TOFT: Here Come the Bees

Crafts DIY Featured Summer Science Fun

When I was a child, I was afraid of bees. I had gone on vacation with my grandparents to Trecco Bay in Porthcawl, Wales. We were staying in a caravan, and the people next to us had a beautiful old English sheepdog. One day, I wandered over to visit him and was stung by a bee. My Nan panicked. My Grandad panicked. I was picked up and thrown into the car before we all dashed over to the chemist to get something to treat the sting. I was fine. The bee was not. Yet despite my physical well-being, the trauma of the aftermath made me terrified of bees for years.

When my wonderful sister had two amazing babies I learned very quickly that it’s easier to be brave for the little ones around you than it is for yourself. And so I went into the batcave at Chester Zoo with my nephew Tyler, and I didn’t run screaming from bees ever again. I sat calmly when a bee fluttered past my darling niece and beloved nephew. I explained to them what the bees do for us. I explained that the bees were far more afraid of us. I told them that bees did not want to sting, and if you just left them alone then they would leave you alone. Then a wasp would come along and I would scoop my precious ones up into my arms and run like hell, pretending we were playing a game because some wasps are just mean.

None of what I told them was a lie, and over time, I realized the truth of my own words, and will now happily sit next to the bees. When my daughter was young, she would pet them very gently. They are amazing creatures, they do so much for us, and they will leave you alone. But Donna Noble was right, the bees are vanishing. Only our bees have not gone back to their home planet. The decline in the worldwide bee population is staggering, and I hate to think of any contributions I may have made to that. This summer one of my favorite companies is running a competition to, yes, sell their product, but also to raise awareness, funds, and baby bees for the re-population of the bee community.

All Images: Sarah Pinault

Every summer Kerry Lord and the team at Toft have a summer competition. These highly popular kits and patterns result in some amazing pictures across the Toft social media community, and it is simply glorious seeing so many crafters working their own imagination into the same base design. This summer the challenge is to make one (or two) honey bees, post a photo of them with your favorite flower, and finally share it to Instagram or Facebook using #edssummerbees and tagging @toft_uk. You can win a prize bundle Toft containing goodies worth over £250. The “Save the Bees” kit contains two 25g natural colors for the body and a third 25g for the wings. It comes with a bee info card and two sets of safety eyes. Hook, toy stuffing, and a sewing-up needle are not included, which does keep the price down. There are some new-to-Toft techniques with this pattern and if you have any trouble or just simply like watching a British lady talk about crochet, then you can watch Kerry Lord’s latest video HERE.

At Toft HQ in the UK, they have introduced three hives with plans to add more. The Toft Social Media feed has already been a-buzzing this summer with updates and information about honey bees, and all the things you can do to help repopulate. If you live in the UK and order the kit, you can also opt to receive some free wild seed balls to plant to encourage the bees in your area.

The bees are called Nancy and Drew, and this was my first time using Toft brand yarn, though I now have a full bucket of the stuff at home. I have a bit of an addiction problem with yarn. And books. And books about yarn. I chose yellow and chestnut for the body, with a simple cream wing. Despite having made over 50 Toft patterns at this point, and purchasing several kits, this was the first time I have used the yarn. It is soft and buttery, but I wouldn’t say that there is any advantage to using the Toft yarn over anything I could buy locally or from a generic craft store. Picture is the Toft chestnut and a Lion Brand pink, which is a yarn I frequently use for my Toft makes. You can see a difference in texture and consistency which is visibly striking but functionally makes no matter. Both of these yarns are intended for the same size hook or needle, and so at first blush, the Toft would seem to be at a disadvantage to me as I like a closer bound stitch.

As I began the bee’s body, I was a little disappointed in the tension the yarn held, and the gaps it produced. However, as the pattern progressed and began to pull together, the gaps lessened. Once stuffed they were imperceptible.

The body follows the standard increase of a Toft pattern, and the legs, all six of them bear much resemblance to appendages in other patterns, especially in the minis collection. Legs are not my favorite thing to do, I do not have pianist’s fingers, but the softness of the yarn did make these less cumbersome, so points to Toft for that.

The thorax was another part that I was not looking forward to, as it is worked entirely in the oft-feared loop stitch. I find loop stitch is easier to work over a larger piece, the size of the bee made this particularly tricky. The key to loop is to not worry about uniformity. Let your hands and the yarn do what they have to do, and it is highly unlikely that you will be dissatisfied with the end result. If you think it’s looking a little naked, do more loops than recommended. The loop stitch is one of the most frequently complained about stitches in the Toft repertoire, but it is a striking look. For the bees, the preferred method is to cut the loops once done and then brush the yarn out for that fuzzy, honey bee look. The fuzz definitely compensates for anything you might feel lacking in your finished loopy thorax.

The wings presented their own unique challenge, as the directions include a chart of how to crochet these appendages. Toft is much more inclined to the step-by-step method than the chart style. Having read of the struggles many had with the wings, I made two decisions. I would ignore the chart except for a brief reference to shape, and I would just stitch per the instructions and ignore any common sense or cautionary thoughts I might have. A few times I was tempted to unpick and start again, but I pushed through and the pattern won out. Despite my fears, my trepidation over the turns, terms, and triple stitches, the wings came out great.

Nancy the honey bee is one of the most intricate Toft patterns I have attempted. Though the finished piece was much larger than I anticipated, it is still on the small side of the collection. Larger than a mini, smaller than an original Eds animal. Thus far I have yet to attempt making Drew, as I am not sure how I feel about repeating all of these steps. I am, however, thoroughly enjoying seeing all of the competition entries. I haven’t taken my winning shot yet, but there’s a trip to the White Mountains in NH in my future, so I’m hoping to take that amazing shot within sight of Mount Washington.

To be in with a chance of winning this year’s Summer Competition, make sure that you share your photo of Nancy on Instagram and/or Facebook before midnight, Sunday 5th September 2021 using the #edssummerbees and tag in @toft_uk.

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