The magnificent and the valiant

This is designer Annie Watts’s Sputnik the Magnificent, a “floppy huggable” cat. Pleasantly floppy. Huggable for sure. And endearingly cartoonish.

I knit my Sputnik in a light fingering weight (Purl Soho Line Weight) left over from my Library Blanket. This character’s colorwork is obviously what convinced me to break my (new) rule about not knitting critters that turn into sewing projects. The sewing was all easy stuff though. The head and body is all one piece knit in the round. The ears and limbs are also knit in the round so it’s just a matter of sewing the end of the “tubes” to the body. The pattern is spot-on correct and clear.

Sputnik even looks magnificent from behind. To create a pelt that won’t show the stuffing, I knit Sputnik on US size 1 needles.

Sputnik definitely needed a companion. Strelka the Valiant fit the bill. Watts writes that Strelka “may be small but he’s brave and scrappy.” Brave and scrappy helps Sputnik feel more confident. In fact, the two have become constant companions.

Strelka is also knit in Purl Soho Line Weight. The construction is exactly the same as Sputnik’s. Strelka is just a bit thicker through the body and shorter.

The back sides of these critters are totally well thought out and totally cute.

You probably want to see them together.

Ta da!

More hats

All together now, you non-toy knitters: “Hurrah, I thought she’d never go back to not-toys.” Actually, I’m still knitting toys like crazy but I thought I’d give you some relief from the onslaught of cute.

This is Wooly Wormhead’s Kikanna. Great hat with a bit of a bonus. It’s free on Wormhead’s (or should I say Wooly’s) website. I knit my Kikanna in Schachenmayr Merino Extrafine 120. Ignore that “extrafine” because, though it is of extrafine quality, it’s actually a DK weight.

That wonderful swirly crown is seriously perfect.

Based on notes from others who’ve knit this hat, most prefer greater depth before the crown decreases start. I knit my large size to 6 inches (instead of 5.25 inches) from the cast-on before starting the crown decreases. That worked well.

The “yarn over, knit 2 together” stitch pattern in the body of the hat is devilishly difficult to fix if you make a mistake. It’s super easy to work and very rhythmic. You get to thinking you don’t need to pay attention. Um. Pay attention anyway. That’s my sense of it. The result of a bit of concentration is one beautiful hat.

Next up is Anne Mizoguchi’s Ravelry: Herringbone Hat, in defunct Classic Elite’s Arietta. This DK weight freebie is an easy fun knit with lots of bang for not much effort. Totally easy colorwork with a well-behaved attractive crown.

There’s a minor error in the pattern on the length of the herringbone section supposedly being measured from the cast-on edge. The designer must have meant us to measure that length from the end of the ribbing section. I worked 2 inches of ribbing, followed by 7 herringbone pattern repeats. Following the length directions as written and you end up with a good hat for a big shallow-headed toadstool.

Next: I’ve loved Erica Heusser’s fingering weight Passerine Hat from the moment I spotted it on Ravelry. I was an early purchaser of the pattern. But once I spotted the projects appearing–and there now are more than 1200 project pages–I spotted the challenge of this hat and was discouraged from knitting it. Do you see it immediately?

To me, the birds and the background need to be high-contrast to work well. But those long floats are going to “want” to creep through the fabric and make a mess of it. My Passerine is a nice try but, I think, it’s finally an unsuccessful hat.

Some on Ravelry report success using ladder back jacquard technique to solve the issue created by long floats “caught” on the inside of the hat. Alexis Winslow, among many others, have excellent video tutorials on the technique. Let’s just say that I saw the problem before I began knitting. I watched videos clearly explaining a possible solution. But I was too chicken to try it. Old dog just wasn’t in the mood for learning a new trick. Blocking the hat helped some with hiding the float “catches.” But not much.

Very nice crown though!

The next hat is Thermal Hat. It’s Green Mountain Spinnery’s Kate Salomon’s light fingering weight creation. It’s such a simple creature. And I absolutely love it! I’ve worn the living daylights out of it this winter. What on earth are “living daylights” anyway? “Daylights” are eyes! Wikipedia says the earliest recorded use of the term in a threatening way is in Henry Fielding’s 1752 novel “Amelia.” One character says he’s ready to thrash a woman whose words offended him and says if she says it again he’ll “darken her daylights.”

Back to the hat. I knit mine in Fiber Isle-Buff in their lavender colorway. I purchased the yarn at a deeply discounted price back in 2014. How time passes! I didn’t realize it was light fingering weight and I had some difficulty figuring out what to knit with it. Plus my delay in using it was encouraged by the fact that it was (initially) one of those yarns so expensive you might want a loan to purchase it. My skein said it was “25% minimum bison/cashmere” and “made once a month from fibers left over from our blends. Never the same twice but always nice.” Not sure what “bison/cashmere” is but it’s super-soft. 40 grams of yarn, 175 yards, and I had myself a very special hat.

If you decide to knit this be alert for one bit of pattern-writing that I initially misread. At round 3 of the crown decreases (and round 7 too) the designer uses parentheses and one asterisk to denote what is to be repeated. Round 3 directions start out with a “K4” (and round 7 with a “K3”). You do that once at the start of the round and then repeat only what’s in the parenthesis. With that, the crown decreases work out perfectly, keeping the slipped stitches nicely stacked.

So tidy. So pretty.


I’ve been on a major knitted toys kick lately. Seriously. I’m in the process of setting up a new knitting room for myself. And I’ve decided to indulge my inner child. My new room is going to have gobs (that’s a knitting term of art) gobs of knitted toys lolling about. Over the years, I’ve knit more toys than I can count. Lots of children have loved receiving them. But the current crop I’m knitting for me. It’s turning out to be great selfish fun.

So, meet Teddy Bear Vera. She’s another Annita Wilschut’s design. Such a cutie! At the risk of repeating myself–such a silly expression (apparently I want to repeat myself and what’s the risk)–one of the great things about Wilschut’s toys is that when you finish knitting there’s no sewing up. Well, except to close up the end bits that you stuff through. Seriously wonderful.

I knit this Vera in Adriafil’s Knitcol in the Fall Jacquard colorway. It’s a DK weight. I was planning on knitting Vera a hat or jacket, but this yarn worked out so well that I didn’t want to cover it up. She’s pre-dressed in an all-over jumpsuit.

I’d no sooner knit one Vera when I decided to cast on for another. Maybe there’s no greater compliment a knitter can extend to a pattern.

I knit my next Vera in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted. The larger safety eyes I used give Vera a possibly over-concentrated stare. But one fun part of knitting toys is that even some of the goofs end up creating endearing qualities.

My second Vera merited a raincoat. It’s also a Wilschut pattern. Again I used Lamb’s Pride Worsted.

When I completed my second Vera, I decided the dark blue was a tad more somber than I wanted. So I chose the most outrageous color I had in my Lamb’s Pride stash for her jacket.

Brace yourself for more knitted toys in upcoming posts. I’m having a blast knitting them!

Spring bunnies

Happy Spring (it’s just starting here in Michigan), Easter, Passover, and every other event of family and renewal. All good.

My pair of Karel (twins) by Annita Wilschut made me smile as soon as I saw their limbs taking shape on my needles. It was still bone-chilingly cold, with fierce winds, when I started this pair. And now it’s nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun is shining. It was snowing yesterday, but I don’t want to dwell on that. Today we removed the snow-stakes. We took the insulators out of the crawl space vents. We swept up the feisty red squirrel dinner droppings on the decks. He (or she) of the cast-iron stomach brigade has been chewing on red and white PINE CONES all winter long under the protective shelter of our deck table. If you’ve ever dealt with a red squirrel, you know you just have to let them go where they will.

Anyway, back to the Karel twins, knitting them just generally put me in a hopeful and happy mood. I knit my pair’s skins in Schoeller + Stahl Zimba Fix Mexiko. Their ears, tails and overalls are knit in Schachenemayr Merino Extrafine. Both of these yarns are DK weights.

I think maybe their cute round bunny tails might be their most endearing feature.

I am a huge fan of Wilschut’s toy patterns. All the pieces are worked onto one another as you knit. ZERO sewing up of pieces once the knitting is complete. I’ve grown weary of toy patterns that leave you with a giant pile of pieces to sew together. Those often turn out super cute. But the sewing can be a challenge.

Here’s one more of Wilschut’s bunny patterns that I recently completed. It’s the long-legged long-eared Bunny Named Quwi.

Another totally fun knit. I knit my Quwi in Ella Rae’s DK Cozy Soft Prints. OK. It’s a tad garish. But Quwi don’t care. Actually, neither do I. I wouldn’t want a sweater knit in this yarn, but it’s really great bunny yarn.

Brace yourself Quwi. She begged me not to show her to you in a pre-stuffed state. I explained that knitters might get a kick out of seeing how she looked when she was just skin with no fluff stuff inside. I believe she thinks knitters must be a rather perverse bunch. (Hopefully though, she won’t see this post because “hell hath no fury like…”) So here’s Quwi hot off the needles.

Wilschut’s patterns are easy for English speakers to follow. Just carefully read the abbreviation key to learn her idiosyncrasies. Her patterns are amazing! Check them out on Ravelry.

Knitting purses

This is Gail Lambert’s “She Sells Seashells Bag.” I’ve had the pattern in my paper pattern stash almost since when it was first published in 1997. I’d link to the pattern on Ravelry, where it’s not downloadable, except that there’s only a pattern photo and one project shown there. And this Rav orphan’s pattern photo is, well, yours truly’s. Oh heck. Here’s the link.

Of course the purse’s name is a play on the old childish tongue twister: “Sally sells seashells by the seashore.” While researching how long those six words have been twisting tongues I discovered that “it is often said” (and it’s wrong) that the British songwriter Terry Sullivan first wrote the words in a song he dedicated to the British paleontologist Mary Anning. Wrong in a few different ways.

Anning was an early nineteenth century paleontologist whose work was highly underrated. I suppose her reputation might not have been much enhanced by being one of the discoverers of coprolite. Coprolite is fossilized animal poop. Anyway, it’s not at all clear that Sullivan had Anning in mind when he wrote his song. Plus he definitely didn’t think up the tongue twister. This great Library of Congress article by Stephen Winick traces the twister and recounts several versions of it that pre-date Sullivan’s song. But I digress.

Digressing a bit more, here’s a copy (in the public domain) of a portrait of Anning pointing at what appears to be an ammonite fossil, definitely not coprolite. Although, possibly, Anning is pointing at her similarly shaped sleeping pup.

You have been tolerant. Back to knitting.

The Seashells purse is knit in doubled worsted weight cotton. Now that I think about it that’s possibly why I took so long to knit the pattern. Apparently one evening I wanted some hand-strengthening exercises. It’s knit flat, from the top down. Each side of the purse is knit separately using slipped stitches and short rows to form the bottom section of the shell. And the I-cord is knit separately and sewn on. I used Knit Picks Dishie. It was a fun, though painful, knit. And my granddaughter liked it. She’d asked if I could knit her a purse.

I sometimes try not to put all my grandkids’ knit eggs in one basket. So I knit Evelyn a second purse around the same time.

This is Susan Dittrich’s Flapper Purse. It’s a freebie downloadable via Ravelry. This cutie was totally fun to knit. Possibly except for a little more than nine feet of 4-stitch I-Cord. One of those mechanical I-Cord makers would have come in handy. But heck, I like knitting even when it’s a tad boring. You knit 3 lengths of I-cord and then braid them together. It worked well as a purse strap. I used Plymouth Encore and knit at a tight gauge on US size 5 needles.

Once the knitting is complete, you learn that Dittrich is definitely correct that the purse needs a sewn-in lining to stabilize it. So check this out:

Lordy. A lining. This horribly sewing impaired knitter sewed a lining. Um. No. My good knit buddy Marty, informed of my plight, sewed me a selection of pouches–for this project and a few others. I am carefully guarding those others because someday I’ll use them all. The floral print Marty selected was perfect for Evelyn’s sunny yellow purse. I managed to sew the pouch in place. And I even found a great vintage button.