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).

Thursday, May 22, 2014

free pattern: polo-neck pullover

My original Squirrel knitting pattern came with a turtle-neck sweater, which was very simple - back and front knit the same, then sleeves picked up and knit straight. Boxy and plain, a bit awkward to sew together, and ill-fitting for the shape of the toy. But the Squirrel was one of my first patterns, and I had to start somewhere!

When I updated the pattern for my Festive Knits collection, I included overalls instead of the sweater, because I thought they looked much cuter, and they fit a lot better. I had always intended to publish the original turtle-neck sweater as a free pattern, but procrastinated because I was really not happy with the design. However, featuring the Squirrel pattern this month seemed like the perfect opportunity to update that poor sweater, and offer you a little something to dress-up your squirrels (and other toys).

While it looks similar to the original, this polo-neck pullover is completely new (hence the new name): it's knit in the round from the top down, and is completely seamless. The only sewing you need to do is weaving in ends, and closing some small holes under the arms. It knits up in under 2 hours, so you can make one in an evening, enjoying a good movie! The length of the body and arms is easy to adjust, so you can make it fit any of my various small toys. The estimate of 25 g of yarn is generous, so it's a good way to use up some left-over yarn.

I hope you enjoy this pattern, and maybe knit a little squirrel to go with it!

Polo-Neck Pullover

25 g of worsted weight yarn, set of four 4.5 mm (US size 7) double pointed needles (dpns), scrap yarn, tapestry needle
4.5 sts and 6 rows per 2.5 cm (1”) in stockinette
22 cm (8½“) around at hem, approx. 9 cm (3½”) long

Neck and Yoke
CO 24 sts. Distribute sts evenly on 3 of your dpns.
Rnd 1: Join in the round, [k1, p1] to end.
Rnd 2-8: [k1, p1] to end.
Rnd 9-10: Knit 2 rnds.
Rnd 11: [m1, k2] x 12. (36 sts)
Rnd 12-13: Knit 2 rnds.
Rnd 14: [m1, k2] x 18. (54 sts)
Rnd 15-16: Knit 2 rnds.
Rnd 17: [m1, k3] x 18. (72 sts)
Rnd 18: Place 16 sts on scrap yarn for Left Sleeve, k22 sts for Front, place next 16 sts on scrap yarn for Right Sleeve, k18 sts for Back. Continue below for Body of Pullover.

Redistribute sts on dpns if necessary.
Rnd 20-21: Knit 2 rnds.
Rnd 22: m1, k22, m1, k18. (42 sts)
Rnd 23-30(32): Knit 8(10) rnds. (adjust the length of the body to fit your toy)
Next 2 rnds: [k1, p1] to end.
Bind off loosely in ribbing pattern.

Sleeves (same for both sides)
Place sts for one sleeve on 3 of your dpns, distributing the sts as evenly as possible.
Begin at underarm.
Rnd 1-6(8): Knit 6(8) rnds. (adjust the length of the sleeves to fit your toy)
Next 2 rnds: [k1, p1] to end.
Bind off loosely in ribbing pattern.

Weave in all yarn ends, making sure to close holes at the underarm. Block finished pullover.

You may notice the toy is the Chipmunk, not the Squirrel. I didn't have a Squirrel toy to use in the photos.

[ ] 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
m1 = increase 1 by picking up loop between stitch just worked and next stitch, and knit into the back of this loop
P or p = purl
Rnd = Round, or 1 row worked in the round
st or sts = stitch or stitches
st st = stockinette stitch

Friday, May 2, 2014

May featured pattern - Squirrel

For the month of May, I've decided to feature one of my first toy patterns - the Squirrel. I knit a lot of toys in the first few months after starting Fuzzy Mitten, but the squirrel was my favourite. We liked him so much, he was the model my husband used to design my logo.

I found some eyelash yarn at a dollar-store, in a colour that I thought would work well for a squirrel. He turned out so adorable, I carried him around in my bag for a couple of months, so I could show him to everyone! Sadly, at that time I had to sell all my toys, in order to buy yarn to make more. I don't remember where Wally the squirrel ended up, but I still miss him.

I knit a few others over the years, mostly as custom orders. Although the pattern originally included a turtle-neck pullover, I really liked how the squirrel looked in overalls (dungarees). When I was putting together my Festive Knits collection, I decided to change the pattern to include overalls instead of the pullover.

This is one of my easier patterns and a great first project, if you haven't tried one of my designs before. It's also simple to modify, if you prefer to knit the pieces in the round. Squirrels come in many colours (the ones around here range from tan, to grey, to black, and we have tiny red squirrels too), so the toy is a good way to stash-bust some worsted or DK weight yarn. Eyelash or fringe yarn is still available, although not as popular as it used to be, and is so perfect for the tail! If you can't find eyelash yarn, use something fuzzy, and brush it out to make it even fluffier (I use a wire pet brush for this). The overalls are also fairly easy to knit, although they require a bit of assembly. You can find the pattern for the slippers in an older blog post.

As with my previous featured patterns, the Squirrel will be 50% off for the month of May. You can find it in both my Ravelry and Etsy shops. There is also a knit-along in my Ravelry group, if you want to see what other people are making.

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...)