Monday, 22 July 2013

Knitted Chicken Family

You may have noticed that since my exam I've got slightly knitting crazy. I like to have something to do with my hands while in watching TV and with my Kindle I can sit and knit while I read as well. I've also got an 80 litre tub and a 30 litre bag full of wool which I kind of need to use up so these are all good excuses for getting my knit on.

My most recent project was a departure from the Jean Greenhowe patterns I've been doing of late. I'd seen the Knitted Farm Animals book online a couple of times but I'm always hesitant to buy pattern books without actually having a squint at the patterns themselves. I've actually come to prefer knitting toys flat and then sewing them up (rather than tackling them in the round, though if I have to knit a hat I wouldn't dream of anything involving seaming) and lots of toy patterns involve fiddly (to me) starts on DPNs.

When Sarah Keen's Knitted Farm Animals showed up with the book man at work I took one look at it and decided I HAD to have it. At £5 it was a bargain.

It's taken me a while to get to it because I had a few other projects to tackle. I'd originally planned to do the turkey first (because I figured it'd be ready for Thanksgiving/Christmas and might make a good gift). But several people mentioned chickens and my in-laws are planning to get some, so that decided it for me. I was going to knit chickens.

It also seemed like a good occasion to try out a technique I'd seen on Ravelry where someone had knitted the same pattern in different colours on the one pair of needles. The chickens seemed like a fairly simple knit so I decided to try it out with them and made one dark brown and one in white with black flecks.

It worked really well, until I got to the bit where I had to turn my work to shape it and then to avoid confusing myself I just worked one chicken at a time. I only had one ball of orange too so that meant I had to do the feet and beaks one at a time too. That made the feet a bit tedious because I needed to do eight pieces (two for each foot) but it was worth it for the end result.

The pattern calls for 'm1' increases which for some reason I had a complete mental block on at the time when I started knitting. I ended up adapting the pattern and just knitting into the front and back of a stitch at first. Then for shaping the neck I remembered, but forgot to knit into the back of the stitch I'd lifted onto the needle (which twists it to close the hole) so there are some holes in the neck shaping. It's only really noticeable on the brown chicken.

I've named them Gladys (the brown one) and Gertrude (the grey) and despite thinking that I wouldn't be too attached to them, I think they've got cute characters. They're currently living on my bookcase with their broods until I figure out who to give them too.

I have to admit to loving the effect of the wool I used on Gertrude. It's from a giant ball I bought ages ago and haven't been able to figure out what to do with it. I used it to make hats for Mr Click and I but the little black strands shed something terrible. It was awful stuff to knit with, especially in bed, because everything ends up covered in little black hairs! The end result is great though.

The chicks were also an attempt at knitting three different projects at once; after all, I'd managed two, three couldn't me much harder. And it isn't, as long as you keep your balls of wool in order, otherwise they sort of knit themselves together and you can get into a tangle.

I had a bright yellow and a light yellow (in fact I have a couple of balls of light yellow and no idea where it came from, I swear half my wool spontaneously generates!) so I decided to make the third chick in the same wool as Gertrude. It reminds me of the little fluffy white chicks you see.

Pip, Chip and Chucky were easily the most fiddly things I've ever knitted. The head and body were knit separately and then had to be sewn together; Chucky is the tallest at just over 3.5" so you can imagine how fiddly that would be! Not mentioning the tiny little feet and beaks! But it was totally worth it when I sewed their little eyes in and they suddenly got their character.

Lastly I made the eggs. I only had one ball of cream so did one egg on it's own and then the second cream and the tan one together. They're a bit lumpy but I guess that's because Egbert, Eglantine and Benedict are just getting ready to hatch. ;-)

This was my first Sarah Keen pattern and as I've got her Knitted Wild Animals Elephant on my needles next I was a little worried that I wouldn't love her patterns as much as the Jean Greenhowe ones. They're not the same as the Jean Greenhowe ones, but they're just as good, just different.

While I was knitting the chickens I couldn't help but find myself wishing I'd picked something with a bit more character like an endearing cow or quirky sheep, but gradually the chickens took shape and while they're not as cute as other animals, there is something very loveable about them.

The pattern book has lovely big photos of the projects in it; there's a gallery at the beginning as well as photos in the pattern and then illustrated instructions at the back too. There are fun facts all the way through the book: did you know the colour a chicken is determines the colour eggs it'll lay, I didn't but I took that into account when I was knitting Egbert, Eglantine and Benedict!

Some of the instructions could have been a bit clearer, particularly with the chicks; I wasn't really clear which end of the body the head was supposed to be sewn onto but the photos are so clear I was able to figure it out.

I'm already planning a flock of sheep from the pattern in this book (I've got just the right wool in mind) but right now I'm knitting elephants. As the two and three projects on one needle technique worked well for me I'm making three in blue, grey and a pink and purple mix. I'm excited to see how they turn out but I think they're going to take a little while.

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