Friday, April 11, 2014

Silly Duck Tutorial - Part 2

This is the second technique which may be helpful in finishing the feet of your Silly Duck (here's Part 1).

Part 2: Sewing the Foot Together

Step 1: Sew together the cast-on edge, then part-way up the back seam. 

Step 2: Add a small amount of stuffing to the leg. There should be no stuffing in the foot. Finish sewing the back seam, and weave in this yarn end.

Step 3: Flatten the foot, so the leg is towards the back, and the foot is symmetrical. Use a safety pin to hold the two layers of the foot together.

Step 4: Cut a 25 cm (10") length of yarn the same colour as the foot and thread it onto your needle (I'm using a contrasting colour so you can see my stitches). Insert the needle at the center-bottom of the foot, and exit to one side of the center-top of the foot. Leave about 7 cm (3") of yarn where you started.

Step 5: Using a running-stitch, make 2 short stitches towards the edge of the foot, following a column of stitches to keep your line straight. End on the underside of the foot.

Step 6: Make a stitch around the edge of the foot, then work back towards the center of the foot, making a stitch between your first 2 stitches. Exit on the other side of the center-top.

Step 7: Stitch a line on the other side of the foot, just like the first. 

Step 8: Thread your yarn to where you began, and knot your yarn ends together. Weave the ends through the foot 2-3 times, pulling on the knot so it slips inside the foot. Your yarn ends should now be secure.

Here is the finished foot, with the stitching done in the correct colour. You can see that it's nearly invisible, and the foot now has the right shape. Maybe they're a bit rounder than real duck feet, but perfectly cute for a silly toy duck!

Silly Duck Tutorial - Part 1

While my Silly Duck pattern (Ravelry, Etsy) is not a difficult pattern, there are a couple key places where your finishing skills make all the difference in the success of your efforts. I've put together two photo tutorials to show you how I attach the duck's beak, and how I finish the feet.

Part 1 - Attaching the Beak

Step 1: The head has been stuffed (the arrow shows the seam). The beak has been seamed, and stuffed. There is very little stuffing in the beak - just enough to hold it's shape. Note that there are 2 yarn ends attached to the beak - one from the cast-on, and one from sewing the seam. These will be used to attach the beak.

Step 2: Line up the beak to where you will sew it to the head. The dots show where to match up the center and sides of the beak. The sides match up with the decreases you made on Row 20.

Step 3: Use safety pins to pin in the beak in place.

Step 4: On the underside of the head, the beak seam will match up with the head seam. The underside of the beak will be a straight line between the sides (don't pull it down so it's curved). A shoulder / invisible seam stitch works best to attach the beak. 

Step 5: Start at the center seam with one yarn end, and work towards one side of the beak. Start at the center seam with the second yarn end, and work towards the other side of the beak.

Step 6: Turn the head over, and use the same method to sew the upper-side of the beak to the head. You may find it easier to make a couple stitches at a time on each side, to get a more symmetrical placement.

Step 7: The beak is now attached to the head. Thread both yarn ends to the same location, and knot them together. Weave the ends through the head 2-3 times, pulling on the knot so it slips inside the head. Your yarn ends should now be secure.

Finished head from the front. I've done some soft-sculpture, like I show in this post.

Finished head from the side. With only a small amount of stuffing in the beak, it has a more realistic shape.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April Featured Pattern - Silly Duck

For the month of April I'm featuring my Silly Duck pattern. As with previous featured patterns, it's 50% off in both my Etsy and Ravelry shops (on Ravelry you get the discount when you check-out). Read below to find out a little more about the pattern. Later in the month, I plan to make a photo tutorial with more details on how to make the bill and feet of the duck.

I made my first Silly Duck in April of 2007, just a few months after I started Fuzzy Mitten. I was still learning how to design toys, and my first attempt didn't really look much like a duck, which is why the pattern got named "Silly Duck"! I was really happy with the wings (and they've never changed), but I couldn't figure out how to make duck feet, and the bill was made from felt. This toy is still hanging around somewhere, after all these years!

Abby the Goose was my second attempt, in white yarn, with a more realistic bill shape. I still hadn't fixed the feet, though.

This fluffy duck I designed for a little booklet of Easter patterns. I'm sure you've seen this yarn in craft stores - it's so soft and fluffy to touch, but it's made of nylon, and it was so hard on my hands when I was knitting! I made him a knitted bill, but it's not really the right shape.

Finally, when I was updating my Fuzzy Knits collection of patterns a few years ago, I decided to fix all the things I didn't like about my Silly Duck pattern. The body was reshaped to be a little more duck-like (it's got a much bigger bottom than my other toys). I designed a knitted bill with a more realistic shape. You do have to sew it on, but that also gives you more control over the final shape. And, at last, my Silly Duck got big, flat feet! In the end, it was just a matter of expanding and squashing the shape I was already using.

The right yarn makes a big difference too. The final toy was knit with a cotton/bamboo blend yarn, and the shiny bamboo fibers look just right for duck feathers. However, I've also seen some very sweet Silly Ducks made with fluffy yarn, if that's what you prefer.

It may only be a couple weeks until Easter, but this pattern is relatively easy (advanced-beginner level), and can be made over a few evenings or a weekend. I think it makes a lovely change from the usual Easter Bunnies that children tend to get!

(P.S. These photos are also a good example of how my photography has improved over 7 years! But I still have a lot to learn...)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

having fun with a bunny puppet

In case you were hesitating to knit a bunny puppet, because you weren't sure if your kids would like one, maybe this will convince you!

Remember that the pattern is 50% off until the end of March! You can find it on Etsy and Ravelry (if you buy it on Ravelry, the discount will be subtracted when you check-out)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tutorial - soft sculpture for the head

A long time ago I wrote a brief tip describing how I use soft-sculpture to enhance the shape of the heads of my toys. While stuffing is the most important step in shaping any toy, soft-sculpture will reinforce the shape, and help maintain it if the toy is played with. It also adds a lot of character to your toy's face. Below is a photo tutorial showing my technique for sculpting around the eyes. I hope you find it useful!

Here is the head from the front, with safety eyes attached, then stuffed and sewn closed. You can see that I've added some extra stuffing to the cheeks and nose, so the head is not just a round ball.

Here is the head from the side. If you are using buttons or felt instead of safety eyes, attach them first before doing any soft sculpture to the head.

Step 1: To begin, cut a length of your main-colour yarn (about 30 cm or 12"), and thread it onto a sharp needle. (I've used a long, sharp darning needle, which is a good tool to own if you're making several toys.) Insert the needle at the center-bottom, through the seam (shown with the arrow).

Step 2: Have the needle exit the head near the first eye, towards the nose and in line with the lower edge of the eye. Pull the yarn through, leaving a 3" tail where you began.

Step 3: Insert the needle again below the center of the eye, making a short stitch (about 1 cm or 3/8"). Have the needle exit at the bottom of the head where you began.

Step 4: Gently pull on the yarn attached to your needle, making sure not to pull through your yarn end. This will make a dent in the head below the eye, and make the cheek seem to stick out more. 

Step 5: When you are happy with the shape of the head, tie your yarn in a knot with the short yarn tail. Do not cut the yarn yet, but repeat the same steps to shape the other side of the head.

Step 6: Once you are happy with the shape of the head, make sure your knots are secure, and trim the yarn ends to about 2.5 cm or 1". These ends will be hidden when you attach the head to the body. Now you can embroider the nose and mouth, and attach the ears.

The method shown above will change the direction that the eyes face, so they seem to be more on the sides of the head. This technique works well for animals like rabbits, otters, beavers, and other animals with longer faces. If your toy has forward facing eyes, like a cat, a dog, or a monkey, try the slightly different method below.

Follow Steps 1-2 as shown above. When you get to Step 3, insert your needle in front of the eye, as shown in the photo below. Complete Steps 4-6 as described above.

You can see that the eyes point forward now, giving the face a different look. If you want the nose/muzzle more pronounced, you can use the same method to make another stitch between the eyes, and in line with the other two. I did this on my Big Teddy.

I use this technique on most of my toys. It's simple and quick, and can make a big difference in the appearance of any toys you knit. The sample used in the photos is the head from the Well-Dressed Bunny, but you can adapt it for any of my patterns. I used this technique on my Bunny Puppets, which is my featured pattern for March. Try it out, if you're knitting a bunny puppet!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Featured Pattern - Bunny Puppet

I love puppets! When I was a child, the way that fabric or felt, yarn or feathers, could come alive and have it's own voice and personality seemed like magic to me. Sesame Street and the Muppet Show were some of my favourite kids' TV shows (and I still watch them with my own boys). I have enormous respect for Jim Henson and the team of people who produced all those Muppet films. If I could go back in time, that would be my dream job. Maybe I can't have my dream job, but I can make my own puppets!

I decided to make my first puppet a rabbit, because they appear to be nearly the most popular toy animal (perhaps only slightly less popular than teddy bears).  Although it added a lot more complexity to the pattern than I was used to, I knew I had to make the puppet in more than one size. There's nothing quite like a tiny puppet just right for small hands to play with, and sometimes adults like to get in on the fun too! While having puppets with mouths that open is ideal, instead I chose a simpler 2-armed design for my first puppet, which works really well from a mitten base.

It's been a few years since I wrote the pattern, but I remember it took a lot more fussing to get it right than most of my previous patterns. I was determined to make it work! While I knew how to knit in the round quite well, writing a pattern that way was a fairly new experience. As well, I decided to go with a lighter weight yarn than I usually use for my toys, because I didn't want the puppets to be too warm. I chose a deliciously soft DK merino wool that came in some beautiful shades (sadly, a limited edition yarn that sold out quickly). I also wanted to include a little accessory - a sweet bow that is knit in two pieces, then joined in the middle (a technique I had been wanting to try).

In the end I was very happy with the final toy. Everyone who sees them is charmed, and immediately puts one on to try it out. I was really hoping the bunny puppet would sell as well as my other patterns, so I could justify designing some other puppets. Sadly, that's never been the case. I hope that featuring the pattern this month will encourage a few more people to give it a try! As a bonus, it will be 50% off for the month of March in both my Ravelry and Etsy shops.

Friday, February 21, 2014

linen stitch bunny blanket

One of the featured patterns for February is the Mama and Baby Bunny pattern. When these patterns were originally published in my pattern collection, Festive Knits, the Baby Bunny pattern also included a simple blanket. However, we decided not to include the blanket when we published the two patterns together. Below you will find instructions for another simple, but lovely, baby blanket that any little toy would be happy to snuggle into!

There are two sizes given - the small blanket is shown in the photos. It is fairly quick to make, and a good size for the baby bunny or any other small toy. The medium blanket would be a good size for my regular sized (8-9”) toys. I’ve used fingering weight yarn because I have lots of pretty sock yarn scraps in my stash. But you could easily use a thicker yarn for a larger, or quicker, knit.

Linen Stitch Bunny Blanket

15-25 g of fingering weight yarn, pair of 3.25 (US size 3) knitting needles, tapestry needle
7.25 sts and 10 rows per 2.5 cm (1”)
Small (10 x 15 cm, 4 x 6”) or Medium (15 x 20 cm, 6 x 8”)

You can make the blanket from a single yarn, in a solid or variegated colour, or use up a bunch of yarn scraps for a more colourful blanket. If you use scraps, change yarns every 3 rows, leaving 3” ends when joining yarns, to be knotted into a fringe.

CO 47 or 61 sts.
Row 1 (WS): P1, s1, [p1, s1] to last st, p1.
Row 2: K1, [k1, s1] to last 2 sts, k2.
Repeat Rows 1-2 until blanket measures 10 cm/4” (small), or 15 cm/6” (medium), from the cast-on edge, ending on a WS row. Bind off. If you used a single yarn, weave in your yarn ends. If you used yarn scraps, overhand knot the yarn ends into a fringe on both ends of the blanket (you can add extra strands if you want a thicker fringe). Trim the fringe to 2.5 cm (1”)

CO = cast on
K = knit
P = purl
RS = right side
s1 = slip 1 stitch from your left needle to your right needle. Remember to bring the yarn forward before slipping a stitch on RS rows, and to take the yarn back before slipping a stitch on WS rows, so that the strands always show on the RS of the blanket. It’s important to keep an even tension when slipping stitches.

WS = wrong side

Save 50% on both the Mama and Baby Bunny pattern (Ravelry, Etsy), and the Flat Foot Floogies pattern (Ravelry, Etsy), until the end of February!

P.S. the little bunny in the first photo is from my Bedtime Clothing Bundle.