Monday, 10 September 2012

Giraffe Spots and Stripes

Hi there

I have had my first commission. Remember when I made the elephant? the person I made it for requested a matching giraffe. I didn't even know you could knit a giraffe, I'd completely forgotten what a giraffe even looked like, but I like a challenge and I didn't have to look very far. The pattern for the elephant was designed by Laura Long, so I had an inkling she would have designed a giraffe pattern too. So I googled 'knitted giraffe' and lo and behold there he was, Gerry the giraffe from  'Knitted Toy Travels: Knitting Projects from across the Globe' by Laura Long.

Now before I go onto the pattern and the make, I do have to take a moment to say that the book is absolutely lovely. It has little rhymes which go with each picture and a map showing you where each animal is from, which is useful for me as my weakest point is geography. I am aware I'm a little gushy here so I'll move on but I really do recommend the book.

The pattern was a little bit of a challenge, now first of all I do think I have the used the wrong wool, it isn't made with a double knit. (I have only just discovered that 'DK' in patterns means a type of wool, Double Knit which is good for toys because it is very strong). I used a lemon that I bought a lot of last year and never used which was labelled as 'Toy Wool' so could be a kind of DK wool, and and a gingery orange wool from John Lewis which is quite a sturdy harder wool than the lemon. What it meant was that there was some pulling on the spots and he is a very floppy giraffe, he can't stand at all like the one in the book, but he sits very well as you can see. The part that challenged me was picking up the stitches, once you've made the head you then pick up the stitches across the middle of the head. I was very nervous doing this so I watched a video on youtube on how to pick up stitches. You literally slide your needles under the loops and gather them on your needle so it looks like they have been cast on. This is the only simple way I can describe it to you and understand it myself. But because of my nervousness I picked up the stitches further back than originally designed, so he has a big head. But he is cute with his big awkward head.

This is the body as a basic, and yes it looks like a dinosaur. The best bit for me though was the spots. I decided a couple of  weeks ago to try 'Intarsia' in making a knitted picture, which was supposed to look like an embroidered sampler, where you follow a chart and mix the colours as you go. The picture was ok and interesting in the end, (it hasn't made it on here!) and I taught myself how to follow a chart diagram and how to swap the colours of wool. The giraffe has a chart using two yarns you swap the different colours for a certain number of stitches each time and it makes the rather attractive spotted effect which was lovely to do and made a great pattern, like an actual giraffe skin.
I am always surprised when the patterns I start actually end up looking like the thing they were supposed to. It seems like a fluke to me. You also had to pick up stitches to make the flat back and the sides of the body which you can see here is a little messy on the seam, but the next one will get better and it adds character I always think.

Here you can see the four stripy sausage legs, which I stuffed really full to make the little fat legs. I came into difficulties trying to attach the little fat legs securely to its body. So on some of the tops of the legs you can see the pulling, but it worked in the end just to go over the stitches a few times. You then make the 'accessories' like the tail which is a tube stuffed and a tassle on the end, and the ears and horns. The hair was fun. I cut a long strip of cardboard and wrapped the wool round a little bit like how you make a pom-pom which I really enjoy making. You cut the ends to make the shaggy effect and stitch almost a  seam down the side to the body. I mixed the two colurs together which made a nice effect.

Below are two of Laura Long's designs, both are going to live happily ever after in the jungle themed nursey they were made for. I do think there will come a time where I will start making more 'grown up'  and serious projects. but why do that when you can knit a giraffe? or a reindeer? or a hippopotamus? or a meer cat? or even a dinosaur??

Lots of Love
Bomo Knitting

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Pretty in Pink

Hi There.

Last week I set myself a challenge. I had three days to make my 4 year old cousin a present. We were going down South for a visit and I didn't want to do the generic Toys'R'Us run for her. When I got married she was the flower girl at my wedding and I made her a little knitted bride for her gift, which she loved, so I knew knitted and pretty was the way to go with this present. So I went through the wool I had which is starting to become quite a large collection, and decided to use a pattern I had fallen out with for a while and improve it slightly for my own end. I used 4.5 mm needles and size 4mm acrylic and baby wool.

I made her a pretty pink ballerina bear. Using a basic acrylic white wool and a baby soft bright pink hand dyed wool. The pink wool was beautiful to use as it has been hand dyed so you get a variety of different effects and patterns in pink and white. The pattern I used was as I said one that I had fallen out with earlier in the year. It is from the book '20 Tiny Knitted Bears to Make' by Val Pierce. Which is a relatively cheap book I bought a while ago as it is definitely for beginners. This is the basic bear on the right. It is very simple. Just a triangular shape for the head which is then stitched to create the ears. and then the body is made from 2 pieces sewn together. To make the legs you stitch half of the row, cast off two to create a gap and then turn the stitches so they're still on your needles, so then you can knit one leg, and go back later to stitch the other. Just trying not to lose count on rows. For this bear I used Stocking stitch, as I have made a few toys in stocking and I do think it looks much neater and more professional. The pattern asks you to do the whole bear in garter which I did for the first two bears, and is partly why I fell out with the pattern it just doesn't look nice to me.

After the bear is made you have to dress it to give it some character, otherwise its just a naked white bear. I chose ballerina bear and using the baby wool in its ever changing pattern made the dress. This dress was a lot harder than I thought to make. You make two sides of the top which is just a basic shape which you increase and decrease to get a shape and then divide in the middle again to create straps. The skirt was also tricky it's made in 2 pieces and is quite a lot of stitches on a row, for this ballerina bear it asked you to make the skirt so it's 5 cm long, as it's also stocking stitch it curls up at the end which makes a lovely frill. I finished the dress off with a plaited belt and a little silk flower from my odds and ends box. The necklace was also some more string pearls from my wedding cake, like in earlier posts I have a lot of string pearls.

I then made little bootees which you stuff the end to make little feet, the boots took literally 10 minutes to make as they are so small. And to finish off the bear I gave it a little bow for one ear just to drum home that it was a girl. this was made by knitting a small rectangle and wrapping some yarn around the middle. This will be a good thing to make in future in larger dimensions as decoration for hats or headbands. But that's in the future.  I spent quite a while on the face, As I have learnt from making a lot of children's toys its the face that gives all the character to the creature and for this I used size 2 black arran wool, and using it like embroidery stitching a shape and filling it in for the eyes and nose, and then using it to make a mouth. I was very happy in the end with the bear, and its final pretty pink self. It literally took me 3 evenings and one afternoon to make and my little cousin loved it very much. She was named Amy.

As I said I have made this pattern before, but i followed the pattern to the letter. And I used another alternative coloured hand dyed wool which gives you a multi-colour effect. This bear however is full of flaws so I don't want to give him to anyone, but I have grown  attached the the small misshaped peculiar looking bear with it's wonky face, and it is now mine. I rarely keep my own knitting but this is  an exception, he's called a very imaginative 'Ted'.

For this bear I put bells inside so he jingles when cuddled, but as you can see he is very primitive with his garter stitched self. I made him a little jumper also from the book. He was made on 4mm needles so is much smaller than the pink ballerina bear, and when you see projects you made very early on in your knitting quest and what you can make now, you can really see how far you have come. But he is cute isn't he?

Lots of Love

Bomo Knitting XX