When I learned how to knit, it was because I wanted to make a preemie hat for my daughter. I was immediately in love with the entire knitting process and wanted to knit more and more. It wasn’t long before I discovered knitted toys and dove into that obsession headfirst.
When I think of knitted toys, I always think of Susan B. Anderson and her extensive collection of wonderful toy patterns. Susan has written several books of toy patterns as well as publishing many of her patterns online individually. The first toy I ever knitted was her “Ribbit” frog pattern. I think this is a perfect toy that can grow with the baby. Because the body is stuffed with a tennis ball, there is no worry about the stuffing escaping and becoming a potential choking hazard. As the baby grows, he or she will enjoy playing with it and making the frog “hop” by dropping it on the floor. My daughter is almost six now, and still loves playing with her knitted frog.
Another great source for baby toy inspiration are the many books of knitted toy patterns that are available. One such example is “60 Quick Knitted Toys” by Sixth & Spring Books. Remember those wooden building blocks you had when you were a baby? How about knitting up a set? This book also includes many patterns for huggable and squishable “stuffies” of all types: hippos, turtles, bears, elephants, and more. Another highlight is the Whale Puppet. Like Susan B. Anderson’s Ribbit, this is a toy that can grow with the child. While he or she is a baby, an adult (or older child) can wear the puppet and play with the baby. As the baby grows, he or she will enjoy manipulating the hand puppet themselves.
When you want to look for patterns for knitting, searching in the Ravelry database is often a great place to start. A Ravelry search in the “Toys and Hobbies” category for children’s toys brings back over a thousand results. Here are three tips for how to decide what to knit.
Watch for choking hazards
My number one concern when knitting toys is that they are safe. I think the biggest concern with baby toys is having a choking hazard. Let’s face it – babies put everything in their mouths. One of the first things they will do when they get your toy is put it in their mouth. Make sure that if the toy contains any ornamentation, that it is securely attached. If the toy has eyes, use safety eyes that won’t come out. Or, better yet, consider embroidering french knots for the eyes instead. Make sure any buttons on the toy are securely fastened, or leave them off. I’ve also found that you can knit a baby toy without the possible choking hazard embellishments, then add them several years later once the baby is not as apt to put it in their mouth. As far as choking hazards go, I think the biggest concern is with the stuffing in stuffed toys. Make sure that your knitting is at a tight gauge in order to help keep the stuffing inside the toy. Many toys call for the use of plastic pellets for stuffing the base of toys in order to provide stability. It is very easy for these pellets to escape knitted fabric, so you should consider leaving them out for toys intended for babies. If you feel you must include them, put them in a pouch created from pantyhose before adding them to the toy. This will help ensure they stay inside the toy, where they belong.
Look at Construction
Toys can be constructed in various ways, but one of the main differences is whether the toy is knit in pieces and seamed together in the end, or whether it is knit seamlessly. Each method has its advantages. With seamed toys, e.g., the knitter will have ultimate control on how the arms, legs, etc. are put together and things can be positioned “just so.” However, many knitters prefer the ease of knitting without additional finishing work in the end. Be sure to to pick a pattern that you will enjoy knitting!
Consider Cleaning & Care
Especially if the toy is well-loved, it is very likely to need cleaning form time to time. Many times, the toy will simply be spot cleaned on the surface or carefully hand-washed, but sometimes it will take a trip to the washing machine. I like to knit toys with superwash wool so that it will have a good chance of surviving a trip to the washing machine without being felted. Acrylic yarn is also a great choice for toy knitting. This is also a good reason to leave the plastic pellets out of your baby toys – they will often escape if the toy is washed in the washing machine.
I hope these toy suggestions and knitting tips Will help you pick the perfect thing to knit next time you’re knitting a baby toy. Leave a comment and let me know about your toy knitting experiences – I love to hear what other knitters think about knitting toys.
Keep on knitting for the ones you love!
Greg Cohoon has been knitting since 2012, when his daughter, who was born prematurely, received a few preemie hats while she was in the NICU. He is KnittingDaddy on Ravelry, Instagram, and Twitter and is the host of the Unraveling Podcast. Greg lives in Greensboro, North Carolina and has a special fondness for baseball, bacon, and blueberries.