When I designed the toys for the Hug Your Veggies pattern, I knew I wanted them to have simple kawaii-style faces. I was inspired by the adorable Japanese illustrations of all kinds of items with cute faces, and thought this would be easy to execute on a knitted toy. But, I know embroidering on knits, and especially making appealing faces on toys, might not be in everyone's skill set. Below you'll find a photo tutorial on how I made the basic faces you'll see on the toys in the pattern. For anyone who wants to try something a little different, I've provided an inspiration gallery at the end.
Step 1: Straight pins with round heads make it easier to plan where the mouth will be, and make sure it's symmetrical.
Step 2: Cut a piece of black yarn about 25 cm (10") long and place it on a tapestry needle near one end. Insert the needle at a spot a little away from the face (making sure to go through a gap between the stitches), and exit the needle at one corner of the mouth.
Step 3: Pull the black yarn through until only about 8 cm (3") is left at the beginning (you'll secure the yarn ends later). Insert the tapestry needle at the opposite corner of the mouth, and exit at the bottom-center.
Step 4: Pull on your yarn until the long stitch from corner to corner is straight across the top of the mouth, but isn't pulling on the knitted fabric. Making sure the yarn end is catching this straight stitch in the middle, insert your needle at the bottom-center of the mouth again. This will make a tiny stitch that catches the long straight stitch.
Step 5: Exit the needle at the exact place you began, making sure to go through the gap between knit stitches. You can see here how the stitch you made in the previous step is catching the long straight stitch.
Step 6: Pull on your yarn to tighten the tiny stitch made in step 4, so that it pulls the long straight stitch into a V. Check the tension in your stitches - if they are pulling on the knitted fabric, adjust the yarn so you're happy with how it looks.
Step 7: Knot your two yarn ends, weave them through the toy 2-3 times, then trim the excess yarn. (This method is shown at the end of this tutorial)
Step 8: Cut a 50 cm (20") length of pink yarn, and thread it onto your tapestry needle, pulling one end until both match up (so the needle is in the middle). Insert your tapestry needle away from the face, and exit at a spot a little below and to the outside of one eye.
Step 9: Insert your needle just below the first eye (making a stitch about 1 cm or 3/8" wide), and exit just below the other eye.
Step 10: Pull on the yarn until the first stitch lies flat and the two strands are parallel and even.
Step 11: Insert your needle just below and to the outside of the second eye, making a stitch the same size as the first. Exit the needle at the same place you began, making sure to exit between the knit stitches. Pull on the yarn until the second stitch is flat and even. You don't want the knitted fabric to pucker, so adjust the tension if necessary.
Step 12: Knot and secure the yarn ends from the pink cheeks. Enjoy the sweet blushing smile of your veggie pal!
Now that you're familiar with the basic technique, maybe you want to try giving your toys more character? I came up with 9 ideas, from very basic to more complex. I was surprised what a difference eyebrows can make. See what your creativity can imagine!
From top left to bottom right: blank, contented, happy, sad, cute, mischievous, laughing, smoochy, thoughtful.