July/August~ Needles and the Bunny!

Bunnies, bunnies and more bunnies!! Taking a little break from making handsmocked & embroidered dresses, I’ve spent the past few months knitting; one of my favorite things of all, to do. I first learned to knit when I was 12; my teacher was my 13-yr.-old friend who was very gifted & knew how to do more than most adults did. I think of her with gratitude every time I pick up my knitting needles. I never would have imagined when I first held a pair of needles in my hands that knitting would become the much-loved activity in my life that it very quickly became. I’ve truly enjoyed the past two months that I’ve devoted to  knitting!

I started a few months ago knitting a bunny from a Debi Birkin pattern that I found in an Etsy shop and fell in love with. This was the first time in all of the years that I’ve spent knitting, that I knit a bunny doll. I loved doing it! I loved knitting the little bunny so much that I had to knit another right away. To date I have knit several bunnies, each one different. It’s always a wonderful surprise to see the unique personality that emerges with each new bunny.  After knitting the first bunny I started experimenting, making changes to the pattern; molding it to get the “look” that I’m after.

I have always loved bunnies. Over the span of several years, I had 4 house bunnies; all very sweet and very special. I loved to study their faces. There is a special & unique sweetness that even the mischievous ones had. It is that special “sweet” look, so unique to bunnies, that I’m trying to capture in the faces of the bunnies that I knit.

The bunnies aren’t at all easy to make, in fact I find them more difficult than any sweater I’ve  made. It’s not the knitting itself that’s difficult, it’s the assembly; particularly the heads & faces.  To capture the bunny look that I want, requires much more than knitting an oval, bunny-shaped head. I start with that knit shape, but then I need to put a lot of filling into it so that it’s very firmly stuffed so that  I can squeeze the face to make indents where the eyes belong and make it pouffe-out in the cheeks and over the mouth. Once I squeeze an area to be the way I want it, I have  to stitch through the head from one side to the other;  back & forth, to hold the shape permanently.  Sculpting the face in this manner is a slow, difficult process, but one that I love doing, as this is where the bunny is formed as an individual. This is where its personality emerges.  Once the head and face are shaped the way I want them to be, I hand stitch with embroidery floss, the eyes, nose & mouth. Work on just the head/face alone, is very intense and takes several hours. This is the part that I find the most difficult in making the bunny~ but it is also the most fulfilling.

Assembling the rest of the bunny is easier than shaping the head & stitching the face, but it too is difficult. (The details are too long for this post, but perhaps in a follow-up post I’ll describe what that involves.)

Once I’ve created a bunny, it’s time to knit something for them to wear.  Usually I haven’t an idea what it will be until I’ve created them & seen what their personality is. For the first few bunnies, I knit sweaters,  but as I knit more bunnies I felt like it would be fun to knit whole outfits for some of them, so my more recent bunnies are dressed in coordinating outfits; sweaters & pants or sweaters & a skirt- or overalls. I like to hand embroider a little flower~ or vegetable, on their clothes, it’s sort of become my signature.  I will definitely continue with bunny-making in the future, as they’ve become one of my very favorite things to knit. I also knit lamb dolls and have a few patterns of some new animals I’d like to try; an elephant, a mouse, and a puppy, so keep checking back and you may see these in my shop soon.

In addition to my animal menagerie, I’ve knit a few baby poncho & pants outfits that I enjoyed knitting and I just started a new outfit, so it should be in my shop, in about a week. And THAT’S what I’ve been up to!!!

August has started off to be horribly hot. I’m really hoping that this isn’t an indication of the remainder of the month. I’m trying to keep in mind that Fall, my favorite season of the year, is just around the corner~  Trying to knit on a hot day can be a challenge. I find if I imagine Fall outside, with it’s wonderful crisp, refreshing air and brilliantly colored leaves that ride a breeze with the grace of a surfer riding a huge rolling wave, I can almost forget about the 100` plus temperatures outside. Almost!

I hope you’re enjoying your summer and are able to stay cool!

Work In Progress; A Peaceful Ending

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Good Morning!

As you can see from this photo, I finished the dress I’ve been working on! On January 25, and 27, I posted photos so that you could see how such a scene develops.

The scenes on my dresses are always a combination of smocking and embroidery. Smocking is wonderful for covering large flat areas, such as in the pasture, the hills, and the sky and for creating interesting  design patterns by varying smocking stitches.

Everything else in the scene is embroidered. I like to use embroidery because it allows me to add texture. Figures such as the lamb are almost three- dimensional. Tiny details like facial characteristics, become much more defined and realistic when they are embroidered. Embroidery allows me to work with thread almost as if it were paint.

As you can see in the first photo, (from the post of Jan.25,)  Peace sort of blends into the background, as does the little bird in the tree above her. When I encounter that problem, a little “landscaping” usually solves it.

By the time of the second photo, two days later, I had embroidered lots of flowers and grasses surrounding Peace and she becomes more visible. At this point, the scene looked kind of pale and blah. It definitely needed color to perk it up and bring it out, so I added some bright, orange-red, flowers, and a bright- green line at the edge of the pasture defining the pasture as well as adding color. The Magnolia tree with the bird in it, seemed to be lost in the background as well, so I filled the entire area behind it with blue sky.

Once the scene was completed, I returned to the smocking across the bottom and top of the scene, to see how it might better be  “framed.” I added four additional rows of smocking to the bottom, using the pale yellow of the main smocked pattern, a row of white, and then finishing with a row of the same bright yellow that I used in Peace’s flower garland. The last row of smocking in bright- yellow,  finished the scene off nicely with an additional touch of color.

Later, once I put sleeves on the dress, I was able to use that same bright yellow to trim the sleeves and button placket and tie it all together!

Progress Report~ Spring just around the corner

09A Lamb Named Peace/ a work in progressWe’re getting there, Peace and I! I thought you might enjoy seeing an update of the dress I’m currenly working on. I was able to spend the majority of the day yesterday, working on my dress, and by last night, felt as if I’d made progress. I’m hoping by tonight to be able to say I’m ready to start sewing the dress together, but we shall see!

I just returned from taking Pascal on our morning walk. After a brief spell,(four days,) of minor amounts of rain, Spring has returned and everything is resplendant with sunlight! We had perfect walking weather- in the 50′s. It felt cold to start off with, but with a quick pace we warmed up quickly and the air felt wonderful! It was a nice way to begin the day. Walking by pretty gardens and fields filled with rich-green long grasses,  felt as if I were walking through the scene that I’m embroidering on the dress pictured above.

I carry this scene home, my mind filled with thoughts about the scene growing right before my eyes, and I feel eager to get to work!

Before I go I thought I’d leave you with a few “spring-like” images to hold in your mind today, especially if you are one of those people who have been looking at snow for so long, that it’s almost hard to imagine that the time is close when you too, will be walking in the warmth of the sun,  through flower-filled garden scenes.

Spring OrangeBits