Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hybrid Crochet & Sewn Butterfly Toy

Today's project is inspired by this cute little butterfly toy from Sew Mama Sew.
But first, a little philosophizing...
How do you decide what to create, and once decided, how do you decide which medium(s) to use? How important is it that you "can't compete with China?" That is, that you will most of the time end up spending more money on what you create than an analogous item purchased from the store, and that's without calculating your time investment?
I've been thinking about this a lot lately and if you're interested you can see some of my processing on the subject here. In summary, however, I've been working on being very intentional about what I create and how, making sure that I'm not wasting money *or* time on something that will be worthless by the time it's complete.

How does all this tie into a post about a quick n' easy baby toy?
Well, when I saw the "Sew Mama Sew" project on Pinterest, I was immediately attracted because it is adorable, and based on my last two kids, I could easily imagine a baby wanting to play with it - especially if it crinkled and had interesting textures. I also knew that it wouldn't be a terribly time consuming project, and that I could improve a bit on store-bought toys by making mine (a) cuter, (b) machine washable and (c) in this case actually cheaper than China.
However, the face the original artist used is not really my style. More importantly, I am often frustrated with my inaccuracy when trying to sew complicated shapes that small.  I've been crocheting a lot lately, so it's on the brain.  Suddenly it occurred to me that a crocheted body and sewn wings might be a perfect hybrid.

Here is what I ended up creating

Crochet Hook: E (go up or down a size depending on how tightly you crochet.)
Yarn: Cotton, such as Lion Cotton Ease or Lilly Sugar n' Cream. You'll use very little: this is perfect for your left-overs.
Fabric: Cotton fat quarter (or rather less!) or similar amount of fabric of your choosing - i.e. polar fleece, felt, or etc.
Optional, depending on finishing technique: small amount of fiberfill or cotton batting, scraps of "crinkly" material salvaged from a cereal or potato chip bag, small jingle bell. 

Instructions for Caterpillar Body 
If you have done any amigurumi-style crochet, you may already be familiar with the basic technique for crocheting a ball or sphere.  If so, all you need to know is that I crocheted an approx. 1.5 inch ball starting with 6 stitches and increasing to 18.  I then attached a crochet spiral created by chaining a long tail off this ball, then turning and inserting 3 DCs in each chain stitch.
If you're not familiar with these techniques, here is is written out formally.

Stitches used
CH: Chain
SC: Single Crochet
DC: Double Crochet
SC2TOG: Single Crochet 2 together (tutorial)

Row 1: Create a magic circle (Google for a tutorial if this is an unfamiliar concept), and SC 6 stitches in it.  Do not join with a slip stitch.  Mark the last stitch of each row with a marker, or just keep good count: this is small!
Row 2: 2 SC in each SC around.  12 SC in all
Row 3: *1 SC in first SC, 2 SC in next SC* Repeat around, total of 18 SC.
Row 4: 1 SC in each SC around, total of 18 SC
Row 5: *1 SC in first SC, SC2TOG in next 2 SC* Repeat around, total of 6 SC and 6 SC2TOG
Row 6: 1 SC2TOG in each SC around, total of 6 SC2TOG.
At this point (if not just after Row 5), you will want to take the opportunity to stuff in a little fiber fill or scrap yarn.  I also added a jingle bell as suggested in the original tutorial.
I then sewed shut the small hole remaining: my SC2TOG stitches are always looser than my SCs, so there's a bit of extra room at the bottom.

Row 1: Without fastening off yarn from head, CH 15 to 20, loosely. You now have a "tail" trailing from  the center bottom of the butterfly's head
Row 2: DC in 3rd CH from hook and turn. 2 more DC in same CH stitch, then 3 DC in each of the next CH stitches all the way up.  You will get a nice, tight spiral.
Sew the end back into the bottom of the head and tie off.
I also left a long tail which I threaded through the body spiral and attached again at the tail end: this keeps the spiral tight and "body shaped," but is not technically necessary.

Add details to the head as desired.  In a contrasting color I created antennae in chain stitch (about 4 each and a good knot at the end: baby will pull and chew!)  I also chain stitched a 2-3 inch loop at the center top to hang the toy from a plastic loop.
You could make french-knotted eyes (or even plastic safety eyes) and backstitch a smile: just keep in mind someone will almost certainly be pulling and chewing on this, so it's got to be attached Very well.

I now refer you to the Sew Mama Sew tutorial.
I drew my own wing template, but the basic technique is the same.

Ideas for Customization
After running up a couple of these, I realized again that I am Really bad at sewing small things.  I hate ironing, don't really understand the importance of and technique for clipping seams, and even have trouble just following a curve on the machine. So I started brainstorming ways to retain the cuteness and usefulness factor while avoiding most of those unpleasant steps. Here's what I came up with:
  • Make front and back of wings in different fabrics; choose a fleece, satin, or minky fabric for one side (OK, that still requires good sewing techniques. But it'll be fun for baby!) 
  • Make both front and back of wings with non-fray fabric such  as fleece; sew wrong sides together (with any crinkly material inside) and do not turn inside out.  If desired, clip a fringe in the seam allowance for visual and texture interest. 
  • Using flannel, sew wrong sides together as above which will leave a raw edge on the outside. Clip a fringe 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart, then wash your finished project a time or two to create a soft. interesting texture.  (Google for "Flannel Rag Quilt" if you're not familiar with this technique.)
  • Use three layers of felt. Hand-stitch with embroidery floss, using a variety of stitches such as blanket, back stitch, etc.   

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