01 December 2018

'Tis the Season

As stated previously, 2018 was a surprisingly unproductive year. I can't really explain why it was so unproductive, other than a lot of travel and the Mensa regional gathering. I've been looking around the house at stacks of unread textile books and magazines as well as unfinished (or unstarted) projects. I was looking for something small and quick to get me back into the groove.

I purchased issue #138/October 2015 of Simply Knitting magazine when I was at Unwind back in April. There was a silent auction to benefit a local charity. I think I bid $1. Nobody bid against me. The magazine came with the yarn pack to make a cute little knitted holiday polar bear.

The pattern is by Alan Dart, who is well-known in the United Kingdom for exactly this type of knitting pattern. He has many, many patterns for cute little knitted people and animals as well as a fan group on Ravelry. If you have a large stash of scraps, Mr. Dart's pattern oeuvre could be just the thing to clear out the bin of mini-skeins. I should give you fair warning, however. While the knitting is technically, rather quick, the finishing is not. If you are looking for an opportunity to practice sewing seams, this is a great project. If you would rather knit mindlessly, look elsewhere.

I must admit to changing the pattern. All the pieces are written for flat back-and-forth knitting which is then seamed. Mr. Dart does kindly include a one-stitch seam allowance. In many cases, this meant eliminating two stitches when converting a piece from flat to in-the-round. For example, I worked each ear as 10 stitches in the round rather than 12 stitches flat. There were seams in strange placed. For example, the pattern has a seam down the middle of the foot. I changed this by casting-on using Judy's magic and working outward in the round for the black paw pad and then up the leg in cream. I also worked the arms in the round, but this meant having to deal with garter stitch in the round at the cuff trim and working the paw pads in circular modular intarsia.

I eliminated some sewing. Since the legs are worked sole upwards, I plunged the live stitches through the bear body and bound them off inside the bear. The arms are worked in the other direction, which meant picking up stitches through the bear body. The ears were supposed to be attached to the hood. Instead, I picked them up through the head, worked in the round (adding an extra round of height) and then bound off using Kitchener grafting. I combined the hood and the trim piece on the front of the jacket. This meant for some unorthodox knitting, including a provisional cast-on for only part of the element as well as stitches in both directions that needed to be plunged into the jacket and bound off inside. And I added holes in the hood so the ears can peek through as well as joining the hood at back with Kitchener grafting rather than an obvious seam. The advantage of all the picking up and plunging down is that the arms and legs are attached very firmly. I like to think this is a toy that is not coming apart easily.

The embroidery, picking up, plunging down, converting from flat to in-the-round, vertical lifelines, grafting, and just the generally small-ish size made the project fairly fiddly. It was definitely not a mindless while-I-watch-television project. I think I'd prefer a pattern where the whole bear is worked as one piece with a mattress stitch seam at the back to accommodate stuffing. Even the size is a little odd. At 6½ inches/16 cm tall, the bear is definitely too big and heavy to be an ornament, but it is a little small to cuddle. I guess it is the perfect size to tuck on a shelf where it can mark the spot where Dickens' A Christmas Carol should reside.

The final bear is cute. I stuffed him with cotton lint leftover from medicine bottles. There are several people on Ravelry who have worked this pattern with a fuzzy novelty yarn for the jacket trim, and that's a very successful choice I would embrace if working the pattern again. There's also a lady who made two, working a red skirt for the second bear so as to have a Mrs. Santa version. I've finished my bear just in time for the holiday season.

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