One of the greatest pleasures in my life is to sit on the sofa once the boy is in bed, yarn and hook in hand, and see what happens. I don’t always have an idea in mind, and quite often the whole lot gets frogged, but the process is fabulously satisfying.
Every now and then, I have an idea. A special idea. One that I just HAVE to make. Or (more frighteningly) someone has requested a toy. Then the pressure is on and I sit for hours designing a toy that suitably fits the bill.
With that in mind, I’m sharing my guide to designing a toy for yourself. Please note, this is just how I go about it, but I hope the suggestions and tips are useful to you whether you have toy making experience or not.
It does help if you have a natural understanding of 3D space, and can visualise what you would like to create, but I am a big believer that anyone can design crochet toys. How good they are depends on your creative flair and passion for crochet, and practice! Looooooots of practice.
Before you get started, there are a few things you can do to help you on your way…
Firstly, get familiar with crochet, the stitches, increases, decreases and the array of shapes you can create using different combinations of them.
The absolute best way to do this, without a doubt, equalled by none, is to make as many toys as you can. Search for cute, interesting, unusual patterns with techniques or elements that you’ve not seen or tried before, and get hooking.
The next step is to practice different shapes.
Try the basics first, spheres, cubes, pyramids etc, then you can start to combine them into more complex structures. The products of these experiments are never useless, just make sure you use a host of fun colours and yarns, then string them together in a modern and fun mobile.
When working in rounds, spheres, sweeping curves and blobs are by far the easiest shapes to master, but with a combination of working in the round and back and forth, you can make any shape imaginable. Sharp corners can be created in a number of ways, by working each side individually and sewing together, or, you could work into the ‘stem’ of the stitch, rather than the ‘top’ of the stitch for one row where you want to turn the corner.
Materials, materials, materials. If you’re making for a babe, think about appropriate yarns. Machine washable? Yes please. Soft and cuddly? Oooo, thank you. Bright and beautiful? Absolutely. Itchy, dull, non colour fast, shrinkable, hand wash only? No, no, no. Fail.
Use an appropriate yarn for the project.
Next you need to get your tension right. You should be developing a good even tension by practicing shapes, but its important to get the right tension to hold your stuffing, which is often pristine white and shows up horrifically if your tension is too loose and you are working in a deep colour.
Your tension, yarn thickness, stitch choice, and hook size all contribute to how well your piece will hold stuffing, so just experiment with varieties of the above until you are happy with the result.
By now I hope you’ll be confident enough to try out some basic designs. Start simple. A simple design done well is so much better than a complicated design done poorly. And a successful make will build your confidence no end!
But, if everything hasn’t gone to plan, don’t worry! Unwind what you need to, or start again. Working small helps here, then the disasters (which we all suffer from) don’t seem to bad!
Once you start tackling larger and more complicated ideas, you might want to sketch out ideas before you reach for your hook. And that really works for some people. I, on the other hand, struggle converting a 2D sketch straight into a 3D masterpiece. I pop in an extra step here and make a small 3D version of the toy out of a cheep (and critically, cheap) material.
Paper and sticky tape is good. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just give you an idea of how the thing will work in 3D.
I love embellishing projects, from surface crochet to embroidery, this is often the stage that brings your design to life. Buttons, buckles, beads and bows (my head hurts from all the alliteration), I adore them all. Some say less is more, but I give you permission to get carried away. We all have a project or two that has gone a step or two too far at this stage, and why not! You need to practice somewhere…
So there we are!
I hope this was helpful to all you budding designers, and have fun creating your crochet toys. Don’t forget to get in touch and show me what you’ve been up to.
This is a snap from my latest design project.
I’ve wanted to make a set of these for quite some time, and was prompted to get cracking after seeing these from Knits by Sachi. So so lovely, do check out her blog!
They are based on the traditional wooden toy soldiers, have movable arms and will eventually have little booths and perhaps a horse or two?
I took a rather crummy photo of my first attempt, but I didn’t like to body shape or shoulders, so I tried a couple more times. The final shape has much better proportions and the surface crochet is working well.
Now. How many more should I make?!
Patten for the soldiers to follow, or, why not try making your own!