Sunday, December 7, 2014

Knit doll Workshop with Susan B Anderson at Vogue Knitting Live Chicago

I'm so lucky to be taking 4 different classes at Vogue Knitting Live this year! Today I'm going to be telling you about the 4th and final class and second lecture I took with Susan B Anderson.  (If you need to catch up, check out my experiences in Toy Deign with Anna Hrachovec and cable design with Norah Gaughan.) 

The package I purchased for Vogue Knitting Live Chicago included 4 classes and 3 lectures.  For my 4th class I wanted to take Seamless Knit Doll Workshop taught by the famous Susan B. Anderson.  I'm taking this class mainly to meet an incredible designer and to see her talk about one of her designs as she teaches us to make it.  The doll itself is less inspiring to me than the opportunity to be in the presence of a great designer.  I have made similar types of toys and I know that I could make this doll without many issues with just the pattern, but it will be fun to do an in-person LIVE knit-a-long.

Preparing for Class

This class had more "homework" than some of the others because I needed to make sure I assembled all of the materials I needed to create my doll.  I chose shine sport yarn in a variety of colors and pre-weighed them so that I could decide exactly what colors I wanted to use while I was at the class.  I also pre-portioned some fiber fill so I could finish up my doll.

I normally don't worry about my gauge when I'm making toys, it really doesn't matter to me if they are a little bigger or smaller because ultimately you just want the fabric to be tight enough to hold the fiber fill.  However, I am going to be in the presence of Susan B. Anderson, and if she wants me to make sure I have the correct gauge I don't want to skip my homework!

I swatched the cream yarn on size 3 (3.25 mm) knitting needles.  I cast on 30 sts and knit in stockinette.  (See how proper I'm being here?  No skipping steps for me!)   25.5 sts/4".  Close enough to 6.5 sts/inch for me!  I unwound my swatch and packed up my bag for the conference.

My kit for class with Susan B. Anderson
Class with Susan B Anderson

I was later getting to class than I wanted because my train was late, but I made it JUST in time.  The Print out is an entire ebook of Mary, Millie and Morgan!  There are dozens of pages in this thing, including the doll body and many different clothes options.  There are so many patterns on display that I know I am going to fill my queue right up.  I love the Giraffe, dragon and elephant right off the bat.  Then I saw the Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys, oh my!  There is a boy doll available, but not part of this ebook in class.  

(After class I attended Susan's lecture.  She gave many different anecdotes and told her story about how she became a designer and how she started knitting.  Her lecture included a bunch of give aways, but I didn't win anything.  The tips she gave for toy making are similar to the ones that I'll share below, so I won't have a separate lecture part of this post.  Fun trivia: Did you know that she has a chicken pattern in each one of her published books?)

Look at the amazing eyes on this fox!  The embroidery is so simple but really gives them character.  I want to make this toy!

Susan is much younger than I had expected, I don't know why but in my head I pictured her as older.  She is full of energy (and fresh since it was her first day at the confrence..)  This is a new pattern of hers and her first time teaching this class.  

The class was very structured.  We spent the whole time knitting and she divided the room into three loosely structured groups.  She had these groups come up for small demonstrations of techniques one at a time since it is hard to show something like a french knot to a room of 20.  

It is fun to hear some design stories.  For example, she debated the color of the shoe insert on the doll.  Should it be skin colored or the color of the leggings?  Her anecdotes are as cute as she is.  She is a really vivacious woman and a true inspiration.  She started publishing books as a mother of multiple young children, and made her own opportunities not expecting the book deals to come out of them. Maybe there is some hope for my design career!  

I realized in the middle of class that the colors of yarn I'm using in this doll I used in another Susan B Anderson pattern, in the Baby Marley Hat Lucky wore.    It was fun to show her a picture of this pattern as it was one of her first designs in her first book.  

To give sitting toys some weight (not for this doll, but for other display toys), you can get poly beads/pellets. You can usually find them in the doll aisle of a big craft store. DO NOT use beans or rice.  It may be tempting but some moisture can cause you to have a rotting toy.  If you are going to use pellets in a toy for a young child, you can enclose them in a cloth bean bag or even in the end of some ruined panty hose.  Just layer some polyfill stuffing around it and you're good to go.  

I forgot to cast on under the arms, so to compensate I decided to skip the shaping in the waist.  A little girl doesn't have much shape yet, anyway.  

At the hair demonstration I took pictures of the hair and the part to see how far down the back of the neck to let the hairline go. (I don't think there were these pictures in the ebook.)  

At the end of class, Susan arranged our dolls into a group to take a picture.  Not to brag or anything (maybe a little), but my doll was one of the furthest along and Susan pronounced my stuffing as "perfect."  I am a proud little knitter!

When I left the class, I thanked Susan for the tips and being an inspiration.  She gave me a HUGE hug and told me that I was '"too cute".  This little exchange brighted my whole day and I danced the whole way home.  

It has been a month since the lecture and my doll is still in the same place it was when I left class.  Hopefully I will finish up my last few Christmas gifts so I can finish up this doll and give her a name.