Everything is cuter if you make it smaller. People are cuter as babies. Cats are cuter as kittens. Those miniature tents they have on display in camping stores are far cuter than the life size ones. When I began my adventure with Toft’s collection of crocheted animals, it was not long before my offspring requested a tiny version of his favorite sheep. So off we went to the craft store for baby fine yarn, and an exceptionally small crochet hook. The resulting sheep was exceptionally cute, but he was neither fun nor relaxing to make. Working in such tiny stitches gave me a headache and removed all of the things that I love about the craft. But he was so cute, I knew it was time to dive into the world of Ed’s minis. A line of Toft creations in miniature form.
While the animals in the original Edwards Menagerie collection can be made at any size if you simply vary yarn thickness and hook size, it can be tricky if your fingers don’t like working outside their usual parameters. Luckily for me, my inclination towards miniatures was well timed with the release of the final set of two books in a four part collection of minis from Toft’s Kerry Lord. Pre-orders are a big deal at Toft, and are always well rewarded. For pre-ordering the books directly from Warwickshire, England, I was able to get two pins, and a handful of postcard patterns. Well worth the extra in shipping costs.
The two books I received were Farm and Pets. While these titles may be self-explanatory in terms of the kind of animals you are wont to find within, they were still a few nice surprises. As a Brit living in the U.S., I was delighted to find a Badger as one of the patterns in Farm. As a Brit living in Maine, I was likewise delighted by the Maine Coon Cat pattern in Pets. Though my kids have not yet afforded me the time to create these two, as their demands have lain elsewhere.
The patterns in the minis series vary from the original Edward’s Menagerie collection. Some vary only in number of stitches, some vary completely in body shape and appendages. This is not the same kind of book put out by Toft in their early patterns, where you follow a standard pattern for every animal, following the details on the pattern page to make the specifics. In the minis line, each pattern for each animal is laid out in full. And while many of the animals have matching legs, torsos and very similar heads, there are many new forms included. You might choose to make a goldfish for example, or a snail.
Besides being mini, this was also my first introduction to Toft’s range of birds, albeit mostly the webbed footed variety. The Goose has been a popular addition in our house, though a quick peruse of #edsminis on Instagram shows that the Gecko pattern has been extremely popular. I did make a chick shortly after Easter, and so learned Toft’s method of splitting a round to create a clawed foot. This was something I was worried about when looking at their many bird patterns, so doing it in miniature was a welcome test for what I was planning next. Spoilers.
I have yet to make a bat or hedgehog in full size from the original book, but I have already made the minis version from Farm. It was nice to work on a small bat and get a feel for the technique; it makes the larger one less daunting. On the other hand, I simply loathed working the slip stitch chains required for the hedgehog. I’m not sure if my loathing will be reduced doing them on a larger project; perhaps the smallness was a hindrance to me with this stitch. However, even disliking the method, I have to admit that the end result is simply fabulous, and worth every curse word.
Many of the mechanics employed in the standard sized Ed’s animals are used in the minis. And so you will recognize the arch of the torso, and the shaping of a nose, though in a smaller amount of stitches. The legs and arms are still done on the same model as the original animals, where you create four of each for each animal, well, each animal that has such appendages. In the minis you simply stop at 12 stitches and reduce to 8, instead of going up to 18 and reducing to 12. It can be a bit more fiddly, but is much easier to do than making a standard sized animal in a small weight yarn. So much easier, and so rewarding.
Over the years, Kerry Lord has listened to her faithful followers, has answered their questions, and has learned what it is that they want. In these books, I find things included that I felt missing from the Edward’s Menagerie collection, which was, of course, her first book. I had found her habit of finishing a piece off at the 6 or 8 stitch mark to be odd. All previous 3D creations of mine had gone down to 1 or 2 before being closed tightly. In the minis books you are given great picture tutorials on how to finish off after decreasing your shape. I have now tried the Toft method several times, and I have to say I am starting to prefer it to my own method of finishing off, which involves far more needle work. The Toft way often produces a much neater look than anything I have employed before. Though it can feel like a little more piece work.
The instructions on specific styles or steps are spaced throughout the book, usually as part of an animal that they are used in. The illustrations are wonderfully clear, and delightfully drawn. I especially love the use of the mustard color to show the stitch. Not only is it my favorite color, but it shows very clearly what to do. I found myself needing to refer to the online video tutorials less, thanks to the amazing guides in the minis books. Though I do love watching the videos, they draw me into a meditative state. Whether it’s the stitching or the accent I know not.
Like all of the offerings from Toft, the photography is outstanding. They have a loyal following on social media that I am now a ravenous part of, and pictures of the animals creatively displayed, whether in whole or in their pieces, is part of the appeal of this whole process. In the minis books, the creatures are used in a variety of colors to show them at their best, but Toft has also employed strands of yarn simply as an artistic addition, and the effect is lovely.
You will find tips and tricks throughout to help you customize your project, and there are plenty of suggestions for how to make them unique. One of the driving forces behind Toft is to get as many people crocheting as possible, followed closely by the desire to have people use their own imagination in the creative process. This is a gentle way to learn to experiment with your creations, and Toft is so encouraging in this. They really do want you to take what they have designed and make it your own.
While I find I can make a standard sized Ed’s animal in a day if I do little else, they do average two or three days in installments. On the other hand, one of the minis can be turned out in its entirety in just 2 or 3 hours, depending on your speed and skill with a crochet hook. It is great for lazy evenings, where you just want to see a finished result. It is also a great way to placate the tribe when you have many littles clamoring for the next animal to add to their collection.
As for myself, I will clamor for the next book of patterns to add to my collection. For me that will involve going back to the first two installments in the minis series. Jumping into the jungle with Wild and under the sea with Ocean. Though that will have to wait, as I joined in on some Easter fun that was happening at Toft, and now have some flighty and some more prehistoric projects to work on. My 2021 adventures in crocheting with Toft continue, and, after four months, I still find myself reaching for that hook every night, and not tiring of these amazing creations.