Edward's Menagerie - Sophia the Flamino and Blake the Orangutan
For Christmas, Mum bought me the excellent Edward's Menagerie books by Kerry Lord. They are full of excellent patterns for making mammals and birds. I love them. They all have the same basic body parts (body, head, limbs) which are then altered slightly depending on the animal (the flamingo has a longer neck than standard, for example) with other features added (such as the orangutan's fur stitch). They are so, so clever.
Vikki was the first person to request an animal (or two), she wanted a flamingo and an orangutan. So I ordered animal coloured wool and then set to work.
The flamingo is a level 1 animal (there are three levels of increasing difficulty) and the patterns are excellent - very clear and well-written, with lots of photos. I do like photos - especially of useful things such as where to sew on the tail and how to position the wings (flying? resting? excited?). As I find with most knitted and crocheted animals (especially the amazing faux taxidermy) the knitting/crocheting of all the bits is relatively straightforward, it's the sewing up which takes time. Sophia wasn't too bad, though, and I was so very pleased with her when she was finished.
Blake was a pain from the beginning. He is covered in fur stitch, which is really clever but involves counting. Every third stitch on an odd round and every fourth stitch on an even round needs to include a loop. These loops are then cut when finished to make the fur. This is very clever, and looks great, but involves so much counting. For example, the pattern for the next round may be one stitch in each of the next five stitches, then two stitches in the sixth stitch, repeat all the way around. So you need to count every seven stitches as well as every three or four stitches depending on what round you're on. This is hard! Blake does have a few bald patches where I clearly didn't count at all. This was definitely not a relaxing project and one I couldn't do in front of the television. Podcasts all the way!
Another annoying thing about Blake is that he's inside out - amigurumi (crocheted toys) definitely has an inside and an outside, and as I've made quite a few amigurumi things, I'm used to working the 'right' way - so to make Blake the 'wrong way' (his pesky fur stitch loops are worked on the wrong side, which therefore has to become the 'right' side) was a bit of a pain.
Blake was not easy to sew up - he has a very small amount of stitches at the top of his body/bottom of his head so there's not much material to actually sew together. This is not helped by all the loops in the way so you can't really see what it is you're trying to sew. But sew I did, then added his arms and legs and then finally his eyes and nostrils.
Which is when I remembered orangutans have long arms and shorter legs, so they can swing through trees, whereas Blake has short arms and long legs. More for dancing than swinging, I reckon. I did try to unpick them but my sewing is actually pretty good and I couldn't see where I needed to unpick. So I've left it. I was really annoyed about this, but I think it's something that will bother me more than it will other people, as I know how it's supposed to look! I then spent some time merrily cutting through the loops to make the fur. Which does look good.
Blake was a level 3 animal, and it was mainly the fur stitch which made him hard and not really enjoyable. He does look good, though. Next on my list is the elephant, which thankfully is a level 1 creature!
Sophia and Blake are this week being rehomed and probably renamed and possibly having their gender reassigned as they go off to Vikki and her children, in the wilds of County Durham. I am sure they will enjoy it there. I am also slightly reassured that Vikki clearly knows a thing or two about making things and so will be able to perform surgery on these two animals should they need a bit of TLC!