Friday, December 5, 2014

reindeer finger-puppet pattern

Here's a cute little project that you can make in those little bits of time you always have during the holidays: chatting with family at parties, waiting for a school pageant to start, watching Christmas specials with your kids for the 12th time.

It's a fairly easy knit, so if you can knit, purl, increase, decrease, and change colours, you should be fine! I've made the antlers from felt, but if you hate hand-sewing, and your kids are a bit older, you could use pipe-cleaners (chenille wires) instead. Wouldn't your children be so pleased to find one of these in their stocking?


Please note, this is a free pattern, and I haven't had time to get it test-knit. If you find a mistake, or have a question, please email me (barbara at fuzzymitten .com).
Materials
15 g of worsted weight yarn in light brown (MC), 5 g of worsted weight yarn in white (CC), pair of 4 mm (US size 6) knitting needles, two 4 mm (US size 6) double pointed needles (dpns), pair of 6 mm safety eyes or beads, stuffing, yarn to embroider the face, tapestry needle, brown felt plus hand-sewing needle and thread
Gauge
22 sts and 32 rows per 10cm (4˝) in st st
Size
8 cm (3”)


Body
CO 34 sts with MC.
Row 1: P6, bind off 8 sts, p6, bind off 8 sts, p6. (18 sts, the bound off stitches make the legs)
Row 2: K5, ssk, k4, k2tog, k5. (16 sts)
Row 3-7: Work 5 rows in st st.
Row 8: K5, ssk, k2, k2tog, k5. (14 sts)
Row 9-11: Work 3 rows in st st.
Row 12: K4, k2tog, k2, ssk, k4. (12 sts)
Change to CC.
Row 13-14: Work 2 rows in st st.
Bind off. Using a length of your MC yarn, sew the tops and bottoms of the feet together with a few whip stitches.

Arm (make 2)
With dpns and MC, cast on 3 sts. Work in I-cord for 5 rounds. Cut yarn, thread end through remaining stitches, and pull tight to gather.
If you don’t want to work the arms as I-cord, cast on 4 sts, and work in st st for 5 rows. Cut yarn, thread end through remaining stitches, and pull tight to gather. Then sew arm seam towards cast-on edge.

Head

Start at back. CO 6 sts with MC.
Row 1: Purl.
Row 2: k1, [m1, k1] x 5. (11 sts)
Row 3: Purl.
Row 4: k2, [m1, k1] x 8, k1. (19 sts)
Row 5-9: Work 5 rows in st st.
Row 10: k3, ssk, k1, k2tog, k3, ssk, k1, k2tog, k3. (15 sts)
Row 11: Purl.
Row 12: k4, k2tog, k3, ssk, k4. (13 sts)
Change to CC.
Row 13-15: Work 3 rows in st st.
Row 16: [k2tog] x 3, k1, [ssk] x 3. (7 sts)
Cut yarn, thread end through remaining sts, and pull tight to gather. Attach safety eyes or beads, or embroider eyes with black yarn. Sew seam, leaving an opening. Stuff head, then sew closed. Embroider a nose and mouth.

Ear (make 2)
CO 3 sts with MC.
Row 1: Purl.
Row 2: K1, m1, k1, m1, k1. (5 sts)
Row 3-5: Work 3 rows in st st.
Row 6: K1, ssk, k2. (4 sts)
Row 7: [p2tog] x 2. (2 sts)
Pass first stitch over second. Cut yarn, pull end through rem st, then thread yarn end along side of ear to cast-on edge. Sew cast-on edge of ears to head, then weave in yarn ends.

Finishing
Sew cast-on edge of arms to body, then weave in yarn ends on WS of body. Sew body’s back seam from cast-on edge to bound-off edge, leaving the bound-off edge open, for sewing to the head.
Make antlers from felt: cut out 4 pieces of felt using the photo below as your pattern*. Matching 2 pieces together, sew around outside edges with a blanket stitch. Sew antler base to the head, just above one ear. Repeat for the other antler. (Another method of making antlers is to use pipe-cleaners or chenille wire, but this is not recommended for young children)
Sew head to open bound-off edge of body. Weave in yarn ends. If you like, add a bow and jingle-bell.

*You should be able to click on the photo above, and then print it. I have tried to make the photo so that it will print at the correct size to use as a pattern for cutting out your antler pieces. But if it's not the correct size, just use it as a guide for the shape. All reindeer have different antlers anyway!

P.S. If you want to make a whole family of finger puppets, the body from the reindeer will work with any of the heads from my Wee Wuzzies pattern. You'll just need to knit it in the appropriate colours.


Abbreviations
[ ] x N = repeat sequence in brackets N times ("to end" means to repeat until the end of the row)
CO = cast on
K or k = knit
k2tog = decrease 1 stitch by knitting 2 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 or p = purl
p2tog = decrease 1 stitch by purling 2 together
ssk = decrease 1 stitch by slipping 2 stitches purl-wise, then knit slipped stitches together
st or sts = stitch or stitches
st st = stockinette stitch WS = wrong side

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

change of pace

Thanks for joining me! Are you comfortable? Have you got a nice cup of tea or coffee, or maybe some hot chocolate? I have a bunch of news to share with you.

First, I recently updated my much-loved Owl Tuque pattern. It now includes 6 sizes, from newborn to adult large, so you can knit one for anyone on your gift list. The pattern works well in a variety of yarns, as long as you choose a solid or heathered colour that isn't too dark. I knit one for myself from Cascade Eco-Duo (undyed wool/alpaca) and I get compliments on it all the time!

Yes, that's me. It's hard to photograph a hat on your own head.

Second, I had another pattern published in Knit Now magazine last week: Ursula the Polar Bear. I took advantage of the different venue to try something a little different. She's knit all in the round, and while her shape is a bit unusual, she's really very cuddly! Plus, her cozy red pullover is the perfect attire for this cold season. If your local shops carry the magazine, it comes with the yarn to make her. 
Hi!

Third, I have a new pattern coming soon, hopefully next week! As many of you probably guessed, the new design is for a yeti and big-foot (sasquatch), with a couple of really cute accessories. They look quite different from my other designs, but are still a fairly easy knit. You make the toy with chunky/bulky yarn on 5 mm needles, so the knitting goes really fast. Even the assembly is somewhat easier than my usual toys.

Buddies :)

I've also started work on a little holiday pattern, which will be offered free here. That should be ready around the beginning of December. If you can't wait, try one of my patterns from previous years: mini pookies, inuk and seal, or holiday mice.

You need to knit these, right?

And about some more personal news: my older son, Lev, started kindergarten this Fall. He loves school, and seems to be doing well so far. However, his new schedule and the demands of school have reduced the time I have to work. In addition, I've decided that my younger son, Kyr, would benefit from some extra time at home with me (and maybe I want to enjoy these years before he goes off to school too). So he's only attending pre-school 3 days a week now. Both of these together mean that I had to rethink what I want to do, regarding work on new designs, blog posts, tutorials, and everything else that goes into keeping Fuzzy Mitten going. 

My boys

So, once this year's holiday pattern is published, the pace of things is going to change over the next year and a half. I've decided to use this time to work on a longer-term project I've had in mind for a while: a third self-published collection of patterns. This will (mostly) free me from the pressure of deadlines, as well as allowing me to share my work with you as it progresses. The book will feature my Scraps Chaps designs, which have always been some of my favourites. The original three will get an update, I'll add 3 more animals to the 9 already published, and I'll design a range of outfits and accessories for the toys to wear. I hope you're as excited about this as I am!

Has it really been almost 6 years since I made these guys?

While the book will be my main project over the next 18 months, occasionally there will be new designs to anticipate. My work for Knit Now magazine will continue, with a new pattern every few months. As well, there will be another mystery knit-along next Spring. The mystery knit-alongs have become one of my favourite parts of this job, and I'm really looking forward to doing another one!

I hope you can understand that this change of pace means I will have less time to write here. When I started this blog several years ago, so many crafty people were writing about what they were making, their family life, their thoughts and challenges and dreams. But blogging has changed since then - I don't feel like I fit into this new version, and it's too hard for my little voice to be heard. I'll still write when I have exciting news, or a new tutorial, but I think that's it. However, I do hope to make time to reorganize things, so it's easier for you to find the most useful posts. If you want any other news about what I'm up to, try following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

It's been lovely, all of you, and I hope you stick around to see where this new path takes me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

recipe - autumn squash stew

As soon as the weather gets cooler, all my husband wants to eat is soup! Although he's not picky, I like some variety to our suppers, so I have a pretty good collection of recipes that I can pull out as the season changes. This stew is very easy, tasty, and filling, making it one of our favourites. It's also a nice change from the more common spicy or curry squash soups.

Autumn Squash Stew

Makes about 4 adult servings
Prep and cooking time: approx. 45 minutes

Ingredients
2 lbs squash
2 medium yellow potatoes
2 medium tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 fresh sage leaves (or 1 tsp dried sage)
1/4 cup dry white wine (if you want to be fancy)
chili flakes, salt, pepper (to taste)

A note about selecting squash: most grocery stores now carry a variety of squashes, and farmer's markets will have even more. I like this stew best with 2 kinds of squash in it, so it has more depth of flavour. Usually I'll pair a paler, milder tasting squash (such as acorn or delicata) with a darker, stronger squash (such as butternut or sugar pumpkin). Whichever you like, make sure you pick ones with thinner skins that can be peeled.

1. Peel the squash and potatoes, and dice them into bite-sized pieces.
2. Place your soup pot on a medium-heat burner and add the olive oil. Once the oil is warm, add the squash and potatoes. Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes just start to turn golden (they may stick a bit to the bottom of the pan, but don't worry, they'll come off later).
3. While the squash and potatoes are cooking, dice the tomatoes. Add them to the pot and sauté for 1 minute.
4. Add the broth and herbs (and wine) to the pot. Also add the chili flakes, if you're using them. Once the soup is simmering, turn the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the squash and potatoes are soft.
5. Remove the bay and sage leaves. Transfer about 2 cups of soup to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Add this back to the pot. Taste the stew, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

This is a nice lunch on it's own, or make it a complete supper with some sour-dough bread and your favourite cheese.

P.S. I have some knitting news to share with you soon, so check back in a few days!
p.p.s. one of these days I might learn how to take pretty pictures of soup. Until then, don't worry about how it looks, it tastes delicious!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

spacebot

The idea of designing a robot toy came to me almost a year ago, and I liked the idea so much, it was difficult to wait for the right time to work on it. But I had other projects planned that my time was committed to, so it had to wait. In the meantime, I did some research (an image search for "cute robots" was very fun). Then I drew some sketches that combined my favourite aspects of the images I found, with the basic body style I use for most of my toys. Below you can see one of these pencil sketches.


Initially I wanted to make two robots with interchangeable parts. I spent a lot of time on this idea, trying to get the different parts to work together, and trying to find a simple way to make some of the shapes I wanted. In the end, though, the second robot was taking too much time, and wasn't working at all how I wanted. Sometimes you just have to let an idea go, so you can dedicate your efforts to what is actually working. Once I made that decision, the final Spacebot toy came together very quickly. (By the way, it's called a Spacebot because that's what my older son said when he saw the sketch, and I thought that name would be better than the generic "robot").


A special feature of this pattern, which might not be obvious from the photos, is that the Spacebot's head can turn! Early in my design process, the possibility being able to swivel the robot's head seemed like too much fun to pass up, even if it made the toy a little more complicated to assemble. In the end, it actually turned out to be relatively simple, although I made sure to add some extra photos in the pattern to help with this part.


Since the final pattern wouldn't have 2 robots, I decided to make my spacebot some accessories. A rocket-pack was a necessity, but I wasn't sure about the second accessory until my husband gave me a little help. When I showed him the two sample toys, he immediately decided they should be called "Domo" and "Arigato". I told him that "Ari" was a nicer sounding name... and then we decided that I would just have to make a robot cat named "Gato" (and now you understand some of the humour you might encounter in our family).


With some good scheduling, and the help of two lovely and speedy knitters, the pattern was test-knit while I was busy getting my older son ready for kindergarten (and so didn't have time for work). Some photos, editing, and formatting happened very quickly, and now I have this adorable and fun new pattern to share with you!

I would say this pattern is intermediate level, but only because of the intarsia on the body and face. Otherwise, the knitting and construction of the toy is very similar to my other patterns. If you really don't want to do the intarsia, the toy would still be cute without it. This pattern is also a great way to play with some of your favourite colours, and to use some of those cute buttons in your stash!

I'm really looking forward to seeing some finished Spacebots, as you find time to knit one (or two!) As a little extra encouragement, the pattern is 20% off until September 19, in both my Raverly and Etsy shops.



These are the toys my test-knitters made, so you can see how well the pattern turns out (and how talented they are)! The robot above was made by Nicole (her Etsy shop), and the one below was made by Alessandra.

Monday, August 25, 2014

quiet summer

It's been a quiet summer here on this blog, but not in my real life! When my boys were smaller, I thought they took up a lot of my time. But there were always naps, and much earlier bedtimes, and overall more time to keep up with everything Fuzzy Mitten. However, this summer has been non-stop swimming lessons, day-camp, playgrounds, beach vacations, family visits, picnics, and so much more! It's been wonderful, but so, so busy.
Kyr, his usual silly self

And I think it's not going to slow down any time soon! My older boy, Lev, is starting kindergarten this week. He's been in part-time pre-school for a while now, so he's somewhat used to the routines etc. But with a new school, mostly different kids, and learning a second language (French), I expect we'll all be adjusting for a while yet. He's terribly excited, though, which is making the rest of us excited too!

Lev, mastering the monkey-bars

I haven't forgotten about you, though! As I've found a few hours here and there, I've been working on a few new patterns for you. My Space-bot toy is now being test-knitted, so it should be ready within a few weeks. There will also be another pattern coming out mid-September, and I'll share more about that when I can. I'm also trying to update my Owl Tuque pattern with more sizes, but I'm not sure when that will be ready. And I have two more designs scheduled for November and January (hopefully).


I will try to post here a little more often, about the new adventures we have at the "big kids" school, what I'm knitting, and other plans for the future (maybe some travelling!) My monthly featured patterns will continue through the next few months, and I really want to add some more free patterns or tutorials here to accompany them. If you're interested in more of my day-to-day adventures, you can try following me in a number of places: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are all places I visit regularly. My Ravelry group is also a good place to check out if you want to see what other people are knitting, or to find advice and inspiration.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

intarsia tutorial - tiger's face

My Tiger pattern uses some more advanced techniques, one of which is intarsia. I like this technique for creating face markings on my toys, so I thought I would share how I work intarsia colour changes in knitting.

The piece of knitting shown in the tutorial is the head from my Tiger pattern (available on Ravelry or Etsy). Before beginning Step 1, work Rows 1-19 of the piece.

Note that you can click on any of the photos to view them in full size for more detail.

Step 1: To add a new colour at the end of the row (white, in the photo below), fold the new yarn to make a loop, about 10 cm (4") from the end. Insert your right-hand needle to make the first stitch, and place the loop over the end of the needle. Knit this loop as your first stitch. (At the end of a row, the 2 yarn ends can be tied later to stop them from coming loose)

Step 2: Here I've worked the first section in white, and now I want to change to orange. I add the new colour yarn in the same way as described in Step 1. You want to make sure you leave a long enough end on the wrong-side that it will not come loose as you knit, and so you have to enough to weave in when you're done.

Step 3: I've now worked the middle section in orange, and I want to begin another section of white. You need to use a separate piece of yarn, because you are not carrying the white along behind the orange section.

Here I've finished Row 20, and you can see the three sections of colour. (The loose yarn ends are hidden behind, and you see the three I am working with).

Step 4: I've begun Row 21, working the first white section. When I come to the place where I need to change yarn colours, I lay the first yarn (marked with blue dots) over top of the yarn I need next (marked with green dots). This way, when I pick up the orange yarn to purl the next stitch, the two yarns are twisted together. This prevents holes in the piece as you change colours.

Step 5: I've worked the orange section of Row 21, and now I'm changing to white again. You can see where the orange yarn I just used (marked with green dots) is twisted with the yarn I'm using to make the next stitch (marked with blue dots).

Step 6: I've finished Row 21, and worked Row 22. This photo shows Row 23, where I am changing from white to orange. You can see how the two colours were twisted together in previous rows. This makes a sort of seam between the two sections of colour. Practice will help you maintain an even tension as you change colours.

Here I have completed the 6 rows of intarsia. The right side looks nice and tidy. If your tension is not quite even, you can try gently pulling on the stitches with your needle tip, to even out the tension over the row. Blocking will also help. If it is very uneven, it is worth a little extra time to redo it, and get some more practice (I've done this a lot!)

Here is the piece from the wrong side. You can see more clearly now where the two yarn colours are twisted together. This simple technique is how I work intarsia.

In this photo, I've worked the last row of the head, cut the yarn, and threaded the end through the stitches to gather them together. It's looking a little more like the tiger's head now.

Step 7: Before you can finish the head, you need to weave in the yarn ends from the intarsia sections. If done incorrectly, you will get holes on the right side. A good way to start is to make a short stitch to the side of your yarn end, in the direction of the next colour. Check on the right side, to make sure any holes have been closed. 

Step 8: Then weave in the yarn end securely, using your preferred method. I like to thread the end along a row of purl stitch bumps, working towards the side of the piece. Then I can tie them off as I sew the seam. Other ends are woven in so they won't show on the right side.

Now you can attach safety eyes or buttons, sew up the seam, and stuff the head. 
Some other tutorials that might be useful: soft sculpture to give the face more character, and how to embroider the nose and mouth.

Here is what the finished toy will look like! I hope you've found this tutorial useful. If you want more help with this technique, there are many video tutorials. A search for "intarsia knitting" should find something that works for you.








Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June featured pattern - Tiger

The tiger is another one of my very first patterns, published just a couple months after I started Fuzzy Mitten in November of 2006. I don't really remember why I wanted to design a tiger, but it was based heavily on my Tabby Kitty pattern. Looking at the photos now, I clearly didn't even check out photos of real tigers to see how their ears are shaped, or what colour their eyes are! Despite this, it's always been a popular design, and even more so when I updated the pattern for the second edition of Fuzzy Knits.


Originally the tiger had larger, cat-shaped ears, an entirely white nose, and more white on it's paws. The outfit in the pattern was a simple dress made from identical front and back, held together at the shoulders with a crocheted edging and buttons. This version is still available in the book Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar. While the book was waiting to be published, I designed the newer version and offered it to the editor, thinking it would be more appropriate for the book. They liked the original one better, however; so it's still out there, if you feel like finding the book at your local library or book store.


I really love the changes I made to the tiger, though. I wanted one of the patterns in Fuzzy Knits to have some more advanced techniques, but used in a way that seemed approachable. Now the tiger has small, round ears in the right colours. A white chin gives you a chance to try out a little intarsia. Plus, she has a lovely summer dress, knit in the round with a colour-work design.


Here's another tiger I knit as a custom order, in a dress with a different pattern. (You can also knit the dress in a single yarn, like this one done in a striping sock yarn).


And one last tiger for you: Rudyard, whom I knit for a plush toy show several years ago. He's got lovely whiskers done in a white eyelash yarn, and the jacket and waistcoat from my bunny pattern.

If you'd like to make your own tiger, the pattern is 50% off for the month of June. Find it on Etsy or Ravlery (here you get the discount at check-out).