12 Tips for Knitted Toy Perfection!

1. Wool and wool/acrylic mix yarns work best for most toys. Avoid budget acrylics and 100% cotton, linen, bamboo and fancy yarns – unless the knitting pattern expressly calls for it.
2. Check your gauge/tension carefully. You want a firmer knitted fabric than you’d create for garments to make sure the stuffing doesn’t show through.
3. When you’re knitting small parts, it’s handy to work on short needles that are quite pointed, so you can get into the stitches easily.
4. Take care not to overstuff your toy or it could end up misshapen. Put a bit of stuffing in at a time, don’t push down too firmly and shape your toy as you go.
5. If you’re not completely happy with the finished shape of your toy, dunk the item in lukewarm water. Then shake out the excess (don’t squeeze or wring), reshape and leave to dry naturally. This technique can work wonders on stuffed toys themselves and also mini garments and accessories.
6. The positioning of the features, particularly the eyes, will make a big difference to the look of your toy. So take time to get this right. You can use glass-headed pins to see how the eyes look in different positions. Or, if your yarn is pale, water-soluble marking pens work well.
7. For the eyes on small toys, French knots worked in black or dark grey yarn look good. But be careful to take your needle up and down within the strands of yarn rather than between them – or your French knots will disappear into the toy!
8. For the eyes on larger toys, you can work small circles or coils of chain stitch.
9. For eyes on dark coloured toys, work a small circle of chain stitch in white or cream around the eye centres to make the eyes stand out. I find this looks much nicer than eyes worked in green or blue yarn which can look a bit spooky.
10. Black plastic toy eyes are widely available and cheap and can give your work a professional look. However, they only work well if the knitted fabric is fairly dense – they tend to fall out through the natural gaps in your knitting otherwise. And don’t use them on toys for babies and very young children.
11. Animal noses can be worked in satin stitch – but take care not to pull your stitches too tightly. For a firmer looking nose, you might prefer to knit them in coils or rows of chain stitches. For ‘human’ dolls, work a small coil of chain stitch for a cute nose. Alternatively, work two or three short rows of chain stitch, side by side, to form a long narrow rectangle.
12. To get small ears to look really neat, whip stitch round the outside edge of the ear, once the ear has been sewn on. Pull slightly to perfect the look and secure loose ends.

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