Le Cirque

I’ve just completed Nicky Epstein‘s Le Cirque Baby Afghan. I made some modifications and it’s going to be a baby playmat. Epstein has a well-deserved reputation for designing wow-factor stuff. This pattern is included in her newest book, “Knitting in Circles: 100 Circular Patterns for Sweaters, Bags, Hats, Afghans and More.” I first borrowed the book from the library and was so taken with Le Cirque that I decided to buy the book.

You start out knitting circles that Epstein calls orbits. Easy short row stuff, in an interesting textured stitch. This is Martha Stewart’s Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend yarn, by Lion Brand. The yarn feels wonderfully soft. It’s 65% acrylic, 35% wool, so it should be easy care. It’s toss in the washer and then toss in the dryer. The color palette is mostly subdued tones, but that was perfect for what I wanted to do with this project. The yarn has lots of great qualities and only two not so great. For Lion Brand, it’s kind of expensive. And every skein had some “internal” knots where the yarn had been joined with a few teensy tufts left sticking out. I decided I could tolerate that. They simply melted into the project.

These are the larger-sized orbits:

Big_orbits

You knit 5 of the bigger size and 4 of the little ones.

All_orbits

Then you knit some figures, also basically building on circles. Here’s the elephant:

Full_elephant

And here’s my lion, with a modified mane of my own design:

Full_lion

Instead of the loopy mane Epstein designed, what I did was cast on stitches and knit one row. Then I cast on a bunch of stitches (somewhere between 6 and 11). Next, bind off those newly cast on stitches, knitting the last cast on stitch together with one of the “old” stitches. Then put that stitch back on the left needle. Cast on stitches again, bind off…repeat across the entire row. I knit several strips and sewed them in place.

Here’s clown girl:

Full_clowngirl

And her friend clown boy:

Full_clownboy

Assembly was a bit of a bear. Instead of just sewing the orbits in place, I joined them with a 3-needle bind off technique. I picked up stitches on each surface to be joined and then used the third needle to bind off. I bound off holding the wrong sides facing each other, so that the ridge that formed is on the public side of the work.

blankie_assembling

Notice the pinwheel in the center? That is exactly how it’s supposed to work out. I goofed in one way, though. I departed from Epstein’s instructions for exactly how the colors should be spaced. I didn’t think one set of my colors looked good placed next to each other, so I changed the placement of colors in two orbits. Then, when I assembled them, I found that some of my colors (check out the pink in the top left and top center orbits) were lining up next to each other. That’s not best, so if you knit Le Cirque, keep your “A” through “I” colors spaced just as Epstein instructs–unless you’re better at jigsaw puzzles than I am. Once the rest of the assembly was complete, that goof doesn’t really leap out.

Here’s the elephant in place in the playmat:circus_elephant

Here’s the lion:

circus_lion

And the two clowns:

circus_clowngirl

circus_clownboy

Here’s one half:

circu_half

And the other half:

circus_half2

Here’s the full view:

circus2

My other modifications were to stuff the lion and the elephant. I also knit backs to all four of the figures. The back patches hold the stuffing in place. All the threads fastening the small pieces are covered so that no small fingers can work them loose.

And I knitted an I-cord border rather than the crochet edge Epstein suggests. That’s my choice only because my crocheting skills are almost nonexistent.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out.

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