When I was pondering over what sort of creature would be nestling at the bottom of my Winter wreath, my very first idea was to make it a robin. Here in the UK, this little bird (the European Robin) is a common sight in gardens, parks and hedgerows and although we have them here all year round they do seem to be especially noticeable in winter.
These charming little birds are often seen on Christmas cards too, a tradition dating back to the Victorian era. When early Christmas cards were produced in the mid-18th Century, they were delivered by postmen wearing bright red coats. These postmen became known as 'robins' or 'redbreasts', and so the bird on the Christmas card was representing the postman who delivered it. So basically, robins are strongly associated with Winter time here and it seemed perfectly right to include one on my winter wreath. Plus, I'm thinking that a bright flash of orangey red might look pretty stunning in amongst the swathes of cool blues and greens (!)
Once I'd set my heart on making a robin, I began to toss about a few vague ideas for designing my own crochet version. I thought about it for approximately 1.3 minutes before giving up and diving straight into the world-wide-web to see if someone else had already done all the hard work for me. It didn't take me long to find exactly what I was looking for. I chose to bypass the overly round, cutesy, cartoony type robins and opted instead for this very lovely, modest little chap. Isn't he wonderful? This very, very clever pattern is designed by Clare Trowbridge who sells her patterns via her online shop named Little Conkers.
It's not often I purchase crochet patterns, but I have to say I was very impressed with the ease of it all. I bobbed along to Little Conkers on Etsy, paid with paypal and the pattern miraculously appeared as a fantastic, detailed PDF that I could either save to my computer or print out. I am very impressed by the marvels of technology and the world-wide-web, these things seem like a bit of magic to me.
Now about the pattern.....it is beautifully written but it's not what I would describe as Easy. It takes concentration, counting, determination. And a stitch marker. You work in amigurumi spiral rounds, incorporating the "tapestry technique" to switch colours as you go. Clare explains this technique very well, but it is still quite a tricksy thing to get right. You really do have to concentrate and count like fury, not only the pattern stitches (dc increases and decreases) but also the number of white/red stitches you are required to make in each round. I think I made more than a few mistakes as my colour change is very wobbly, but considering this was my first attempt at anything like this I don't think I did too badly.
Aside from the clever colour changing, the genius of this design is in the construction...oh it is soooooo clever! You see, you make the robin in two neat sections, cleverly grafting him together with a nifty invisible seam. The bottom section is his very round tummy and red breast, and the top section starts with the head, then goes on to incorporate the back, wings and tail. A weeny beak is crocheted and stitched on, and then beady eyes added (Clare stitched her eyes, but I used 6mm Safety Eyes which I always like to use for this sort of critter-making).
Once all the crochet is complete and the eyes and beak have been attached, it's just a case of adding a little stuffing and neatly stitching the two robin halves together.
You end up with a very sweet and plump little bird nestling in the palm of your hand. I used DK weight yarns with a 3,5mm hook to make the crochet nice and dense, and my robin measures about 9cm from the tip of his beak to the tip of his tail.
My robin also has much character as you can see, with a slightly off-centre beak and a determined upward right wing. He likes to wave to passers by, and no matter what I do his wing refuses to come down.
Clare describes her robin as "tubby" and "plump", whereas my little chap is very portly indeed, verging on the obese. I think he ate way too many worms.
But oh, I do love him! He is currently attempting to nest-build in the daffodils as his forever home amongst the fern leaves isn't quite ready yet. I have (of course) already perched his ample backside in amongst the aforementioned fern leaves just to check the anticipated colour flash of his red/orange tummy, and I can confirm that he looks very scrummy.
I can also tell you that my Winter Wreath is nearing completion - I've got some snowy pine cones to show you (they turned out really well), and the most darling purple hellebore flowers that I designed this afternoon as the snowflakes came flurrying down here in the Attic. Lots to share - I can feel the itchy tingly excitement of a Ta-dah moment not too far away....ooooooooooooooooh!