Once upon a time, there were two little children, a girl and a boy. The girl was 2 years of age and her brother was almost 6 months old.
These darling children are very much loved by a large family with lots and lots of cousins–an ample supply of playmates.
The children have regular contact with most of their cousins but there are some that live more than 1000 kilometres away! (That's me and my family.)
Christmas and birthdays present a challenge when choosing 'long-distance' gifts. I'm here to share my pattern for crocheted finger puppets and to explain how they were the perfect choice for two young children and their cousins at Christmas (2016).
Fortunately my cousin was kind enough to supply extra.
Gift-giving Thought Process
The gifts must be practical.
The busy family lives in a small apartment: space is at a premium. Anything that comes into their home needs to be useful in the daily lives of a toddler girl and baby boy (and for their parents too)–no space-wasters, trip hazards or dust-collectors.
A small, lightweight gift is easy to store and post. For a loving cousin who is not earning much due to lupus, mctd etc., the postage cost needs to be factored into the total cost of long-distance gifts which further limits the spending amount for the gifts themselves.
Chronic illness makes it difficult to do a lot of shopping. Large shopping centres are exhausting. Energy for browsing is rare. Energy spent on shopping excursions is energy that cannot be used for daily tasks or other Christmas activities. Convenient gifts that I can pick up during my regular travels are preferred.
Crochet is convenient and economical. My local yarn shop is easy to access, just minutes away from home for an easy yarn shopping expedition but my sizeable stash at home means a trip is unlikely.
Crochet is conservative with my energy. It is something I can do when I am too tired to do other things, making the most of my Christmas preparation time.
I don't know what the children already own. A crocheted gift will be unique.
What can I crochet for the children?
Plush toys, dolls, amigurumi? Space-wasters! The extended family is so large that these children are bound to have plenty of toys given to them already. More things for mum and dad to trip over and pick up around the house.
Clothes? They are practical. Children can always use more clothes. Clothes are easily damaged during play and mealtimes or quickly outgrown. As a parent, I always liked receiving new, clean, smart outfits for my children.
What colours do they like to wear? I want to make something that can mix with the current clothes and also suit their complexions.
What clothing sizes are the children wearing? If I had regular personal contact with the children, I would have a good idea of their true size. Size numbers on clothing labels can be meaningless in Australia because we have clothes that use so many different sizing systems depending on where they come from; e.g. US, UK, Europe, France, Japan, China and Australia! Clothes displaying the same size numbers on their labels can vary enormously in cut and fit.
Children grow so quickly that by the time I make or find something the right size, it may not fit for longer than a few weeks. Clothes were not the answer this Christmas.
Blankets are lovely but I don't have enough lead time to complete a blanket and do everything else. Advance planning is important because one must allow 14 days for a standard parcel to travel across the continent. Add more time at Christmas.
Maybe I should make a scarf or beanie? Really? In summer? A sunhat? I've already made a pretty sunhat for one of the children. I would like to get them both something new and different.
What is a nice present to serve both a toddler and a baby?
… and so I sat with these thoughts for weeks and months in the lead-up to Christmas … waiting for inspiration to strike.
One day, I came across little, cube-shaped, insulated lunch bags available in two colours, pink and blue. Any colours would have done but it was good to have a different colour for each child. They were designed to carry a snack pack of yoghurt and inside the top cover, there was a child-sized spoon. Perfect! Not just for yoghurt, but for small baby bottles, pieces of fruit (the padded bag would protect the fruit from bruising) etc. How useful for baby, childcare and right through until kindergarten and junior primary, especially in our hot Australian climate.
Mum and dad would appreciate this gift but I wanted something to add more of a fun-factor for the children.
Finger puppets are playful and stimulate young children's imaginations. They are small enough to fit in the cooler bags and quick to make. (I was running out of time because of a long recovery time after the November Maker Faire.)
The intention was to open the cooler bag and be surprised by a little finger puppet friend. Finger puppets are easy to carry on journeys for instant entertainment too.
The simplest puppet design would be adequate for a two-year-old because it would only need to be a general representation of a person, animal or other character. The child's imagination will fill in the gaps.
Jean Piaget (1896–1980), a scholar of child development, psychology, sociology and education, described stages of cognitive development in children. Between the ages of 2 and 7 years, Piaget identified the 'Pre-operational Stage' in which 'symbolism' is a characteristic. That is where a child will find it quite acceptable for one thing to represent or 'symbolise' something else.*
An example of this is a young child playing with a bucket of pegs where each peg can represent a person (even though they don't look like people) and play with the pegs as if they were real characters in the same way that children play with dolls.
What should the puppets be?
Christmas characters restrict the imaginative possibilities.
I did ask mum and dad about whether the children have favourite characters but the answer came too late so I made two generic little people, one for each cooler bag.
One had long hair and one had short hair. They have no arms or legs and their bodies have bands of different colours.
|Thank you to my cousin for sending a photo of the puppets in their new home.|
Making the Finger Puppets
It was hard to decide upon the yarn weight and size of the puppets. They couldn't be too big for little fingers but big enough to stretch over a parent's finger for games together.
A finer yarn allows more details but my only fine yarns were cottons which don't have a lot of stretch. The finer the yarn, the longer it will take to make.
I settled on 8 ply acrylic. I have lots of colourful acrylic in the stash, including bags of 'ends' that were long enough to keep for embroidery or sewing up etc. Finger puppets are great stashbusters.
I experimented with the placement of decreases to add some shape to the faces. Each nose was created with a front-post treble stitch. I'm not certain that I'm totally satisfied with the design but a young child will still be able to have fun with them.
This pattern uses Australian terminology. It is still in draft format (these are my working notes) published here for my own reference (Copyright lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au.)
You are welcome to it for your own personal use.
Yarn: 8 ply acrylic
Hook: 3.5 mm
Notions: 6 stitch markers (I used 3 pink, 2 blue and 1 yellow)
The puppets are worked in the round from the bottom up.
Each round is joined.
The work is never turned.
All joins of new yarn are in the centre back.
- Foundation double crochet (fdc)
- Invisible joins
- Post stitches
- Standing stitches
Links to further information about these techniques and basic crochet stitches can be found in my Reference List at the end of this blog entry.
Stylecraft Yarns / Inside Crochet magazine (UK) have a downloadable 'Crochet Guide' (PDF) which explains basic crochet stitches in UK / Australian terms: http://www.stylecraft-yarns.co.uk/crochetguide.htm
ch: chain stitch
dc: double crochet (US sc, single crochet)
dc2tog: double crochet 2 together (decrease)
fdc: foundation double crochet (US fsc)
fptr: front post treble crochet (US fpdc)
pm: place marker(s)
sl st: slip stitch
tr: treble crochet (US dc, double crochet)
|Puppet 1 has the long hair (right) and Puppet 2 has the short (left).|
That is the order in which they were made. I couldn't remember how to do hair or eyes at first!
Puppet 1 (long yellow hair)
These were my working notes as I made the puppets. I suspect one of the stitch counts may be off by 1. I still need to test these notes to make sure they are accurate. If you have a go and discover any errors or have any difficulties, please let me know!
If I had more time and energy, I would sit down and work it right now but it is 40 degrees Celsius today and fatigue is knocking at the door.
Remember, these notes are just a guide to help me remember how I made the puppets.
Brown: unidentified 8 ply acrylic
Mid Blue: unidentified 8 ply acrylic
Dark Blue: unidentified 8 ply acrylic
Beige: Marvel 8 ply acrylic col. 1060 'Flesh', lot 777064, approx 2.5–3 grams
Yellow: Marvel 8 ply acrylic col. 1041 'Lemon sorbet', lot 775046.
Round 1: with brown work 10 fdc and join with sl st to make a loop.
Round 2: ch 1, work evenly with brown. Finish rnd and fasten off brown with invisible join.
Round 3: attach mid blue using standing stitch dc. Work evenly. Join with sl st.
Round 4: ch 1, work evenly with mid blue. Fasten off mid blue with invisible join.
Round 5: attach dark blue using standing st dc. Work evenly. Finish rnd and fasten off dark blue with invisible join.
Round 6: Attach beige using standing st dc. (Start increases for head.) Across 10 sts, work: dc, dc, (2 dc, dc) 4 times. Join with sl st [14 sts]
Round 7: ch 1, (2 dc, dc, dc) 4 times, 2 dc, dc. Join with sl st. [18 sts]
Round 8: ch 1, work evenly with beige. Join with sl st. [18 sts]
Round 9: (this is a dec rnd) place markers (pm) for positions of eyes and nose, into sts 7, 9 & 10 (idea is to put a dec either side of nose at st 9), pm for other decs in 3rd, 13th and 17th sts.
(I used a pink marker in sts 3, 13 & 17; blue markers in sts 7 & 10 for eye decs; yellow marker in st 9 for nose.)
Ch 1, (dc, dc, dc2tog) twice, (fptr around st in row below the next st, dc into the empty st behind fptr, nose made), dc2tog at marked st, dc, dc2tog, dc, dc, dc2tog. Join with sl st. [14 sts]
Round 10: pm for decs at sts 4, 7 & 10. (Decreases will be above nose and at sides of head.)
Ch 1, dc, dc, dc, (dc2tog, dc) 3 times, dc, dc, dc, join with sl st, fasten off with invisible join. [12 sts]
Turn inside out and weave in ends.
Embroider facial features while top is open.
Weave in ends.
Round 11: (Make hair) Choose hair colour (yellow) and attach hair colour using standing st dc, dc2tog, dc2tog.
Round 12: dc, (dc2tog) twice, dc, dc, dc, (dc2tog) twice. Join with sl st. [8 sts]
Round 13: ch 1, (dc2tog) 4 times. [4 sts]
Fasten off. Weave loose end through tops of 4 sts. Pull tightly to close top of head. Weave loose end into fabric in inside.
I joined top, back and side sections of hair like fringe. The fringe (bangs) on the forehead were embroidered with a satin stitch.
Puppet 2 (short black hair)
Work for Puppet 1 but with different colours.
These are copies of the quick notes I kept to remember the colours in each row.
Red: Carnival 8 ply col. 095, lot 760466 (previously used for poppy projects).
Sky Blue: Lion Brand Bonbons col. 620, no lot no., < 1 gram
Light Green: Lion Brand Bonbons col. 620, no lot no., < 1 gram
Beige: Marvel 8 ply col. 1060 'Flesh', lot 777064, approx 2.5–3 grams
Black: Marvel 8 ply acrylic
Approximate total of yarn used: 3 grams
Round 1: fdc red. Fasten off.
Rnds 2 & 3: Sky blue. (After joining of rnd 1, rnd 2 came to 11 sts but made dc2tog to bring back to 10 sts.) [10 sts]
Rnds 4 & 5: Light green
Rnds 6–10: Beige
Rnds 11–13: Black
When I make some more finger puppets (future playmates for the first two), that will be my chance to double check and edit this pattern.
Meanwhile, if you try my pattern, please let me know what you think!
*I have seen examples of Piaget's idea of 'symbolism' myself after working with children and being a parent, which informed my decision to keep my finger puppets very simple. There are criticisms of Piaget's theories and differing beliefs about the implications for education but I am not going to discuss that here.
Edwards, L., Hopgood, J., Rosenberg, K. & Rush, K., "Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development", Mental Development & Education, web site, School of Education, Flinders University, Bedford Park, South Australia: https://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/education/DLiT/2000/Piaget/stages.htm
Jodiebodie, "Lupey Loops at Maker Faire Adelaide 2016", blog entry, Lupey Loops, 1 December 2016: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/2016/12/lupey-loops-at-maker-faire-adelaide-2016.html
Jodiebodie, "Poppy Patterns", blog entry, Lupey Loops, 20 April 2015: http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/poppy-patterns.html
Stylecraft Yarns, Crochet Guide, PDF document: http://www.stylecraft-yarns.co.uk/crochetguide.htm
This is a PDF version of Inside Crochet magazine's "How to Crochet" guide which appears at the back of each issue.
Foundation double crochet (fdc)
A lot of the online tutorials for this technique are in American terminology; e.g., you would search an American site for 'foundation single crochet (fsc)' which is the same as the fdc that I used in the finger puppets.
Be careful that web sites offering to show 'foundation double crochet' are not showing the US version of the Australian/UK 'foundation treble' stitch. My list here is for sites consistent with Australian terminology:
- Burke, Eleanor, "Foundation Double Crochet–How To", written instructions with photographs, PDF file, Knit Nottingham, UK, 2013: http://www.knitnottingham.co.uk/shop/images/Patterns/fdchowto.pdf
Pictorial instructions on creating fdc stitches from the middle of a row. When starting from scratch, chain 2, work into the second chain from the hook instead of from a worked stitch.
- 'solrencoret' (Sol), "Tutorial: Foundation Double Crochet (UK terms)", a crochet journey, blog entry, Scotland, 13 November 2014: https://acrochetjourney.com/2014/11/13/tutorial-foundation-double-crochet-uk-terms/
- Garnstudio.com, "Foundation double crochet (fdc)", video tutorial [4'39"], DROPS Design, Norway, accessed 6 January 2017: http://www.garnstudio.com/video.php?id=244&lang=en
A silent video tutorial on a multi-lingual web site.
- Paul, Sandra, "Foundation Double Crochet (fdc)", detailed photo tutorial, Cherry Heart Crochet Corner, web site, Bedfordshire, UK, 11 September 2014: http://www.cherryheartcrochet.co.uk/2014/09/foundation-double-crochet-fdc.html
- Paul, Sandra, "Foundationless Crochet", online article, Cherry Heart Crochet Corner, web site, Bedfordshire, UK, 16 May 2014: http://www.cherryheartcrochet.co.uk/2014/05/foundationless-crochet.html
- Leith, Emma, "The Invisible Join or 'Needle Join'", online article, Emma Leith Atelier, web site, Bath, UK, 19 July 2015: http://www.emmaleith.co.uk/tutorials-power/2015/7/19/crochet-tip-needle-join
- Uys, Dedri, "How to Crochet: Invisible Join vs Slip Stitch Join", online article, Lookatwhatimade, web site, UK, 22 June 2014: http://www.lookatwhatimade.net/crafts/yarn/crochet/crochet-tutorials/crochet-invisible-join-vs-slip-stitch-join/
Dedri uses US terminology but I have included this article because it has detailed discussion about the technique and great photo examples and comparisons.
- Daniele, Paula, "Front Post Double Crochet Stitch (FPdc) by Crochet Hooks You", YouTube video [1'10"], CrochetHooksYou, Australia, 4 July 2011: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPHsb9N9zng
- Kasturi Tusler, "Front Post Treble - British Crochet Terms", YouTube video [3'00"], Kasturi Tusler, UK, 8 July 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilnw52lGAn0
- Claire, "Standing Stitch Tutorial", mrsbrownmakes, blog, Norwich, UK, accessed 6 January 2017: http://mrsbrownmakes.blogspot.com.au/p/standing-stitch-tutorial.html
On 25 February 2016, this blog was relocated to Me and Dot: http://www.meanddot.com/
- Husband, Shelley, "Standing Stitches by Shelley Husband Spincushions", YouTube video, Spincushions Crochet [1'05"], Australia, 11 July 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR37kfrRJ24&feature=youtu.be
Shelley mentions both Australian / UK and US terminology.
- Lydia, "how to join yarn with a standing stitch in crochet / lalylala crochet tutorials", YouTube video, lalylala, Leipzig, Germany, 22 April 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BOJNtcwNvA
This video names the standing stitches with US terms but the video is very clear and covers a variety of stitches and applications. Also, it has been difficult to find tutorials on this technique that use Australian / UK terms so for more information, remember to search for 'standing single crochet (sc) stitches' for the correct method.