Stuff about Stuffing (or how to stuff your knitted toys)


Toy knitters know how easy it is for stuffing to go wrong, you may have unevenly stuffed a lumpy llama or your dinosaur looks deflated because you couldn’t get the stuffing into the tail. If you get frustrated with fiberfill, here are some tips to help you get a soft and even finish to your stuffing.

Before You Even Start Knitting!

Check your gauge. When I make toys I always knit with needles that are a few sizes smaller than recommended for the yarn. Smaller needles means a good tight gauge that won’t stretch and look messy when it’s stuffed.

Choose the right stuffing for the job. If you’re knitting something washable,  use a polyester stuffing. Pure wool batting (just like any other kind of pure wool fiber) will shrink and felt when it gets wet which means the toy will lose it’s shape and it’s softness. Alternatively, you may want a fully woolly look, either for a Waldorf toy or to get an organic feel to your knitted holiday decorations, in either of these cases wool batting or Kapok would be a great choice.

I’ve found that if a toy is going to be wet felted, then polyester fiberfill offers great support. The natural fiber knitting will shrink, but the stuffing won’t which helps the toy to retain it’s shape.

Softly Softly

Everyone wants their toys to be soft, but if there’s too much stuffing in the toy it can get quite hard. Here’s how to avoid over stuffing.

Get a small handful of stuffing, hold it lightly and if necessary pull the fibers apart with your fingers before you put it into the toy.

As you get more stuffing into the toy, gently push what is already in there to the edges and put new stuffing into the middle. This will help to keep the stuffing even.

If you feel the stuffing getting lumpy you can always pull it out and start again. Don’t be frightened of do-overs.

Those Hard to Reach Places

Knitted toys often have long thin parts like tails or necks that are hard to reach to the bottom of, use these techniques to help you evenly distribute the stuffing.

The knitting needle is your friend. Push small amounts of stuffing in with the blunt end, then use the sharp end to break up any big clumps.

Stuff before you sew. Sometimes the only way to get the stuffing in the right place is to put it in there before you sew the toy together. The photo at the top of the page shows a ring shape, pre-stuffed and ready to sew. You might also consider stuffing as you sew, so that the stuffing is never far from the opening.

Sometimes a knitted piece is so small it can be stuffed with the Cast On or Bind Off yarn tail. Check to see if this little re-purposing trick will work before reaching for a tiny amount of stuffing.

Knitting is Shatterproof

If you’ve filled a toy with stuffing, sewn it together and it looks a little lopsided, don’t despair. Your knitted toy should be childproof, so it can definitely stand up to you pulling the stuffing around from outside the toy. This is particularly worth remembering after you’ve wet felted a toy, you can pull the stuffing fibers apart without opening any seams.

Do you have any tried or tested stuffing methods? Or a preferred type of stuffing? If you have any stuffing tips of your own, please feel free to share them.

(This post was originally blogged by me in September 2011)

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In Which Natty Knits Changes Her Bio Statement

It’s hard to write a biographical statement about yourself. It’s not a natural thing to do, to write about yourself in a nice way, in the third person. In fact the more I think about it, it’s a bit bonkers. But it is natural that my customers would want to know who I am. After all, humans want to trade with other humans and we want to check on their humanity a bit while we’re at it.

My bio has always been something along the lines of :

Natty Knits is an expat Brit stay at home Mum who likes to knit around corners.

But this is no longer true. My son, for whom I began knitting toys all those crazy years ago, is now 7 years old. He is at school for most of the day, he has t-ball practice and play dates without me, today he spent most of the afternoon in the garage building a bi-plane out of cardboard, he says “it might fly”. The truth of the matter is that it’s time for me to stop claiming I am a stay at home Mum.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still doing housework and packing lunches, supervising homework and changing bed sheets. I am always there to pick him up from school and we still have plenty of adventures together. It’s just that now, I also have a grown up job.

Well, sort of grown up. I am the children’s book specialist at an independent bookstore called Diesel, a bookstore. It is the best job ever. I read to the preschoolers at story time, I run events with children’s authors and I read, read, read as many of the new books as I can get my hands on, so I can recommend cool new books to the kids. The book store is six months old, although the owners have had a bookstore since 1989. I have done this job before in a tiny bookstore in San Francisco, although then, I only worked eight hours a week and I was less of an expert too.

The more astute among you may be wondering, if I’m trying to tell you something. What about the knitting? Is Natty Knits still writing patterns? The answer is yes, I am still knitting and I am still writing patterns, I’m just writing them more slowly.

In previous years I’ve always tried to write six knitting patterns each year. In 2014, I will be happy with three new patterns. I’m not planning any magazine submissions. And I’m going to keep my custom knitting to a minimum, mostly because I need new socks. There will still be blog entries, although I may just dip into the archives and reblog very popular tutorials. I’ve written over 400 blog entries and some of them are even useful.

I’ll leave you with the beginnings of my new bio:

Natty Knits is a children’s book seller who likes to knit around corners.

And a picture of me at work:

Clare in the Kids departmentSo, that’s what I look like.

Happy 2014 everyone!

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Around the Barnyard eBook Winners

The winning comments from the last blog post have now been selected by the true random number generator at random.org. Those numbers were 1 and 8:

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The two winners of a copy of the Around the Barnyard eBook are Stephanie B and Beth, they have been notified by email.

A Big THANK YOU to everyone who entered and had such lovely things to say about my knitting patterns.

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Giving Away the Farm (kind of)

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Knit Today magazine in the UK is currently giving away 11 copies of the Natty Knits eBook Around the Barnyard. If you’re in the UK, you can enter their give away on the Knit Today website.

Inspired by this generosity and wanting to extend the giveaway to the whole world, I’ve decided to give away copies of Around the Barnyard to TWO winners of this blog give away.

Around the Barnyard is a 28 page PDF containing six toy farm animal knitting patterns for a Sheep, Pig, Duck, Cow, Mother Hen and Baby Chick. All the patterns use short row shaping, which is what makes these toys so round and so cuddly. The introduction has full instructions for making neat short rows as well as other hints and tips to help you knit up your farm friends. There are diagrams and full color photos throughout the eBook.

All you need to do to is pop over to the Natty Knits Etsy shop and take a look at the knitting patterns. Then come back to the blog and leave a comment on this blog entry to tell me which pattern you like best.

The give away ends at midnight PST on Sunday December 29th. Two winners will be picked using a random number generator and announced on Wednesday January 1st. You can enter from anywhere in the world, but only one entry per person. Please make sure that I can contact you in some way from your comment. The prize is the eBook Around the Barnyard in PDF format which will be emailed to the two winners.

Good Luck and Happy Holidays!

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Gifts for Knitters

My son often wants to buy presents of yarn for his knitting Mum, it’s a noble sentiment, but knitters are notoriously finicky about their favorite yarns and I am no exception. So every year I put together this list of gifts for knitters that I would be happy to receive. As always I look for gifts from indie stores and Etsy makers, it’s just nicer that way.

logoMed A Craftsy Class.

Earlier this year I took a class on Craftsy called How to Sew an A-Line Skirt. Since then I have made four skirts and they all fit me perfectly. The Craftsy classes are a series of online videos that you can watch any time and as often as you wish, there is also a forum attached to each class where you can discuss the content with other students or even the teacher. If you are a knitter who sees knitting as a form of creative education, then this is the gift for you. You can take a series of knitting classes from beginner to brioche or you could branch out into sewing or paper crafts.

knitting row counterKnitting Row Counter by Wychwood Dreams

I actually already have one of these, and very lovely it is too. The beading is tasteful and intricate and the mechanism for row counting is very clever, it’s simply a matter of sliding the counter onto your needle through one hole after another, with a tiny abacus in the big loop for counting multiples of 10. June from Wychwood Dreams makes these to order, so you can pick your color theme too.

yarn whispererThe Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes. 

A delightful and funny book of observations on life and knitting. Parkes touches on everything from Fakery to France, through steeks, bobbles and casting on.

This is not an instructional book, (if you want that, you should try The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by the same author), but it is definitely a book with themes that resonate with my knitting self.

bread and badger mugYarn Mug by BreadandBadger.

There are many mugs for knitters in this world. But how many of them are designed, drawn and sandblasted by one small business? All the things I love about browsing on Etsy can be found in this mug. Also it’s tangerine orange, which may be one of the best colors ever. Love.

There are no yarns or patterns on my wishlist this year, I am drowning in a sea of deadlines and design ideas, much as I’d like to increase my sock yarn stash, I know it won’t get used for ages. So if you want to buy yarn for your knitting Mum, let me just recommend your local yarn store, it’s full of friendly and knowledgeable knitters and most likely some locally sourced yarns too.

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SALE SEASON

2013 winter saleThis weekend only 10% off EVERYTHING in the Natty Knits Etsy shop. Enter code SEASON10 at checkout. Offer ends Monday November 25, 2013.

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Put a String On It

tree xmas 2012wreath xmas 2013santa xmas 2013

There’s a new 3 Pattern Deal over in the Natty Knits Etsy shop, that means three holiday patterns for the price of two! The Christmas Tree, Wreath and Tiny Santa and Christmas Fairy are all excellent DIY Christmas decorations, but you could always just knit something small and cute and put a string on it!etsy3etsy3etsy4

 

 

 

 

This Owl, Heart and Mouse are all Natty Knits patterns and as you can see they’re all Christmas Tree friendly. Knit them in sparkly yarns, or give that mouse a tiny woolly scarf.

If you use a Natty Knits pattern to make something Christmas-y, I’d love to see how it turns out. Maybe you will inspire me!

 

 

 

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