Throughout the process of making the toys my technique and method for creating the toys ha developed, and I have started to form a general method which I follow for creating each design, and is easily adaptable to suit the differences of each design.
The first step of is to prepare the image. I photograph the child’s drawing, before placing it carefully in my folder, as they have the parents details on for delivering the toys after.
I remove the background from the image before printing it. I had been making the image to be roughly the size of an A4 piece of paper, as the majority of the felt I have is that size. However I felt with a few of the toys I created this was not adequate size to really do the child’s drawing justice, so this time I printed the image at 150% the scale from an A4 image.
I then pick the yarn. The majority of the yarn I am using is quite cheap double knit acrylic, as it is the most common yarn and is available in a huge variety of colours. I always check the yarn I pick for colour against the original image, as the colour changes greatly between being photographed and then printed, which I did not realise until having completed Magnus’s gecko. I am limited with the variety of colours of yarn I have at the moment, so certain colours are very quick to pick, such as dark brown as I have that one. With this fox I also changed to use a slightly smaller crochet hook, a 3mm one, as this will also allow me to add more detail to the fox than the 3.5mm I tend to have been using does.
Once picked with that I start planning how to crochet the creature, and where to start. Starting with the legs if they are separate, or an area that is a more complex shape is what I have found to be the best start, as then everything can be formed around it. It is easy to make the body too small whilst still accurate and then realise that I am unable to form the other shapes either accurately enough or to the same scale.
As I crochet, I check frequently whether the piece I am crocheting is accurate and matches the image. If coming to an unusual bend or curve I start planning how to adapt and where to create match the drawing. From where I start I go across image, trying to make it so each new piece joins on to one already made.
For large, complex shapes that change greatly across one colour I must plan which spot to begin and direction to travel to work well within the confines that crochet initiates. With the orange body I chose to start with the knee, as that was quite a hard part to crochet, and curves tend to work best as a place to start and traveling left to right, not up or down flowed best with crochet.
I chose to keep the orange body as one large part, rather than separate them as I find it easier when sewing up to give it a solid base and it adds structure to the design.
Jagged shapes, like the yellow scruff and top of the feet are hard to make and attach. I planned it so that I could sew the jagged parts on to the body, rather than have them interlocking as that would completely alter the shape.
This child drew most of the different colours with a border around, but for the top and bottom of the head they just used different colours. I made the two parts separately, which on reflection may not have been the best method, it would probably have worked better just changing colour. Having t=done the two parts separately I had to join them. Initially I was joining it with the chain (the pretty side) on the front, but this made the difference to obvious, and did not match the drawing. When I turned over the piece, I found the reverse worked much better, it looked more blended and smoother, so I undid and did it this way.
Areas where there is detail, I have to decide whether to sew it on top, or whether to make it as a separate piece. Most eyes and single lines I stitch on top, as well as some very small bits, under 10 stitches, but I find that details look better and stand out more crocheted. For the ears I did the inner orange part first, before the yellow behind to ensure that it would fit inside with a slight gap around. I had issues with this with the rabbit’s nose, as I could not make the nose any smaller but had already sewn the noise area together.
Once every piece of the design is made and up to standard I start sewing them together. I start sewing on some of the smaller details with a bodkin as I find it easier with smaller pieces as they flap around less. I always single crochet around the edge of the crochet as if not it has a very rough, unattractive edge. This edging also adds a great border to sew the felt to.
I use to border as a way of joining the pieces together, such as the ears on the head. With small details, like the foxes whiskers, have their area greatly increased by the border, but this is then reduced a lot when sewn to the felt and stuffed, it is surprising how much the border really helps with these areas.
I had to decide with the fox quite a lot whether to add a border or not. I decided to add one around the ywellow scruff so that it would contrast asn sew up more against the orange, but did not add one to the feet, as the dark brown already contrasted enough. I am still torn for whether I should have added it to the tail, but it would not have fitted in the design, so it was a necessary decision to not, but I do wonder if there was any way could have.
Once I have sewn all of the crocheted parts together, I select the felt. With the previous designs I have chosen the colour that matches best, but with the fox due to its increased size I could only use a deep marron. I did consider using two orange sheets, but due to the weird shape of the fox this would have ended up with the felt being in at least 3 pieces. I decided that the maroon matched well enough that it would be better than using multiple pieces. If the toy had been green or another colour that would clash, I would have had to use multiple pieces of felt.
For the sewing up I place the crocheted piece upside down on the felt and then pick a good spot to start. This is a very important desciosion, as turnig out the piece is quite hard, and if pick the wrong spot it can make it extremely diffeicult to not only turn out but to als oastuff. When picking the spot has to be in a place where it is possible to reach all the toy from for stuffing after, so at the end of the body is not very good. It is also quite hard to turn out the smaller detatiled ares, easpecailly once fully sewn through a small gap. A good way to stop this is tho have try and have the small little parts near the start. This way they can be cut around and then pulled basically in once they are done, so they are already the right way once the rest gets turned out. I chose just before the head as this seemed like the spot I would most be able to achieve this from.
The tail was also an area for concern, as I would have to pull something through a space half the size of the original. This is why I chose the side I did to start the sewing, sao that there could be some base before I turned it out. It was quite hard to pull the tail through, and force could not be used in case it ripped, but I managed it.
I cut the felt around the rest of the fox (any area not already pulled inside) before turning it all inside out through the hole once it reaches around 1½ inches. The stuffing is the inserted though the whole, starting from the extremities and then into the main body, making certain every cranny has sufficient stuffing. The end hole is then stitched up and the toy is complete.