A couple of notes about this pattern before I get into this particular version. Due North was published in Family Circle Easy Toys in 2005. It’s now out of print, but Amazon (which I linked to) does have used copies available. I was able to find a copy at a library in Florida, but not quite fast enough to knit the first bear before I had to return the book, so I copied the pattern and have jealously guarded it since. If you like to try before you buy, you can use the Ravelry library search function to see if it’s in a library system near you.
Enough boring blathering, there are pandas to talk about.
Yes, this time I knit the bear “panda-style,” using black yarn for the legs and white for the belly and face. It’s not completely accurate—a panda’s back legs are black, but not their rump—but this was easier than dealing with intarsia and again, babies shouldn’t be judgy.
In the first incarnation, I used Berroco Plush. I still had a skein of white, so I was hoping to find a skein of black to knit this panda, but they’d discontinued the black dyelot, and as of today, I see they’ve discontinued this yarn entirely. I had been searching for another yarn, and it went against all my yarny principles—was I really looking for a synthetic eyelash, chenille, or bouclé yarn? Yes, yes I was.
I found the replacement in Trendsetter Zucca. And as weird as it is to buy this yarn when I tend to stick to wool and wool-blends only, it makes for a fantastic little bear.
So fantastic in fact, that this little bear almost did not make it in to the box I sent home to my parents house (I’m hoping to see baby-to-be’s mother over the holiday break and give it to her in person). So fantastic that I had to order more of the black yarn so I can make at least two more pandas for other friends who will be having babies in 2012. So fantastic that I’m considering ordering one more ball of the black yarn so I can make a panda for myself.
This pattern (and I did find a slightly different version at Patternfish, though I think I like the look of the original more) is really awesome to make. You start at the back, with the back legs and tushy, then you knit forward to the front of the head and then down and back to the underside of the belly and back legs. It’s really hard to describe, but trust me, it works.
I find that it’s helpful to knit the yarn to a tighter-than-called-for gauge to make sure the fabric is dense enough to contain the stuffing. With the Zucca, I started knitting this on size 10s, but the fabric was too loose and open. So I ripped (let me just say this yarn is surprisingly easy to rip back) and re-knit on size 8s. The resulting fabric is still squishy and used less yarn (one ball and 15 grams of a second in the black, less than half a ball of the white), yet dense enough to contain the fiberfill. The panda itself is super soft and cuddly and I hope the little one in question is able to love on it for a long time.
You know, this little bear is going to be at my parents house while I’m there. Maybe I can just buy a panda for the baby…