Bear Sweaters

My mom likes to take the grand-kids to lunch and shopping for birthdays. She has more fun doing this than shopping alone for something that might not be just right. The kids look forward to it, too.  She was in town recently, and took the Girl out for Chinese food and a motorized hamster habitat. I mean, a habitat for a motorized hamster. Then she took my nephew to McDonald’s and Build a Bear Workshop.

I hate going to Build a Bear, but I appreciate it as a distributor of magic.  I’ve recently learned a definition of magic as the “change of consciousness in accordance with will.”  When I heard that definition,  Build-A-Bear jumped into my mind. They help change the consciousness of their core customer base. Purchasing a bear (or monkey,which is what my nephew picked) involves a ritual of wish making and swearing fidelity and secret sharing that helps hold a child back in childhood. Some days it seems like the Girl has the pedal down to the floor trying to be a teenager. She’s  not wise beyond her years, because she doesn’t have the wisdom, but she’s too smart for her own good sometimes.  Somehow, a pink bear, named Pinky ,naturally, slows her down a little.

In addition to being an outpost of magical thinking, Build a Bear is also a money factory- My mom was appalled, “$3.50 for a pair of underwear, you can get a six pack of underwear at Walmart for 5.99!”

But this underwear has tail-holes…

World, meet Eliabeth. Elizabeth, this is the world. Sorry, no underwear...

It gives me an excuse to knit. I have made several bear sweaters, and they are pretty quick and easy. My nephew picked a brown monkey which he named Elizabeth, and when my mom told me about it, I cast on a sweater immediately.   Elizabeth’s monkey sweater may be a touch tight- I probably should have done a gauge swatch, but I hate to do them, especially when the sweater itself is so small.

I had leftover sock yarn- I don’t know exact yardage, but less than a full skein- there was some unrolling and starting in strange places on the ball to get the stripes to line up- if you use a solid color, you can just go straight. Certainly less that 200 yards of yarn, maybe around 100?

This construction method works for any size sweater, I have made them for myself, the kids, babies. I learned it from “Knitting without Tears”—Follow/dp/0684135051/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318000347&sr=1-1   I checked it out from my local library.(also, I get no money if you follow the link- Amazon won’t do business with Colorado bloggers because of our tax laws)

Once you understand the technique for bears or dolls, you can scale it up.  If you have made hats, you can do this- the only tricky part is grafting the armpits, and you can find Youtube videos that show grafting. Just search knitting grafting, by the way, if you look for grafting armpits, you find weird stuff about hair transplants…

Percentage System Bear Sweater

Figure out the bear’s chest size- 16″ is pretty common. Don’t forget a little ease- extra space for the poor monkey to breathe, and dance, and move in.

Figure out the stitches per inch on the yarn you have and the needles you want to use. I was using fingering weight, and size 5’s, which gives me a gauge of about 3.75 stitches per inch.  I cast on 60, which I thought would be perfect, but it’s a touch tight. Oh well. With bigger needles and thicker yarn, 60 would probably be perfect.

I did about 1/2 inch of 2×2 ribbing. I changed to stockinette when the color changed, and increased 6 stitches evenly around.

Knit up the body about 4 inches.

Cast on 30 stitches for one sleeve- use two circulars  or double pointeds  I like the circulars better, but I couldn’t find any size fives available, so I used the doubles. Do the ribbing to stockinette switch the same way as the body, increasing by 10% when you get done with ribbing. I knit the sleeve until it looked about the right length and also matched up with the color changes on the body- it would have bugged me if the stripes had been way off. Did second sleeve same way.

Here’s the tricky part- put the sleeves and body on the same needle, with waste yarn on the 6 armpit stitches. So here’s how it looks- 28 arm stitches, 27 front of the body stitches, 28 arm stitches then 27 back stitches. Knit 2 rows, then at each place where the sleeves meet the body decrease 2 by knitting two together, then knitting 1, then knitting another two together. Do this every other row until you have decreased to 40% of the original body. Actually, stuffed animal heads are crazy big- I don’t think I did 40% on this one. I asked Pinky for help and tried it on her when it felt like it would be about right. Then I forgot to count, and I have already given the sweater away.

My nephew loved it, and Elizabeth seemed to like it, too. She’s very verbal for a stuffed monkey.

"OOH OOH! AAH AAAH!" that means she likes it.

The armpits for this are pretty tricky, but not impossible- they take grafting, which to me is like magic, (except not according to the above definition) because you are using a sewing needle to create a row of knit stitches. Take the stitches off the waste yarn and put them back on two needles. Thread the tail of yarn onto a large-eyed tapestry needle. Take a deep breath. Hold the knitting needles parallel in one hand. Then insert the needle knitwise into the needle in front, drop it off the knitting needle, and insert the sewing needle purlwise into the next stitch, but don’t drop it off. Then insert the needle purlwise into the first stitch on the back needle,  drop it off, and insert it knitwise into the next stitch. Repeat this until all six are off the needles. Check out Youtube- it is probably easier to see it than read it.  You can stitch up the roughly triangular holes that form at either end while you weave in the ends of the yarn. This same technique can be used for sock toes. I also used it for the sucky shawl I made but still haven’t figured out what to do about.


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