Guest blogger Sara Lai from Girl With A Duck Jumper lets us know her favourite things about knitting toys!
When I was young, I was never seen without a soft toy. As far as I can remember, there had always been a teddy bear on my bed. Unlike most children, who get bored with teddies after a certain age, my enthusiasm and love for them only grew.
Living in south-east Asia meant that I was always exposed to ‘kawaii culture’ from Japan which was a huge influence on me. Part of my love of knitting toys has to do with the fact that I love animals; Sanrio and San-X are two famous Japanese character companies who created animal characters such as Rillakuma, Purin and of course, Hello Kitty. It was the cute faces which attracted me to soft toys!
Some of my old toy books
My mum is a crafty person, and she had bought a few toy felt and pompom books for me to make. I have always loved the eccentricity of Japanese toys; there was always a way to make a lovable character from a random object like vegetables, cooking utensils, and even teapots!
Back then, Japanese books focused more on fabric, felt and pompom toys, but now we see lots more amigurumi books – but for some reason not as many knitted toy books as found in Britain!
Toys are essentially little fictional characters you can bring to life. I have always been amazed at how you can create an animal by just knitting a few shapes and putting them together. They make excellent gifts for children and adults, and help improve your knitting tension quickly without losing your focus as you are always knitting something different.
As I researched more and more, I found patterns from designers such as Jean Greenhowe and Val Pierce extremely interesting to knit! Then comes the challenge of putting the pieces together like a puzzle. I love the gratification you get when you start stitching one knitted piece to another until something magically forms!
Toy knitting is also a great way to experiment with different yarns, creating new textures and personalities for each character. Although most of my Japanese toy books are based on amigurumi crochet, I always look to them for inspiration for colours, shape design and especially how the face is constructed, which I think is the most important way to give it character. No two knitted toys ever look the same! Looking through completed toy projects on Ravelry is a fascinating insight into the many different variations: small, ginormous, made from tweed, cotton, with tiny eyes, or large glass bead eyes, knitted in baby pink or psychedellic blue!
With knitted toys there are so many endless possibilities, and no set rules to what you can make. You’d be surprised, but both children and adults are always excited to receive them! Give a man a teddy and he will gladly cuddle it.
And look out, because I’m hoping to start designing a toy of my own within the next year…
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