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Calcifer Plush

A few years ago, I started introducing one of my best friends, Suzi, to Miyazaki movies. She had seen Kiki’s Delivery Service, but only that one movie. We started with Howl’s Moving Castle and she fell in love with Calcifer, the fire demon who keeps the castle moving, among other things. As we worked our way through other movies and other cute Miyazaki characters, Calcifer remained Suzi’s favorite.

Here’s Calcifer in his fireplace looking kind of curious and hopeful? He’s also talking. I need to rewatch the movie to pinpoint the scene.

For Christmas this year, I almost got Suzi a plush Calcifer at a store in the mall, but the plush was spendy for what it was and I knew I could do better. I checked Ravelry for patterns and found this one by Sally Marshall (warning: Ravelry link). Now, I’m not so great with intarsia or at least not very confident in my skills, so buying the pattern and attempting this was a bit risky. But the project is small enough that it wouldn’t be frustrating if I failed and I figured I could probably cover up any mistakes with double stitching.

I also decided that angora would be perfect for this project. Calcifer would look a bit more fire-like if he was fuzzy and angora would help me with intarsia because it’s pretty sticky. I could have tried mohair, but angora is so much softer, IMO. Plymouth has the only 100% angora yarn in a suitable weight, but the range of colors didn’t include a suitable orange or yellow. The red would probably work though.

I ordered 1 skein of red and 2 skeins of white angora along with some Jacquard Acid dyes and waited by my mailbox (not really, but that’s what it felt like). When the yarn arrived, I wound both skeins of white into hanks on my niddy noddy for dying and started with orange, Jacquard color 606 Deep Orange. I tried to do the requisite math to reduce the dye recipe from 16 oz down to 10 g, but definitely overestimated. That turned out to be a good thing – the resulting color was almost neon, deeply saturated and almost more red than the commercially dyed red, which now looked pink in comparison.

Calcifer
Orange dyed yarn and commercially dyed red. Photo is not filtered or adjusted at all. 

I used some washed fleece to exhaust the dye bath, which I later combed and used as stuffing for the plush. I dyed close to a pound of washed fleece. I’m estimating; I didn’t actually weigh it out, just added more water to the dye pot and stuffed in what I could to sop up the dye. I did that with the other dye baths as well; eventually I’m going to use the wool to make some rolags that look like fire, so keep an eye out here for a post about that.

I proceeded to dye yellow yarn (Jaquard 602 Bright Yellow) and then thought I’d try overdyeing the commercial red with a red I had on hand – Jacquard 611 Vermillion. Vermillion ended up being much to dark and a bit too maroon to work for Calcifer. I ordered more yarn and more dye, Jaquard 618 Fired Red. A week or so later, I had dye success. Below is the full color range of angora I dyed.

Calcifer
Dyed Angora – left to right: Jacquard 602 Bright Yellow, 606 Deep Orange, 618 Fired Red, 611 Vermillion over commercially dyed red (the other base yarns were white)

By this time, I knew I wouldn’t have Calcifer done in time for Christmas, which is not a big deal; last year Suzi and I exchanged gifts in January.

The pattern is knit in flat pieces starting with a garter stitch base. Instead of knitting the front and back separately and seaming them to the base, I picked up stitches along the base and knit them attached that way.

Calcifer
Base and front/face of Calcifer attached together at the top edge of the base and the bottom edge of Calcifer’s face

I didn’t think I would use the Vermillion-dyed yarn at all, but it ended up being perfect for the French knots that are Calcifer’s pupils. The intarsia was challenging and it’s not 100% perfect – some of the stitches are uneven, some are pulled too tight – but I used a needle to even some stitches out manually and double stitched others while weaving in the ends to cover up the glaring holes.

Calcifer
Finished Calcifer front – isn’t he cute? (Alt image info: A close up of a pair of legs wearing jeans with the left leg crossed loosely over the right. On the right leg in front of the left leg sits a fuzzy knit Calcifer. He is a dark vermillion on his flaming edges, bright orange (almost neon), then a layer of yellow around his eyes which look slightly crossed and a little goofy.)
Calcifer
Finished back (alt text: it’s solid red and seriously furry)

I thought making the back look like the front but without the eyeballs, but I was anxious to finish him and I didn’t want more intarsia & noodling out the pattern to slow me down. Maybe I’ll make another where the back echoes the front colors.

Suzi and I met for milkshakes (our thing) last Friday and I gave her Calcifer, along with a Clapotis I made for her (it will always match her hair, which she colors frequently), so I feel like I can finally post about it without potentially spoiling the surprise. She’s thrilled! She says that he is “The softest fire I’ve ever touched!” Mission accomplished!

Ravelry project details, in case you’re curious.


Comments

6 responses to “Calcifer Plush”

  1. That is really awesome!

  2. That is super cool! I’m so glad your friend appreciates all the work put into making something like this. I love friends and family like that 🙂

    1. Yes! Suzi is definitely knit-worthy!!!

  3. So adorable and what a special gift. I’ve never heard of the movies you’re referring to but loved the little frame gif! 🔥

    1. Thank you! The movies are really great; not your typical anime or typical cartoons, and they’re engaging for kids & grownups.

  4. […] fleece sat semi-washed in my wool collection until I made my friend Suzi a Calcifer Plush in 2015. I pulled out the fleece to exhaust (use up) the dye pots I had going to dye the yarn, […]

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