The Mouse pattern is finally finished and is available in the Natty Knits Etsy shop and on Ravelry. It will soon be part of the Knit Picks Independent Designers Program.
Here are some hints and tips to help you get the best from your pattern.
A Note on Gauge
When I knit toys I always use needles that are one or two sizes smaller than recommended for the yarn. You don’t have to get the gauge exactly right, but you can check it by holding your garter stitch fabric up to the light. If the gauge is tight enough you should only see pinpricks of light through your knitting.
I used Knit Picks Stroll sock yarn for the mice in the photos, Stroll is washable and comes in lots of colors so it’s ideal for toy making. I also think the Mouse looks great knitted in yarns with a higher pure wool content. Of course, the pattern only uses 30 yards of yarn, so you will probably just find it easiest to use left over sock yarn.
More About Short Row Shaping
The Mouse pattern uses a technique called short row shaping. A short row is made when you turn your knitting before the end of a row. This means that some sections of your work will have more rows than others. The sections with more rows will arch, creating a three-dimensional shape. Each time you turn your knitting before the end of a row you create a loop of yarn under a stitch and a small hole in the fabric. So, when you knit back over a stitch that has a loop under it, you must knit into the loop at the same time as the stitch above it to close the hole. There’s a special blog post on how to close the holes and get a smoother finish just here.
Short rows in stockinette stitch are notoriously tricky, if you find you have an uneven finish on your Mouse nose, try adjusting the tension of the work before you sew it together.
Pick Up Stitches
The Mouse arms are made by picking up stitches. This blog post contains full details of how to pick up stitches in the middle of a finished knitted piece. If you prefer, you could also knit the arms separately and sew them onto the body.
Place Marker Between Stitches
In this pattern, markers are placed to show where to pick up stitches for the arms. The markers go between stitches and they stay static in the knitting. When you place a marker it looks like this:
I always prefer to use a scrap of yarn as a marker because it won’t pull the knitting out of shape and it’s easy to remove.
To seam the cast on and bind off edges of the Mouse ears and also the base of the body, use the weaving stitch. Lay one piece of garter stitch fabric above another. Notice that each row has linked upper and lower loops. Sew through the upper loops on the bottom piece and the lower loops on the top piece, as shown below. You are creating sewn stitches over existing loops.
The tension of your sewing needs to be just right, neither too tight nor too loose. As you practice this stitch it becomes easier to judge the tension and make an invisible seam.
To seam the cast on and bind off edges of the Mouse body up the middle of the stockinette stitch tummy. Lay one stockinette stitch piece above the other. Notice how each stitch forms a V shape. You make the seam by sewing Vs between the top and bottom pieces. Sew from back to front through the middle of a V in the bottom piece. Then sew behind both arms of the corresponding V in the top piece and then from front to back into the original V.
Sewing the Ears
The Mouse ears are sewn together using the Weaving technique, with the wrong side of the fabric facing you. The middle of the ear has the wrong side facing outward. The right side of the ear is the smooth stockinette stitch, which curls under and becomes the edge of the Mouse ear.
To get the correct placing of the ear on the head, mark the eye position by pushing a pin into place so that only the head of the pin is showing. With the eyes marked in this way it’s easier to see where the ears should be sewn to the head.
French Knots for Eyes
Those beady little eyes are made using embroidered French Knots, this is a great tutorial for how to do these from purlbee.
Provisional Cast On as an Alternative to Sewing
You can avoid most of the sewing in this pattern by using a provisional cast on for the Mouse body and making the seam using Kitchener Stitch. I made one Mouse in this way and although the seam is much tidier (as you can see below), I found it extremely fiddly. If you are a habitual sock knitter and you use Kitchener Stitch all the time, you may find it easier than sewing.
If you do decide to use a provisional cast on, here are some suggestions you may find useful:
– Make the provisional cast on using the long tail or continental method, if you use the invisible cast on method you will have twisted stitches, which will interfere with the first row of your knitting, which contains some short row turns.
– Use Kitchener Stitch all the way along the seam, including the parts in garter stitch.
– Don’t forget to add the arms before beginning the seam.
– Stuff the Mouse as you go, trying to get the fiberfill through a tiny hole in the base is frustrating (believe me).
For a More Mouse-like Mouse
You may want to add more features to your Mouse. Fishing wire whiskers, a pink tail, pink felt or pink embroidery for the center of the ears and maybe an embroidered nose in black or pink would all make your toy more mouse-like.
If you have any questions or comments which are not covered either in the pattern or here, please contact me through the NattyKnits Etsy shop and I’ll do my best to help you.