Wednesday, April 30, 2008

catching up

I had a wonderfully relaxing break, staying out at my sister's place. I've been home for a week now, and trying to catch up on email, blogs, and projects. Now I'm finally ready for a nice long chat with you!

First off, if any of you want to get your hands on one of my toys, a bunch of them will soon be for sale at Quiet Hours Toys. I'm told they will be listed tonight, or maybe early tomorrow. These will probably be the only toys of mine available for sale for a while, because everything I'm making right now is intended for a craft fair this summer. And I must say, Carey was wonderful to work with. Even when the parcel of toys went astray in the post, she didn't get upset! (unlike me, who freaked out) But these guys made it to her at last, and I'm sure she will find good homes for all of them.

I made these cushion covers last saturday. We'd finally bought ourselves a new sofa, having come to the end of our patience with the nasty old one that was here when we moved in. These are the same fabrics I used to make my wall-hanging, with a more abstract design. It took longer to cut out all the pieces than to sew them together, but I find the process relaxing. Once they were done, I realized the whole effect is a little busy. I should probably have used half the fabrics for one, and half for the other. They're growing on me, though, probably just through the combination of soft pretty fabrics, squishy feather pillows, and comfy new couch.

I've also been trying out some fabric toys. My first try was left with my niece to chew on, so I have no photos of it. It was made straight from a pattern, just so I could learn how the pieces fit together. These two were adapted from a different pattern, and have quite a different body from the first. I love how the lamb's face looks like my knitted toys, and their bodies are very squishy and cuddly. Sewing with wool felt is a pain, though, so I might not use it very much. I really dislike the feet on these guys, and definitely won't be using that style for my final pattern. I think once I've made a couple more, I should have all my ideas in place to design my own. All this sewing has been a nice break from knitting, as my left wrist has been really bothering me lately. Hopefully it settles down soon, so I can make more toys for an upcoming craft fair.

Finally, this little critter came in the mail today! The favourite colour swap over at the finished the other day, and I was hoping mine would come soon! What a surprise I got when the doorbell rang during lunch, and found out my swap came from Greenstars Studio. I've decided to call him Dandilion, and he's already made some friends here. I should ask his creator what the fuzzy yellow yarn is, because it's awesome - soft and silky like down. I think I must do more swaps, because this one was so much fun!

Monday, April 28, 2008

fuzzy farm

I think the new pattern is ready for testing! As you can see, it's a set of three little farm animals - a sheep, a pig, and a chicken. This was an impulse knit for me. I decided I needed something simpler and faster to knit for craft sales, and something that would be a little more toddler-friendly. They're also great for using up leftover bits of yarn.
So far I've knit all the animals 4 times, and I don't think I'm going to make any more progress on my own. If there are still problems, I'm overlooking them. I think I found the names of everyone who volunteered, but the comments were rather scattered around. I randomly picked 4 names: Mintsu, Sara/sarloz, Katt, and Jackie. I have a couple of your email addresses, so I'll be contacting you later today with all the details. You can also contact me (barbara at fuzzymitten dot com).

If you are too busy right now, or not that interested in the pattern, feel free to decline. Your name will stay on the list for future pattern testing, and I'll pick someone else. Basically what I need is for people to knit up the toys, and locate any pattern mistakes, incorrect stitch counts, and confusing instructions. I'm not so much interested in major design changes, since by this stage, I'm pretty happy with the overall look of a toy. You'll have plenty of time to complete your assignment, then I'll collect your input and make final adjustments to the pattern. If all goes well, the fuzzy farm pattern should be ready by the end of May. Can the rest of you wait that long?

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I've had a flood of volunteers to test my patterns! It feels lovely to have so many people want to try out my new patterns, in spite of possible mistakes and whatnot. However, I really only need about 3 people for each new pattern, so I'll have to draw names from a hat. But don't worry, because if you don't get picked this time, your name will stay on the list and have an even better chance the next time.

I haven't had a chance to work on the new pattern today, but I hope to get it done sometime this weekend. Then I'll let the lucky people know. I'll email you with all the details, if I have your address, but I'll also post the names here, in case I don't.

I ran down to the local second-hand book store yesterday for some light reading material, and also found a great book on soft animal toys. It has a ton of patterns, both simple and complicated, as well as instructions on how to design your own patterns from a 2-D line drawing. It's exactly what I needed, and hopefully I'll have some time soon to try designing my own toys.

I've been itching to try out fabric toys, partly because I'm so inspired by all the ones I see on Flickr and other blogs. Also because I think they would take less time to put together, so I could pad out what I have to offer at craft fairs. I love my knit toys, but they do take an awful lot of time to make. I doubt I will sell the patterns for the fabric toys, though. Writing knitting patterns is enough work!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

watermelon bunny

Another cute bunny from one of my patterns, knit by acornbud. I love how just a small change in how you make the face, or where you place the ears, can give a toy such a unique look and personality. This bunny has a beautiful watermelon coloured sweater too. Sometimes I wish I knit more socks, so I would have left-over bits of yarn to make pretty sweaters for my toys. (that quilted pillow in the background is gorgeous too, isn't it?)

I've been having a good rest out at my sister's place. I've been out in the sun gardening and dog walking. I spent a little time sewing, trying to figure out how to make fabric versions of my toys. That project is on hold until I am back in my own sewing room, and have a little more time to experiment. I've also been knitting a lot, mostly working on a new pattern. Something a little simpler and quicker, and meant for toddlers. Once I get it written up, I'll be contacting a few people to test knit it for me. I guess I should write up that list of volunteers first - I'm so lazy about things like that :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

all the way from Austria

Another edition of "Your Toys"

These little cuties live in Austria with Claudia. I love the bunny's big shiny eyes, and the red overalls. It seems he also plays guitar! I'm a sucker for sweet eyes and serenades.

This couple look like they were searching for something nice to eat, and all they found was some pothos and hoya. Pretty house-plants, but not very tasty :)

If I want to use your photo on my blog, I will email you and ask for permission. Or, send me a message saying it's okay to use your photos on my blog. I should have mentioned this in the first place, but didn't think of it at the time.

Friday, April 11, 2008

sleepy puppy

It seems like a million people have asked for the pattern for this cutie pie. I did mostly follow the Puppy with Sweater pattern, knitting the toy in one colour rather than two. Maybe it's the cotton yarn that makes it look so different, or the embroidered face. I'm glad that so many people like it!

spring break

I'm going to be house-sitting for my sister and brother-in-law for the next 2 weeks. They live off the island of Montreal, in a fairly rural area. There will be lots of dog walking, garden cleaning, and knitting. I will have internet access out there, but I'm going to take a much-needed little break from everything. I will reply to emails, and I might post here a couple times, but that's all. Hopefully I can come back home refreshed and ready to get back into the swing of things.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


To quote my husband,"let's get back to fun toys and happy occasions." Don't you agree?

Here's another little tutorial, this time on how to sew on a toy's head, or as I think of it: capitation (as in the opposite of decapitation :)

I use a sewing stitch called ladder stitch, which is shown in the diagram below.
Ladder stitch: dotted lines show where yarn is going behind fabric. When doing this yourself, you would pull the stitches tight enough for the fabric edges to meet.

Head and body stuffed and ready to go.

Pin on the head so it stays straight, matching up the back seams (drawn in black).
I would usually use those yarn ends from sewing up the body to sew on the head, but I've used white yarn here to make it clearer what I'm doing.

Starting at the back seam, sew the top edge of the body to the head where they meet. I have left the stitches loose so they are easier to see, but you will want to tighten them up so the head is sewn on securely.

Here you can see the head half attached. Compare the white stitches to the diagram above if you're not clear on how I'm making the stitches.

Head sewn on all the way.
If the toy is for a young child, I will usually go around a second time.

To tidy up the yarn ends, insert the needle a few inches through the body, making sure to exit at a hole in the knit fabric, and pull yarn through.

Insert the needle back into body exactly where the yarn exited, and pull yarn through until loop disappears beneath the knitted fabric.

Snip off yarn close to the body, and pull gently at the fabric until the yarn end slips inside and cannot be seen. This method will secure your yarn ends without having to use knots. Repeat for other yarn end.

Here you can see the head sewn on with matching yarn. With patience and practice, you can barely see the stitches that hold the head to the body.

I hope this was helpful! If the pictures aren't clear enough, check the larger sizes on Maybe with some more help I can get other tutorials made. It's a little tricky with just me trying to arrange things and take photos!


I get the impression I wasn't totally clear in my post yesterday.

As for myself
, I am quite liberal when it comes to creative licenses. If you're knitting up one of my patterns, and you want to change something so the toy is more to your liking, feel free! Heck, I've seen someone knit a moose from my lamb pattern. I'm quite happy if my patterns encourage you to be more creative. I don't think I ever knit a pattern without changing something.

It's when selling gets involved that things become a little sticky. I'm sure you can all understand why I wouldn't want anyone else selling copies of my patterns. As for toys, if you're thinking of selling toys made from my patterns, I would appreciate if you would contact me directly and we can discuss it.

What got me upset was that people might be using my patterns to violate someone else's copyright. Because, well, it would make me look bad, and because I like Julie and don't want to see her upset. If she wants to be the only one selling toys like that, we should all respect her right to make that choice, and help her protect her business by being honest. It's really about reciprocity - treating others how you would like to be treated.

Ergh. Sometimes these things seem so simple in my head, but get very complicated once they're out there for everyone to read. For future reference, I always try to write exactly what I mean, and not put anything between the lines :)

By the way, if you're interested, read what Julie had to say.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

something serious

I want to write about something serious which has been going around the crafty blogs lately. It's a difficult and delicate subject. I definitely don't want to insult anyone, but I do want to air my ideas about designer originality and copyrights.

I make a living by selling my knitting patterns and toys. It's not very much money, certainly not enough to use legal means to protect my copyrights if someone decides to use my designs without permission. I think most independent designers are in the same position, and we rely on the honesty of others to prevent them from copying our ideas.

Not long after I started designing my patterns, I discovered toys made by a lovely woman in the UK. She is the woman behind the much adored Little Cotton Rabbits. By some strange coincidence, our toys had a resemblance to each other. I immediately approached her about this, explaining that I hadn't seen her toys until that moment, and had never intentionally designed mine to be similar to hers. Fortunately she believed me, and was very gracious and understanding. Since that time I have tried very hard to design my toys in my own unique style, and avoided any ideas that would make my toys look similar to hers.

There are a small number of people whom I have given permission to sell toys made from my designs. I decided early on that I don't have nearly enough time to knit toys for everyone who asks, so having a few collaborators would take some pressure off me. These people have been making the toys in their own unique styles, and credit me as the original designer of the pattern, so I am quite happy with the situation.

Now comes the difficult part. Julie Williams contacted me recently because she was concerned that she had seen other people selling toys made from my patterns. I reassured her about my arrangements, and she was very understanding again. But she also mentioned something which I found quite bothersome. It seems that some people have been modifying my patterns so the toys look more like her designs than mine. We all know that imitation can be flattery. While there is nothing wrong with this if the toy is for your own personal enjoyment, selling copies of her toys is against her copyrights.

I don't want to take up arms against whoever those people might have been. Maybe they didn't realize what they had done. Hopefully there are enough honest people out there that we designers won't have to worry about this stuff too often.

If you want to start a little business selling toys (or anything crafty) there's no need to borrow someone else's ideas. Everyone is different, and sees the world in a unique way. We all have our own style. Plus, the world is full of inspiration and beauty, just waiting for you to stop and notice. If you need to learn new skills so you can someday create your own designs, then learn from the best designers you can find. Then take that inspiration, your new skills, and your own style, and make something unique. Children do this all the time! I guess some of us just forget how easy it can be when you do it with joy and energy and honesty.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

your toys

So it's Tuesday...

I don't have too much to chat about, but I wanted to start off the week with an idea I had. I do write knitting patterns, and some of you out there are making the toys. So why not showcase your toys here? I thought if I posted photos of some of my favourites, it might make you feel good to be famous, and encourage others to knit their own toys. Okay, I admit that appearing on my blog won't make you famous, but maybe it will make your day a little better :) I will be selecting the photos from my Flickr pool (see the link there on the right) so add your photos if you want to be included!

To start things off, here's a bunny my friend Eunice made from the Bunny with Hoodie pattern (I haven't asked if I can use her photo, but as she's my friend, I'm betting she won't mind) This bunny seems very fond of animals of all kinds :) I like the look of the variegated yarn.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


The last big batch of toys are ready to go. I thought I would take them outside to see the sunshine and snow melting. They could hardly believe that Spring has finally come. The orange kitty pointed out all the bird species in the neighbourhood. The two bunnies noticed a wee bit of grass peeking out from beneath the snow bank. The bears asked the panda and lamb to have a game of tag in the sunny back yard. And the hippo just laughed at all the fun and cheer!

Friday, April 4, 2008

soup of the week

This took a little longer to get posted than I planned, but anyway, here it is. This is loosely based on a recipe from "Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant." I don't think I ever make a recipe exactly as written, but my food mostly turns out tasty anyway. This is a great cookbook, by the way. All vegetarian, with some fish dishes, and each chapter is from a different country or ethnic region. I have a tiny problem with some of their ingredient choices (does cabbage actually grow in southern Africa?) but I know enough to substitute what I like.

Hungarian Bean Soup

1 cup dry beans (navy or kidney)
or 1 can beans

1 leek, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tbsp olive oil

salt to taste (~1/4 tsp)

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

2-3 cups vegetable stock

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tsp cider vinegar

chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Soak dry beans overnight, then cook until tender. Drain and rinse beans, but reserve 1-2 cups of the cooking liquid.

In a separate saucepan on medium heat, saute leeks and carrots in 1-2 tbsp of oil. When leeks start to brown, add garlic and spices and saute for about 30 sec to 1 min (warming the spices brings out more flavour). Add vegetable stock, bean cooking liquid, and beans (or add can of beans, liquid and all). You want a total of about 4 cups liquid, so add more veg stock if necessary. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes.

Take soup off heat, and stir in sour cream and vinegar. Check seasoning, and adjust if necessary (if you like spicy, you can add some chili flakes or sauce). Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley (if you're feeling fancy). Makes about 4 servings.

It's really quite simple, and if you can't be bothered with dry beans, I think the canned ones should be fine - you'll just need more veg stock. I added some cauliflower I had in the fridge, and you could add other vegetables if you want, although I recommend keeping it fairly simple. The flavour of the broth isn't strong, but it's very tasty. Have this with some dark rye bread, fresh from the bakery or oven.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

knitter (mis)behaviour

I should have made it possible to be in Toronto yesterday for the whole Yarn Harlot madness. As it is, I will have to be content with the photos. Set aside an hour or two, pour a hot cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy!

zipped lips

How do you like this growing batch of cuties? With these big orders of toys, I've been knitting up 2-3 over several days, then assembling them at the same time. It's so fun to have a bunch of new cuteness to cuddle at the end of the day. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment. The fuzzy yarn I used for Hannah the bunny is suri dream. I'm in love with this yarn! You need to knit it on 3.75mm needles so the stuffing doesn't show, but it's soft, silky, and fuzzy, and you can get 2 toys from one 50g ball. The colours are quite lovely too.

I have a big secret project coming up, and I'm a bit scared about the amount of work it's going to involve in such a short time. (I'm sorry I can't give you more details right now, but rest assured I will let you know what it's all about when I'm allowed) I keep telling myself that I made it through university just fine, and I work better under pressure. However, I do tend to get super grumpy, even while I feel good for working so hard. I'm complicated, I guess. What it means, though, is I might not have time to make the Fuzzy Knits kits for my Etsy shop. I might list a couple of the books, and maybe have a couple kits with just yarn, but I don't see myself having time to sew the bags.

I made some excellent soup and bread this weekend, so I will try to post about that when I get a photo, if we don't eat it all before then. It's Hungarian bean soup. Would you like me to post the recipe too?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

ballerina pattern

The ballerina pattern is now available in both my Etsy and Lulu shops. I've read through it a bunch of times, and I'm pretty sure there are no mistakes, but if you find anything please let me know asap. Both pieces are knit in the round, which should please those of you who hate seaming. I know not everyone has this skill, but there really was no other good way to knit this outfit.

It should be a good way to use up little bits of leftover sock or lace yarn. In the pattern I give the amounts as 15g for both the leotard and tutu, but in reality they probably need less than 10g each - I just wanted to be on the safe side.

I didn't include any kind of ballet shoes with the pattern, and I'm not sure how to knit removable ones. But a compromise solution is quite simple. For the legs of the toy, cast on and knit the first 5 rows in a contrasting colour (such as pink). Later, when the legs are stuffed, add a little ribbon to make the laces.

Today I'm putting together 3 more toys for my last big order this spring. A fuzzy white bunny, a panda, and a lamb. It should be a fun day :)