Friday, January 31, 2014

Featured pattern: Mama and Baby Bunny

I've decided to try something new this year. I have so many patterns now that some tend to get overlooked, so I’d like to feature a different pattern each month. Since I missed January, there will be two patterns featured for February. This post will be about the Mama and Baby Bunny pattern (Ravelry, Etsy), and I'll write about the other featured pattern (the Flat Foot Floogies) on Feb. 2.

As an extra bonus, the featured patterns will be 50% off during the month they are featured!

I designed the Mama and Baby Bunny pattens to be part of my Festive Knits collection back in 2008. I was pregnant with my first child that year, and I'm pretty sure that influenced my choice! Right from the beginning, a bunny toy was one of my most popular designs (and still is today). While I love the size of my regular toys, I also liked the big, squishy teddy I made from chunky yarn, and wanted to make a rabbit in the same style. Because it's knit from thick yarn on big needles, the toy works up very quickly. However, with the big feet and ears, 100 g of yarn isn't quite enough, so I designed the toy to be made from two colours. It can be fun to play with different colour combinations, or you can knit it in natural colours like mine.

I tried out a few different outfit options for the Mama Bunny, but in the end decided to go with a very simple apron, so the toy would still be quick to make. Also, aprons don't get in the way of bunny tails! You can knit the apron with a plain colour, or use variegated or striping yarn for a more colourful apron. It can be finished with some pretty ribbon, or I-cord ties. You could even try making it fancier by adding a bit of embroidery. However, if you want different outfits for your Mama Bunny, you can try the anorak from the Pug, or the overalls from the Big Teddy. As well, any of my clothing patterns which call for fingering weight yarn can be scaled up to fit. Knit them with worsted weight yarn on 4.5 mm needles, adding a few rows for some extra length, if necessary. You can see an example with this toy, which is wearing a modified pinafore dress from my Well-Dressed Bunny pattern (photo used with permission).

Once I had designed a Mama Bunny, of course I had to make a Baby Bunny for her! I did this by scaling down my other bunny pattern, using lighter yarn, and making a few adjustments to the shaping of the toy pieces. The finished Baby Bunny will fit in your hand! A slightly fuzzy yarn is a good choice for this toy, and use 10 mm safety eyes to make it extra cute. The nappy/diaper is simple to knit, and a couple of small safety pins are a sweet detail (I found these as scrap-booking supplies). The Festive Knits book also includes a pattern for a very simple blanket, made with yarn scraps. Since this isn't included in the individual pattern, I will post a free pattern later in the month for a similar scrappy baby blanket.

If there is anything more you would like to know about the pattern, please let me know and I will add my answers to the bottom of the post. I will also be posting some examples of the pattern in another post, so look forward to that!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

plans for extra pattern help

Now that my boys are a little older, and in preschool, it's amazing to have so much time for designing cute toys for all of you. However, there are still a lot of other demands on my time, and I don't see any volunteers for doing my laundry and cleaning my house! I also like to make time to take care of myself, whether it's going to a yoga class, spending a bit of time reading or sewing, or visiting with friends. All that is to say, it's been very difficult to fit in some other projects that have been nagging at me for a few years now.

One of them is this blog. While I've never considered myself a writer, I wanted a blog so I could share ideas, thoughts, tips, and stories with interested customers. For a while now, I've wanted to make more tutorials, especially video ones. I'm a very hands-on learner, and it's always been a struggle for me to write out pattern instructions for something that is so very tactile as making a toy. If I'm showing someone how to do something, chances are good I will take it out of their hands to do it myself as I explain, because I think more clearly when my hands are working. However, I don't know anyone who can help me with making videos (even if it's just to stand behind the camera), and I just can't seem to find enough hours together to figure out how to do it all myself. It's very frustrating. I want to help you more, but first I need to figure out how to help myself!

(The blog also needs a major redesign. That may actually be something I can accomplish this year)

The other main thing I've wanted to do is to provide more information on how to make my toys. The tutorials I talked about above would be part of that. I've also had many requests for more detailed patterns - more photos, more exact instructions about placement of body parts, more details on how to attach things, weave in ends, all kinds of stuff.* Just thinking about trying to put all that into the 50+ patterns I've written over the past 7 years makes me want to go back to bed and stay there. For a long time. However, it might be possible to come up with something more like an FAQ sheet, with some generic photos or illustrations of the things I'm asked about most often. It would also include a list of links to all my tutorials with a brief summary of each, and links to photo sets of the most popular patterns.

Once I have this FAQ sheet done, it would be included as an extra download with all my patterns on Ravelry. And I'll find somewhere to put a free download link for everyone else.

As I'm sure you can see, this would all take a lot of time, even if I don't manage to make the video tutorials. I can give you no estimate on when I might get it done. I just wanted you to know I'm listening, and thinking about what you've asked for, and trying my best to make it happen.

*As I've written many times before, I love how my patterns allow some people to express their own creativity, but there are just as many people who want to make it just as they see it. I feel like it's time to help them out.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

learning new things

I'm working away at a new design, the one which will include a bit of fabric and hand-sewing. Part of the pattern is based on some small toys I made for my friends as gifts. The knitting part of that is going well, since I had already made several. I just needed to work out a few different variations, to make the pattern more interesting. The other part of the pattern is a new idea, related to the first part by being done in the same yarns and variations (this will make way more sense when I have some photos to share). It's proving to be more of a challenge!

Often, when I'm working on a design that is similar to toys I've made before, everything comes together quickly and easily. At worst, I might have to try a few variations of the head and ears, to make sure the shaping (and/or intarsia) are just right. But when it's something really new, it doesn't always come out right the first time, or even the fifth! I try out different sizes, change the dimensions slightly, move around the increases and decreases. I'll may try out short-row shaping, or binding-off and casting-on new stitches. Occasionally, I'll try a different construction, as it may work better in 2 or more pieces. Sometimes, all these attempts to get the design just right end up making it too complicated, and I worry that knitters will decide not to bother with it. So I stick to some simpler, but less perfect version, telling myself, "It's good enough." And I move on, knowing that most knitters will be happy with the outcome, even if I will keep picking at it on my own.

An example of a design in progress. 
The one on the right ended up being cut from the final pattern.

When I design something that I'm not 100% happy with, it always leaves me feeling like I want to learn more. Maybe if I knew a different stitch or technique, or had a better knowledge of how to shape a knitted fabric, I could design something just how I imagine it. Sadly, I can't often find the time to learn new skills, with so many important tasks filling up my days. When I can, I pick my personal knitting projects specifically to learn something new. But I don't always know exactly what it is I don't know!

Do you enjoy learning new skills and techniques, or do you prefer to stick to what you know and are good at? How do you prefer to learn new skills?

Friday, January 10, 2014

poll for potential new design

I have an idea for a new pattern, and I'd like to try something a little different. Anyone who has been reading here for a while knows that I also love sewing. In fact, I was sewing toys many years before I even learned how to knit! I would like to design a little toy that would also incorporate a bit of fabric, and some very basic hand-sewing. But before I get too excited about it, I want to make sure it's something you'd be interested in. I would likely also include a variation that wouldn't need the fabric and sewing, so don't worry if you've never sewn anything. Anyway, I'd appreciate your input, if you care to comment or vote in the poll on the sidebar (it will be open until Jan 17).

If I do end up going ahead with the design, I'll try to post progress reports (mostly in case I need a bit of help figuring out how best to write sewing instructions!)