Knitting Baby Stuff: Lace & Simplicity

In the madness of life with an 8-month-old baby and a often busy work life, time got away from me and I completely failed to have a knit ready for the arrival of a friend’s baby girl last week. With no time to order yarn online or get to the yarn shop, I rummaged through my stash and my pattern books and decided on making this gorgeous knit again.

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Simple cap sleeve top with button. I didn’t oversew the button band as advised in the pattern as I had a baby with a massive head and know that neck opening just ain’t big enough for some heads.

I’ve made it once before and been very pleased with it on both occasions. With a little dedication to the cause, I managed to get it finished within a few days and once it’s finished blocking, will get it off in the post on Monday.

IMG_5738Pattern: Composite by Kelly Brooker of Pekapeka Design Studio (she also wrote this pattern… another go to favourite for new arrivals.)

Source: Ravelry

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Stash scraps – Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK. I think. Lost the ball band.

Needles: 80cm 3.5mm circular and 30cm 4mm circular – from different sets so they’re easy to tell apart.

This pattern knits up surprisingly quickly and is very pretty with little lace cap sleeves. Given the size, the concentration for the lace is only required for 13 rows so it’s still a suitable in-front-of-the-telly knit, though you may want to watch something not too challenging during the lace rows. There’s a slightly tricky section where you use both the small and large needles simultaneously, which Kelly describes in the pattern as being “a bit like playing with an octopus”, but as she also points out, it only lasts a few rows so it’s manageable.

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Weighing up my chances of finishing the knit with yarn to spare.

I particularly liked that Kelly specified the weight of yarn required for the knit. This meant that by temporarily borrowing my husband’s baking scales I could work out whether I had enough yarn even though I was using pre-wound stash scraps which had been half used.

Pearls:

  • Weighing yarn is a great way to work out how much of a ball you have left and whether you’re likely to finish the project on your scraps
  • Lacework requires concentration, even when simple, so avoid watching anything too in-depth or challenging during those 13 rows!
  • The pattern calls for oversewing of the button band to join the two layers. I didn’t do this, as the button allows for the neck opening to fit over baby’s head and as the mother of a particularly large headed baby (greater than the 98th centile… no seriously, a lot greater!!) I know how frustrating a small neck opening can be.
  • This knits up quite small, but after blocking should be right to fit a baby for their first few months in this crazy world.
  • In writing this post, I’ve discovered the Pekapeka Design Studio page with a bunch of gorgeous free patterns to choose from! You can find them here!
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Crochet: But the loveliest of all was the unicorn…

As I mentioned last post, I have been learning on the go making my first crochet stuffed toy for a friend’s baby. A unicorn!

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The loveliest of all was the unicorn.

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I’m sure as an 8 year old, I never noticed the frighteningly sexual flavour to Pony’s sideways glance and perky bottomed posture. (Image from here)

This pattern is based on the My Little Pony dolls which were hideously popular in the late 1980s. As a child of Pritikin bread parents, I am now surprised that I had one, but I somehow got my hands on a glorious purple, blue and pink silky maned creature. Like many things from one’s own childhood the tackiness and awfulness (do ponies really need ridiculously long eyelashes and a coy smile?) is often lost in a sea of fond memories of a more innocent time. I’m sure as a 8 year old, I never noticed the frighteningly sexual flavour to Pony’s sideways glance and perky bottomed posture. The subtlety of this message is long gone, and the modern version of My Little Pony dolls seem to have done away with the pony aspect all together!

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The subtlety of My Little Pony’s sexuality is long gone. The modern version of a My Little Pony doll. (Image from here)

So, leaving the eyelashes off and adding some silver hooves, I embarked on the creation of a nostalgic, but hopefully not seductive, version of the beloved Pony.


Pattern: Friendship is Magic

Source: Knit One Awe Some blog (via Ravelry)

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Stash scraps. I used Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK (apricot, hot pink and light grey) and Morris & Sons Empire 8ply in yellow for the horn.

Hook: 3mm

This pattern is a single crochet version of another pattern. I made this version as the photos looked better. I have no where near enough experience with crochet to have any kind of stitch preference. In fact, I know so little about crochet, I had to look up what a single crochet stitch was as all my books start with double crochet as the simplest crochet. Turns out my books are English. This pattern is American. An American single crochet is an English double crochet, and an American double crochet is something completely different. A handy little conversion chart can be found here.

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A bamboo double-pointed knitting needle holds the head in position while I sew it on.

The benefit of the single crochet version of the pattern, I suspect, is that the weave of the finished product is tight making it good for stuffing without getting visible holes.

The style of this toy is something called amigurumi – a Japanese word which, from what I can gather, essentially means ‘cute crochet stuffed toy’. Not entirely sure one needs a specific word for that, but there you go.

The keys challenges of this pattern, besides getting the hang of crochet in general, were in the making up. It took me a while to perfect the technique for sewing pieces together neatly. Of course, if I’d looked it up, I’d have found a handy tutorial like this one and got it right from the start. I didn’t. So, the back legs are sewn on with the edges showing which irks me slightly. But not enough to try and pull them off and risk ruining the whole thing!

The back legs were hard to get into a good position and despite following the instructions in the pattern and tucking in the upper edge as described, they still splay a little too much for my liking giving the pony a slight straining forward type appearance. No risk of this Pony having a perky bottomed pose!

I made the eyes from felt. I drew eyes on paper, cut them out and then used them as stencils to cut out felt shapes. I was initially worried that sewing the felt in layers (white then blue then black) would cause a bulky lump of an eye, but I was pleasantly surprised by how flat the eye became as I sewed it. I stitched around the edge using a single strand of white wool for the white and blue pieces and then a single strand of black embroidery thread for the pupil. The little ‘sparkle’ was done with white again.

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The whites of the eyes are sewn on. My hand stitching makes it look a little ‘homemade’. But, not a major issue as it is homemade.

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The blue is sewn over the top. Doubt about pulling this off sets in and I ponder the possibility of having to remake the whole head.

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Surprisingly tolerable result.

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No risk of this pony having a perky bottomed pose.

The mane wasn’t nearly as tricky as I thought. I crocheted it all as one piece with increasing lengths as I went so it ended up short at the front and longer at the back. I’d have liked to do it thicker – as in more strands – but the limitations of using scrap stash yarn struck and I ran out of pink.

Pearls

  • Stuffing this really firmly helped it to stand up even though the legs are a bit wonky.
  • I did this in a spiral style (i.e. no single chain at the start of each round) and used a stitch maker to keep track of the start of each round
  • I found sewing pins to be too slippery when trying to put the pieces together to check positioning prior to sewing. They worked for small bits (eyes & ears) but for positioning larger sections (legs, neck, head) I used a double pointed bamboo knitting needle.

Speaking of nostalgia…

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Image from here.

While making this unicorn, I’ve had The Unicorn Song in my head. I know it from this Don Spencer LP which we had when I was growing up. I have become slightly obsessed with finding a copy of it for W.

I cannot find it.

In the same way my nostalgia lessens the tackiness of My Little Pony, I am quite convinced that the music of my childhood is no where near as stupid or irritating at the children’s music of today.

In asking friends for suggestions on children’s music that won’t make me pierce my own ear drums with hot pokers, a lot of people suggested I just let him listen to our ‘normal’ music. But, Rufus Wainwright will not teach him the different noises animals make, how to count to ten or let him know that little fishies should listen to their mothers if they don’t want to get lost at sea. Instead, we could send him off to preschool singing songs about cigarettes and chocolate milk. Not ideal.

The best modern children’s albums I’ve found so far are Laura Viers ‘Tumble Bee‘ and ‘For The Kids: Three‘. Both very very (disappointingly) American. I even find myself singing along with an American accent. Sigh.

The Unicorn Song by Irish Rovers
(Lyrics sourced here)

A long time ago, when the Earth was green
There was more kinds of animals than you’ve ever seen
They’d run around free while the Earth was being born
And the loveliest of all was the unicorn

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn

The Lord seen some sinning and it gave Him pain
And He says, “Stand back, I’m going to make it rain”
He says, “Hey Noah, I’ll tell you what to do
Build me a floating zoo,
and take some of those…

Green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
Don’t you forget my unicorns

Old Noah was there to answer the call
He finished up making the ark just as the rain started to fall
He marched the animals two by two
And he called out as they came through
Hey Lord,

I’ve got green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but Lord, I’m so forlorn
I just can’t find no unicorns”

And Noah looked out through the driving rain
Them unicorns were hiding, playing silly games
Kicking and splashing while the rain was falling
Oh, them silly unicorns

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Noah cried, “Close the door because the rain is falling
And we just can’t wait for no unicorns”

The ark started moving, it drifted with the tide
The unicorns looked up from the rocks and they cried
And the waters came down and sort of floated them away
That’s why you never see unicorns to this very day

You’ll see green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
You’re never gonna see no unicorns