Sunday, April 15, 2012

A knitted eggplant

I have never knit a stuffed animal.  I prefer stuffed vegetables -- and that's not a joke about how I'd rather be eating dinner than knitting, though admittedly, I probably would.

The latest round of veggies are for baby J -- they'll be a mobile until she's old enough to have a toy kitchen, at which point they'll turn into ingredients.  The idea is to convince her that vegetables are beautiful and awesome before she's old enough to have any reason to think otherwise!  I already have a carrot from my last round of vegetable knitting, and I just finished an eggplant.  I'm halfway through a beet, and considering rounding it off with a green pepper (peppers are hard).

There are plenty of patterns for veggies already out there, but I found them all too cartoony; they were symmetric and regular in a way that vegetables never are.  So, the first vegetables I knit came about after some very careful measuring:

This newer set of veggies are based on the notes I took that time, and a decent amount of making it up as I go along too.

In some ways, the knitting isn't hard.  Knitting tubes is easy; making tubes taper by judiciously decreasing is easy too, and then you can make them curve using short rows, and voila -- an eggplant (carrot, beet, potato, butternut squash, zuccini, etc) is born.  But on the other hand, this knitting is a bit of a pain in the ass -- whenever I put the project down, I need to make note of exactly where I am, because I can't "read" my previous knitting in the way you can with a more regular pattern.

But!  On the other other hand, these vegetables are impervious to small-to-medium sized mistakes. They're supposed to be organic-looking, meaning slightly irregular and asymmetrical, and every one is an individual.  Plus, you can easily knit one in an afternoon, so needing an attention span isn"t such a big deal.

Thus, I fittingly present you with, not a pattern, but a recipe for a knitted eggplant:


  • Worsted or Aran weight yarn; about 45 yards of purple and 8 yards of green.  (use a different size yarn if you want to knit a different size eggplant, or are brave about resizing patterns.)
  • 1 yard of scrap yarn;
  • Size 3 or 4 needles (or whatever you need to get a very tightly knit fabric);
  • Fiber fill;
  • Yarn needle;
  • Safety pin or locking stitch marker;
  • Willingness to knit a simple lace pattern in the round without being told where the stitches should go on your needles.

Skills and abbreviations:

  • Cast on (CO);
  • Provisional cast on (PCO);
  • Bind off (BO);
  • Decrease stitch of your choice;
  • Decrease stitch that merges three stitches nicely (abbreviated dec 3->1; I accomplished this by slip, knit, pass slipped stitch over newly knit stitch, pass next stitch over newly knit stitch.) 
  • Short row shapping (including "wrap and turn" to make the edges nice);
  • Yarn over (YO);
  • I-cord.  

Before we begin, a word about shaping:  for the body of the eggplant, I am intentionally vague about placement of decreases, method of decreases, placement of short rows, and lengths of short rows.  This is intentional, and an essential part of this pattern!  I encourage you to be as random as possible in the placement of these elements; the result will be more organic-looking, and entirely individual.  Also, the numbers are approximate and should all be read with a +/- 20%, and I encourage you to be slightly sloppy in your counting.  Feel free, also, to add an extra short row somewhere along the way (or omit one of the ones called for).

Okay, onto the part that looks sort of like a pattern.

Knitting the body:

PCO 45 stitches in scrap yarn.
In purple yarn, knit 8 rows plain; place your safety pin/locking stitch marker at the beginning of one of the rows so that as the project progresses, you can remember where your rows begin.
Begin shaping the bottom half of the eggplant:

  • Decrease 1 stitch per row, for 4 rows;
  • Decrease 2 stitches per row, for 4 rows;
  • Decrease 3 stitches per row, for 3 rows;
  • Decrease 6 stitches per row, for 3 rows; 6 stitches remain.
  • Next cut your thread, leaving a 6 inch tail, and pull the tail through the remaining 6 stitches and tighten.  Sew in the end.  Do it now!  It will be a pain to do it later, once the eggplant is stuffed.

Next, remove the yarn of your PCO and slide the newly live stitches onto your needle(s).  With the purple yarn, begin shaping the top of the eggplant:

  • Over the next 4 rows, decrease 2 stitches total.  (Not 2 stitches each row; 2 stitches total.  I considered writing "decrease half a stitch per row for 4 rows", but decided that was even more confusing.
  • At some point in the next row, insert a short row of k stitches, for some 6<k<18.  (So, knit more than k stitches of that row, wrap and turn, purl k stitches, wrap and turn again.  In the next row, pick up the wraps from the wrapped stitches.  Consider rolling a pair of dice to select k.)
  • Over the next 8 rows, decrease 10 stitches total (not 10 each row, which is clearly impossible!).
  • In the next row, insert another short row of k stitches, for some 6<k<18.  Use a different value of k -- maybe roll the dice again!
  • Over the next 16 rows, decrease 8 stitches total.
  • In the next row, insert the final short row of k stitches, for some 6<k<12, using yet another value of k.
  • Over the next 8 rows, decrease 4 stitches total.  About 20 stitches remain.  Pause your knitting to mostly fill the body of the eggplant with fiber fill.
  • Decrease 2 stitches per row for 2 rows.
  • Decrease 4 stitches per row for 1 row. Add in a little more fiber fill.
  • Decrease 6 stitches per row for 1 row; about 6 stitches remain.
  • Cut your yarn, leaving a 6-inch tail, and thread it through these 6 stitches.  Add in a little more fiber fill, until the eggplant is pleasingly plump, and then pull the yarn tail tight.  Sew in the end.

Knitting the cap:

  • CO 36 stitches in green yarn.
  • First row: (k1, yo, k4, dec 3->1, k4, yo)x3.
  • Second row:  repeat first row.
  • Third row: (k5, dec 3->1, k4)x3
  • Fourth row: (k4, dec 3->1, k3)x3
  • Fifth row: (k3, dec 3->1, k2)x3
  • Sixth row: (k2, dec 3->1, k1)x3
  • Seventh row: (k1, dec 3->1)x3.  6 stitches remain.
  • move all stitches to one needle.  Knit an inch of i-cord, while decreasing down to 3 stitches.  bind off, cut a 9-inch tail, and thread this back through the i-cord tube.  

Now you'll use the tail of the green yarn to attach the cap to the body.  I suggest first threading it through the 6 stitches at the top of the body, then sewing down the three corners of the cap (pass the yarn through the inside of the eggplant to connect the different corners, so your hat will be firmly attached.)

Enjoy your eggplant!  And, perhaps, make yourself a delicious eggplant ragout as an award for a job well done.

1 comment:

  1. your eggplant looks really good. i like the idea of free form knitting. i rarely do that, but i do find more freedom with my crochet even though I am mainly a knitter.