Friday, November 30, 2007

sneek peek

fuzzy hats
Originally uploaded by baprime
To whet your interest for my December feature pattern :)

The one on the sheep is the same pattern as the hat on the silly duck - a very simple, buttom-up tuque (or winter hat, for the non-Canadians). The one on the kitty is knit from the bottom-up, has tiny cables and a pom-pom. The one on the rabbit (who was knit just for this photo shoot) is called the Wabbit Hat. I was asked to design a silly hat for bunnies, and this is the first idea that came to me. What can I say, except I think I watched Bugs Bunny most Saturday mornings of my childhood, and an Elmer Fudd hat seemed too perfect to not knit. It is a little tricky making the ear holes, but I hope some of you will try this.

share the fuzzy love :)

A lovely, thoughtful person posted a link to my Etsy shop on a yarn store owners' mailing list. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but nearly my whole shop was bought out in half an hour.

Another coincidence - last night I was contemplating printing some of my patterns in a nice booklet, sort of like these (the big-footed bunny pattern, near the bottom of the page). It's a tad expensive to have them made, so I might only use them in kits. And maybe yarn stores would like to buy the booklets to put together their own kits? It's a brand new idea, and probably nothing much will come of it until next Spring.

Anyway, I'm excited at the way things are going lately. It makes me feel much better about not having a day job for the next few months.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Poor Rudyard is still at Schmancy! As much fun as it must be to live in a toy store, maybe someone out there lives in Seattle and can find out how he is doing?

I am definitely going to try entering Plush You next year, although I doubt I will be able to go. It must be fun meeting and hanging out with other plushie makers. I don't know anyone else here who makes toys.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

hint #2

woolley and feathered friend
Originally uploaded by baprime
If you happen to spin wool as well as knit, hand-spun yarn makes beautiful little sheep. This is my first time using hand-spun for a toy, and I love the texture and woolly smell. This sheep was made from some rather expensive Jacob/Corriedale yarn given to me by Deb Woolley of the Irish Ewe. I'm a bit sad the rest of the yarn has to go back to her with the toy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

again with the sweater!

Malabrigo Baby Lace in Pearl colourway

Okay, maybe you're all getting a bit tired of this, but I'm super excited and feel like sharing. So after all the trouble choosing a yarn for the Snow White sweater, I finally received the yarn, and it was everything I hoped. Except... it's a lot finer than I expected. I might still be able to use it for that sweater by using smaller needles and knitting a larger size, but that makes me a little nervous. I want to love the sweater I knit from it, and not have to rip it out 6 times until I get the size right.

So. I was browsing around Flickr the other day, and saw this sweater. I fell in love with it too, and the awesome thing is, it uses lace weight yarn. While it looks so lovely and soft in the Kidsilk, I think the Malabrigo will be just fine. Plus, the book the pattern is in has other sweet patterns I want to knit too. It was a bit troublesome to locate a copy of Rowan Studio 4, but I finally snagged a copy off Ebay. It's almost a good thing it won't get here for a couple weeks, because I have Christmas knitting to do!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

sleepy kitty

Yesterday I found time to make four sleeping bags for the toys, and I love how they turned out - much better than the pouches I made on my first try. They are all lined with soft flannel from an old sheet, and the outsides are whatever I found in my fabric stash that I felt like using. This one is a bit of checked seersucker I found at the thrift store, one is made from an old pillow case, the other two from nice fabric I bought new. It feels so good to do a bit of successful sewing. Plus it was an incentive to give my machine a well-deserved oiling.

I think I woke him up :)

Another idea I had recently, that I forgot to mention yesterday, was a featured clothing pattern. The idea is this: each month I will have for sale a different clothing pattern, and on the sixth month, I will put them all together into a bundle of patterns. The clothing patterns I choose will be based on whatever outfit I've had the most questions about, or whatever one I really like and want to share. This way, you can get whatever one you like, or wait and buy them all together (at a lower price). I'm going to start in December with the hat and scarf pattern from the Silly Duck, maybe with a slipper/sock pattern as well. What do you think of the idea? I think there are going to be some well-dressed toys out there!

How you doin'?

I will still put out the occasional new toy. I've had some questions lately about a cow I made, so in January I will start working on that. But the number of patterns I have now is almost the maximum I can manage, so as I add new patterns, I might remove some of the older unpopular ones.

Also, thanks for your nice words yesterday :) It's so awesome to know that lovely kind people read my blog, and care about what I do.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

recent musings

Originally uploaded by baprime
I've been thinking a lot lately about knitting toys -- about how much time it takes me for each one, and how I could never charge enough to pay myself a reasonable wage. Of course, I didn't start doing this to make money. I started Fuzzy Mitten partly to keep me from going crazy with boredom during the winter, and partly because I love knitting these little cuties.

But I almost burnt myself out rushing an order of four toys in one week. Then I nearly messed up the deal, and was starting to think about not even selling them any more, aside from maybe at craft sales. It just didn't seem worth the effort I put into them, and I wondered if people even appreciated the amount of thought, creativity, and heart I put into each one.

Thanks to the helpfulness and understanding of the shop owner who ordered the toys, it all worked out for the best. The four toys are on their way across the globe as I type this. I hope whoever buys them in Kilauea really loves them.

But I was still thinking of what I want to get out of making the toys, how to keep both myself and my customers happy. What I've decided is to make fewer toys, knit them from good quality yarns, and make them with as much character as I possibly can. They will now come with cute little sleeping bags, because I love sewing and want to include it too. I might raise the price a tad to cover the cost of the fabric. I've also fixed the shipping costs to be more accurate, and give people more options if they want them.

As a project I started to keep myself occupied, Fuzzy Mitten has turned into something I love, and want to keep loving for a long time to come. I didn't realize it at the beginning, but a business like this is an ever-evolving thing. I need to stay flexible, and change what I'm doing to fit with the rest of my life and what people want from me. I think that's a challenge I will enjoy, even if I get small panic attacks when things don't go quite perfectly. I see now I can come out of them with even better ideas for the future.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

lots of snow!

45 centimeters
Originally uploaded by mricon
Maybe not 45 cm, but Montreal is supposed to get about 25-30 cm today. That is more than a goodly amount of snow. That's enough snow for me to cancel my trip to the yarn store, so I don't get stuck somewhere when the bus never arrives.

But I think I will be happy enough playing with the yarn I already have, maybe sewing some more pin cushions, and baking a pumpkin pie. I'm so happy I don't have to work today! They would be a bit crazy to send us out in this, anyway, considering most of the trucks have bald tires.

Other than that, I might try taking photos of a bunch of toys I just finished. These ones will be off to Kauai, so this is probably the last snow they will ever see. I'm still trying to figure out how this wholesale thing works. I'm afraid of assuming the wrong thing, and messing up the deal. Hopefully the shop owner will be understanding, and help me through it.

I would also like to wish my American friends a happy Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoy your feasts and family, and maybe have time for a little knitting while the guys watch football :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Unexpected pun attack!

Mr. Mitten here. Barbara got called in to "winterize" a few gardens today, even though it's currently alternating between snowing and raining outside. So, to warm you all up, here's a joke:

Q: What does Barbara say to the toys after she's done knitting them?
A: She tells them to get stuffed.

There you go, now you know why I generally keep quiet and let her do all the talking. :) Stay warm and dry, and have a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow, for those of you South of the border.


PS: If you're doing your shopping this weekend, do keep in mind our little pattern book -- it's getting very warm reviews from our friends.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

hint #1

Originally uploaded by baprime
If you want extra floppy bunny ears, knit them with 5mm needles instead of 4mm.

Monday, November 19, 2007

knitting craziness

This is a super short post just to let you know I'm still alive. I'm knitting like crazy, trying to get an order done for this thursday, so I have no time for long blog posts today. I will make up for it, don't worry :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

sweater for a big teddy

As promised, here is the pattern for a sweater for the big teddy. The sweater is basically a raglan style, knit flat from the neck down, and there are seams along the front of one shoulder, under the sleeves, and on the sides. If this is too much seaming for you, it should be easy to convert this pattern to knit in the round. The pattern does not include instructions for the stripes, but check the end of this post for the striping sequence I used. Feel free to ask any questions by email or leaving a comment here.

Yarn: 50 g of Elann's Peruvian Quechua. I used celery, parchment, and smoldering ember. Any light worsted weight yarn would work.
Needles: 4mm (US size 6) straight needles (or 4mm dpn's/circular needle)
Other stuff: one 1/2 inch button, darning/tapestry needle, scraps of yarn or stitch holders

Gauge: 5.5 sts and 7.5 rows per inch
Finished dimensions: 4.5 inches long, 13 inches around

Cast on 36 sts.
Row 1: [k1, p1] across.
Row 2: [p1, k1] to last 2 sts, yo, k2tog.
Row 3: [k1, p1] across.
Next row: [k1, m1, k2] across. (48 sts)
Next row: P across.
Next row: kfb, m1, k6, m1, k1, PM, k1, m1, k14, m1, k1, PM, k1, m1, k6, m1, k1, PM, k1, m1, k14, m1, kfb. (58 sts)
The set of sts before the first marker is the left sleeve, the next set of sts is the back, the third set of sts is the right sleeve, and the last set of sts is the front.
Next row: P across.
Next row: k2, m1, k8, m1, k2, m1, k16, m1, k2, m1, k8, m1, k2, m1, k16, m1, k2. (66 sts)
Next row: P across.
Next row: k2, m1, k10, m1, k2, m1, k18, m1, k2, m1, k10, m1, k2, m1, k18, m1, k2. (74 sts)
Next row: P across.
Next row: k2, m1, k12, m1, k2, m1, k20, m1, k2, m1, k12, m1, k2, m1, k20, m1, k2. (82 sts)
Next row: P across.
Next row: k2, m1, k14, m1, k2, m1, k22, m1, k2, m1, k14, m1, k2, m1, k22, m1, k2. (90 sts)
Next row: P across.
Next row: k2, m1, k16, m1, k2, m1, k24, m1, k2, m1, k16, m1, k2, m1, k24, m1, k2. (98 sts)
Next row: P across.
Next row: k2, m1, k18, m1, k2, m1, k26, m1, k2, m1, k18, m1, k2, m1, k26, m1, k2. (106 sts)
Next row: P across.
Next row: k2, m1, k20, m1, k2, m1, k28, m1, k2, m1, k20, m1, k2, m1, k28, m1, k2. (114 sts)

Left sleeve: 25 sts, back: 32 sts, right sleeve: 24 sts, front: 33 sts.

Next row: p33 - place these sts on scrap yarn, p24 - place these sts on another piece of scrap yarn, p32 - place these sts on a third piece of scrap yarn, p25.

Left sleeve
Next row: k2, m1, k22, m1, kfb. (28 sts)
*Work 9 rows in st st.
Next row: [k1, p1] across.
Next row: [p1, k1] across.
Next row: [k1, p1] across. Cast off in pattern.

Right sleeve
Place sts for right sleeve onto needle.
Next row: kfb, m1, k22, m1, kfb. (28 sts)
Follow instructions for left sleeve from *

Place sts for back onto needle.
Next row: kfb, m1, k30, m1, kfb. (34 sts)
**Work 9 rows in st st.
Row 1: [k1, p1] across.
Row 2: [p1, k1] across.
Repeat these 2 rows twice more for a total of 6 rows. Cast off in pattern.

Place sts for front onto needle
Next row: kfb, m1, k30, m1, k2. (34 sts)
Follow instructions for back from **

Sew together front left shoulder seam, leaving neck band open. Sew together underarm seams. Sew together side seams. Secure all yarn ends. Attach button to collar.

K or k - knit
k2tog - knit 2 sts together
kfb - knit into front and back of the stitch
m1 - make one by picking up the loop between st just worked and next st, and knitting into the back of this loop
P or p - purl
yo - yarn over
st or sts - stitch or stitches

Stripe sequence
G = green, W = white, R = red
collar in G; then 4G, 2w, 4R, 2W, 4G, 2W, 4R, 2W, 4G; then cuffs and hem in G. The sleeves and body of the sweater are the same number of rows in st st, so the stripe pattern is the same for both.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

sweater dilemma

Here is the most recent little sweetie I've been working on. The customer who asked for her requested that she be as small as possible. Well, I was limited to the finest yarn I had, because I didn't want to buy three skeins of yarn for one tiny toy. The finest stuff I had was alpaca fingering weight that a friend gave me, which originally came from her mother's stash. I have no idea how old the yarn is, but it's only slightly nibbled by moths, and makes lovely socks. I only had 2 shades of brown, so I used some grape kool-aid to dye a bit for the dark points. It worked great, and the kitty smells like grapes :)

I used 2.25mm needles, so the fabric would come out dense and not show the stuffing. She is so tiny and adorable, like a new kitten! I was going to use bead for her eyes, but once I stuck the buttons on her face, I just knew she needed those huge turquoise eyes.

I've also been working on a big teddy, since I only ever made Strudel from the pattern. I'm using some fluffy white acrylic yarn I bought a while ago, so the toy will be fine to give a child. Machine-washable toys are usually a good idea when wee ones are involved. I wanted to design a new sweater, rather than put the new toy in overalls. But I having rather a lot of trouble with that. I had the second attempt 90% done when I realized I hated the way it fits.

I decided the problem comes down to this: I am trying to design the sweater based on techniques used for people sweaters, but teddies are not shaped like people! The teddy has no shoulders, short arms, and a chubby tummy (okay, you could say this about some people, but I'm sure their sweaters fit terribly too). I wanted it to have a yoke with pretty stripes in different colours, but I don't think this will work at all. I'm back to square one, and not sure how to proceed.

A raglan sweater isn't much better, because by the time I've done enough increases (or decreases) to get the body and sleeves wide enough, the underarm is nearly at the teddy's wrist. I could do drop-shoulders with a basic set-in sleeve like most of the other sweaters I've made for the toys. They're simple and fit all right. The stripes I want to do might not look quite as good as on a yoke or raglan top, but I'm going to have to make a compromise somewhere. I just want to decide what I'm doing, before ripping out the sweater another 2-3 times.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

sweet treats

How far in the future can you plan your stash? I have plenty of projects to think about right now, so I am planning for next winter. As a mostly patient person, I get a lot of satisfaction from the anticipation of a sweet treat for myself.

I made myself two new hat and mittens sets last year, and they are still great and work nicely with my fall and winter coats. I have a big, comfy mohair scarf that I love. I have beautiful yarn to knit myself a new neck-warmer. So I really can't justify a new hat and mitten set this year... but next year! I think I may have to go with this yarn, in a colour-way that co-ordinates with my neck-warmer. Or something completely random that I love, because I was never one of those matchy-matchy people. I saw it blogged by the Harlot, and I love my Socks that Rock yarn, so what could be better then snuggly, thick mittens and tuque in hand-painted merino?

is it too early?

Festive Knits
Originally uploaded by mricon
Can I mention the C-word?

My wonderful husband has spent the last few weekends working on a big surprise for all of my fans. (I helped a little with the editing, but he really did the worst of the work) We now have a pattern book! Woo hoo!

I am really excited about this, because it's an idea we've talked about for months. Only lots of pressure and late nights managed to get it done in plenty of time for Christmas shoppers. We imagined it as a gift for people who love to knit, and love cute cuddly things. Of course, if you want it just for yourself, that's okay too :) The book has 12 toy patterns, plus a little bonus, and you can get it in printed book form or as a pdf file. We ordered an early copy, and it's so special to be holding our book in my hands, with lovely colour pictures and everything!

I hope you all like it too :)

Monday, November 5, 2007

no time for me

soft pair
Originally uploaded by baprime
I knew the last couple months before Christmas would be a busy time for me, but I still hate that I have no time to knit anything for myself. I started a pair of socks, but felt so guilty about knitting them I put them away over a week ago. The greenish yarn in the photo is some hand-spun BFL a friend gave me for my birthday. The bluish yarn is some amazingly soft hand-spun I picked up In Nova Scotia on my honeymoon. I plan to use them together in a neck warmer of my own design. I am itching to get started with this stuff, but I am strong enough to put it aside and make the toys on order.

But come the middle of December, it's all about me! I plan to give myself two months of just knitting what I want. This may include the twin to the sock I knit for my husband last year. If the sweet, soft yarns for my socks and sweater don't tempt me too much ;)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

lucky winner!

There were 11 people who left comments in the last 2 weeks, so you all had a pretty good chance of winning. The lucky person whose name was drawn from the hat by my lovely assistant (Mr. Mitten) is sara!

Could you please send me an email (barbara at fuzzymitten dot com) with your mailing address and the pattern you would like? I will send the pattern as a pdf file, so you can have that right away. If you don't knit, I will include a surprise with the pincushion.

Thanks so much to everyone who left me a nice comment! I hope you all continue to enjoy reading my little blog.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

imagining monsters

I was reading blogs today, and came across another softie maker mentioned on the PlushYou! blog. I thought her monsters were so great, I wanted to blog about them too, even if I am a day late for monster-related stuff. I really wanted to use a picture of one of her toys to go with the post, so I checked on Flickr, but nobody will let me use one! It's not like I'm trying to steal the pictures, or anything nefarious like that. Maybe if I had taken the time to write to the toy maker, and ask her for a photo to go with the post, she would be been okay with it. But there would go any spontaneity in my writing.

So you will just have to imagine these monsters: cool, multi-coloured, small to huge, big buggy eyes, jagged teeth, claws and all. It has planted the seed of cute, knitted monsters of my own. Maybe someday...

If you want to have a look at her stuff, rather than imagining it, you can go to her website.