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

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Quiet Please. Knitting in Progress.

In a flurry of creative energy, I have somehow broken my ‘one project at a time’ rule several times over and am working on at least three projects simultaneously. That’s ignoring the unfinished friend for Lars and the still sleeveless newborn cardigan which are stuffed somewhere at the bottom of my ‘current projects’ box.

Having completed none of them, I thought I’d instead give an update on my current works in progress.

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Random scrappy yarn stash, I will defeat thee.

Bits & Bobs Chevron Blanket

Inspired by my ball winding festival over the holidays, I am revisiting my nemesis knit using all the scraps in my yarn stash. It’s currently a rather odd, slightly scratchy looking thing, but I’m hopefully that with time it will grow to become a lovely cosy piece of home. The main challenge here is that my yarn stash is not all one gauge, or material, or texture. So far this hasn’t caused any great issues tension wise, but I may need to avoid using my super chunky scraps.

I’m such a sucker for the excitement of starting something new when it comes to knitting. Hence, three projects on the go. This yarn stash knit provides that newness over and over. I find myself looking forward to the end of the ball so I can chose a new yarn for the next section and get that new knit feeling all over again. I’ve no idea what drives this, but it keeps me knitting!

Dressing Gown

Suspecting it might take me a while to get to the end, I chose a size with plenty of leeway for my next project for W. I’m knitting up this beautiful Debbie Bliss dressing gown in a 24 month old size. It looks like it might fit him at some stage before he starts kindergarten. It’s huge! A simple knit with a slightly confusing pattern at times, I love the repetition and ease of a large stocking stitch project now and again. I am watching Law & Order episodes as the rows stack up and loving it.

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Rows and rows of stocking stitch are good for the soul.

I think I’ve spent so much of my knitting life knitting from Sublime patterns, that some of Debbie’s lingo initially confused me.

For example:

“Cont in st st, dec one st as set at each end of 4(5:6:6) foll 6th rows”

To me this was initially baffling. Six following sixth rows? What on earth does that mean?

Now reading it again, it seems reasonably obvious, but I think I would have expected it to say:

“Cont in st st for 24(30:36:36) rows, dec one st as set at each end of every 6th row”

I was also slightly perplexed by an instruction to continue on stitches of left front “until collar reaches centre back of neck” with no instructions as to the need to take the panel I was knitting and line it up the previously knitted back piece. Again, this seems slightly obvious now I’m writing it out. I blame baby-related sleep deprivation. A quick question to a fellow Raveler got me sorted out pretty quickly though.

The Loveliest of All Was The Unicorn

When I found out I was pregnant with W, I joined a little group of pregnant ladies all ‘Due In July’ on a forum via the Essential Baby website. To cut a rather long story short, it was simply the best thing I ever did and I now have about 40 fabulous friends from all over Australia with babies the same age as W. We chat (via Facebook these days) every day and share the joys, challenges and occasional outright hideousness of early motherhood. It’s delightful.

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One unicorn head.

So, anyway, one such friend was bemoaning the slightly steep price of a particularly gorgeous crocheted unicorn she was coveting on behalf of her daughter.

“Crocheted unicorn?”, said I, “I reckon I might be able to do that!”.

Despite having crocheted nothing more complicated than an owl hat (the success of which was somewhat dubious) previously, I have embarked on a quest to make something a little like this.

So far, I have a head, nose, neck, body, one front leg, one back leg, two ears and a horn. Two more legs, possibly some wings (slightly scared of that part) and some felt eyes to go. So far, so good.

Knitting: A Foray into Fair Isle

I’ve never done fair isle before. I have been terrified. Probably of discovering that I’m crap at it. I suspected I’d be crap at it. That I’d end up with some puckered and tangled mess. But, it turns out, I can do it! Albeit on a rather small scale at this point. The instructions for this project included the tip of carrying one colour on top and the other underneath and I was very impressed by how neat and tidy my wrong side looked! (Of course, I completely forgot to take a photo of it for you.)

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As well as being my first foray into fair isle, this is also the first toy I’ve made! Not sure it’s quite up to standard for tolerating the rough play of a 4-month-old (though I did sew the eyes with embroidery thread rather than using beads to keep it choke hazard free), I’m hoping that W will eventually have fun with his new mate, Lars. Might need to wait until he’s past the whole everything-must-go-in-my-mouth phase. Suspect Lars’s stuffing may get fairly feral if sucked on.

I blocked rather than steamed the clothing pieces as I made them and my snowballs required a bit of trial and error to get a good shape, but otherwise this was a well written pattern and I’m pretty chuffed with my results.

Pattern: Winter Mice (Lars)

Source: Mary Jane’s Tea Room (via Etsy)

Price: $5.52 (to be quite precise)

Yarn: I used Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK in Waterlily (005), Nutkin (275), Skipper (276) and Teddy Red (192) and scraps of some hideous pale pink nylon crap I had in my stash.

Needle: 2.75mm & 3mm straight needles

Now to make Lars a friend…