Crafty stuff, Miscellenia

Retro cuddlies

I found a couple of vintage knitted stuffed toys recently and just had to have them (or at least have them for a little while).  They didn’t come together, but are about the same size, and are the only two knitted stuffed toys I have ever come across, though I have seen lots of patterns for them.

I don’t know a lot about them, as knitting and toys aren’t my areas of textile expertise by a long shot (if you do, please speak up!), but though they were too cute not to share.

The first one dates back to at least the 1940s, and probably a little earlier.

Depression era knitted stuffed owl

Isn’t it adorable!  It’s just so cute and simple and cunning!

It’s pure wool, and, except for the beak, is worked all in one simple stitch – very characteristic of early 20th century knitted items, including toys.

I’ve seen patterns for similar stuffed toys in pre WWII women’s magazines, but haven’t seen this exact pattern.

It doesn’t look like it was every really used or carried around – there is no wear or pilling, and no fading.

The second stuffed toy is a little trickier to date, but just as adorable.

Knitted soldier stuffed toy

Don’t you just love his sweet little face!  And his perky tilted-to-one-side hat!  The hat even has a tassle!

Tassled hat!

Unlike the owl, the soldier is knitted in at least four different stitches, which definitely means it was made by a much more experienced knitter.  It also implies that the soldier is from a later date than the owl, as stitch use and toy design became more sophisticated as the 20th century moved forward.

The soldier is also pure wool yarn.  While the owl toy is pristine, the soldier has a little wear around the neck, like a little kid carried it around in the crook of their arm for weeks on end.  D’aww!



  1. oh those are cute …
    It reminds me of some knitted dogs (think they shoudl look like dachshunds) I’ve owned as a small child… they were much bigger,almost life-size …
    My elder sister owned them before so I think they date around 1975 …

  2. My lovey, the stuffed animal that would cause major issues if it were left behind on holiday, was a monkey my mum knitted when she was pregnant. (That dates it to 1973 ;D) He was quite threadbare by the time I gave him up.

    My grandma would take donations of wool and make toys like the little soldier – she may have even had that pattern, turtles – turtles were a favourite, bears, and the occasional totally non-PC gollywog for my auntie’s church fairs.

  3. I can’t be sure from the photographs but it looks like the owl’s eyes are crocheted and then sewn on. I could tell if the picture was closer, probably. I’ve knit a lot of things included some stuffed toys for my boyfriend’s nephew (out of cotton, not wool, so they can be easily thrown in the washing machine). It is fun and surprisingly challenging sometimes.

    The owl may be knit entirely in stockinette stitch, actually. The beak certainly is but the body may be the reverse side of the same stitch – again, I can’t tell from this photograph.

    They’re both very cute!

    • Ooh, thanks Sandi! I was pretty sure that stitch name was stockinette, but am not a knitter so didn’t want to write anything stupid!

      I’ve investigated it pretty closely, and am fairly sure that the eyes are not sewn on separately.

    • I’m pretty sure the main body of the owl is in garter stitch (I think they call it stocking stitch in some parts of the world? – not the same as stockinette stitch!) The beak is stockinette stitch and I think I agree with others who have suggested that the eyes are crocheted. They look like they may have been worked directly onto the head?

      The little soldier is just too charming 🙂

    • Yes, the eyes are definitely crochet, I looked at the enlarged photo. He’s gorgeous! The body is in garter and the beak in stocking stitch.

      The soldier’s hat appears to be reverse stocking stitch, his hair is garter, body and face stocking stitch, and sash moss stitch by the look of it.

      My Nana used to knit us a lot of toys (early 80s) and neither of these patterns look familiar to me. I’m more into garments than toys though. The fact that the soldier is 100% wool is interesting. Suggests to me that maybe he’s a bit older. But some people were wool snobs even in the acrylic boom.

  4. It’s always tricky dating things here as patterns for things like this get passed down through families for generations. So they could be more modern but made from an old pattern. I hope not though, I love the idea of them being that old! 🙂 Can you tell what they are stuffed with? That would be a real clue…

      • If you have a small crochet hook, you should be able to hook some of the stuffing out and ram it back in without damaging the knitting!

  5. Hm, this is something I know nothing about, just like you! (I know a little bit about knitting, but unlike with sewing, I usually don’t know the English terms.)
    I never liked the idea of knitted toys very much – that is, until this summer when I got hold of a Tartu Toy Museum flyer, which shows knitted puppets and toys with Fair Isle patterns, and I totally fell in love with those. So I take a friendlier eye on knitted toys now.

  6. I have a kitten that my grandmother crocheted c. 1965. My brother had one as well. His was dressed as a boy, and mine was dressed as a girl. The clothes on the boy kitten were part of the body, whereas the girl’s skirt was separate. Both were stuffed with chopped up pieces of old nylons. I still have mine.

    I agree with Sandi, I believe the owl’s eyes were crocheted. If the yarn is wool, it could have been felted on, in which case you really wouldn’t see any stitches. Or it could have been crocheted right into the fabric of the knit. But up close, the stitches of the eyes definitely look crocheted.

    Love your blog! I’ve so enjoyed looking at all your projects. The corded corset is incredible. I want you to finish the Luna gown, just so I can see how it comes out! And the Janet Arnold Lady Maud dress has been on my to do list for years. Your energy is so admirable. I wish I had a fraction of it!

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