Happy New Year!

The start of a new year Is always a good time to set goals.  In 2018 we will continue supporting Ronald McDonald Houses by providing our Stay Strong Totes for as many of their incoming families as possible. It is still our hope that knitters and crocheters will help us “Send Hugs through Shrugs . . . & shawls” for the moms entering RMD Houses and that other generous non-knitters/crocheters will help by donating wishlist items.  But this year, we’d like to add our little “Stay Strong Bear Buddies” to our totes for the children entering RMD Houses.

RMD Houses are constantly welcoming new families into their homes.  There are typically waitlists.  That means lots of worried moms to think about.  We always have shrugs on our needles and hooks.  However, there have been times when a bulkier project just hasn’t been easy to work on.  It was while traveling last spring on an airplane that the idea to add these little bears to our totes kept nagging at me.  There have been a few special totes that we shipped privately to families we follow on facebook where we included these little bear buddies.  Sitting in the tight airplane seat trying to keep my work from spilling into the seat of the man next to me, I kept wishing I had a more compact project, like a tiny bear, to work on.  Thank goodness his wife was a knitter so he was used to sharing space with yarn.   Of course, the husband of a fellow knitter would feel comfortable enough to ask what I was making.  His wife was sitting across the aisle from us and the rest of the plane ride we talked about knitting.  Yes, Diane, has joined our mission and ships us shrugs on a regular basis.  (I didn’t get much knitting done on that flight but made a friend.  Reinforcing my belief that everything happens for a reason!)   I always have a bear on needles now as a “just in case I have a minute to knit” project.  My hope was to have enough bears to include in just one shipment to a RMD House – a small goal I recently accomplished.  With your help, I’m hoping that 2018 will bring us enough support to include our Stay Strong Bear Buddies in more and more shipments.

There is a hot trend in shawl knitting going on right now which calls for fingering weight yarn and this is an easy way to use up some of those leftovers. And we know there is a huge community of sock knitters out there so this is the perfect project for those of you who would love to support us, but maybe aren’t interested in making shrugs or shawls. By adding this project to our care packages we think we’ve included a way for everyone to pitch in!

Our little bears knit up quickly using fingering weight or sock yarn on US4 needles. If you are a sock knitter, our pattern will be a breeze as we work in the round on two circulars. Very little seaming is involved and even our arms are made by knitting an i-cord that you weave through openings created when knitting the bear body.   And because these portable pals are only about the size of an iphone, they are easy to make on the go!

We hope you will help us accomplish our goals for 2018.  Send a little Stay Strong Bear Buddy to a child staying in a RMD House while battling illness, a warm Hug through a Shrug to a very worried mom or donate items to add to the care packages we create for these families.  We still have some Stay Strong Tote bangles left over to ship to you as a thank you for a $25 donation.   No matter how you choose to support us, your name will be on a card added to a Stay Strong Tote recognizing your generosity,

Stay Strong Bear Buddies.

2 – US4 20” circular needles, US4 double points, tapestry needle, scrap yarn (or a spare circular to hold stitches) contrasting yarn to make face and a little fiber fill to stuff bear.
Sock or fingering weight yarn (worked w/2 strands held together or single strand of DK weight yarn) in 2 colors (head/paws and pjs)

Cast on 24 stitches (holding 2 strands of yarn together if using fingering weight or single strand of dk weight yarn) with color for head/face and divide on 2 needles. One needle will work front side of body and other needle works the back side.  (Leave a 5” tail or so for seaming closed later).  Join and knit in the round for 1 1/4” (about 12 rounds).
Switch to pj color and purl 1 round. Knit 1 round.
To form arm openings, you will knit in stockinette by working only the stitches on one circular needle at a time.  Starting with Needle 1 (across front side of bear), knit 4 rows in stockinette (2 knit rows and 2 purl rows), then LOOSELY carry your yarn across bear body (this “float” will be hidden inside of body so carry very loosely to not distort body) and repeat 5 rows in stockinette on Needle 2 (to knit back side of bear). As you knit the 5th row on Needle 2 (a knit row) rejoin in the round.  Continue until pjs measure about 3” (about 24 rounds).
To divide for legs, knit first 6 stitches on Needle 1, slip next 6 off first needles and first 6 stitches off Needle 2 onto scrap yarn or spare circular to hold stitches while you knit the first leg. Knit in the round working 6 stitches on each needle (12 total for each leg) until leg measures 2”. Decrease one stitch on each side of foot to taper/shape foot a little.  Repeat this decrease on each side of foot once more (8 stitches remain).  Bind off or kitchener stitch the 8 stitches closed. Move stitches for other leg from holder/scrap yarn to needles and work like first leg.

I-cord arms. Your Bear Buddy’s arms are made by knitting one 5” i-cord that you will thread through the arm openings created by your stockinette rows.   Cast on 6 stitches with paw color and knit 5 i-cord rows, (knitting then sliding your work back across your double point and pulling yarn diagonally across the back of your stitches to start the next i-cord row).
Switch to pj color and purl first row, then continue making your i-cord arms in knit stitch until i-cord is about 4 1/2” including first paw, purl one row to finish pj sleeve, switch to paw color and knit 5 rows. Bind off. Weave your cast on and bind off tails into paws and pull tight enough to create a rounder paw. The back side of your i-cord might look a little loose, you can position these stitches to the back side after inserting through arm hole openings. You won’t need to stuff the arms thanks to the i-cords natural tubular shape.  Sew a cute face on your bear.  Stuff the legs and body up to arm holes (don’t overstuff, you don’t want stuffing to show through stitches), insert arms and stuff head.  Seam head closed, sewing a diagonal line across corners to form ears. Sew a stitch or two to tack in arms and close opening between legs.

Once you’ve made one, you’ll see how simple – and quick! – they are to make.  I’ve never followed a pattern, I just compare my work in progress to another bear I’ ve made and make my color changes accordingly.  Please let us know if you find a mistake in the written pattern or if you find any of it confusing.  I think its easier to knit a bear than write out the pattern!

Thanks for following our blog.  If you have any questions, please email Mary at StayStrongTotes@optimum.net.

Happy New Year everybody!


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