Knitting Off-piste

A friend asked me if I could knit a kangaroo and joey as part of a birthday present she was making. She was sewing a patchwork blanket (I think!?)  with pockets in for small toys, so the criteria was it had to fit in the pocket. I’ve never knitted a kangaroo before and I don’t often knit toys, so this sounded fun. Plus I really like knitting for a purpose rather than just knitting random things and finding them a home afterwards. So I started looking online for patterns.

There’s a distinct lack of kangaroo knitting patterns online, I discovered. Not a problem. I’ve knitted for long enough that I know how to adapt patterns to suit my own purposes. So I started thinking outside the box and looked for patterns of rabbits and mice and other small creatures that I could change to become kangaroo-like.

I started one for a rabbit, which was a pattern knitted in the round. It didn’t tell me the dimensions of the end product, so I chose small needles and wool and hoped for the best. The start of the pattern was fine, but then it started wanting me to knit part of it like I was knitting the heel of a sock. This is where I ran into problems: with my Adrenal Insufficiency, I categorise skills into pre and post diagnosis. Basically anything I learnt how to do before I developed adrenal insufficiency, I can usually repeat now (providing I can physically manage it and albeit a lot slower). Some medical professionals encourage people with concentration/memory problems (like Alzheimer’s) to knit because it’s enough to keep the brain working but not too taxing on it. I really struggle to learn anything new now, can’t retain the information, and can’t piece together abstract bits of information. So I know how to knit and follow and adapt patterns because I did that for years before, but I’d never knitted a sock before so I was completely clueless. Eventually, the disaster that was becoming the rabbit/sock/kangaroo was turning out to be ridiculously huge, so I decided to abandon that pattern completely and try a new one.

A friend bought me this book for Christmas:

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It’s a good book anyway, but crucially for me and my criteria, it said ‘mini’. Toys are usually made up in pieces which you sew together, so I started looking through the book to see if there were any characters I could ‘steal’ and adapt to fit my kangaroo.

I eventually decided on: the body of Mary, the head and neck of a donkey, the arms of a sheep and I would make my own legs, tail and ears based on what I already know. It sounded a little bit like a Catholic prayer of some sort for communion, but I set to work.

The body of Mary worked out quite well for the body of the kangaroo. Next I made the neck and donkey head. This didn’t turn out so well, mostly because the neck was a lot longer than I needed it to be for my kangaroo- a bit like a giraffe. So I flicked through the book again and found a reindeer head, which was much better, minus the antlers. It became obvious that while I could position the reindeer head and Mary and sew those together, I also needed a base. Otherwise all the stuffing would fall out and the kangaroo wouldn’t stand up. So I knitted a circle and sewed that on, and then put some toy stuffing in before sewing up completely.

After all that, the legs, arms and tail were quite easy. The legs, tail and ears I just knitted front to back into every stitch on a knit row until I had enough stitches (and purled the purl rows) and the arms I followed the i-cord suggestion from the sheep pattern. My husband said it still didn’t look very kangaroo-like so I decided to knit him a pouch, by doing a sort of half circle similar to the base in white. I found some blue beads for the eyes and decided to knit him a red scarf to give him a bit of colour. For the joey, I did another i-cord section which I folded in half lengthways. Before sewing the sides, I embroidered eyes and a mouth in black wool, sewed up the sides, and just sewed over myself a lot of times into where the head, arms and feet would be to give them a bit of shape. Knitting a scarf for joey would have been too fiddly, if not impossible, so I tied a piece of blue yarn round his neck.

I was quite impressed with how they turned out considering I don’t make toys often and it was a bit like knitting off-piste! And considering it’s an amalgamation of Mary, a reindeer and a sheep!

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