Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Confession: I killed a panda (with scissors)

So we all know what pandas look like. Roly-poly, black-masked, adorable,  with their woolly black-and-white contrasted coat. I wouldn't get in a cage with one, but I can admire their cuddlyness from afar.

So Caitlin said to me not long ago:


Yes, Caitlin.

Could you knit me something?

Sure, what would you like?

Could you knit me a panda?


A panda? I had so many panda patterns I didn't know where to start. Most of them were plain lousy, or even frightening.

This poor guy looks as if he was run over by a truck.

But hel-lo-o-o-o-o-o:  what was this? Just about the cutest knitted panda pattern I've ever seen! And he looked easy to make. The pattern came from World of Knitted Toys by Kath Dalmeny,  a book I've used for several successful projects, such as many of the characters in my Ugly Duckling story  which I gave Erica and Lauren for their birthdays.

I showed her the pattern. "I want it! I want it!" Caitlin said, so I told her, alrighty then, I'll knit it for you.

And then.

Well, it got weird.

Then weirder.

This thing didn't look like a panda at all: more like an anteater who was a victim of Monty Python's Owl Stretching Time.

By the time I finished the body, which was knitted in one piece, I knew I was in trouble. It looked like a fat bowling pin crossed with a pig. The head had a strange point on it, and was twice the size of the body. The eye-patches were about 2" too long.

Where did I go wrong???

Trying to sew the legs on was worse: they were long, skinny and tubular, and the animal wouldn't stand up. It splayed on the floor like a disabled anteater.

I  stuffed the body, tried and tried to sculpt it into some kind of shape that wasn't totally grotesque. It didn't work. I tried to open it up so I could unravel it and salvage the wool, which was very expensive.

No dice. It wouldn't happen. I took scissors to the thing, hacking the head off so I could at least have the stuffing back.  My panda lay before me, a mass of unravelled wool and destroyed morale.

I felt like crap. Obviously I had done something very wrong, but what?

Then this morning, something happened. . .

I found an example of the same (finished) panda on a web site called Random Meanderings. This entry is for some time in 2009.

OK then. . . it's supposed to look like  a pig on stilts!

Yes. It has a definite piglet quality, with elongated limbs, as if someone had fed it growth hormone.

And it doesn't look like it would stand up, either, with those floppy legs. For the sake of comparison, let's take another look at the original, then Piggy:

So it wasn't my fault. Moreover, it looks to me as if Random Meanderings followed the pattern exactly. It wasn't bad knitting, at all. In fact it looked very neatly done, which is not such an easy thing with a larger stuffy.

But this is what she got: a "what-is-it?", which I simply could not give to Caitlin.

The only thing I could think of was that I used a yarn substitution. These patterns all call for something called DK, which is not available in Canada and which no one has even heard of in yarn shops (which don't exist any more anyway - you have to dive into sale bins at Walmart).  I used a thinner version of "worsted weight", which makes up 90% of the yarn you can get here. It varies from almost threadlike to so massively thick, it should be labelled "super bulky".

(Blogger's note. No, that's not true. The funny-looking panda was knitted with the correct yarn and STILL came out looking like an English Bull Terrier with anteater genes.)

Whew. These two could be cousins. Is that genetically possible?  Anyway, my poor trashed  anteater-panda didn't look nearly as good as this one because it had weird bumps and bulges and a lot of very visible seams. It didn't look so much like a handsome English Bull Terrior as Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh.

Let me tell you my best and worst traits:

(a) I never give up.

(b) I never give up.

I just can't. I have to try again, try to win, because failure opens up a desperate plug-hole in the bottom of my spirit, causing all my will to live to drain away.

In my life, I've had about 90% failure, so you can imagine how I feel when something like this happens.

We live in an age where we can order a pattern for a few dollars, and get it via email within the hour. I decided to gamble on Debi Birkin because I think her patterns are brilliant. I was even able to manage Piecrust the Tortoise (below), though it still doesn't look like the original picture.

I made a turtle family which I gave my daughter-in-law for her birthday. The pattern was challenging enough to be interesting, but never once felt the wrath of my scissors or the ripping-out of fibrefill guts.

So now, probably stupidly, I will essay to waste still more money on still more black-and-white wool to try to make Ping Pong Panda. If he turns out at all, he'll be more of a cuddly teddy than a stand-up panda (who never stood up anyway).  But hey - if all else fails, I'll still have that tiny blue sweater. 

(Coda: I found this entry on a site called Stream of Consciousness, dated sometime in 2005. Makes me feel even better, because this panda is a lot closer to the original photo and the knitter STILL doesn't like the result.)

Monday, January 24, 2005

I received The World of Knitted Toys for Christmas. I decided to try a panda bear. It knitted up quickly, but finishing took forever. For me, finishing stuff is not nearly as fun as knitting. Oh well, I'm not terribly pleased with the end product. The corners are too square. And his legs seem awfully long. Maybe next time I'll try something with fewer parts.

Here's the funny looking Panda: