Friday, January 26, 2007

Child's Play

No, not the horror movies featuring that killer doll (which, incidentally, traumatized me so badly as a kid that I refused to go to a movie theater or video store from the ages of 8 to 13), but things for children to play with!

Back in college I spent a semester studying in Osaka, and I won the host family jackpot, living with one of the sweetest families you could ask for. Since I moved back to Japan, I visit them periodically. Last year during Spring Break they invited me to come up, so I whipped up some toys for my host nieces, ages 8 and 2:

The penguin is Knitty's Pasha, and the octopus is based on one my great grandma made me when I was little. Both are made out of yarn I picked up at the 100 yen store (the Japanese version of a dollar store). Everything except Pasha's beak and feet is 100% acrylic, the yellow yarn is a really soft wool/acrylic blend. Surprisingly, there are some very nice yarns to be had at the 100 yen store, I also have some great cotton/acrylic yarn they had for sale last summer.

I swear Pasha has eyes, they're just black on a black background, not very photogenic. I've made two of these penguins so far, and both times my beaks came out like in these photos, much wider than in the pattern pictures.

The funny thing about the octopus is that my host brother couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be. The Japanese concept of an octopus looks something like this:

so I guess it threw him off a bit, what with the smiley face and non-curly tentacles and all.

For those of you who want an octopus of your own, here's what you need:

-1 skein of yarn in the color of your choice, plus scraps for the face and, if desired, snazzy hat
-A wad of scrap fabric to stuff the head
-Scissors or other cutting implement of your choice
-A tape measure
-A crochet hook, if you want the aforementioned snazzy hat (I suppose you could knit or sew one too)

And here's what you do:

1. Cut 48 strands of yarn, each 24" in length.
2. Divide yarn into 4 bundles of 12 strands.
3. Arrange the bundles so they intersect in the middle, they'll look a bit like an asterisk or the spokes of a wheel.
4. Using the scrap fabric as a core, wrap yarn around it to make a form for the head.
5. When the head is the desired size, place it in the middle of the yarn "wheel" and gather the "spokes" around it. Wrap and tie a length of yarn underneath the head to secure it in place, letting the spokes dangle. Since they've been folded in half around the head, there will now be 8 legs.
6. Braid each of the legs and fasten them at the bottom with pieces of yarn.
7. Embroider a face, make a hat- embellish it however you want. Go nuts!

I hope that explanation makes sense. The photo might help give you an idea of what goes where, if my steps aren't clear.

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