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.