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From a very early age I remember my mum knitting, I have very fond memories of watching her knit and the toys that she knitted me, many of which I still have in storage somewhere. From around the age of eight I tried my hand at knitting myself alongside her; a boy knitting is I am sure a taboo somewhere but I did not care as I loved the patterns of Jean Greenhowe so much.
The number of the patterns Jean Greenhowe has out has grown by tones since then; she has a very distinct style and is certainly one of the most established people in the knitting world. What amazes me most about her patterns is the seemingly random shapes you end up knitting separately but how in the end they combine up to make a perfect and usually cheerful character. Sadly most of my own attempts were far from perfect but the designs themselves are flawless.
The things I most like to knit were the accessories for the larger characters, like the sandwiches, Swiss rolls and other knitted food which would inevitably end up with a smiley face or crazy eyes. Yet this does prove the accessibility of her work, if I could knit some of her designs from an early age then any beginner can use her work as a starting point.
Despite having loads of books out Jean Greenhowe does also have a website: http://www.jeangreenhowe.com/index.html and also is generous enough to give away a stunning 11 free designs which can be seen here: http://www.jeangreenhowe.com/patterns.html. These consist of mainly simplistic designs but are great for people who are getting started with knitting. There is also a fan mail page and a gallery to look at.
There are a lot of positives for Jean Greenhowe's patterns. The first is that they range from very simple for beginners to incredibly complex and advanced, even stretching to involve cardboard on the inside of the bigger designs. This of course renders the designs not particularly suitable for really young children because they cannot be washed. These larger designs also take up a lot of her later books, large characters which are very complex and way beyond my personal ability, but then I had not tried my hand at knitting for a long time until very recently.
I think Jean Greenhowe's patterns are not only iconic but great for all ages, beginners and veterans of the knitting world. Her characters are so happy cute and varied how could anyone resist at least trying her patterns out?
Most of her books are now available pretty cheap as well now from Amazon, if you are into knitting and you haven't tried her patterns out yet, you really should.
When my mom was alive and before she developed dementia she used to do a lot of knitting. In fact even after she became ill she still knitted squares and made blankets which I then sold in aid of the RNLI, but I digress!
She had the patience to knit small fiddly things and so she made a lot of knitted toys and even Christmas decorations which she donated to charity. When she died I inherited her books, amongst which was Jean Greenhowe's book of Knitted Toys.
Jean Greenhowe has designed a wide range of patterns and has published many books. Her patterns are really easy to follow and the resulting toys are unmistakeably Greenhowe!
I recognise the scarecrow on the front of the book as mom knitted one for me years ago and he is still going strong. It is a hardback book - although it is also available in paperback form - about 11 inches by 8 inches and just over half an inch thick so it is an easy size to use.
Each pattern is shown with full instructions showing how to knit the toy, exactly how to put the pieces together to make the toy and at least one colour picture of the finished item so that you know exactly how it is supposed to look. Of course the colours can be changed to suit your specific requirements - mom made lots of scarecrows and no two were the same!
Introduction and General Instructions and Useful Tips
The book begins with a short introduction explaining that the book will give you patterns to knit all sorts of toys of various sizes.
The instructions and tips covers all the general stuff such as needle sizes, types of yarns, tension, abbreviations used in the patterns, tips for making up the toys including notes on making sure that the completed toys are safe to give to children, stuffing the toys, embroidery for faces etc, making a pom pom and more.
Twin Dressing Up Dolls
This is a pattern for two dolls - a boy and a girl - both about 18 inches tall together with a range of clothes to dress them in including jackets, caps, mittens, dungarees, jump suit, dress and track suit.
This is one of the toys that are obviously a Jean Greenhowe design! It is a clown about 12 inches tall with a bow tie, hat with flowers, umbrella and braces on his trousers.
Knit a Nursery Rhyme
This pattern will show you how to knit Little Miss Muffet , Little Boy Blue and Mary with her lamb all about 4 inches tall and set in a little pastoral scene. This one will see you knitting grass and hedgerows!
Knit a Car
Using this pattern you can knit a small sports car at 4 inches long or a longer one at 6 inches using two strands of yarn together. The car is knitted complete with driver.
Fairy Tale Toys
This one is a pattern for an 11 inch tall Snow White and seven 8 inch tall dwarves each with a number on their jumper!
Five Humpty Dumpty Toys
Each toy is 11 inches tall and there are patterns to knit Jack Dumpty, Jill Dumpty, Grandma and Grandpa Dumpty and a cuddly fairy called Hyacinth Dumpty!
This one gives five variations of a basic penguin pattern each 4 inches tall with various hats and scarves. It even includes skis, fishing equipment and fish!
Mamas and Babes
These are sets of mothers and babies (as you might have guessed!) ranging from hedgehogs at 3 inches to bees at 2 inches and includes mice and ladybirds.
Ten of the Best
This shows how to make ten different characters, each about 11 inches tall, using one simple pattern. The ten are Robin Hood, a footballer, a snowman, Santa Claus, Cinderella, Davy Crocket, Little Red Riding Hood, a brownie, a guardsman and a pirate.
Topsy Turvy Dolly
This is a real novelty and the resulting doll is 14 inches tall. She wears a lovely dress and has a pretty face with eyes open. When her dress is pulled up and over her head it reveals a nightdress on the other side and another head with eyes closed. I hope that makes sense - it was difficult to describe!
Christmas Tree Trims
This includes baubles at about 2 inches and little characters at 3 inches tall. There is a snowman, a fairy, a little Father Christmas, a choirboy, a candy cane and a stocking.
Santa and Mrs Claus
These are two Humpty Dumpty shaped characters measuring about 12 inches from head to toe.
The Super Seven
This uses a basic pattern to make a lion, a panda, a teddy, a tiger and a piglet all of which are 10 inches tall and a boy and girl each 7 inches tall. Mom made lots of the boy and girl dolls as they are ideal for a baby to cuddle.
This is probably the most recognisable of Jean Greenhowe's patterns. He stands 13 inches tall and has a mouse in his hat, a ladybird on his shoe and a robin on his shoulder. As I said earlier I still have the one that mom knitted for me about 20 years ago!
The Witty Knits
This is again one basic pattern to make a dozen little toys all about 3 inches tall. These age a ghost with a ball and chain, a witch with a broomstick, a scarecrow with a pumpkin, Pierrot, Friar Tuck, Robin Hood, a cave man with a club, a fisherman, a Roman with a laurel wreath and scroll, Santa Claus, an artist with palette and brush and a cowboy.
So there you are a wide range of toys to make for your children or for a local charity shop or fayre.
Mom always had a huge bag of balls of wool of all different sizes and colours. As you can imagine some of the little bits such as the ladybird on the scarecrow's shoe only take a tiny bit of wool so no little balls were ever thrown away!
The numbers for the two books are as follows:
ISBN (for the hardback version): 0 600 50286 4
ISBN (for the paperback version): 0 600 50772 9
Although the book was first printed in 1986 but the designs are as popular today as they ever were.
I have found quite a few of Jean Greenhowe's books on EBay including this one and Amazon sells them as used books but I don't know if it is still available as a brand new book.
Incidentally writing this review has brought back a lot of happy memories as I have remembered the toys that mom knitted when she was alive.
God bless you, mom.
I come from a family of 'knits' , no, that doesn't sound quite right!
What I mean is that most of my immediate female family members knit or have knit in the past.
It is a bit of a dying art really these days but I think that if you can cook and knit, then you can feed and clothe yourself. - Not exactly The Good Life. but getting there.
I was taught to knit by my Mother (as it had been done for many generations). As a young child it was scarves and hairbands I remember.
I knit my first jumper (A proper item) when I was at school and I never looked back.
For the past twenty plus years I have worked in an Infant school and I make all the knitted items that we sell. My favourite designer of all time is Jean Greenhowe.
If you are sitting comfortably I will tell you why...
Who is Jean Greenhowe ?
She is an expert designer of knitting patterns.
She began her career in the 1960's, working for Vogue Knitting, then in 1967 she worked for Woman's Weekly magazine.
She formed her own company in 1988.
So, tell me about the knitting patterns ?
There are over 20 booklets all full of the most adorable characters. Usually priced at about £4 - £5. Some are simply for Bazaars or Fayres and Fetes - tea cosies, teddies etc. Whilst others contain a theme, such as 'Celebration Dolls' which included a Bride and Groom. A whole booklet is devoted to hedgehogs, there are booklets for Christmas and Easter, One booklet has patterns for professions, such as a Policeman, a footballer, and a Fireman. There is also a booklet full of patterns for scarecrows and several for clowns.
You can probably tell why I like her so much. There is quite simply a pattern for every occassion and every person young or old.
But isn't knitting really difficult and fiddly ?
Once you have mastered the basic stitches you are away.
This is another reason that I keep going back to Jean Greenhowe books - all of the patterns are really easy to follow. Most only take a small amount of wool and don't take very long to finish.
So, there are booklets, anything else ?
Yes, there is a fantastic website.
This tells you about Jean Greenhowe, features are patterns, sells her booklets and the wool to complete the items, there is help and advice, readers/knitters gallery, list of places where you can buy the patterns and wool, and a section of FREE patterns that you can download.
All in all I think that if anyone asked me who my hero was I would probably say Jean Greenhowe.
She has given a hobby to millions - like me, and the most adorable toys to millions more.
I would recommend knitting to anyone and Jean Greenhowe patterns to everyone.
10 out of 10
I started knitting at the age of 12, and my first project was the Jean Greenhowe scarecrow, unlike hardcore knitting patterns that that can make solving the enigma code seem easy, Greenhowe's use of knitting language is present but not so overt that it scares off the would be knitter.
Predominantly the patterns consist of combinations of knit and pearl stitches with increasing and decreasing stitches and gathering together row ends and cast on / cast off. The cleverness of the patterns being how these obscure pieces that you knit are sewn together to form this fabulous result.
The number of patterns has now grown (see the Jean Greenhowe website), the main theme of latter years knitting patterns has been the variation of the knitted clowns (much larger than the scarecrow) - that can be trademen, golfers - these are actually quite big projects that require alot of stuffing too - and the patterns will advise you these are not toys - so if you are going to undertake one - you need to have a good think about what you are going to do with it - some of the parts such as the feet which are standard have cardboard in them so there elements too that are not washable.
Latterly for my daughter I have taken elements of these patterns though like the tradesmen radio and made this - as she wanted a radio for her, s othe spin off is that these patterns can make for some quite nice play accessories and indeed I have noticed on ebay there is quite an interest in knitted food - and I think this has an environmental push as people rebel against all plastic toys and turn to more traditional materials. I too have made knitted food for my daughter, the Greenhowe website does have two free to download patterns with food on if you feel like having a go.
Some of the patterns seem abit dated now but there are sufficient about to find something you like and they are definetely a good starting point for developing skill. If you think they are expensive to buy - think on - check out ebay - the Greenhowe patterns sell like hots cakes - so buy one photcopy it - sell it again.
When i first learnt to knit, i got bored easily and so large projects like clothes and blankets didn't last long. My neighbour saw this and lent a copy of Jean Greenhowe's Traditional favourites - a pattern book full of teddies and dolls, suitable for an advanced beginner, and not too much sewing involved. Years later i now have most of her books and still love knitting her designs.
The patterns mostly require a basic understanding of knit and purl, increasing and decreasing, basic colourwork and also use a few different ways of casting on and off. All of these techniques are documented in a notes section at the front of her books, along with helpful tips on sewing up all the different sections.
The patterns use mostly Double-knit yarn (except where stated) which can be of any brand - meaning her toys make great yarn-stash busters! They are also helpfully labeled for oddments if the yarn requirements are less than 25g of each colour.
Every time I've knit and given away one of these toys, they've been gladly received and cherished, no matter who I've given them to, from children to adults.
I don't think there are many church bazaars or fetes that don't see a Jean Greenhowe knitted toy on one of their stalls.
If you can knit and purl, increase and decrease then you are in business.
All of Jean`s Patterns are suitable for beginners and accomplished knitters alike and each pattern has step by step instructions to guide you through the whole process.
The Royal National Institute For The Blind has translated some of the doll patterns into braille so that the partially sighted or blind can enjoy them too.
Every year our local church has a fete and our knitting circle always try to provide a selection of knitted toys, they sell well. The church has also been trying to raise money for the Marie Curie Foundation , so some of the dolls have been raffled with the proceeds going towards the foundations work.
At the beginning of the year we all start to ask our local charity shops if they can save us some knitting wool and they are only too happy to be able to help. We usually pay about 20p a ball for the wool, so that obviously gives us a much better profit margin.
Jean puts some free patterns on her website, these can be downloaded and then printed out. We loved her `Rainbow Babies`, these were especially created with charities in mind. Each doll is just 6 inches high, needs an ounce of wool to knit and only needs a small amount of stuffing. The finished little doll has a hat, scarf and gloves on, some rosy cheeks and colourful clothes.
There are other free down-loadable patterns that you can take a look at too. The knitted `cakes and sandwiches` are great fun!
We bought the Little Gift Dolls knitting book this year, with many different dolls to knit. We all picked the ones that we wanted to knit and then went to the local library and printed the patterns out on the photocopier.
To an inexperienced knitter the patterns may look daunting, but they are pretty straightforward. Each doll has its own little intricate bits, but even they are easy to knit.
The Little gift Dolls book contains patterns for a nurse, a bride and groom, a bell boy, a clown, a chef, Miss Valentine, Superkid, A Fairy, Bo Peep and Boy Blue, a Witch, A toy Soldier, Jelly Babies, a Snow man and a Chimney sweep, a baby Boy and Girl and a Tooth Pixie.
My Granddaughter has recently lost her front tooth, so as well as a visit from the Tooth Fairy she had a Tooth Pixie too!
Each and every member of the church knitting circle worked really hard and in the end it was decided that the knitted toys would have a stall of their own. I think there were a lot of people that bought them for stocking fillers.
Last year we all worked from the knitted animal book, another resounding success. All of the pattern books retail at about £5.50p and we always manage to buy ours from the local wool shop. But if any of you come unstuck then the Internet is a wonderful tool and you will soon be able to locate the books.
The Jean Greenhowe website has a lot of detailed information regarding the pattern books, im sure you will be amazed at the amount of different dolls and mascots that she has designed.
I bought my copy of this lovely book from a charity shop and it has been well-used. I have grandchildren plus lots of nephews and nieces and other children to buy Christmas and birthday presents for, and I find that, no matter how young or old they are, they all love a hand-knitted gift, toys being the favourite of all.
Jean Greenhowe is a very talented knitting pattern designer. She has several books of patterns and I have almost all of them because I find them irresistible. The bonus is that the designs are unique and very inventive yet the instructions are very easy to follow, even for a beginner.
At the front of the book is the introduction plus some general instructions and useful tips which really are useful. As long as you take care to read these before starting one of the patterns, you won't go far wrong. There is also a conversion chart for needle sizes so that the patterns apply to the American market as well as ours here in the UK; there is also advice on the yarns to use; most of the toys use just oddments of yarn so are ideal if, like me, you have a huge stash of wool to get through and, like me, you keep adding to the stash every time you see a wool shop!
All the knitted toys in the book are beautifully illustrated and knitted in lovely colours but, of course, you can choose your own colours. For example, there is a pattern for a footballer which can be made in specific team colours to suit a particular football fan. There are patterns for twin dressing-up dolls which I am determined to make for my granddaughter one day but just haven't got round to it yet. They include instructions for a boy and a girl doll and several items of clothing for each. The pair would make the perfect gift.
There is also a lovely clown, a nursery rhyme set which includes Little Miss Muffet, Little Boy Blue and Mary had a little Lamb, all complete with the necessary accessories such as a spider and a little lamb and backdrops to make a complete scene. There are even instructions for knitting cars in two sizes, Snow White and all seven dwarves, Humpty Dumpty toys, penguins and a snowman, tiny mice, hedgehogs, ladybirds and bees, a set including Robin Hood, Santa Claus, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and more, a topsy-turvy doll, Christmas tree ornaments, teddies and other animals, baby dolls, a scarecrow complete with a mouse and a robin, and, last of all, a dozen little toys called 'The Witty Knits' which are just 3.5 inches tall.
This is a very comprehensive range of toys that are a pleasure to make and an even greater pleasure to give. I thoroughly recommend it.
ISBN (for the hardback version): 0 600 50286 4
ISBN (for the paperback version): 0 600 50772 9
The book was first printed in 1986 but the designs never go out of date.
My Mum & Gran were both avid knitting ladies & taught my brothers & I how to knit when we were quite young.
They both knitted socks for the war effort & then cardigans, jackets & sweaters for all the family.
When my brothers & I started to have babies our Mum made tons of matinee jackets, shawls etc & as our family grew & grew her knitting needles were almost on fire!
I used to love making jumpers & socks with toes, then I found a pattern for toys by Jean Greenhowe & I became addicted to knitting toys - but much more!
Her patterns are easily available - some are thin booklets, others are thicker - I usaully pay around £3.50 but, if you are lucky you may find some on ebay.
Over the years I've knitted toys for my daughters, their friends & for charity sales.
I've made Santa & Mrs Clause, firemen, policemen,little teddies, scarecrows, clowns & a ballerina.
I've knitted mini penguins, christmas stockings,easter chicks, sandwiches, hotdogs, burgers, plates, toothpaste,ice-cream sundaes & liquorice allsorts etc.
Am I crazy? ask my psycholgy students about the knitted Christmas puddings I made for them one year - who says lecturers have to be boring?!
There's no fancy wool required - just plain double knitting which can often be bought in charity shops for a song.
Her patterns are very clearly written & explained & the pictures are fantastic. If you can cast on & off, knit, purl, increase & decrease you can do these lovely projects.
Jean Greenhowe designed her first doll in 1980 & her patterns sell in many different countries - when I'm knitting away I smile when I think of the many different men & women making the same thing as me. Even though the pattern is the same, the characters somehow all look slightly different with a little of their knitters' character?
The Royal Institute for the Blind even translated patterns into braille for knitters with impaired vision - how great is that?
Many of Jean's booklets are themed & have wonderful illustrations - eg there is one which features a teddy bears' picnic & comprises teddies with their plates of sandwiches,hot dogs & burgers - all knitted. I made this for my daughters' primary school as teddy bears picnics were on the national curriculum for early years. The teachers as well as the little ones were thrilled to bits & it's still there 15 years later & still played with.
My favourite booklets contain the Christmas dolls, puds, penguins, stockings etc - love Christmas & love knitting.
So, if you like to knit why not have a go?
- easy to follow patterns.
- make lovely inexpensive presents.
- cheap hobby - just wool, needles, stuffing & bodkin.
- some of the projects are small & simple to do so you get to see the finished item befor you get bored.
- you'll impress people & they won't forget you!
This might appear that it is going to be a bit of an old fashioned review as it's all about knitting which seems to be a dying art although I think it is making a bit of a revival amongst some young people. My mother hs always knitted and she taught me when I was quite a small child starting off with the typical doll's blanket. Once I had mastered the basic stitches I really loved knitting as it can be very therapeutic and it's lovely to see something grow out of a ball of wool. I am also one of those people who hate to sit doing nothing and knitting is a great thing to do while you are sitting and watching TV.
However, although I enjoy knitting I don't really enjoy making jumpers and cardigans, much preferring the designs you can buy in the shops. About fifteen yers ago when my eldest niece was born I discovered some great knitting patterns for making toys - produced by Jean Greenhowe - and I have never looked back!
I discovered that you can make the most amzing toys just so long as you can folow a pattern and can use the basic stitches. The patterns come in books which are generally themed and these booklets cost about £3.50 each. You can knit great big red nose clowns, various animals that come in all sizes and fairy tale characters to name but a few.
I started by buying a booklet called Jean Greenhowe's traditional favourites and this contained patterns for all the old fashioned nursery type toys like a tedy bear, humpty dumpty, a clown and a sailor doll. I made virtually all the toys in this book for various children's presents and they all went down a treat! It's wonderful to see these toys starting to take shape as you are knitting. What I really like is the attention to details in the patterns. One favourite is a doll called Emily who wears an old fashioned dress with a frilly collar. She has ringlets in her hair with ribbons and on the top of her head she wears a straw boater with pink roses. Every single item is knitted and they are all very clever. Nothing is too difficult although some of the sewing up can be a bit fiddly and you do need an enormous amount of patience!
Virtually everything is made using double knitting wool. This can vary in price enormously but I do find that market places are very good for picking up wool that little bit cheaper. Also, you should save every little bit of wool you have as some of the smaller details such as making roses require hardly any wool at all. You also need to buy stuffing which you can get at any good craft shops and there are tons of places you can order from on the internet.
Since starting to make these toys all those years ago I have acquired quite a few of the other patterns and made lots more toys. I never seem to run out of children to make them for although I have to admit that since having my children I have made far less due to not having enough time.
I have made a whole family of scarecrows, Father Christmases, a topsy turvey Cinderella doll which my daughter loves and my favourites - some really humourous red nosed clowns. These stand quite high at about 45 cm. There are five different designs taht come in a booklet called The Red Nose Gang. The five clowns are Sidney Slapstick (a painter), Godfrey Gadabout (a birdwatcher), O Yummy (a chef), Mr Forty Winks who is ready for bed and Bertie Bloomer (a gardener). All of these follow the same basic pattern but it's the detail of all the accessories that really make these special. While making them I have made paint pots, a ladder, paint splodges, a watering can, a packet of seeds, toothpaste, carrots, a hot water bottle and so it goes on. I can't begin to tell you just how clever these designs are.
My toys that I am most proud of though are a couple of golfing clowns which I made to be prizes at a local golf competition. These are just as big and come wearing golf shoes, plus fours and carriy a golf bag complete with golf clubs and a rolled up umbrella!
To get a better idea of what all these look like you can visit the website at
You can also download some of the simpler patterns to try before embarking on any of the bigger projects.
These dolls are all very special and you do get a tremendous sense of achievement when you complete any of them. If you enjoy knitting and know young children it's definitely worth taking a look.
Jean Greenhowe is the world's best-selling patterns for knitted dolls and toys.