emergency travel knitting

When I travel somewhere, a key feature of my planning is working out what knitting to take.  It’s right up there with decanting my toiletries into little travel bottles and checking the local weather forecast.  For me, planning what knitting to take is far more serious than what clothes to take.

For my latest trip to Australia, my usual routine was all out of sync (thank you, work-induced migraines), and I hadn’t planned a thing.  To make matters worse, it was to be my niece’s third birthday during my visit, and I hadn’t even had time to get her a pressie.

On the morning of my flight, I woke up and suddenly decided to knit my niece Sophie a polar bear.  Of course, who wouldn’t decide such a thing a few hours before travelling to the other side of the world?

I only had half a skein of suitable yarn, so I did a mad dash to my local department store.  My heart sank when the yarn was no longer on display, but I found a small stash on clearance.  Hurrah for finding the yarn at a discount!  But boo for it being discontinued by the store.

Anyway, it was a night flight, so I mostly snoozed on the plane and didn’t start knitting until the day I arrived in Australia.  It was a bit of a frantic push to get it finished in time.  I had to catch a 14 hour bus ride to visit my niece (ooh, love those Australian distances!) and I used that time to finish off the knitting.  It all went pretty smoothly.  The only difficulty was trying to do the embroidery for Otto’s face.

I mean, what do I know about embroidery?  Nothing.  I had to do some research to find out what french knots and satin stitch are, and my results weren’t brilliant.  I think my main difficulty arose from working the embroidery on a knitted, rather than woven, fabric.  One of the eyes worked really well, but for some reason I just couldn’t get the second eye to attach properly!  And poor Otto’s nose was overstitched about a zillion times, because I couldn’t figure out how to get a nice smooth edge when working with the v-shape of knitted stitches.

Luckily the end result was very cute, and no-one would ever know the difference:

Pattern: Otto by Ysolda

Yarn: Sublime Extra Fine Merino DK, less than 2 skeins.  Incredibly soft yarn, and perfect for snuggling.


I made very few changes to the pattern actually.  Like lots of other knitters, I found that the snout as written came out too long, so I ripped back and worked the increases every round, to get a shorter, snoutier snout.  I wasn’t overly thrilled with the design of the leg gusset, and I was left with a few gaps to sew up.  I’d use a more traditional method for the legs if I re-did the pattern.

I finished off with a garter stitch scarf made from some leftover alpaca/silk.  I added a little buttonhole and spent ages buying just the right button for it.  I got to my SIL’s place, asked to borrow a sewing needle, to be told that she doesn’t own one.  Can you believe it?  Yep, if something is torn or loses a button, she throws it out!  Clearly, we’re only related by marriage…

I solved the scarf problem by folding over one end to make a little loop to hold the scarf closed.  I mean, a polar bear surely doesn’t want to get a cold neck in a gust of wind?

Although Sophie really wasn’t all that fussed about the bear, she is clearly well-practised at being photographed, and she posed perfectly for me:

I was the only gift-giver who stayed away from things stereotypically pink and sparkly, so I’m quite happy to be the quirky aunt who gives home-made stuff.  Hopefully she’ll appreciate it one day.