It only seems fitting to show you some of my favorite knitted and crocheted projects. I have given at least a dozen crocheted toys to small children, and believe it or not, these toys rank above store bought for every child. Many parents tell me how their child drags their sock monkey around with them from room to room or won't sleep without a crocheted elephant. Each 6" toy takes about 3 or so hours to crochet (I am quite advanced at this craft; add more hours if you are a beginner). My son always thinks each toy is for him...so I make another for his collection. It takes a few extra hours, but in the end, it is well worth it to see him snuggling and napping with all of his lovies.
The key to stuffed animals is lots of stuffing. If you think you put enough in, add an extra wad of Polyfill so the animal doesn't flatten out. Kids are quite rough with their toys, including laying on them, throwing them or jumping on them. If you can easily see between your stitches, the polyfill will pull out, so make sure that you use the right size needles and hooks to make a dense fabric. I usually sew heads on at least twice since this joint gets the most wear. If you despise making french knots for eyes, pick up some safety eyes at your local craft store and use instead. Do not use buttons or any items that can come off and become a choking hazard. Crocheted and knitted toys are not for children under 2 years old or children who have a strong oral fixation. Sometimes, mending is necessary as strings pull out or the french knots for the eyes are untied. Children rarely care if their favorite lovie is missing a nose hole or even an eye, so long as they get to play with it. Do not let your child play with a toy with strings longer than 6 inches. Always tie off and trim any stragglers.
I try to wash the lovies at least once a year to get any dander and dust out of them. For well used cotton or acrylic projects, I wash monthly in regular or gentle detergent (or when chocolate milk gets spilled on them). Make sure to use Wool Wash such as Eucalan or Top of the Lamb Shampoo on wool and hair fibers. I have not had any trouble washing toys in the front loading machine and spinning the water out vigorously in the spin cycle. I lay them out to dry in the air with the aid of a small fan to dry them faster. Expect this washing process to be slightly traumatic for small children; it is hard for them to let go for even a minute. If you can, wash them when you are out of the house, or have the child put the toys in the washer for their 'bath'.
Cotton yarns work well for toys since they have the longest life and look the best over time due to their easy care. The Barbie dresses below were all made by my grandmother within a year of each other, and each dress has kept beautifully over time! These dresses are around 30 years old, have been washed only once, and used relentlessly when I was a child. They have been stuffed into storage, dragged in and out of bins, and have adorned thousands of Barbie bodies. Buttons and snaps may have popped off, but the dresses themselves are nearly perfect. You can see how the cotton yarns have held up (first 2 images) while the acrylic is pilling and matting (blue dress and Hawaiian outfit).
Others are available in the Children's Toy Section as well as other fun projects.
On my To-Do-List is Susan B Anderson's bouncy Rabbit and Ribbit frog! The pattern calls for a tennis ball instead of Polyfill for the belly so that when (not if) a child throws the toy, it bounces back into the air! It is such a clever idea with the exuberance of childhood embodied in a toy.
Yarn Loop is still growing so check back often for new patterns. We would love to add your favorites to ours and create a very fun shop for everyone to enjoy. If you post your favorite toy (pattern name must be attached), we will send you a $5 coupon for your next purchase! I hope that no matter what you decide to make, you have fun knitting and crocheting!
Images by Yarn Loop and Blue Sky Fibers
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