I remember the day my son, then two months old, first grabbed a blanket, intentionally, and guided it to his mouth. This milestone opened up a whole new knitting genre for me—Toys! Those first toys need to be sturdy, easy to grab, and very chewable. Felted wool is washable & nearly indestructible. Add some rings for easy grabbing, moving pieces to explore, and textures for gnawing, and you’ve got baby’s first handmade toy.
Each ring measures about 3 inches in diameter.
The toy pictured, with a wooden ring and 4 knitted rings, is about 11 inches long.
Size Shown in Picture: one size
Ella Rae Classic [100% wool; 219 yards/200 meters per 100 gram ball];
Shown in scraps of the following colors:
US 10 needles
US J-10 (6 mm) crochet hook (if using a crochet cast on)
Contrasting Waste Yarn (if using a knit provisional cast on)
3 inch Wooden Ring (I found mine online at Casey’s Wood Products)
This yarn’s recommended gauge is 4 stitches per inch, but it is knitted more loosely in this project to facilitate felting. Exact gauge is not necessary for this project.
Two versions of the pattern are given. I encourage you to try out the provisional cast on and kitchener stitch. They make the rings nearly seamless, and the felting will erase many mistakes if this is your first try. But for brand new knitters, or tired new mamas, the simpler version is a fun chance to get a little bit of handmade love into baby’s chubby fingers right away.
Provisional cast-ons and the kitchener stitch are great tools to have in your knitting bag-o-tricks—they lend a polished feel and seamless finishing to cuffs, edges, sock toes, mitten tops, and more. Neither technique is difficult, but practice helps—and this pattern has little knitting between the fancy stuff, and lots of repetition. By the time you’ve made enough loops for a chain, you’ll be an expert. And, it’s felted. So if your first (or second) attempt at these techniques turns up a bit lopsided, the washing machine will step in and pretty everything up!
If you’re not interesting in mastering these techniques, you can make this toy without them. Just cast on in your normal way, knit as directed, and bind off as usual. You can use your working yarn to sew the strips into loops any-which-way—again the felting will do wonders to hide the seam. Made this way, this is a great project for beginners, or even older children who would like to create their own welcome for a new baby.
Note: For safety’s sake, please do not make your chain of loops so long that it becomes a choking hazard.
Basic knitting and purling, felting in a washing machine. This pattern was designed for practicing provisional cast ons and kitchener stitch, but can be made without either.
Cast on 6 stitches.
Work in stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row) until the piece measures 15 inches long.
Bind off all stitches.
Using different colors, make 3 more of these strips, following the instructions above.
To assemble, sew the short ends of the first strip together using your working yarn and a tapestry needle. Before sewing each following loop, insert each through the previous circle to form a chain. Follow the instructions for felting and finishing below.
Provisional Cast Ons: A provisional cast on is any way of casting on so that you can easily “free” your first row of stitches. This can be used on hemmed edges, on work that you will need to pick up and knit in the opposite direction (such as adding a lace edge), or, as in this toy, when you know you will want to join the cast on edge to live stitches later.
There are several methods for provisional cast ons—these two are my favorites. The Crochet version is a bit tricky for those of us who don’t crochet much, but it is very efficient and it is incredibly easy (and fun) to take out at the end of the project. The knit version is easy to remember (and doesn’t require hunting down a crochet hook), but it’s a bit more fiddly to take out in the end. You may pick one method, or try them both out on separate loops.
I find it easiest to learn new techniques with the help of pictures, and luckily there are many great tutorials and videos available online. If you are new to these techniques, I encourage you to seek these out to help illustrate the following instructions:
Start holding one knitting needle in your left hand and one
crochet hook of a similar size in your right. Use a slip knot to place
the yarn on the crochet hook.
Bring the working yarn from the hook behind the needle.
With the hook in front of the needle, use the hook to grab the yarn from the far side of the needle, and pull it through the slip knot. You’ve cast on one stitch.
Bring the yarn around to the back of the needle again. With the hook in front of the needle, use the hook to grab the yarn again, and pull it through the loop on the hook. Continue across your cast on row.
At the end of the row make a few extra stitches. This helps me remember which side to “unzip” from when I’m ready to take out the cast-on. Make about 4 extra stitches on your needle. Then push these extras off the needle—they should create a little bumpy tail. (Yes, crocheters, you could just add a few chain stitches on the end, it would be the same.)
Cut your yarn, and secure it by bringing it one more time through the loop on the hook. Instead of stopping when you have a loop, continue to pull the tail through. Give a little tug to tighten—but not too tight; you’ll need to take this out later.
Just cast on your stitches with waste yarn. Knit 2-3 rows. Then switch to your main color (don’t tie or weave in the ends) and you’re ready to go.
Switch to your main color, and begin knitting into the cast on stitches. Work in stockinette stitch until piece measures 15 inches. Leave piece on a needle, and break yarn, leaving a long (18 inch) tail.
Transfer Cast-On Stitches to your other Knitting Needle: It’s time to take out the waste yarn used in the provisional cast on. If you used a crochet cast on then you can cut off the tail of extra stitches hanging off the end, and then pull gently on the remaining yarn. It should “unzip” across fairly easily, leaving a row of exposed stitches. Place those stitches on your knitting needle (the empty one) so that when the piece is held flat, both needles are pointing the same direction.
If you used a knitted cast on, you will need to cut each stitch of waste yarn away from your piece. I like to cut one stitch then immediately put that stitch on a needle, moving across one stitch at a time. It takes longer, but I’m less likely to drop stitches.
Note: Often you’ll end up one stitch short when pulling out a provisional cast on. This is because of the way knitting loops are made in waves of ups and downs (sort of like a four-day, three-night vacation, right?). If the number of stitches is essential, then you can pick up an extra stitch in the next row.
With either method, you should now have a long rectangle of knitting, with a knitting needle on the top and the bottom, like an unrolled scroll. The two needles should be pointing the same direction.
Bring your two ends together so that the right side of the fabric is facing out and your knitting needles are pointing to the right.
Insert needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if
to knit. Push this stitch off of the knitting needle.
Insert needle into the new first stitch on the front needle as if to purl. Leave this stitch in place.
Insert needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl. Push this stitch off the knitting needle.
Insert needle into the new first stitch on the back needle as if to knit. Leave this stitch in place.
Repeat these four steps across the line until no stitches are left. Use your tapestry needle to pick gently at your line of stitching to adjust the tension—it should look like a line of knitting. When you are happy with the tension, weave in the end and cut the tail.
Repeat the Intermediate Instructions for the remaining colors, with one exception. Before joining each following strip into a loop, remember to thread it through the previous loop to make a chain.
Place the toy in a pillowcase or mesh washing bag. Using a small amount of your regular soap, hot water, and your machine’s highest agitation, wash the toy. Check frequently to see how it’s felting, it may take more than one cycle to felt to desired size. Air dry flat.
To attach the wooden ring, thread the ring onto your chain of loops. Pull the last loop of the chain through the middle of the first loop. Keep pulling as all the loops slide through—give a tight pull to secure.
To wash, remove loops from wooden ring and machine wash, preferably with cold water to prevent additional felting.
Katie Watson teaches knitting at Sarah Jane's Yarn Shoppe in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Then she goes home and knits more for herself, her now 1 1/2 year old son, and her husband. She often intends to post on her blog, Straying Power, but keeps getting distracted by knitting instead.
Pattern & images © 2010 Katie Watson. Contact