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03 February 2016

My Little (Swedish) Pony!

Well, I've finished the newest project!  It was challenging, it was fun, and I'm excited to share it with you.  Before I do, let me tell you about my inspirations for this project.

As I mentioned last week, my needlework is often inspired by my genealogical discoveries.  When I discovered (to my great surprise) that I have Swedish ancestors, I began reading up on Swedish history and culture.  One of the most delightful, and most recognizable, icons of Sweden is the Dala horse.

Dala (Dalecarlian) horses.  Image courtesy of Creative
Commons license for noncommercial reuse.

The craftsmen of central Sweden, known for making furniture and clocks, used their scrap lumber to carve and fashion toys for their children.  The first mention of wooden horses for sale in Sweden occured around 1620, so it's a very old tradition!  In the mid-19th century, it became popular to paint the horses in bright colors.  Red was the most common color for the horses, with white, blue, yellow and green used in their livery.  Red is still the most popular color, although they are offered in all shades of the rainbow.  Some say that the Dala horse is the "official toy" of Sweden!  

I've long wanted to make a Dala horse, and have hunted high and low for patterns -- needlepoint, cross-stitch, sewing, knitting, crochet -- but never found one that exactly suited my desires.  What I wanted was an interpretation of the Dala horse, not an exact replica, and I definitely wanted to capture the bright colors and cheerful spirit.  

Last winter, I stumbled upon the African flower animals designed by Heidi Bears, and I fell instantly in love.  They are so whimsical and so cheerful, and the variations -- depending upon the yarn palette chosen -- are endless.  I was a little intimidated by them, however.  Heidi achieves shaping by using not just hexagons, but also triangles, squares, pentagons, heptagons, and octagons, and I had only begun learning the basic hexagon pattern.  Heidi also recommends the "join as you go" method, which I had never tried.  But I couldn't forget the images of those delightful animals, nor could I easily dismiss the thought that her Fatty Lumpkin African Flower Pony pattern would make a perfect Dala-inspired horse.

Last week, needing a break from putting hair on dolls, I bought the pattern for Fatty Lumpkin, and it is worth its weight in gold.  Heidi gives excellent illustrated instructions for all the African Flower shapes, as well as a variation she designed, and instructions for the "join as you go" method.  (This pattern is 48 pages of good reference material for anyone interested in working with multiple African Flower block variations, whether you make Fatty Lumpkin or not.)  I chose Palette yarn by Knit Picks (fingering weight, 100% wool) in Red, Pool (blue), Canary (yellow), and White.  The Swedish flag is blue and yellow, and I liked the way it looked combined with red and white. I gave you a little teaser on Facebook over the weekend .....

African Flower hexies!
Now let me introduce you to the recipient of all those blocks ......... Dalarna!

Meet Dalarna!
I took this photo indoors because it is so windy here today.  But the outdoor photos are fun, so I'll show you those, too.  Dalarna is posing with two of my favorite old children's books about Sweden, The Golden Name Day by Jennie Lindquist, and Gerda in Sweden by Emma Blaisdell McDonald. (Note -- the color in these photos is completely unretouched; the sky here really is that blue today!)

I worried that the stuffing would show through, but it doesn't!

I separated the ply on Dalarna's forelock, and
used a wire brush to "tease" the strands a little.

Dalarna's eyes are black 15mm safety eyes from JoAnn Fabrics.
These books are two of my childhood favorites.

A Swedish model deserves her "glamour shot"!
I'd love to say I named her, but truly, she named herself.  "Dalarna" is the name of the landskap (county or province) in Sweden where the Dala horses originated.  It was also the name of a wonderful woman, a former co-worker of my husband's, who passed away a few years ago.  She was fiery and outspoken, and passionate about her Swedish-American heritage.  The way this little horse holds her head, and the gleam in her eye, reminds me of her human namesake.

My main suggestion, for those who may wish to make this project, is to read the entire pattern through first.  If you choose, as I did, to assemble the motifs using a sewn joining instead of "join as you go", be sure to assemble the pieces in the order that Heidi recommends in the pattern.  It will be much easier for you!  Don't just look at the photos and go rogue, as I did.  It really will work out much better if you join your motifs in the order specified by the pattern.  Also, pay attention to the motifs!  I spent over an hour last night, removing a pentagon that had been mistakenly added where a hexagon was to go.  My mistake happened because my piles of motifs had been thrown together (when a beagle hit the table in pursuit of a fly, but that's another story).  I thought I was grabbing a hexagon, but got a pentagon instead.  Be sure to keep your motifs in separate piles or bowls.  I'm already thinking about making another of Heidi's designs, and I plan to keep my motifs in little plastic bowls.  The only alteration I made to this pattern was to add two rows of mane fringe, instead of one.

So there it is -- my big "TA-DAH" moment, as Lucy over at Attic 24 says!  Now it's back to assembling doll hair (and ordering more yarn) -- then I'm on to another African Flower animal.  I'll give you a hint:  it's inspired by rugby...

Thanks for stopping by!  Leave your comments and questions below.  I'll be glad to answer any questions you have about my experience with the Fatty Lumpkin pattern.

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