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.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

kichidi stew and naan bread

I enjoy cooking tasty, healthy food for my family. It's fun to learn new recipes and techniques, and introduce my kids to a wide range of foods. However, sometimes it's a little tricky to find new recipes which we all enjoy.

We're mostly vegetarian, meaning we don't eat red meat or poultry at home, although we occasionally eat fish, and are more flexible when travelling. As well, I have a digestive intolerance to onions and garlic (try explaining that one in restaurants), so I often have to get creative with savoury dishes. This makes it even more satisfying to find a new recipe that we all like, and which I don't have to modify for our restrictions.

If you try out these recipes, I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as we did! Both these dishes take time and some preparation, so they're good for a winter weekend spent at home.

Kichidi Stew

You need to prepare the squash earlier in the day, or the day before. The stew itself takes about 45 minutes to cook, and serves 4-6.

1 medium butter-nut squash (or other orange-flesh winter squash), about 1 1/2 pounds or 700 g
2 tbsp ghee or butter
1/2 - 1 tsp garam masala
1/2 - 1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 - 1/2 tsp chili flakes
8 cups (2 L) water
1/2 cup (125 ml) brown basmati rice
1/2 cup (125 ml) red lentils
salt, to taste
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro/coriander

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove stem from squash, cut in half length-wise, and scoop out seeds. Place cut side down on a baking dish, and bake for 30-45 minutes. Squash should be soft and caramelised. Let squash cool, then scoop out cooked flesh and mash or press through a food-mill.
2. Melt the butter/ghee in a soup pot at medium heat. Add the spices (the amounts depend on how much seasoning you enjoy. You can always start with a little, and add more at the end), and simmer in the butter for about a minute, until they become fragrant. Add the water and increase the heat to medium high. Once the water is boiling, add the rice, cover with a lid, and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the rice for about 20-25 minutes, until tender.
3. Add the red lentils, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until they are soft.
4. Stir in the cooked squash and season with salt to taste. Thin with hot water if it's too thick. Warm through if necessary.
5. Drizzle with lime juice and garnish with cilantro to serve.

Naan Bread

I have no idea how authentic this recipe is, but it worked for me, and was very good. The bread takes about 1.5 hours to make, but if you time it right, will be ready at the same time as you finish the stew.

1/4 cup milk, heated until luke-warm
2 tsp bread yeast
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup plain yogurt (not skim)
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups unbleached flour, plus a little more for dusting/rolling
2 tbsp butter, melted

1. Place the yeast in a small bowl, and add the milk a little at a time, stirring gently. Set aside for about 10 minutes.
2. Whisk together the oil, yogurt, egg, and salt in a large bowl. Add the milk and yeast mixture. Slowly add the flour until you get a soft dough. Kneed on a lightly floured surface for 5-10 minutes, until the dough feels smooth.
3. Place dough in a floured bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
4. Preheat your oven to 450 F, or as hot as it will get. Remove the dough from the bowl, kneed gently to form a ball, then cut the ball into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and let rest for a couple minutes. Pull or roll each ball of dough into a circle about 7 inches across and 3/8" thick.
5. Place a couple baking sheets in the oven for a minute to heat up, then gently place the breads on the pans (I found I could get 2 per pan), and bake for 3-4 minutes - until brown on the bottom and puffed.
6. Remove from the oven, and turn on the broiler to high. While this is heating, brush the tops of the bread with the melted butter. Return the breads to the oven, just under the broiler, and toast until golden brown on top.

Enjoy warm naan bread with the stew above, or with your favourite curry!

P.S. The give-away contests from last week are still open until November 15, so don't forget to comment if you'd like a chance to win! Patterns, kit, magazine, toys.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

10th anniversary give-away: Holiday Mice

I opened my first shop on Etsy, November 5, 2006. At the beginning, I was just selling toys I had knit, not patterns. Those only came when other knitters saw my toys, and wanted to knit some themselves. It's been a crazy, fun adventure of yarn and cuteness since that day! Sometimes I miss knitting toys for my shop. I'm so busy designing now, I can only manage to make extra toys for family and friends.

One of the first toys I made for my Etsy shop.
My designs have changed a bit since then!

For my final give-away contest, in honour of those first toys I knit, you could win a pair of Holiday Mice! The winner will be free to choose the colour of the mice, and the style and colour of the hats. You could even ask for a wee Santa Mouse, like this one by the Yarn Harlot (I'm still blushing a bit over that). I will pick the closest yarn I can from my stash. Hopefully, I will have them done and off to the winner in time for winter holidays!

Holiday Mice: what colours would you choose?

If you would like a chance to win this prize, please leave a comment below, with a way of contacting you (email, Ravelry name, etc. I've been asking for this because usually Blogger does not give me this information when you leave a comment). I will do my best to ship to anywhere in the world. I will draw a random winner on November 15.

Best of luck, and thanks for visiting me this week!

Friday, November 4, 2016

10th anniversary give-away: Knit and Crochet Toys magazine

For my third give-away, you could win a copy of Knit and Crochet toys magazine! I contributed two patterns to this special issue, and in addition to those, there are over 20 adorable and fun patterns to knit or crochet. You can check out the magazine here, and see all the patterns over on Ravlery.

As before, if you'd like a chance to win this gift, please leave a comment on this post, including a contact method (email, Ravelry name, etc).

P.S. I didn't mention on the previous post that I'm willing to ship to just about anywhere. If for some reason you win, but I can't ship to your country, I hope we can figure out an alternative prize.