I’m proud of myself. My mettle has been tested, and I have prevailed.
After a brief and entirely justified Marination Period, during which I managed to source some cotton toy stuffing, I stuffed all the parts of Alex the Mouse that needed stuffing (head, body, limbs), and I sewed all the parts shut.
Then followed another, even briefer and more justified Marination Period, during which I (a) dreaded sewing Alex’s parts together because I was pretty sure I would not do it very well, and (b) knit an entire chicken. (I like to keep busy.)
Yesterday was the day. I took myself in hand, grabbed scissors and tapestry needle, and sewed up a toy mouse.
Maybe I’m making a big deal out of this, but I really had a hard time sewing Alex together, because I was fighting my impatience with myself. With stuffed toys, the finishing is everything. It takes not only expertise with the tapestry needle, but a cool head and a willingness to take the time to re-do any bits that are not done well the first time.
It’s hard for me to find that kind of patience. I have patience for things that are repetitive and slow. I even have patience for things that are fiddly: I did finally work out a system for knitting the ultra-tedious multi-stranded intarsia of my Kaffe Fassett Big Flower Jacket. It was satisfying to find the rhythm in that slow and lurching project. But I don’t have patience for things that have no clear mark to aim for, things that require finesse.
Help in my Hour of Need
My salvation came from the designer of Alex the Mouse, Ella Austin, in her very useful tips on assembling Alex the Mouse. The illustration in particular was a godsend. It tells you exactly where to put each part, with reference to clear landmarks. No guesswork!
One great tip is to assure that the ears and eyes are even, by marking the row of stitches that lies between them. Thanks for that one, Jen AC!
I made it through! My Alex is recognizably Alex the Mouse. He will not be embarrassed to go to school with the other Alexes over on Ravelry.
My Alex’s ears are quite floppy. They flop forward, they flop backward. I solved this for his photographs by leaning him up against a wall.
Later, scrolling through Ravelry to look at all the perky Alex ears and try to figure out why they weren’t flopping, I noticed something: many of the Alexes are leaning against a wall. A-ha!
What are ya gonna do? Big ol’ ears like Alex’s are gonna flop. It’s a feature.
Stuffed Toy Report Card
I’m going to give myself a solid B on my Alex the Mouse. I have a few critiques, a few things I’d do differently.
The colorwork on Alex’s body is too loose. There are some visible gauge discrepancies, and you don’t have to look that closely to see some show-through of the white stuffing, even under the double layer that stranded knitting creates. Diagnosis: in my concern to avoid the dreaded Puckering that can result from too-tight floats, I made my floats too loose. A good solution for me would have been to make Alex’s body striped instead. Stripes are a real good look for Alex. My colorwork on the ears was much better than on the body; smaller floats.
The Kitchener stitch I used to graft the tops of Alex’s feet: wasn’t that good. Diagnosis: I missed a step here or there in the sequence of knit off/purl on/purl off/knit. Holes appeared. I sewed them shut, and they are not that noticeable, but it’s possible to do Kitchener perfectly! When sewing up my chicken (more about the chicken later), I watched a fantastic YouTube tutorial by Lorilee Beltman, which teaches how to memorize Kitchener’s sequence, and an ingenious and simple way to to keep track of where you are so you don’t skip a step. Highly recommended! (I got the Kitchener perfect on the chicken, so Alex’s sacrifice was not in vain.)
I might redo the embroidery on the eyes. Wait—this is me we’re talking about. I’m not going to redo the embroidery on the eyes. It’s a feature.
Reframing for Self Esteem
The whole point of Alex the Mouse was to teach the pinhole cast on technique as part of A Year of Techniques.
Look at the perfect pinhole at the center of Alex’s head:
And on the bottoms of his adorable cartoon feet:
On second thought, I give myself a B+.