Saturday, 18 May 2013

Monkey Business

Another baby due in the family – I was told at Christmas that I should get my needles out again for the summer, and asked whether a garment or a toy would be preferred. A toy is an heirloom, said the father-to-be. That’s that, then, thought I and began to wonder what to make.

A crochet pattern for Raymond Briggs’s Snowman attracted me to start with, and I sent off for it. 

DMC Snowman pattern - 'not a toy'!

But on reflection I decided a snowman for a summer baby wasn't particularly appropriate … and a white toy, for what we now knew was going to be a boy, might not last very long – or at least not remain white for very long. And there was a scarf, which would have needed to be sewn on very strongly … and when I read the pattern it said, very sternly,
‘This is not a toy’!

Not a snowman, then.

Then I saw a pattern for a dog. The family like dogs; this one looked a bit like the baby’s grandfather’s dog – to start with. I turned the page … and it had a sort of frill round the bottom of the body, and didn't look like anything much at all.

Not a dog, then.

Perhaps a teddy-bear? You can’t go wrong with a teddy bear, surely. I sifted through dozens, perhaps hundreds, of patterns on Ravelry. I didn't find a teddy bear I liked the look of.

So not a teddy bear.

In the meantime I had bought some aran cotton mix in a sale from an internet yarn dealer. 

Cardigan & hat made for one-year-old
It looked a really nice heathery colour on my screen, and when it arrived on a dull grey February day, when we had the lights on in the living room, it still looked a good heathery colour. I started knitting a cardigan for myself – the pattern is a scaled-up version of the one I'd made for another cousin’s child for her first birthday in January, which starts with the sleeves. I took it to the February Folk Dance weekend in Worthing. 

On the Saturday morning the sun shone. I looked at my knitting – hard, sharp purple – and knew I would never wear it.

My two dilemmas seemed to sort each other out. This bright purple would be great for a toy – maybe a purple teddy? I looked through the teddy patterns again, but still was not inspired. I changed my Ravelry search to ‘free’ ‘toy’ and left the knit or crochet undifferentiated. There was a monkey! I downloaded the pattern and made a start. It wasn't a particularly straightforward pattern, having been translated – probably by a robot – and I put it aside thinking ‘end of June, early July’ was a very long way ahead.

One day I had a few minutes between having my feet done and seeing the optician. So I looked round the yarn/haberdashery section of our local department store – as you do – and there was a stand of pattern books. Staring at me was a very engaging monkey. He was brown and fawn, but I thought he would work in my purple. I began to knit. To start with, I thought I’d make him entirely purple, but later decided that at least the face would need more definition, so I found some cream aran yarn, and made the face pieces in that. I decided that the tail was better purple, and swiss-darned cream for the inside of his ears. Face, hands and feet would be cream, instead of the pattern’s fawn, and all the pieces originally brown, plus ears and tail, were knitted in purple.

Then came the question of what to call him. I like to give my creatures names, sometimes before they have faces, as it can make quite a difference to how the face goes. I did give this chap a face, though, because the line of the mouth was very evident as soon as his face-piece and muzzle were attached; the right places for the nose and eyes were immediately obvious thereafter, so I had him complete. So, what name should he have? I put a picture of him on Facebook, to see if anyone could inspire me, and in the doing of that, and a bit of exchange of views on there, was able to sort my thoughts out.

Many of you know that I am quite interested in medieval monastic orders, in particular the Cistercians. so I thought about calling him Bernard, after their founder. [Monks and Monk-eys have to be associated, don’t they? Think of capuchins – and Friends!] 

But this monkey had a definite resemblance – apart from his colour – to Curious George. H L Rey’s endearing little monkey, called Zozo in some parts of the world, has a face very like my little chap. But I didn't want to call him George, in case the soon-to-be parents wanted to call the baby George! And then I thought of another well-known George, whose surname rhymes with another monastic order … and Clooney was born.

Just to add that Joshua [not George!] arrived safely on Thursday 6 June ...

Since then I have been persuaded to make another monkey – after all, I have plenty of purple wool! – for the raffle at the forthcoming Cleeve Gathering of the EJO Society. So the second one will be Cluny!


  1. I love him and I can see Joshua carrying him around till he is worn out....I hope he's washable.

    And as for the thinking behind the names of both one and two - brilliant!

    1. Oh yes, he's made with a 55% cotton/45% acrylic yarn, with washable stuffing specifically meant for toys! And I've finished the second one now, so Cluny will be raffled for MND next weekend.

  2. You have no idea how I admire your talent--that little monkey is the cutest thing! And I love the name. Enjoy the baby!

  3. The baby that 'Clooney' was made for is now home, and beginning to gain weight - he was very early and had to be fed by tube to start with.
    The second monkey, 'Cluny' went off to Somerset and was a prize in a raffle at the gathering we had there, the proceeds of which went to help Motor Neurone Disease research. The person who won him had said to me early in the weekend that she was desperate to give him a home, so I promised that if she didn't win him, I'd make a third, but as she did get him, I was spared having to ... but I have an awful lot of purple wool left, and there should be three wise monkeys, surely?