Year of the Ox Lovey Blanket
Updated: Jul 7, 2021
Welcome to the Year of the Ox! Year of the Ox begins on Chinese New Year (AKA Lunar New Year) - February 12, 2021.
To celebrate the occasion, I've created a lovey (a blanket with a plush at the center)!
This pattern was created for the expected child of a wonderful co-worker who, along with his wife, happens to be from Taiwan. There are several aspects of this blanket tied to Taiwanese (and also Chinese) culture that make it special.
First, the colors. Red symbolizes happiness, luck, and good fortune while gold symbolizes wealth (and fortune of wealth). The two colors together are often used during festivals and weddings. Importantly, if you use different colors to make this blanket, do NOT use white. White is a funerary color (much like black is in Western cultures).
Second, the star which makes the blanket fabric has 8 points. Eight is a considered a lucky number in Chinese and Taiwanese cultures because the word for eight, Bā (八), sounds similar to the word Fā (发), part of the word Fācái (发财), meaning “to get rich” or “to bring wealth.” There are more traditional, Taoist roots to associating the number 8 with good luck and fortune as well. Read more about this tradition here. If you’re making equivalents to Western culture, this is similar to how the number 7 is associated with good luck. Importantly, using an 8-pointed star avoids the use of the number 4, which is unlucky in Chinese and Taiwanese cultures for a similar reason. The word four, Sì (四), sounds similar to the word for death, Sǐ (死).
Last, and probably the most obvious, there is an Ox in the center of this blanket. 2021 is the Year of the Ox in the Chinese Zodiac Calendar which begins at the Chinese/Lunar New Year. Since this child will be born in 2021 after the Chinese New Year, the plush toy is an Ox. If you’re making this for a different child, swapping out the plush in the center is a great adjustment.
Q: How much does this pattern cost?
Q: What do I get when I purchase this pattern?
A: The pattern pdf is 10 pages long and includes descriptive text about the pattern (also included in the post above), tips, and lots of photos to help you get it just the way you want! All photos include alt text for your convenience.
Q: Can I sell items made from this pattern?
A: You may sell items made with this pattern, but must link back to (1) the pattern OR (2) the Craftematics website. You may not sell derivatives or variations on the pattern itself (although you may make and list them for free with a link back to (1) the pattern OR (2) the Craftematics website).
Q: How long does it take to make the lovey?
A: This lovey took me about 12.5 hours to complete, so I would estimate between 11 and 15 hours for most crocheters.
Q: How difficult is this pattern?
A: Skills required: working in the round, working in flat, sc, hdc, dc, increase, decrease, sewing pieces together. On a scale of newbie to expert, I would place this pattern at advanced beginner. If you can work in the round, you can make this pattern. If you've never worked in the round before, this pattern is a good introduction to both types of working in the round - straight rounds and spiral.
Q: What materials do I need to make this pattern?
A: You will need....
Red yarn - Lion Brand Pound of Love in Cherry - 1 skein (about 541 m/592 yd needed)
Gold yarn - Loops and Threads Impeccable in gold - 1 skein (about 215 m/235 yd needed)
Cream yarn - Loops and Threads Impeccable in aran - 1 skein (estimated 50 m/55 yd needed)
Crochet hook - size G (4 mm) or whatever size is needed to meet the gauge
1 pair of 14 mm safety eyes
1 pair of 12 mm safety noses (OR use black yarn to embroider the nostrils)
Stuffing - polyester, cotton, or any natural and dryer safe fiber are recommended for this project
A note on yarn: these are the yarns I chose as the finished lovey is going to a home with a child. Acrylic is a good choice because it can be machine washed and dried. However, you can use any medium weight yarn in red, gold, and cream for this pattern (yardage estimations above).
Q: How do I care for a lovey?
A: A lovey is a cross between a blanket and an amigurumi. In cases like this, it's best to follow the care steps for the more delicate item (in this example, the amigurumi). For the yarn listed above, I would recommend machine washing in cold water with no softener or bleach. I would also recommend putting the lovey in a laundry bag or tied-off pillow case to protect the stitches from snagging on the washer drum. Laying flat to dry is best to preserve the shape of the plush and to keep the stuffing from clumping up over time. You can put the lovey in front of a box fan or below a ceiling fan to cut drying times. Read about amigurumi care and tips in my post here.
The Design Process and Learnings
When I first set out to make this pattern, I started by researching existing patterns for star shaped blankets with different numbers of points. While the math for number of stitches per round was pretty clear (the number of stitches must always be divisible by the number of points), the methods for beginning the star varied wildly.
Some patterns used a lace method which left large holes in the center of the blanket. Others used post stitches to create and maintain the troughs. Neither of these methods would work for what I had in mind as the method to attach the plush to the blanket - it had to be a solid piece with no gaps. After multiple attempts and a lot of frogging, I landed the right start and was on my way. Side note - the final version of the star's center will be featured in a post coming next week on blocking.
Once the center was established, the rest of the blanket was simply deciding where to change colors and how wide to make the stripes. I wanted a rippling effect, so the gold stripes are done in 1, 2, then 3 rows each. The border was finished in reverse single crochet, AKA crab stitch, to provide some texture without making the blanket any bigger.
The plush ox in the center was more complex. The key to making your own amigurumi pattern is to recognize general shapes and work from there. The head is a simple sphere while the muzzle begins as an oval. Arms start off as a semi-sphere, then turn into a cylinder, and finally taper off to the attachment points. Ears are triangles with some shaping around the edges. Additional shaping for the ears is given by the sewing method. The horns I am particularly proud of as getting the curve to be part of the shapes involves some shaping techniques that do not lend themselves to kind numbers.
The process of making these pieces also involved a lot of frogging, slapdash hand-drawn diagrams, and pausing the shows I was watching to think about numbers and count stitches.
At the end of the project looking back, I have two things I wanted to change:
The attachment zones for the blanket and the head were very difficult to find without carefully outlining the rounds with straight pins. Some BLO work in the pattern should hopefully make this step easier for future attempts.
Arm location. I do like where the arms are now but I think I would like them more if they were along the line where the blanket and the plush are attached. A note is included in the pattern as this does change when you attach the arms and also increases the difficulty ever so slightly. For newbies, I would leave the arms as written originally. If you're comfortable sewing in tight spaces, I'd give the second location a shot.
My biggest learning, I think, is that writing patterns well is quite labor- and time-intensive. While the actual active work of the lovey took about 12.5 hours, the time spent frogging and caching back up was never logged. To be honest, I don't really want to think about the amount of time spent planning, frogging, and re-working some of those pieces. The time I spent not only typing up the pattern, but adding descriptive photos (some of which are annotated) and formatting is nothing to laugh at either. A rather long-winded way of saying I now feel that a pattern under $10 is a pretty good deal and will henceforth stop filtering my pattern searches as "free only."
You may have noticed a new tab at the top of the website - Patterns. This lovey is my third listed pattern (and first paid pattern) and I anticipate publishing many more! The Patterns page will list and link to every pattern I publish, both free and paid.
This blog post about my new pattern is not replacing my regularly-scheduled biweekly blog post. However, to avoid double-posting, the regular post will be published next week instead, shifting the scheduled posts by one week.
Thanks for reading, friends! I hope your Year of the Ox is fruitful and filled with good things. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to the blog by filling out the form at the bottom of the page.
Next week's post is one that's been requested - Blocking: What it is and how to do it.
See you soon!