Thursday, January 1, 2015

Toy Monkey and Sweet Bread for the Holidays and Beyond ~

Toys are so much fun to make and if you haven't made one yet what are you waiting for?  This cute monkey is for a baby boy but really toys make a special gift for any age, young or old, as no one is immune to their charm.  I've even been known to make a toy for myself.

For those who have never knit a toy, I'm going to share some of my tips.  I think one of the keys to making a successful toy is using a very soft yarn as much of the appeal is the tactile pleasure and for this monkey that is heading to a cold climate (Chicago, Illinois) I also chose a warm yarn (a blend of baby alpaca and fine merino) so he is nice and warm to cuddle with as well.

When making toys I recommend using a stuffing mixture of polyester fiberfill which creates wonderfully soft and squeezable toys.  I also find it works best if you are patient and slowly add small amounts of fiber filling and shape it gently to give the toy character as opposed to grabbing a large handful of stuffing and shoving it into the toy and sewing it closed.  For example, I spent an hour stuffing the body of the monkey as I wanted the head to be a gradually rounded shaped with a slight indentation where I sewed on the mouth and I wanted the lower part of the body fat and squeezable.  Time shouldn't matter during the stuffing process as you are after all giving life to the toy and it's character and personality are being formed at this stage.

Lastly if you are making a gift for an infant, as I did in this case, the eyes should be embroidered rather than using buttons or commercial toy eyes to avoid a choking hazard.  Instead of using an embroidery floss for the embroidery I like to use yarn and for this toy I used a small amount of leftover handspun yarn (from these fingerless gloves) to give the eyes texture and help them standout rather than using one of the yarns he was knit with.  In fact, one of the best reasons to hang on to your left over yarns is that they add wonderful finishing touches to toys.

But most importantly have fun and don't be too critical with how you sew it together or if it is perfectly stuffed because it's the wonky and whimsical that make the most endearing toys.  

Particulars:  Jerry the Musical Monkey design by Danger Crafts; 2 skeins Blue Sky Alpacas (colorways North Atlantic 3515 and Lake Ice 3521) and a small amount of hand spun yarn to embroider eyes); US 5 circular needles (magic loop); 100% polyester fiberfill for the stuffing (sold on Amazon by Poly-Fil but be sure to check for the lowest price as it varies considerably); finished dimensions 18" tall.  This was a very easy and fun project and I did not make any modifications although I saw that some people have knit a rounded bottom for him to sit on which I considered but decided against as I decided to simply stuff him with a more rounded bottom and that worked great.  If you look thorough the notes on Ravelry you will find the notes on how to modify the pattern itself to create a more rounded bottom if you wish.  Since this is a gift for a newborn baby I embroidered the eyes rather than using buttons or commercial toy eyes.  I've knit a number of toys and if you are interested in seeing them here are links to an elephant; bear; Matilda the mouse; tiny mouse; monster; rabbitbunny and owl

Sweet Bread for the Holidays and Beyond ~

I found this recipe for Almond & Marzipan Roulade in Saveur magazine and it's wonderful! If you are a fan of Danish pastries then you will enjoy this I guarantee it.  It is a "wet" dough so don't add too much additional flour although I did add more flour than the recipe called for because I'm not used to working with a really wet dough and probably as a result created more of a traditional bread loaf, which was still wonderful if I didn't mention that already.  I also substituted almond paste for the marzipan so either work well if you just have one on hand.  A perfect Winter and holiday bread!

It's a wonderful recipe but I think you can make a "skinny" version as I did pictured above with the single slice and enjoy it just as much.  In the "skinny" version I used only 7 oz tube of almond paste (instead of 12 oz) and used an egg white wash with Swedish pearl sugar to decorate it rather than a glaze.  It is also quicker and I actually prefer using blanched sliced almonds instead of toasting and chopping whole almonds.

However, if you want the real deal then definitely add the full about of almond paste (12 oz); 1 cup of roasted chopped almonds and then for it's crowning glory substitute a royal icing for the lemon glaze (pictured below).  Now that's a bread that will knock people's socks off!

Royal Icing Recipe

4 cups unsifted confectionery sugar (1 lb.)
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tarter
1 tsp. lemon extract


1.  Wait to prepare the icing until your bread is cool as the icing sets quickly and the bread should not be iced until it is cool.

2.  Whip egg whites with cream of tarter until foamy.  Add the lemon extract and slowly add the unsifted confectionery sugar beating until smooth and forms soft peaks.  Spread over bread to desired thickness.  You will have excess icing left over and you can probably make half this amount and still have plenty.  It can be drizzled over the loaf or added as a layer as I have.

Until next time be well and love well and may you have a very happy and healthy 2015 with lots of fun knitting in your future!


missyinedmonds said...

What a sweet little monkey! I haven't knit any toys however you are inspiring me to try my hand at one. Happy New Year Claudia!

SissySees said...

What a sweet, thoughtful monkey-gift! I'm sure he'll be well-loved, as the sweet bread must be too. The Knight is a huge fan of sweet breads, so I may have to give this a whirl.

Happy 2015!

Renee said...

The monkey is so adorable!! What a cutie and such a lucky boy, he's going to love this toy for many, many years.

I've not tried making sweet breads, your skinny version looks like my kind of treat though so will have to give it a go. Thank you for sharing and blogging!

Willow said...

A very Happy New Year to you! You've shared some wise ways for making knitted animals. I particularly liked the idea of slowly filling the knitted animal with polyester fiberfill--it does allow for the 'settling' of the stitches, especially for the head/face. That's what creates the 'personality'.