Baxter the Bunny, a new super-squishable friend.

I promised some bunny action last time, didn’t I?

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Here’s Baxter!

My brother’s girlfriend, now fiancée, Kim, had expressed a desire in getting a stuffed bunny ever since she saw the infamous David Sedaris owl. I figured that Christmas-time was probably the perfect time to make that happen, but when I was searching for patterns, I had a hard time finding something small and squishable, yet full of potential personality. Nothing had that perfect proportion like the original owl pattern did of fatness and plumpness, while still having enough room for an expressive face, although some things came really close.

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Enter Big Cuddly Bunny by one of the all-time greatest knitting sites ever, the Purl Bee. Purl Soho’s blend of whimsy, retro style, and good old-fashioned solid crafting is always right on point. Their giant crazy bunny was going to work just fine, but he just needed to be miniaturized.

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Here are my pattern changes, so that you can make your own tinier, yet still super cuddly, version for yourself. BIG GIANT NOTE HERE: I am not claiming the genius of the Purl Bee to be my own. I am only posting my pattern modifications for this particular project. Please go visit them to get the original pattern if you wish to partake in the bunniness.

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Trip wishes that he could, but being without thumbs makes the knitting kind of difficult. He’ll just settle for biting everything instead.

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First off, our materials are obviously slightly different. I used Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool, color 8085, the leftovers from my totally awesome, yet seldom used (because I just know that the cats will eat it somehow), Hemlock Ring Blanket. Way less than one skein’s worth, obviously. I used double-pointed US 7 needles as well. And you’ll need some black and white felt for Baxter’s quizzical expression, along with white and black sewing thread.  The gauge is somewhere along the lines of 4.5-5 sts per inch, but the main goal is just to get a sturdy fabric that won’t stretch out of control when stuffed.

Now for the real changes.

During the “THE BOTTOM” section, change Round 13 to *P6, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (64 sts)
Then, go on to Round 14: Purl.
Round 15: *P7, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (72 sts)
Purl 6 rounds.

Changes to “THE BODY”?
First, start by knitting 35 rounds.
Round 36: *K7, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (64 sts)
Rounds 37 & 38: Knit.
Round 39: *K6, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (56 sts)
Rounds 40 & 41: Knit.
Round 42: *K5, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (48 sts)
Rounds 43 & 44: Knit.
Round 45: *K4, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (40 sts)
Rounds 46 & 47: Knit.

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Follow the rest of the finishing steps detailed here, except you obviously won’t need a whole bag of stuffing. Just stuff your bunny up plump as you can. You’ll be able to add in the last bits of fluff before you close him up, so don’t worry if you can’t get it all in there right now.

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No changes to “THE BUNNY’S LEFT EAR.” Just do that all as written.

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The only change for “THE BUNNY’S RIGHT EAR” takes place when you are reorienting your stitches to get to the second ear. Since we ended up with more stitches at the top than the original pattern, you’re going to have 10 stitches between the ears on either side of the top of the bunny’s head, meaning that a total of 20 sts are not being used to make the ears. Just knit the ear as stated, making sure that you have left the proper amount of stitches in the middle to close up the bunny’s head, and only using 10 sts to make the ear.

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Make perfect sense? It will when you have it in front of you. I promise.

After making your second ear, go ahead and top off your bunny with the last amounts of stuffing and kitchener him closed. I did not do any duplicate stitching for the ears, because I didn’t feel as though Baxter was in a particularly cutesy mood. He’s more of a sedate, cool, woodsy bunny, even though he does look a little anxious.

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After that, cut out all your felt pieces and sew them on with gusto, just like you did with your owl and carrot. Didn’t make those? Just take tiny stitches, and be sure to hide all of your knots on the inside of your work. I find that stitching the pupils onto the eyes first makes things a lot easier. Make sure his teeth are slightly crooked, and you’re all good to go!

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Wait! Don’t forget to make the pom-pom tail! I bought my very first pom-pom maker for this, and I have to say, it was an extremely enjoyable experience. Something about that fat, plump pom-pom is very satisfying, especially since I have only been able to turn out limp, floppy ones in the past. The thing I am getting at here is — go and buy a pom-pom maker right now. Even if you don’t use it much, it will make your life better.

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And you will make someone else’s life better when they receive their new squishy friend.  Now, go make a bunny and make somebody happy.

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Chocolate and Orange, Together Forever – Doctored Up Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake

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Beautiful chocolate and orange above the fold? Do I have your attention? Good.

There is a well-established precedent here on this blog that I believe that chocolate + orange = holidays. Therefore, Christmas dinner this year required for me to get up early to make a decadent chocolate and orange treat for everyone to enjoy after the long day’s festivities.

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Cue Joy the Baker‘s Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake. (By the by, the photos here were taken by multiple people, none of which were me, on various phones and cameras whilst I flitted about the kitchen wearing an owl apron and a super serious face.)

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This cake, by itself, is pretty damn delicious, but this was Christmas, dammit. Game had to be stepped up. First addition? I poked holes all over the beautiful finished and cooled cake and brushed fresh squeezed orange juice (from the lonely little orange that you zest and then ignore to make the cake) all over the cake, letting it soak in.

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See? Super serious business here.

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If you’ve got tiny bits of orange pulp all over the outside of your cake, you’re doing everything right. In life and in baking.

Second addition? Get out your favorite chocolate ganache recipe. Don’t have one? Betty does, and it’s pretty great.

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Pour it all over that cooled orange-drenched cake (with aluminum foil cake stand protectors, of course), and then admire it for a second.

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Then spread things out a bit with a spatula. Did you start to smile? Stop that. Baking is a serious business.

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Lovely.

Now, we haven’t even eaten dinner yet, so we can’t dig into this cake. Besides, ganache (which WordPress doesn’t believe is a real word, by the way) needs to set, which is a cruel, but necessary, step. What do we do while we’re in that weird between-time when we can’t eat dinner or dessert yet?

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Well, in my family, you make more dessert, apparently.

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Super basic roll-out sugar cookies, again from Lady Betty.  Cookie cutters from my awesome friends Brittany and Michele made their inaugural sugar cookie appearance.

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You may think that bunnies don’t belong on a Christmas cookie plate. You are wrong.

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I don’t know why I wanted to include this one, but I really like this picture somehow. I feel as though those cookies are cowering in fear from my threatening cookie-eating presence. They are right to fear.

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After dinner, all kinds of royal icing happened.

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Again, no smiling allowed. Decorating sugar cookies with icing, candies, and sprinkles requires extreme concentration from all involved.

We made approximately 800,000 cookies. Here are a few highlights.

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The kitchen counter got a little crowded.

After all that hard work decorating, it was time for cake!

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It was worth the wait.

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I feel like this would be even better in mini-Bundt size, where you can get an even more favorable ganache-to-cake ratio. It’s all about the balance between the floral, tangy orange and the creamy semisweet chocolate. And then overloading it with a whole bunch more chocolate.

Year-end roundup is not over yet! Remember when I said something about bunnies being involved? Those cookie cutters didn’t count. We’ve got way more bunny goodness coming up. I am still excited about it, and it’s already over. That’s saying something.

Preventing Cold Feet in the New Year

I ended up knitting a whole bunch of things for various people to put on their feet at the end of the year. I’m not sure how it turned out that way, but these things tend to come in waves.

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First up, my brother didn’t know that he needed handknit socks named after a famous mathematician, but he did.

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These are from the always fabulous Cookie A., sock designer extraordinaire. I have made many of her sock patterns in the past (Ravelry links all, of course), and they are always the perfect combination of technically complicated, fun to knit, and just a little bit nerdy.

These ones in particular, Cauchy, are from her fantastic book Sock Innovation, and they are named after Augustin Louis Cauchy, a French mathematician responsible for the Cauchy-Schwarz Inequality. Therefore, they are covered in tiny stretchy inequality symbols.

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See? Math! In your socks!

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Seeing as my brother and I are math-and-science-minded people, I figured he’d enjoy them.

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I may have upped the geekiness quotient by knitting them out of Berroco Sox in the colorway called Watson. My science brain is still feeling so clever.

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I think he liked them, if his willingness to be a sock model for my silly knitting photo shoot was any indication.

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He’s a pro already.

Next up? Well, Dan needed some socks, too. Some super secret ones.

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I knitted up Longitudinal from Knitty after falling in love with its stripey cleverness.

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You knit your lengthwise stripes on a long circular needle, doing a bit of a modified-magic-loop-technique-sort-of-thing. After a minor setback while learning the cast-on method prescribed, I was off and running.

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I am a sucker for some good squishy garter stitch, and the stripes make it even better. The yarn is Knit One Crochet Too’s Ty-Dy Wool, and although it is a tiny bit splitty, it made for some lovely stripes. I’m a big fan of how slightly imperfect they are.

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Dan is calling them his lizard socks. I like it.

Two warnings, though, before you embark on your lengthwise sock journey yourself. #1? These socks tend to slouch a bit at the ankles. I think it just might be the way of the lengthwise sock, unless you deliberately knit them slightly small to stretch. #2? That Kitchener stitch bind off all the way up the leg to finish? I don’t think that I have ever had such angry thoughts about my knitting as when I was completing that. Usually Kitchener doesn’t bother me one bit, but this is garter-style Kitchener, for what feels like several hundred stitches. It is super easy to get mixed up and skip a step, so just buckle it down, pour yourself a drink, and pay attention. You’ll get through it, you just won’t like it while it’s happening.

Last up? Some plush purple goodness.

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Purple Mukluks for Dan’s mom from Knitting Pure & Simple. (It’s pattern #116, if you’re so inclined. You should be.)

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Knit up in Cascade Pacific Chunky, one of the loveliest wool and acrylic blends out there. Super soft and shiny with gorgeous saturated color. Yum.

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The mukluk shape is created by some very clever short-rowing in the instep. I have used the word clever a great many times during this post. I may need a thesaurus.

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Check out that grafting action.

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I obviously didn’t have to be coaxed to model these ones off. I’m excited to put them in the mail for her soon. She definitely deserves some squishy woolly comfort for the rest of the chilly New Hampshire winter.

If you think that’s the end of my year-end making-of-things, do not fret! I promise that there’s more baking and knitting to come, which may or may not involve chocolate, oranges, and bunnies. I’ll let your imagination work out the rest.