Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Free Pattern: Steamed Bun Cat Toys

Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages, I present to you...
(drum roll, please)

My first pattern!

(NOTE: if you'd rather work without stitch markers, try this version)


This pattern was inspired by the fabulous, precious, hysterical Feline Dim Sum cat toys by Julie Falatko, found in the Spring 03 issue of Knitty. Julie wrote patterns for spring rolls and wontons.

My favorite dim sum dish is steamed buns (bao zi), hands-down. Plus, the swirly ridges you sometimes see on the buns (especially the pork-filled ones that my favorite restaurant serves) where they are pinched together reminded me of the swirly ridges you get at the top of some hats. So when I decided to make Julie's toys as a Christmas gift for my Step-aunt (loving owner of four cats), I couldn't resist designing my own.


- A great big thanks to Christine of the bliu blog for test-knitting, for her extremely helpful feedback, and for lots of ideas for different fillings.

- Thanks also to Rudbeckia Hurta, for her treatment of knitted circles on her blog, Learning Curves.


These instructions may seem long, but don't be daunted! I included a lot of pictures and notes because it’s the little details that make this pattern work.

This is knit in the round, from the bottom up. You start by knitting a circular base. Next, you do a purl row to help turn the edge between the base and the sides. The sides are knit straight upwards in stockinette. Blocking at this point is optional, but helpful if your base looks squarish (mine certainly did). It also helps keep the bottom of the bun relatively flat. The top is just a set of decreases, placed so that they swirl around in a spiral pattern. There is a pause for stuffing after two decrease rows. (This is important: if you stuff too early, you won't be able to keep it all in there. If you stuff too late, you won't be able to place the stuffing and catnip properly.) The last stitches are cinched closed, and voila!

This pattern is for the pinch-topped, pork-filled buns. Also included is a variation for buns filled with red bean paste, which often have a red spot on top:

Check out the "variations" section for other filling ideas.

- MC: about 30 yards of Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, (shown in natural), or any cream-colored worsted-weight yarn. You can use any fiber you like, but if you use synthetics, be sure to let the catnip spray dry at each step, since it won't breathe!
- CC: about 2 yards of Wool of the Andes in red (for red bean variation only)
- a packed double-handful of batting, cotton balls or fabric scraps for stuffing
- 1-3 Tbsp catnip, to taste
- catnip spray (optional)

- a set of double-pointed needles, size 6 US (4mm)
- 6 stitch markers
- yarn needle

The gauge is not that important. Mine was about 5st/in. Choose a needle size that gives you a nice tight fabric.

You can represent different fillings for your steamed buns by selecting a different CC. Here are some ideas by Christine.
- pickled vegetables: variegated greens
- bbq pork: variegated burgundy/pink/brown
- lotus seed paste: dull tan
- sesame seed paste: shiny black


- co 6, distribute stitches on needles. Join.
(NOTE: Christine found it easier to distribute the stitches evenly on three needles, or in groups of 8-16-8-16 on four needles. These configurations put most of the markers away from the ends of the needles, so they're less likely to fall off.)

(NOTE: you will be increasing on each round. The goal is to distribute the increases irregularly so that you don't get distinct lines of increases, but evenly enough that it doesn't become lopsided. I used the distribution below, but you can do it however you'd like, using the number of stitches added as a guide.)

1st Row:
- k1, kfb, k1, *kfb 3 times*
[4 st added, 10 st. on needles]

2nd Row:
- kfb, k1, kfb, k1, kfb, k3, kfb, k1
[4 st added, 14 st on needles]

3rd Row:
- k1, kfb, k3, kfb, k2, kfb, k2, kfb, k2
[4 st added, 18 st on needles]

4th Row:
- k2, kfb, k3, kfb, k4, kfb, k3, kfb, k2
[4 st added, 22 st on needles]

5th Row:
- kfb, k4, kfb, k3, kfb, k3, kfb, k4, kfb, k3
[5 st added, 27 st on needles]

6th Row:
- k5, kfb, k6, kfb, k6, kfb, k6, kfb
[4 st added, 31 st on needles]

7th Row:
- k7, kfb, k7, kfb, k6, kfb, k7, kfb
[4 st added, 35 st on needles]

8th Row:
- k8, kfb, k8, kfb, k7, kfb, k8, kfb
[4 st added, 39 st on needles]

9th Row:
- k9, kfb, k9, kfb, k9, kfb, k8, kfb
[4 st added, 43 st on needles]

10th Row:
- k8, kfb, k7, kfb, k8, kfb, k8, kfb, k7, kfb
[5 st added, 48 st on needles]

- p around [48 st on needles]
(NOTE: This row creates the purl ridge that creates a nice corner on the bottom)


- slip the first stitch of the next row.
(NOTE: This creates a smooth join at the purl ridge)

- k around in stockinette until work measures 1.5 inches

Blocking: (optional, but useful if your base still looks squarish)

- Stretch your bun-in-progress over a cylinder of suitable size. You can either leave it on the needles, as I did, or put the live stitches on some waste yarn. Mine really benefited from some tension, which I added by looping yarn around the needles and around the mouth of the jar to keep it taut.

- Spritz generously with water, and let dry

Top Setup:

- *pm, k6, k2tog* to the end of the row [6 st. decreased, 42 st and 6 markers on needles]

- *slip marker, knit to last 2 st before next marker, k2tog* around. [6 st. decreased, 36 st on needles]


The goal here is to make a two-layer stuffing. The inner layer is extra-tasty catnip. The outer layer is batting that gives it bounce and keeps the catnip firmly inside.

- Form a disk of batting, and place in the bottom of the bun.

- Form a rectangle of batting as wide as the bun is high, and as long as the circumference of the bun. Place along the inside walls of the bun. You should now have a nice little well. Spritz with catnip spray, if desired.

- Fill the well most of the way with catnip, then add a little plug of batting. Spritz with catnip spray again!

- Form another disk of batting and place on top. The batting should be a little taller than the sides; you want it to be stuffed in there with a little tension, and you'll still be knitting a little more height onto the bun.


- *slip marker, knit to last 2 st before next marker, k2tog* around. Repeat until 6 st. remain on the needles [decreasing 30 st. over 5 rounds] Squish the stuffing down as you go, and add more if desired.
(NOTE: If you want to do the red bean variation with a red spot on top, switch to red yarn when 18 st. remain on the needles, then continue in the decrease pattern until 6 st. remain on the needles.)

- Draw yarn through the live stitches, and secure.


- If you want to do the pork-stuffed version, weave the yarn in and out of the row below and tighten. You're trying to get a puckered effect; steamed buns often have a pucker where the dough was pinched together!

If you want the red bean version, go for a smoother effect as you weave it in.

- Weave in (or otherwise secure) the loose end on the bottom.

- Spritz with catnip spray if desired, and let dry.


Best served in a steamer basket, with Julie's spring rolls and wontons:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

That means you can make copies to share or derivative works for non-commercial purposes, as long as you give me credit, and license any derivative works under the same terms. Contact me if you'd like permission for other uses.


Blogger Melissa said...

Cuteness! Of course, I'm addicted to steamed buns of just about any sort.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's so cool I love it!

1:33 AM  
Blogger palaboy™ said...

I will ask my mom to make a cat toy like that and give it to my friend as a gift to her cats... Thanks for the instructions on how to make this.

3:09 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home