Early last spring I ordered yarn from Peace Fleece for a sweater for myself and asked my son what his sweater for this winter should be like. “It should have Totoro on it,” he said. And so I contemplated how to make him a sweater which would look nice without the Totoros on it (in case he changed his mind) and how to construct it.
I ended up deciding to knit the Seamless Saddle Shoulder sweater from Barbara Walker’s Knitting from the Top. The sweater has set in sleeves that are knit as you go, which makes it fit well. The instructions in here are not step by step, but are infinitely adjustable.
I made it as a cardigan, with a V-neck. The body edging is single crochet, including the button bands and bottom edge. I made up how to do the pockets.
The Totoros themselves were a challenge. I was originally planning to do them in duplicate stitch. However, my stitches were large enough that the Totoros would not have been recognizable, just blobby and pixellated. My next plan was to embroider directly on the knitting, but the fabric didn’t seem stable enough for an embroidery base. My third thought was to crochet them separately and then sew them on, but I was having trouble again with the stitch size being too long.
Finally, I remembered how nice chain stitch embroidery can look as an appliqué, and did a test run with Chibi Totoro (the smallest). Success!
So then it was on to Chu Totoro:
You can see with Chu Totoro that I was embroidering with wool yarn on cotton fabric. I used some pieces of old sheet that would otherwise have become rags.
The first thing I did was find a picture I liked, scale it so it was the size I wanted, and then print it out. Then I needed to transfer the outlines to my fabric. I flipped my printout over and used a charcoal pencil behind the lines I wanted transferred. (There are other ways to transfer the design; you could put dressmaker’s transfer paper between your drawing and the paper and trace, or you could use heat transfer pencil.) I put the image on the fabric, charcoal side down, and traced all the lines I wanted onto the fabric. Then into an embroidery hoop:
The next step was to use some thin black yarn I had around to make the outlines; for that I used back stitch. Then I filled in the space in between with chain stitch (mostly); there were a few places I used satin stitch (teeth, and the space between his mouth and arm to delineate the shapes) or just random stitches (the whites of his eyes).
Once I was done embroidering, I trimmed to about 3/16 of an inch from the edge, clipped the curves, and turned the hem allowance under. I tacked the hem allowance in place with sewing thread.
And here’s what the back looks like. Messy, eh?
Finally, I consulted with the wearer of the sweater as to placement and sewed them down with whipstitch.