New wave of monster crafts are frightfully fun

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
This undated photo released by Perigee/Tory Williams shows a zombie craft from author Diana Schoenbrun's book "Beasties," 2010, Perigee. An avalanche of new books for knitters and sewers shows that one of the crafting world's big trends involves making "friends" _ traditional, stuffed animals, for sure, but also oddball critters and monsters. (AP Photo/Perigee Books, Tory Williams) NO SALES

An avalanche of new books for knitters and sewers shows that one of the crafting world's big trends involves making "friends" -- traditional stuffed animals, for sure, but also oddball critters and monsters. Just in time for the spooky season, here's a roundup of the most recent, clever ideas for crafting cuddly -- and beastly -- critters.

A puppet-maker by day, author Diana Schoenbrun, of Brooklyn, N.Y., found her love for creatures spilling into her personal life. What emerged from research into mythology and monster tales is a personal take on the creaturely in "Beasties" (Perigee, 2010).

Schoenbrun, 27, thinks she's not alone in her fascination with monsters.

"I think people like that certain element of mystery, and the storytelling" inherent in monster tales, she said. "It's exciting to believe in something, to think, 'Is it possible there's something here that's tangible?'"

While some of Schoenbrun's monsters appear to have nasty temperaments, they're all huggable, soft and squeezable.

Two creations called "Naughty" and "Nicey," from the book "Knitting Mochimochi," are seen. (Brandi Simons ~ Watson-Guptill)

Not only are some of the patterns doable by new and young sewers, Schoenbrun thinks her "beastly brigade" will foster imaginative play. Children can "be active and make up stories with the characters," she said.

The same goes for the knitted critters in Anna Hrachovec's "Knitting Mochimochi" (Watson-Guptill, 2010).

While studying in Japan a few years ago, Hrachovec became familiar with the cute creatures that permeate that country's culture. She recalls businesses had cute, crittery logos.

"I spent a lot of time there in stationery stores and toy stores, marveling at the many characters," said Hrachovec, 29. "I love how the cuteness in Japan is not just for kids."

In Japan, a "mochi" is a sweet made of sticky rice, and "mochimochi" refers to something that is "sticky" and "squishy," like chewy bread, Hrachovec said.

The Brooklyn knitter has come up with 20 designs that fit her improvised "mochimochi" bill -- sweet, soft and cuddly. Her pigs wear wigs, her bunny is a "neck nuzzler" and her squirrels have wheels.

She also offers patterns for "nano knits" -- micro mountains, tiny human "beans" and a petite pencil. They're all forms of amigurumi, the Japanese word for crocheted or knitted stuffed animals with human characteristics.

Other recently published books that tout colorful critters:

* "Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts" (Potter Craft, 2010) provides instructions for several clever plush-toy-making ideas, including bunnies made from wool flannel and shirting material, animals made from shrunken wool sweaters, and several original "sock dogs" -- yes, different styles of socks morph into different dog breeds. The encyclopedia provides one other handy bit of instruction: how to design and sew a creature of your own making with fabric scraps.

* Boo Davis' book, "Dare to be Square Quilting" (Potter Craft, 2010), includes a charming "buddy rabbit" stuffed toy that wears thick black glasses.

* Two slightly older books with ideas that seem new: "Happy Gloves" (HP Trade Paperback Original, 2008) shows how to turn store-bought, knitted gloves into cute and lovable toy animals that ooze personality, and "Fleecie Dolls" (Krause Publications, 2008) provides instructions for making 15 cuddly dolls, including a pirate, a monster and an alien. Finally, there's "Sweater Surgery" (Quarry Books, 2008) with huggable stuffed animals made from colorful old sweaters.

A cuddly zombie

The Zombie, adapted from "Beasties," by Diana Schoenbrun

Supplies:

cotton fabric

felt, assorted colors

1 large pompom

gauze, bandage wrap or clothing scrap

synthetic stuffing

craft stuffing

craft glue

thread

scissors

sewing needle

paper

chalk or fabric marker

pins

Assembly:

* Draw a simple outline of a body shape -- with only a torso, head and legs -- on paper. The body should be approximately 10 inches tall and 4 inches wide for sewing ease. Draw the arms, feet and ears separately. Cut out paper shapes for patterns.

* Use patterns to cut two body shapes from fabric. From felt, cut out four arm shapes, four feet shapes, and two ear shapes. Cut additional eyes, blood droplets and teeth from felt.

* Sew body shapes together, right sides together, leaving about 2 inches unsewn. Turn body right side out, fill with stuffing, and sew body closed.

* Sew felt pieces to make two arms and two feet. Fill with stuffing and sew closed. Sew arms to upper body and feet to legs.

* Embroider a mouth. Sew ears to head.

* Sew pompom and felt eyes to the head. Glue on blood droplets and gauze.

Tip: Make your zombie from old, recycled clothes.

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