How to Embroider a Smile on Your Amigurumi

Suki twittered me and asked me to share any hints that I may have to embroider a face on crochet toys (also called amigurumi). I am more than happy to help, of course. Here is the way I do it and if your way is different to mine, please leave a comment and share your technique with us.

Step 1:
I use a scrap piece of yarn to guide me on how I want the smile to look like. You may also use a suitable marking pen or pencil to draw your smile onto the face as your guide. Thread yarn or floss through a sharp embroidery needle.
Step 1

Step 2:
If like me, you are embroidering the mouth before finishing the stuffed toy, pull the needle through the starting point from the wrong side and leave a tail long enough to tie a knot with later.

Alternatively, if you have already finished the amigurumi, do it the following way. Push the needle in from the back or bottom of the head, through the stuffing and to the starting point. Stop just as the tail disappears into the back or bottom of the head. The tail should sit securely among the stuffing.

Step 3:
Sew a running stitch, using the scrap yarn smile as a guide (see step 1). I try to weave the needle in and around the crochet stitches, instead of through them. Hopefully you can see in the two pictures below how the crochet stitches neatly fill the gaps between the running stitches.
Step 2
End of Step 3

Step 4:
Now I work my way back to complete the smile. The trick I found is to sew a little bit in the start and end of each running stitch already sewn. This stops unsatisfactory gaps between stitches. Sew in this way back to the starting point.
Step 4

Step 5:
To finish off, tie a knot on the wrong side if you are embroidering the smile before finishing the toy.
Step 4
Otherwise, push your needle through the stuffing to the back or bottom of toy (reverse of how you started) and pull the yarn tightly. Snip the tail off just a little bit shorter so that the yarn disappears into the head.

And you’re done! Clear as mud, eh?
Done!

By the way, if you haven’t already, follow me on Twitter. I’m always interested in making new friends. 🙂

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How to Block a Scarf You Can Be Proud Of

Let’s start with why you should block your knitting. “The Knitting Answer Book” by Margaret Redcliffe summarises it into five reasons:

  1. Reduce curling, straighten edges and make sewing up easier.
  2. Get rid of slight variations in length or width between two pieces that should match.
  3. Open out a fabric, such as lace, to show off the patterning.
  4. Smooth the surface of the knitting and make the stitches more even.
  5. Adjust the shape of the finished garment or reshape it after washing.

You can see how this is demonstrated in my before and after photos of the my Asherton Reversible scarf below.

Before & After
Knitted Asherton Scarf WIPAsherton Reversible Scarf

There are many ways to block knitting depending on the item you’re blocking and what yarn you use. The most common ways are misting, steaming and wet blocking. The method below is wet blocking. I’m by no means an expert but I have successfully blocked several knitted wool scarves and shawls this way. I hope this tutorial helps beginner knitters overcome the fear of blocking and guide them through the procedure . It really isn’t that hard! 🙂

HOW TO BLOCK A KNITTED SCARF

You’ll need wool detergent, a sink, washing machine, pillow case, a large flat surface like a bed and rust-proof pins.

1. Wash
Fill tub or sink with warm water and add a little wool detergent. (Check the bottle label for exact measurement.) Soak scarf in warm soapy water for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, roll the scarf gently while still in the water and pick it up in your hand. Make sure to support it well. Place aside.
Soaking Knitted ScarfHandling

2. Rinse
Empty tub and refill with lukewarm water. Place scarf back into the water and unroll. Swoosh the scarf around lightly in the water.
Rinse Knitted Scarf

3. Spin
Get your pillowcase ready. Roll the scarf underwater and pick it up in your hands. Squeeze as much water out as possible. Place rolled-up scarf into a corner of the pillowcase (I use a bolster case). Tie a knot so that the scarf is squashed into the corner and will not move around. Set washing machine into spin cycle. Spin on fast speed.
Place Knitted Scarf in PillowcaseSpin Knitted Scarf in PillowcaseSpin Cycle

4. Blocking
Carry the pillowcase to a large flat surface like a clean bed. Take the scarf out and unroll it onto the bed. Carefully stretch the wet knitted scarf out onto the bed to about the width and length that you want. You may wish to stop at this point if you are satisfied with the way it looks and leave the scarf to dry completely.
Wet Knitted Scarf

However, you may need to pin the knitted scarf in place to really show the pattern and get the right size. This is especially so in lace knitting. Using rust-proof or dressmakers’ pins, pin along the edges of the damp scarf. Use as many pins as needed to keep the edges straight and even. Dry the scarf completely before removing pins. You have successfully blocked a scarf!
Blocking Knitted Scarf

Related posts:
Asherton Reversible Scarf
A Tale of a Bad Yarn Shop Experience

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Sectioning Homemade Heating Pad

Homemade heating pads are easy to make and I am here to offer you a tip when sewing sections in the pad. Creating sections in the heating pad help distribute the wheat or rice evenly. It’s especially useful when wrapping it around your neck or knee.

Martha Stewart’s video instructions on how to make a basic rectangular heating pad is an excellent starting point. It’s simple and I especially like the size of the pad made.

I followed Martha’s directions and sewed my own pads using recycled old curtain material. I filled them with wheat from the local pet shop. I tried to sew the sections and filling them as I go but the needle kept getting caught in the wheat, despite my attempts at pushing them aside. Eventually, the sewing machine needle snapped! I gave up and just sewed the opening closed.

Yesterday I read Cathe Holden’s tutorial for making her lavender heating pad and saw that she sewed her sections after filling and sewing up her pad.

So before attempting to sew the sections on my pad again, I pushed the wheat as far away as possible from where I’m about to sew and pinned the wheat aside. I didn’t want any more broken sewing needles! The sewing went a lot smoother and no needles were lost in the process. In hindsight, it also helps if you do not overfill the pad.

Homemade Heat Pad

You can see from the picture below two different heat pads. The one above is created with Martha Stewart’s instructions and below it is the sectioned heat pad as suggested by Cathe Holden.

Homemade Heat Pad

By the way, heating pads have a misleading name. These pads can be used hot and cold. Place the pad in a sealed bag and freeze it for an hour before use. It’s especially good during hot summer days for a quick cool down. It stays cool for up to an hour. Leaving a pad in the freezer all the time is recommended. You can still have a heated pad by microwaving it straight from the freezer. So don’t just save your heat pads for winter and body aches. Use it all year round!

How do you make your heat pads and what do you fill it with?

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Handsewn Ellies – Whip vs Blanket Stitch

I decided to do things slightly differently from the regular Ellie, mainly because I didn’t have the right fabric to use and I thought I’ll challenge myself with this simple project. I decided to use felt and handsew the entire project.

Sky Ellie
After two nights, Sky Ellie was born. I used mostly blanket stitch to seam the pieces together and satin stitched the details. The instructions then told me to whip stitch the ear onto Ellie and I stopped in my tracks. I didn’t know what a whip stitch was!

After a little hunting around the internet, I came across Futuregirl’s article on Choosing A Stitch for Handsewing. I then realised that I should have used whip stitch for seaming my softie instead of the blanket stitch! So I decided to make another Ellie using whip stitch to test Futuregirl’s theory.

Earth Ellie
Earth Ellie was born very soon after. He is a lot rounder than his sister, Sky. Using a different stitch made a world of difference! Compare for yourself:

Blanket stitches on Sky gave a flat seam around the edges.
Sky Ellie's Stitches

Whip stitches on Earth made him much more rounded.
Earth Ellie's Stitches

I highly recommend reading Futuregirl’s article before handsewing your next softie and she has tutorials on how to do both stitches in her blog too. The two Ellies are nonetheless happy to be part of a very useful experiment so that all future softies are sewn just a little bit nicer. Now they live happily together, never to be alone again.
Earth & Sky Ellies
Pattern from Softies book

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