by Melissa Mall
Pattern is “Happy Little Mushroom” by Melissa Mall
Toys are great fun to crochet, but it can be frustrating when the results of your efforts don’t turn out anything like the picture. Here are some tips to help your toys turn out looking beautiful and professional every time!
1. Follow the Directions and Read the Notes
This might seem obvious…but I’ve personally fallen into the trap of assuming that ‘I know what I’m doing.’ I remember once, years ago, I decided to make a large stuffed horse for my son. The directions told me to use an F hook with worsted weight yarn.
“No way,” I said. “That’s way too tight. A G hook should do fine.”
I finished the project only to discover that the horse couldn’t stand – or even hold up its own head – because the neck and legs weren’t strong enough. Even though my experience making toys told me that the larger hook should have been okay, the designer knew that the scale of the project required something out of the ordinary. If I’d followed the directions that poor floppy horse would have been a lot more fun to play with.
Sometimes designers include special notes in the directions, and these are worth close attention. Whether it’s a note that you should switch hooks to keep gauge tight or a warning that substituting yarns will make your version look vastly different than the sample, pay attention! The designer is trying to help you out.
2. Take Care With Stuffing and Assembly
All of those patterns make it sound so easy. “Sew legs to body.” So why is it that your stuffed dinosaur comes out looking more deformed than dangerous? The answer might be as simple as the stuffing and placement of the limbs on the body. Stuff a piece too tight and it will look like a bloated potato – stuff it too loosely and it will look like an empty sock. What you want to do is stuff the pieces firmly enough that they hold their shape without distorting your stitches, and take a moment to ensure that it’s evenly distributed to prevent lumps and bulges.
Many people use a piece of the yarn each part is made of to sew the limbs together; in many cases this works well and prevents the stitches from being easily visible. For toys made with fuzzy, loopy, or bumpy yarn, sewing thread of a matching color may be a better choice.
Take time to position pieces carefully during assembly, and check that they haven’t moved in the middle of the process. Arms, legs, and heads stuck on crookedly can do a lot to ruin the intended effect. If you have difficulty getting things to stay in place while you attach them, you can always pin them in place or otherwise secure one part of it while you attach the rest.
3. The Embellishments You Choose Can Make it or Break it
When a pattern calls for notions you haven’t got, it may be tempting to substitute what you have on hand, but take care – you can end up changing the whole look of the toy.
Left: Noah’s Ark Pattern apparently no longer available (I cannot help you find this and I no longer have my own copy!); Right: Mauritius Dodo by Melissa Mall
Eyes embroidered on with yarn will rarely look as polished as those made with buttons or safety eyes, and even the wrong kind of button may end up looking strange. The embellishments on the ‘Happy Little Mushroom’ at the top of the article calls for felt sewn on with thread; the effect is very different when crocheted circles or yarn embroidery are substituted instead. This is not to say that you cannot substitute embellishments – just be cautious, and understand that it may not look the same as the photo that caught your eye in the first place.
If you keep these tips in mind, then your next attempt at making a toy is sure to turn out beautifully!
About the Author
Melissa Mall is an at-home mom with four sons, and a girl on the way! They have settled in to a quiet (or “quiet,” if you like) rural life in Missouri and are enjoying doing things like gardening and keeping chickens in the backyard. You can keep up with their ordinary adventures over at her blog, or take a peek at her crochet patterns and tutorials at Inner Child Crochet.
Article and Photots © Melissa Mall. All rights reserved.