Last year I stumbled upon a news story about chooks knitted for the kids in Strathewen, a town in Victoria which was severely affected by the Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009.
I thought I'd like to try knitting a chook.
First up I ordered a pattern from www.winterwoodtoys.com.au (also available here on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/au/listing/114008128/fiber-trends-pattern-ft209-henrietta-and )
The winterwood toy shop sells kits, but I thought I'd try and find some wool locally.
The pattern showed Up in the mail, and I discovered I needed "worsted weight" wool, which Captain Google tells me is the equivalent of ten ply. Eight ply is the most common in Australia, so it was a bit of a challenge to find the right stuff. Because Queenie is felted, it needed to be "hand wash only" pure wool, not the more modern wool which can be machine washed.
My local friendly wool shop "the Crafty Frog" had just what I needed - a hank of hand dyed NZ merino, from "creative outlet" and it was on special too! Since it was only eight ply I used smaller needles than the pattern specified. I was assured that Queenie would be the same proportions but a bit smaller than the pattern, and that was fine by me. The colour is Ladybug and it is a purple-red.
You can find it online here http://www.creativeoutlet.co.nz/acatalog/creative_fibres-hand_dyed_yarn-wool-8ply.html
I think I bought the last hank at Crafty Frog, so I don't feel bad about directing you to an online source.
Mum helped me cast on (see, I told you I was a beginner) and I soon found out I'd need Captain Google to help with the stitches. I learned how to wrap and turn - this was needed for all the shaping, I learned how to cast off at the end of a row and cast on again, I learned to increase by knitting in the front and back of a stitch and also how to "make 1" by picking up the bar below a stitch and dragging it onto the left needle. One thing I was a bit scared of was picking up stitches along the finished edge of the tail. You see the tail is knitted in two pieces, then those are joined together by casting them off at the same time. Then the long edge of the tail gets some more stitches cast onto it and the knitting heads off in a different direction to form the body. It took a bit to get my brain wrapped around this, and I had to knit the zig zag section of the tail piece several times because I kept getting distracted at archery and putting the zig zags on the wrong side.
The wool was lovely to knit with, by the way, I would love to knit a larger project with this stuff.
Queenie was finished in no time, and I made an orange peel shaped segment to sew onto her base.
I needed two more wool colours for the comb, wattle and beak so I went to Stitch'n Time in Phillip and asked the two friendly knitting shop ladies what they'd recommend. I ended up with some tapestry wool, which had to be doubled since it was rather thin.
Here she is hot off the needles.
She went into the wash tied up in a pillowcase to catch any stray bits of fluff.
I set the machine to 95 degrees and took her out after 20 minutes or so. The tapestry wool didn't shrink quite so much as the main wool, so I gave it an extra bit of a massage with some soap to get it to felt some more, then put her back in the washing machine.
When she was felted, I stuffed her with newspaper so she'd keep her shape while she dried in the sun.
I'm really happy with how she turned out. I need to find some stuffing for her, and add some baby friendly eyes. I'm going to give her to my nephew Eric for his first Easter. Oh, and her name is Queenie after a book called "Queenie the Bantam" by Bob Graham.....she's only a small chooky after all. In the story Queenie follows a little girl home and puts herself to bed in the dog's basket. Here's a page from the book:
Here is my chook awaiting her eyes and stuffing
I might make her little chickies too if I can find some yellow wool. I hope Eric loves her as much as I do!