April 22, 2013

Putti Cat

The last month has been really busy between going on a school spring break ecology trip to Big Bend National Park, the Easter Break and prepping for the end of the school year, weddings to attend, prom to chaperone, etc...With events every few days, art takes a back seat.

A good friend of mine from college at UD, Carol, (who's blog is linked on my side bar) asked if I would try to make her cat, Putti, for her. Trying to match someone's beloved pet is daunting, since they know them like you never will, but I was willing to give it a go.
As you can see, Putti is a fluffy cat. This makes the medium of crochet a bit ill suited, as I feel needle felting might be more realistic, but as I can't needle felt and custom pet portraits are expensive, I tried to find a happy medium. Regular amigurumi uses worsted weight yarn, but to emulate the fuzzyness of Putti, I wanted to use a furry yarn to match. Anyone who crochets or knits knows that the yarn called "fun fur" is anything but fun or easy to work with. I also generally feel like it produces something that looks a mess rather than like it has fur.

Hunting through Etsy, I came across a pattern by a lady named Barbara for a Baby Kitten. It had the right amount of softness I felt, to get the soft fuzzy look without resorting to fun fur. Plus it was close in the placement of color to Putti herself.

Notes about the yarn:
To complete the pattern I bought one white and two black skeins of Joann Fabrics brand Sensations Beautiful yarn. The Sensations Beautiful yarn is really soft and fluffy which makes it almost impossible to see your stitches. The magic circle starting is impossible because of nearly instantaneous felting of the fur. I was going to give it up and go back to regular yarn, but I found a few tips to try. These tips allowed me to get more than several rounds done successfully. First, I used a chain start instead of the magic circle start. I also stitched a little looser than I normally would.
Yarn and thread.
Carrying the fluffy yarn and the thread allowed for a little bit of the stitch to be seen. (Near my thumb.)
What helped the most, was for me to use a second strand of white or black crochet thread and to carry it along with the fur. This made the stitches a lot more visible since the black and white thread was shiny and created a little more definition. I was also sure to also have a lamp over my work so I could really see what I was doing. I had to go slow, with no music or distractions, and counted out each round as I went. I also used the back loops only throughout the pattern so that I could actually get into a stitch and it also allowed me to get a read on how many rounds I had completed.

I also ordered a pair of 12mm gold cat safety eyes off of amazon since I could not find any in my local stores. Which once I got the head done, I felt were too small, and had to go find the 18mm ones I had from a project I never used them in.

Upon reading over the pattern I knew I would have to make some changes to get Putti as opposed to the kitten she made. My changes to the pattern are as follows: (Black and White, not cream and tan)
1. I made the head in all black, embroider a small patch of white on the inside of one cheek.
2. Don't worry about black outlines for nose or eyes.
3. Body color switching suggests decreasing amount of underbelly white, I didn't worry about that since Putti has a solid white underbelly.
4. Use black worsted yarn for nose, not brown. Same thing for the ears rather than pink, use black.
5. Whiskers in white thread, Add set of two whiskers over eyes.
6. For the tail, no switching colors.

Since I wanted the white chest to continue into the body I had to change a bit of the way that section was written: My Round 5 involved not attaching black like I said to.
Round 6 was now my last increase row, and was still in white yarn.
Rounds 7- 24, I starting doing the color switching Round 14, also ignoring the white decreasing.
I had to rewrite Round 14 to read as follows: Continue *in white for next 10 sc, switch to black yarn, continue sc in black for the rest of the row, 26.  when get back to the beginning of next row, pick up white and continue from beginning *

The switching between black and white made the inside a little strange to stuff since the threads went back and forth across the inside, I also had to be sure not to pull the excess inside too tight, so that it didn't make the finished body form look strange. I guess you could bind off and reattach every row, but that seemed more of a pain.
The inside of the body.
The pattern also called for making the feet and legs as separate pieces and then sewing them together when finished. This also seemed like a lot more work than was needed and I was hesitant to have to sew with this fluffy yarn. So I rewrote the leg patterns. I also made a separate pattern for the front and back legs since the coloring is different.

Body with white belly. Front and back feet complete.
Front feet: (Just toes white)
chain 2, 6 sc in first chain, in white
2 in each sc, (12)
2 in first, sc in next, repeat around, (18)
sc in one, popcorn stitch (4 sc in each stitch, pull together, chain 1) in next four stitches, sc around
attach black, sc2tog, sc in next, around, (12)
sc in each around for next 8 rows
leave long tail for sewing to body and bind off

Back feet: (most of leg and toes are white)
chain 2, 6 sc in first chain, in white
2 in each sc, 12
2 in first, sc in next, repeat around, 18
sc in one, popcorn stitch (4 sc in each stitch) in next four stitches, sc around
sc2tog, sc in next, around, 12
sc in each around for next 5 rows
attach black, sc around
sc around in next 3 rows
leave long tail for sewing to body and bind off

White belly with legs on. There are toes on those paws...
The head was the most difficult part, so I left it for last. This was good and bad. Good because I had time to get used to the yarn/thread combo. Bad because I was worried that I had made the body too long and that it would look out of proportion. Also, I am pretty sure that I did not create the nose ridge right. Which made the nose itself too low, and the mouth even lower. Also, I do not think I got enough definition between the fuzzy black for the body and the smooth black for the nose. Perhaps I should have used gray or something.

Overall the pattern took about 20 hours to make and assemble. Maybe with regular yarn for a smooth hair cat, the pattern might be easier. The one thing that bothered me most I think is the head to body join... There is not really a neck which I think adds to the strangeness of the finished piece.
Finished "cat".
I am not really happy with how this turned out, not sure it looks anything like Putti, let alone a real cat. I suppose, yes, there is something to be said for it being handmade. But when I feel like you could buy a better representation of an item, than I can make, well it leaves me with the feeling of why did I try. So maybe I will stick to cartoon-y looking stuff in the future rather than attempt realism.