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Love that Lasts: Knitted Stuffed Animals

Want to knit a sheepdog?  Or an elephant, rabbit, bear, or skunk?  Go for it!  I began knitting toys decades ago, for myself as much as for special kids.  Lately I’ve been knitting toys for my grandchildren.  Knit a sweater for a toddler, and she’ll outgrow it in a season.  Knit a stuffed animal for a toddler, and she’ll have a forever friend.

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I have two rules about knitting stuffed toys.  The first:  Always use a washable yarn that’s mothproof.  You want your animal to have a good, long life.  Acrylic is best for surviving love’s energy, moths, and the dust of time. I favor Vanna’s Choice® for its durability and clear, vibrant colors.  (I also admire that Lion Brand donates a percentage of Vanna’s Choice® sales to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.)

The second rule:  Assume that the toy will not look exactly like the pattern illustration. Just as expectant parents have a vague idea of how their newborn will look, so too do knitters have a general sense of a project’s outcome.  But stuffed animals, like kids, have characters independent of the creator, and they always become distinctive selves. I promise that you’ll be delighted by the uniqueness of your knitted pet.

Recently, when I made the Knitted Farm Animals Sheep Dog, I observed my rules, and I’m completely in love with the result.  Sheep Dog is knitted in black and white Vanna’s Choice® acrylic worsted.  Even though I carefully followed the instructions, he definitely has his own look, different from the pattern photo.  Why?

Unlike many toy designs, Sheep Dog is knitted on straight needles, rather than double points. Sheep Dog has twelve flat pieces that are sewn together. That’s significant sewing, and his face is embroidered, too. (Here’s a tip:  leave six inches of yarn attached to each piece after binding off, and use it for seaming.) The extra steps required by the sewing, as opposed to the fewer steps required by knitting in the round, impact the toy’s appearance.

Yet Sheep Dog has a flexibility enabled by the joint-like connections of some seams. If you look at the photo of Sheep Dog next to Babar (a free pattern on Ravelry, also knitted in Vanna’s Choice®), you’ll see that Babar’s legs—knitted on double points and integral to his torso—don’t bend, but Sheep Dog can easily sit because his legs are hinged to his body by seams.

Since Sheep Dog’s face is embroidered—except for his nose, which is a very small knitted triangle—each knitter will impart her own sewing “signature” to his features.  That’s the main reason his individual look is guaranteed.  Gauge, and density of stuffing, will also affect Sheep Dog’s appearance.  I stuffed Sheep Dog somewhat loosely, to impart a floppy “Beanie Baby” look.  Additionally, I didn’t strictly follow the designer’s instructions for sewing Sheep Dog’s ears or tail, because I wanted him droopy.

Sheep Dog took about a weekend to knit and assemble.  If you’re the kind of knitter who likes swift results, toys are good projects.  Just be aware that you might have a hard time surrendering your knitted pets for adoption.

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  • http://yardsofhappiness.com DWJ

    This came right on time as I am knitting my first stuffed doll for my niece. I too bought acrylic because I thought about the longevity and washability of the doll. I want this to last!