This week, I faced a minor dilemma: Do I blog about knitting for friends or about the sock monkey I knit for my best friend? I finally solved it sometime between last night and tonight. I can write about both in the same blog. Why write about the third sock monkey? Because it’s for my best friend and it deserves the same honor the other sock monkey receives. Also, because, I once again used a new yarn that gave this monkey a fuzzy effect without being overly difficult to work with. As for writing about knitting for others I include the knitting for friends here partly because I include a small part of it in any blog in which there is an intended recipient.

A small note on knitting for friends: I knit for those who have expressed an appreciation of my knitting, or who have an obsession with what I knit. On the flip side of knitting for friends and loved ones, I did once ask my nephew (who turned 13 this year), if he wanted me to knit anything for him. He said he didn’t want anything knit for him. I may work my way around this one day, likely by knitting his father a tie(he’s usually touched by my homemade gifts), and waiting for my nephew to express that he likes it, or to steal it from his dad. If I ever make it to knitting sweaters, I likely will knit my own first, then my brother’s and then possibly my nephew’s. However, I will only knit said potential sweater if he asks for it.

You may be asking if those who received the sock monkeys asked for them, they did not. My nieces are open to me knitting for them, and have asked what I was knitting, in the hopes it was for them. The first person I knit a sock monkey for-Gaylin, has a collection of sock monkeys, and Hairy, Sock Monkey of Crankiness (Until he tells Gaylin another chosen name), was a special addition to her collection. My best friend, may have asked for one when she heard about it, but in the interest of secrecy, I did not tell her anything about knitting her a sock monkey, nor did I ask if she wanted one.

Since I’ve known my best friend for over 21 years(Its okay to stop counting the years when your friendship is of legal age), I know her well enough to know that she’d like one, whether she’d ask for it or not. So, I went in search of tie-dyed yarn that didn’t break the bank. I did find something in the Red Heart for kids collection, but I don’t care for Red Heart yarn, and I found a more fitting yarn by Sensations. It was an Angel Hair style in bright colors that changed every three inches.

It suited Andrea. She likes things bright. Me, I’ll use Hairy’s purple(The First Sock Monkey), with a nice subdued green. Andrea would pick out the hottest pink or funkiest tie-dye available.

Francine, before being sewn together…Monkeys look so sweet when they are not yet capable of swinging from the ceiling fan…

So, I trusted my inner knowledge of my best friend, and began work on this once my niece’s and Gaylin’s sock monkeys were complete. You may notice the feet on this one are a little more defined than on the previous monkeys, and one more so than the other foot. This is an example of tension control. I started knitting a leg.

The beginning of the foot/leg are a little cumbersome. For most in the round projects, you cast on 6 or 8 stitches and increase until you have the number necessary for the round. The better projects can work this in with solid knit rows for larger rounds. When I began knitting the foot/leg, I was treating this yarn like all the others I had knit with in the past. The yarn was different. I believe it was still acrylic. I know it was soft. But there was a bulkiness to this yarn the others didn’t have. It knit up much tighter. After a couple of inches, I noticed how the foot looked and make an effort to relax my tension. You can see what happened, I hope.

Yes, I considered ripping the stitches out, and re-doing it. But, I didn’t want to re-do it and end up with the same effect; and the foot looked a little better defined. Also, if a friend doesn’t love most of your quirks, they’re probably not really your friend.  I did try to emulate the tension error on the other side, but I didn’t want to break or bend the needles I was fighting with to keep the tension. I did feel as if I was fighting with the yarn for that entire two inches. I was so glad to let the tension go. And when I switched to the Vanna’s choice balancing brown yarn in barley, I found it was easier to knit this time, as opposed to tougher with the Caron Simply Soft.

The difference in tension is a big part of the reason for knitting up a gauge swatch, but I find I like to live adventurously, and see how the yarn knits. If I were knitting this for sale, I would have re-done it. Since I was knitting Francine for Andrea, I left the mistakes in the monkey.

Close-up of the finished Francine(named by Andrea), with Zeus putting up with mom’s camera games…

One small note about naming the monkeys…I agree with Gaylin’s system. Sometimes the monkey will share their name with you, sometimes they won’t. Francine waited until she met Andrea to reveal her name. Celeste revealed her name to me about half way through the process, and the fourth sock monkey revealed her name to me as well. Gaylin’s Hairy, the sock monkey of crankiness was dubbed in honor of James, who inspired his creation, but to my knowledge, hasn’t revealed his monkey name to Gaylin yet. As I mentioned in my last blog, they each have their own personalities. I hope you will join me in meeting the fourth and currently sock monkey next week likely, and then move on with me to meet the “Gotta Love Me” Monster knit for 600 Monsters Strong, and the Cactuar knit by request as I move along my path in knitting…. Until then, Happy Needle Clicking!

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Jessica’s Sock Monkey

March 21, 2013

The first sock monkey was so fun, I just couldn’t stop. So, what makes this sock monkey different from the last? Didn’t you know, sock monkeys each have their own personality. Not to mention, the yarn was different, the color variations, and the intended recipient.

My niece, Jessica, was turning eleven this past December. She’s on that cusp of knit dolls and monkeys possibly being too young for her. I considered that this may be the last time I get to knit her something like this, unless it’s done commemoratively. I believe she’d like to receive more knit creatures well, but she might sigh and perhaps wish I’d knit her a potato chip scarf or some fancy fingerless gloves she can show off to her friends. So I began the adventure of the next sock monkey.

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I chose different yarn, Deborah Norville’s Serenity collection for this knit creature. This yarn is still acrylic, but double stranded four-ply. It can be a minor challenge to knit with, but it is pretty and solid. I found a pretty green, blue and purple yarn that I thought was called Seven Seas.  It had been tagged incorrectly when I went back for another skein. I did not realize I’d need a second skein of this yarn, as I was using the same Vanna’s Choice in Barley for the rear and the muzzle.

When I returned to purchase the second skein of yarn, I was concerned they may have labeled the yarn wrong entirely. Finally, I found the Spring color after bringing a partially finished monkey into Jo-ann’s and matching them up. Fortunately, dye lots were not a big issue. But dye lots can be another blog.

 http://www.favecrafts.com/Knitting/Sock-Monkey-Knitting-Pattern-from-Red-Heart/ct/1

Since this Spring colored yarn was variegated, it made simple stripes between one and one and a half inch stripes, depending on the size limb I was knitting. It turned out pretty cute, in my opinion. It also had the double strand feature which I liked. There was less concern of stuffing sneaking through the stitches or a child’s hands causing it unintended damage. Its another reason to use acrylic. Depending on the yarn, I find acrylic is best reserved for toys or dolls. I have used some to have a capelet crocheted for me. However, I would not recommend acrylic for items worn close to the skin, on the feet, or all day wear. It makes for a nice soft stuffed creature, however.

 Now to accessorize said soft creature. Somewhere in the process, since this takes about three weeks to a month to knit–longer if I am working on other projects, or working full-time. I was not working, so I had time to think through the accessories. I still kept them simple. I decided to buy the yarn for another sock monkey for my youngest niece. I picked out a color called Cotton Candy. It was yellow with pink. My youngest niece always reminds me of the color yellow. Though she prefers purple to pink, which I was reminded of later.

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Whatever the preferences, the monkey had been knit and needed a hat and scarf to complete the pattern. I finished them quickly and easily, though it doesn’t feel quick and easy when you are trying to finish a sizable pattern and have a deadline and must add in four to five days for mailing.

No matter the deadlines, or project size, I enjoyed the finished product, as did my oldest niece. When she called to thank me, I tried to carefully inquire, and she thought her younger sister would like one for Christmas.  Thankfully, I was planning one for her birthday in February.

Sometimes the best gifts are knit…sometimes, they’re suggested by your boyfriend. As I worked on the dolls, I began enjoying a friend’s sock monkey collection, vicariously. I’d watched Gaylin take her favorite sock monkey, Clarabelle, sock monkey of happiness to the Pennsig Renaissance Festival in Pennsylvania. The greenly jealous side of me wanted to be Clarabelle that week (or two). James, my dear boyfriend, got the idea in his head that I should knit a sock monkey for Gaylin, as a thank you to introducing me to the wild world of sock monkeys. I had purchased one with my Little, Yvonne (through Big Brothers, Big Sisters). Soon, sock monkeys had begun to find me…just a couple have found me so far, but she introduced me to this collecting passion…
Some people get to ask, what next for their projects? I’m usually saying, I have a backlog and can’t get to that until some particular event happens. This imaginary deadline began with a birthday and ended with a Winter Solstice delivery. I knit three sock monkeys before Christmas, but each is getting their own story, even if it becomes a shorter version of the tale. So, James covertly messaged Gaylin’s husband and asked to learn her favorite colors. While James has known Gaylin since college, he does not like to travel much and we have only chatted through facebook. I still felt an affinity towards Gaylin and thought knitting a sock monkey would make a true original. I’ve never had to search too long for a project to find me.
I did have to search out a pattern, but once I have a lead, it’s tough to stop me from following it to see where it might take me. With knitting, the imagination is the limit. For this, I chose to use someone else’s imagination. But I was grateful to those who had blazed this curious trail before me. I found the pattern at: http://www.favecrafts.com/Knitting/Sock-Monkey-Knitting-Pattern-from-Red-Heart# I determined I would need two colors of yarn to make the ‘stripes’ and a third, contrasting color.
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Squib (kitten) and Briannag (“Puppy”) wondering if they can keep “Hairy”

Once we obtained Gaylin’s favorite colors and a pattern, I set to work selecting the yarn I was comfortable with. While I thought of using actual sock yarn, it can get pricey; so I selected my favorite yarn up to that point, Caron Simply Soft. It is an acrylic yarn, but its softened before it goes to market. We picked out a purple and blue color for me to make the stripes. Then I chose a simple Barley brown color by Vanna’s choice. While this yarn was a little coarser than Caron Simply Soft, and I had never worked with it before. I liked the feel of it, and decided to take a chance. After all, I was taking a chance on making the sock monkey in the first place.

The yarns worked, and made a really nice sock monkey, with minimal ladders at that time. I’m hoping I worked most of them out.  This time, I do have my own photos of the creature. I had more time to finish this one, as I began planning ahead this year, somewhat. (Birthdays still caught me by surprise some, but I made it through okay). I even have my own photos of said monkey. And Gaylin enjoyed the surprise just in time for the winter solstice.
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Hairy, Sock Monkey of Crankiness

(named in honor of James, the man who suggested I make him)

I enjoyed making this creature for her. Next week, I’ll tell you about my niece Jessica’s sock monkey for her birthday. I love that I can personalize it.

I had conquered socks on double pointed needles. Since I was not going out to buy two circular needles in a size one or two, and I did not have any yarn I wished to make more socks with, I was in need of a new sort of project. I went wandering and looking; considering…a scarf; a sweater? I wasn’t sure I was ready to learn to knit cables yet. I’m told its not difficult, but I didn’t have as much desire. However, I’d heard about doll making from acquaintances in the Clare County Arts Council but found the classes too expensive and the dolls were not child friendly. I have two nieces who were turning 8 and 10 at this time, and I wanted to make them something special.

After searching the local library, I found a great book called McCall’s Big Book of Soft Toys and Dolls. This book is also available on http://www.amazon.com for about $6.00, give or take a few coins and shipping. Within, were a number of knit or crocheted dolls(as well as fun toys), some of which were crocheted into their clothes. I decided I didn’t want clothes knit/crocheted on and found a pattern with human looking dolls. The right shades of yarn had been gifted to me after my boyfriend’s grandmother passed on earlier that year. This pattern was even on straight needles.
I set to work making the Island sisters, though they didn’t look so Island/Hawaiian when I was done. I made two of them, which was interesting as I was knitting front sides and back sides. Now, I wish I had taken photos of these dolls before I shipped them off to my dear nieces in Florida for Christmas. This often happens at the last possible moment, unless I’m focusing on only gift and become ruthlessly organized the month before. I rarely become ruthlessly organized.

This photo is close, but mine were knit without the bathing suit and cap and more of a waistline (which I found kind of impressive). I hope to update this post with real photos soon.

(That said, If my brother is kind and loving, and hopefully entertained by my signature, “Your loving, teaching, know-it-all sister,” then I may be able to get photos for this blog. Note to self…must take more photos. Somehow, no one ever thought they’d hear me say those words.)

Back to the dolls…which I knit them one at a time. Then I used the extra yarn tied to my knot to sew the dolls together. Having grafted with my toe on the sock, I did attempt grafting the seams of these dolls together. I think it looked better in the end.

All went well, until I realized I made mistakes at the shin/leg of the dolls. Some of them I knit shorter than others…but knit patterns can be forgiving, as well as nieces who can’t read knitting patterns yet (and likely wouldn’t, if they could). I also bought the nieces off with some stash yarn for their crochet practice. After I sewed/grafted the knit dolls together, I stuffed them. Then I began to sew in eyes and a smile/smirk. The smirks suited my nieces, just a tad. Then I got to the challenge of adding hair. I’m not the best at adding hair, and decided to sew it on. Once I got the sections of hair sewn on, as uneven as they turned out(Hey, I’m not perfect here, I just try to be), I gave them another hair cut and tried to sew dresses for them. That’s another adventure. At this point, I’m hoping my sister-in-law with her mathematical eye for detail, fixed the hair shortly after their arrival. If she didn’t, she has my permission to re-set the hair now;-).

All in all, they enjoyed the dolls which went with a story I’d been writing for them. Perhaps I’ll return to the storyline soon. After all, Beach season will be returning…and these dolls can at least be washed.

Above: My inspiration for much of my knitting: My beautiful nieces, Jessica and Elizabeth in sunny Florida. I did create the dolls to look like them in that Jessica’s had dark blond/almost brown hair, and Lizzie’s had sunny yellow blond hair as she describes it. I do wish I had had time to sew them dresses…perhaps I will finish that this weekend, and debate about making them swimsuits for the beach season.

Now you’ve seen it in print…I’ve admitted I’m not perfect. I will have friends and relatives framing this quote for years to come…providing they come read this too…next…we’ll see how the yarn knits up…