a sofa facing the fireplace, perfect for the adults to sit around and chat after family dinners. The kids loved picking through the basket of wind-up toys, getting as many going at once as we could. Around the walls were paintings and knickknacks, made by family or passed down from previous generations.

I wish I could have known her better, but when I was a child, she was my grandma: a figure to respect and admire, who would always care for me, and sometimes scold me when I deserved it. I never moved back home after I left at 19, so my opportunities to know her as an adult were few. I would talk with her when I was home about the things we both enjoyed, and hear stories from other family members. I think perhaps I am a lot like her in some ways, although our lives are very different. She will always be a part of me, and I will do my best to keep my memories of her sharp and bright and full of love.

P.S. I want to add more photos here, but don't have any. Sometimes you forget to take photos of the things you think will always be around.

*We, in the above story, refers to myself and my siblings

Friday, February 28, 2020

Bunimals Modifications

Bunimals: Simple toys with many possible modifications

My new toy pattern, called Bunimals (bun+animals), was intentionally designed to be easy to modify into other types of animals. The pattern includes a variety of shapes with the ears and other appendages, while all the other details are kept as simple as possible. This way you can easily modify the pattern by changing the yarn colour or texture, mixing and matching the pieces, or making small alterations to the pieces provided, such as adding or removing length.

One simple modification is to change the yarn colour to better match the animal you want to make, such as using black and white to change the robin into a penguin. Another is to use the frog leg instructions to make legs to add to the other animals.

A more involved modification I tried was to use chunky weight yarn and 5 mm needles to make a larger toy. I used about 75 g of a single colour to knit the seal toy, and it turned out about 50 cm around and 10 cm tall (20"x4"). To make any of the two-colour designs in this way, make sure you have about 60 g of the MC and 15 g of the CC. You’ll also want safety eyes that are 15-18 mm in size.

Below I’ve described a few of the modifications that I imagined when designing the pattern (two I knit, the others I sketched for you), but I hope you use your creativity to make many more!

Cat pattern → Squirrel or Fox
To create a squirrel or fox from the cat pattern, choose a reddish-brown or orange yarn for your main colour (MC), and white for your contrasting colour (CC). Then just knit the pieces as written. I also used a fringe/eyelash yarn to knit the tail, adding a few extra rows because the gauge of the fringe yarn is different from the worsted weight yarn. I omitted the bit of CC at the end of the tail to make my toy look more like a squirrel. Embroider a small nose and a happy mouth.

Frog → Seal
To make a seal, you’ll need 50 g of white or grey yarn. Knit the whole body in your colour of choice. Then knit four leg pieces, but leave them un-stuffed. Two of these will be attached at the sides of the face as front flippers. To make the tail flippers, fold the other two leg pieces in half lengthwise, then place them on either side of the seam at the centre-back. Make sure the folded side faces up, and that you catch all the layers as you sew them onto the body. Embroider a V-shaped nose and wider mouth.

Mouse → Panda
To make a panda, you will need 40 g of white for your MC and about 10 g of black for your CC. Knit the body all in white. Before attaching the eyes, embroider small eye-patches with some black yarn, using a duplicate stitch technique. Knit the ears in black, and omit the pink duplicate stitch on the front. If you have enough black yarn, knit the legs from the frog pattern, and add them to the toy. Embroider a medium-size nose and a downward facing mouth.

Mouse → Koala
To make a koala, use grey for your MC and white for your CC, then knit the pieces as written. Embroider the front of the ears with your white yarn (if you have some fuzzy white yarn for this, even better). Embroider a large nose, positioned slightly above the centre of the eyes. A simple mouth works well for this toy.

Rabbit → Dog
To make a dog, use a lighter brown yarn for your MC and white for your CC. If you like, use a dark brown or fuzzy yarn for the ears. Knit the body and ears as written, but exclude the tail. Attach the ears to the head so they hang down beside the face. Or, attach the ears pointing up, then fold them forward and sew in place.  After you embroider the nose and mouth with black yarn, embroider a little pink tongue.
For a tail, CO 10 sts with whichever yarn colour you like. Work in stockinette until the tail is about 7 cm (3”) long. Then cut the yarn, thread the end through the stitches, and pull tight to gather. Sew along the tail seam, but don’t add stuffing, so the tail will remain flexible. Attach the tail to the centre-back of the toy body.

Robin → Chick or Ducking
To make a chick or ducking, you’ll need 50 g of light yellow yarn, plus about 5 g of orange yarn. Knit the body, wings, and tail from the yellow yarn. For a chick, knit the beak from orange yarn. For a duckling, knit a second “tail” piece from orange yarn to make a bill, and add a bit of stuffing. Assemble the toy pieces as described in the pattern.

I look forward to seeing all the adorable toys you knit from this pattern, and please consider sharing any inspiring modifications you create.


I have an adorable and silly new pattern for you today!

Bunimals are bun-shaped animal toys with cat, frog, mouse, rabbit, and robin variations. Each toy uses about 50 g of worsted weight yarn, and they knit up super fast! I designed this toy to be easy to embellish and modify (look for upcoming blog post on this), and a fun way to use colourful or textured yarns.

You can also get the pattern in two versions: knit flat or circular. While I do design most of my toy patterns to be knit flat, because it allows more knitters to be able to make them, this toy design would obviously work well when knit in the round. On Ravelry, simply select the version you want to download. On LoveKnitting, you need to purchase each version separately - flat or circular (I don't like this method, but it's what was allowed on the site. If you buy one version and would like the other as well, please email me).

I look forward to seeing what everyone will make from this new pattern! Please add your projects if you're on Ravelry, so others can appreciate them too.

Monday, November 26, 2018

silky seal pattern

I have a new pattern available for the holidays: a sweet, cuddly seal toy! A slightly different version of this pattern was published a couple years ago, but I've updated it, and you can get it for free until the end of the year (December 31, 2018).

The original toy was knit with Berroco Modern Cotton (in colour 1623), which my 7-year old tells me is very soft and snugly. He's added the toy to the menagerie on his bed, and I regularly find the seal tucked under his chin in the morning. For the second toy, I wanted to try making a smaller size with DK weight yarn, because I know this weight is more common than worsted in some places. I improvised with yarn from my stash, holding together one strand of wool/arcylic sport weight yarn, with one strand of mohair/silk lace yarn. The result gives a lovely soft halo, and both yarns are relatively easy to find in most yarn shops. If you can find a fuzzy DK yarn, even easier for you!

While the head and body are fairly easy to knit, the flippers require some concentration. They are small, though, and quickly accomplished. The sewing-up may test your skills a bit, but a fuzzy yarn is especially forgiving of slightly messy seams. Make your seal extra adorable with oversized black safety eyes! Once the pieces are finished, the final toy comes together quickly, with only the head and front flippers to attach. For an extra cozy seal, you can add a little scarf cut from felt, or knit one from the instructions below. This isn't shown in the pattern photos, but is so easy, I'm sure you can manage ;-)

Simple Garter Stitch Scarf for a toy
Materials: 8-10 g of DK or worsted weight yarn, pair of 3.5 mm (for DK) or 4.5 mm (for worsted) straight knitting needles, tapestry needle
Gauge: not really important, as long as you like it

Cast on 8 sts. Knit in garter stitch until scarf measures 30 cm (12"), or desired length. Cut yarn, and weave in yarn ends. Optional: add a fringe at each end by knotting on extra lengths of yarn.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

mystery knit-along 2018

I have a super fun new toy for this year's Mystery Knit-Along, so I'll hope you'll join us on a mysterious knitting adventure!

This year's toy is based on one of my previous designs, but with an unexpected twist. Also, the main toy will have a small companion toy, which is a completely new design. Overall the pattern is advanced-beginner to intermediate level, and uses techniques similar to my other toys. One toy uses worsted weight yarn on 4 mm (US size 6) knitting needles, and the other uses fingering weight yarn on 2.75 mm (US size 2) knitting needles. All pieces are knit flat and then seamed and assembled, but an experienced knitter would be able to modify most parts to be knit in the round, if desired.

If you haven't participated in one of my past mystery knit-alongs (MKAL), the way they work is fairly simple. The knit-along will begin on Thursday, April 26, and run for 5 weeks, with the final clue on May 24. Each week you'll receive a portion of the pattern, which should take one to two evenings to knit. The pattern file will always contain the previous clues, so you won't miss anything, even if you start late. As for the previous couple of MKALs, I will also include a separate file of photos, if you need some guidance on knitting and assembling the toy pieces.

Getting started is easy! First, you purchase the pattern from Ravelry. It's only available from my Ravelry shop because that's the easiest place from which to send everyone updates. Before the MKAL starts on April 26, the pattern will only contain the materials list, and a condensed version of the details you're reading here. (Hint: the pattern will be offered at a discount during the KAL, so even if you can't participate, you can get the lower price now and knit the toy later).

Second, prepare the materials you'll need for the toy. This year's materials list leaves a fair bit of room for using what you have, and being creative, which I hope will appeal to a lot of knitters. The list will also have suggestions for what to use if you need to buy yarn, so you don't have to purchase too much.

Third, decide how you want to participate. If you want the full experience, join my Ravelry group, where I host a forum specifically for the MKAL. This is a great way to share what you're knitting, and get help and encouragement, if you need them. Other options are to follow my Facebook page, where I'll post weekly updates on my progress. Third, you can follow me on Instagram, where I'll also post photos of my progress, and you can use the hashtag #fuzzymkal to share your own mystery toy. Of course, you can just knit each clue as they're available, as there's not obligation to share.

As some of you may know, I'm taking a break from designing next year to pursue some other interests. Depending on how that year goes, I may or may not return to designing knitted toys. So, it's possible this will be my last Mystery Knit-Along. This makes me sad, as this is easily my favourite part of designing toys, but perhaps it will encourage more people to participate this year. Please share this post with anyone who loves knitting cute things, and encourage them to join!

Friday, December 8, 2017

fancy collar accessory

Fancy Collar

This pattern makes a charming collar that can be attached to other garments such as cardigans or pullovers, to make them into a fancy holiday outfit, or it can simply be used as an accessory, to combine with multiple outfits. I’ve given two sizes of neck width, to make it easier to match to the garment of your choice.

It will save you time and confusion to read the entire pattern first, because there are several possible variations of this accessory. Reading everything will help you choose the options you need to achieve good results on your first try.

Left: size large with wide neck, knit with worsted weight yarn.
Middle: size medium with narrow neck, knit with DK weight yarn.
Right, size small with wide neck knit with fingering weight yarn.

Yarn and Notions
10-15 g of yarn in colour of your choice, a few straight or safety pins, narrow ribbon or extra yarn or button (plus needle and thread to attach) to join collar ends (optional), crochet hook (optional)
Needles: use a pair of straight needles in the size required for your toy/yarn (see below)
Size Small: with fingering weight yarn and 3 mm (US size 2.5) straight knitting needles, collar will fit my regular 8-9” tall toys
Size Medium: with sport or DK weight yarn and 3.5 mm (US size 4) straight knitting needles, collar will fit my Wood Elf Doll or 10-12” toys
Size Large: with worsted weight yarn and 4.5 mm (US size 7) straight knitting needles, collar will fit my large 12-16” toys

Note: For a non-lacy collar, you can work the yo stitches as m1; but, the collar will be less stretchy. 

CO 52 sts.
Row 1 (WS): Knit.
Row 2: k1, [k1, yo, k1, ssk, k2tog, k1, yo] x 7, k2.
Row 3: k2, [k2, k2tog, k3] x 7, k1. (45 sts)
Row 4: k1, [k1, yo, k1, s1, k2tog, psso, k1, yo] x 7, k2.
Row 5: Knit.
Row 6: k1, [k2, ssk, k2] x 7, k2. (38 sts)
For wide-neck collar, bind off now.
For narrow-neck collar, work next 2 rows.
Row 7: Knit.
Row 8: k3, ssk, k8, ssk, k8, ssk, k8, ssk, k3. (34 sts)
Bind off.

If attaching the collar to a cardigan, pin in place, matching ends at edges of button bands. Then use yarn ends to sew the inner edge of the collar to the collar of the cardigan. I used back-stitch, working through the edges of collar and cardigan, to get a tidy line of stitches on the inside. Weave in ends on WS of the collar.

Collar attached to neck of cardigan.
If attaching the collar to a pullover, stitch the collar to the garment at centre front and back, and each shoulder, but leave the rest of the collar loose. If you sew it on all the way around, it may be difficult to get over your toy’s head.

If using the collar as an accessory, choose one of the following methods to join collar ends at centre-front.
Button: For a collar that stays attached in front, simply match up top corners, and sew button on through both layers (the toy heads are squishy, so you should still be able to get it on). For a collar that can open, sew button to one corner. On opposite corner, make a button loop from a length of yarn, or crochet a button loop.
Button with a crocheted loop.
Ribbon or Yarn: Attach a 10 cm (4”) length of ribbon or yarn to each top front corner, or make single-crochet ties with extra yarn. For extra fun, attach beads or bells to the ends of the ties.

Single-crochet ties, with bells added to ends.

[ ] x N = repeat sequence in brackets N times ("to end" means to repeat until the end of the row)
CO = cast on
K = knit
k2tog = decrease 1 by inserting needle from front to back into next 2 sts on left-hand needle, then knit together
m1 = increase 1 by picking up loop between stitch just worked and next stitch, from front to back, and knit into the back of this loop
P = purl
psso = pass slipped stitch over stitch just worked, to decrease 1 stitch
RS = right side
s1 = slip one stitch from left-hand needle to right-hand needle, making sure not to twist
ssk = decrease 1 by slipping 2 stitches purl-wise, slip back to left-hand needle, then knit slipped stitches together
st or sts = stitch or stitches
WS = wrong side
yo = yarn over: bring yarn forward, then over the needle to the back again. This makes a loop which can be worked as an extra stitch on the next row

Pattern links
Fudge the Dog, Cardigan from Polar Bear, Wood-Elf Doll, Deer from Backyard Bandits, Pullover from Breton Shore Outfit

Thursday, December 1, 2016

polar bear pouch

I have a new winter holiday pattern for you this year: a little knitted pouch, with a flap shaped as a polar bear face! This quick knit makes a sweet tree ornament, or it can be worn as a necklace. Hide a surprise or a treasure inside to make it extra special!
You need to know how to knit in the round, increase, decrease (ssk and k2tog), and make bobbles. An intermediate-level knitter should be able to knit and finish at least one of these in an evening. But don't be intimidated if you're more of a beginner: this project is so small, it's a great way to learn a new skill!

You will find the full pattern below, or download the PDF from Ravelry. Happy holiday knitting!

P.S. If this project is not your style, try one of my other free holiday patterns: Holiday Mice, Inuk and Seal, Reindeer finger-puppet, Mini Pookies. (Ravelry links: Holiday Mice, Inuk and Seal, Reindeer finger-puppet, and Mini Pookies.)