Friday, December 20, 2013

How to Make a Sock Monkey Without a Sewing Machine

You will need:
  • A pair of socks, any size. The bigger the socks, the bigger the monkey. See below for tips for choosing socks to monkey-fy.
  • Sewing needles, the size or type doesn't really matter, as long as they're fairly thin (no darning or upholstery needles)
  • Thread, in a color that matches your monkey, or if you're really good at invisible sewing, any color at all, as well as a color for the mouth (I pretty much use white for all the monkeys, but I'm pretty good at invisible sewing)
  • Sharp scissors, for cutting thread and socks. 
  • Fluff. Also known as fiberfill or polyfill. This is usually sold in one pound bags, which is enough for approximately 1700 monkeys (or at least a dozen, this depends on the size sock you use)
  • Buttons for eyes. Quick tip: red, white, and yellow make creepy eyes, so choose accordingly (maybe you want a creepy monkey for Halloween?)
Optional tools I like when I hand sew:
  • A needle threader. This nifty one by clover is like a needle threading ninja. I can't figure out how it works, but it does
  • Thread conditioner. Thread Heaven will help your thread glide through the sock more easily and reduces tangles. 
  • A thimble. Socks are pretty easy to sew, but sewing with a thimble is a habit for me. I use this one, but in a small size
Tips for Choosing Socks:

  •  Crew style works best, ankle socks aren't great and knee socks can be used but make monkeys with super long arms, unless you cut the sock down to crew length)
  • A sock with a different colored heel makes a more fun monkey, since a heel becomes a nose/mouth. You could even get two pairs and swap heels for the monkeys!
  • Remember that sock patterns usually are right side up when you wear them, but will be upside-down as a monkey, for example, a pair of socks covered in hearts might be really cute on your feet, but look silly upside-down as a monkey. Try to pick patterns that are the same either way (stripes, argyle, spots) or that have multi-directional objects, unless you want upside down ghosts, or hearts, or chickens, on your monkey.


Turn one sock inside-out. Lay it flat on the table with it's butt (heel) up in the air.

With your sharp scissors cut up the middle of the sock from the cuff to close to the heel. 

 Then thread your needle and put a large knot at one end of the thread. I didn't take a picture of this, since you can't do it with one hand. Usually when you sew you want a smallish knot, but socks need a bigger knot to stop the thread. Sometimes a big knot still goes straight through, so here's what I do: Pull your needle through the fabric so the knot is on the back. Don't pull too hard, you don't want the knot to come through! Then loop the needle back over the edge and bring it through the fabric again in the same spot (or at least close) to where you started with the knot. This should anchor your thread.

This is where I do things differently. Start with one cuff end and, do your loop and knot, then take small running stitches go up one leg

across the crotch, then down the other leg.

When you get to the end of the second leg, tie a knot. I do this by making a small stitch, then pull the thread almost all the way through, but not quite, you need a loop of thread. Put your needle through the thread loop and wrap the needle with the thread making the loop a few times. Then gently pull the needle and remaining thread through the loop. I'm lazy and don't like re-knotting my thread, so I usually leave the thread attached to the foot for the next part. 

Turn your monkey body right side out through one of the feet, you'll have to reach in and pull the other leg free, but it will work. Once you're done it will look a bit like a dead frog.

Stuff your monkey with fluff, enough to hold its shape, but not so much it bulges. If it looks a bit lumpy (it will at some point) hold the monkey between your palms and roll it like you're making a playdough snake. You can also use a chopstick to help with the stuffing. Use the wider end of the stick to pack the fluff in and the narrow end to fluff it out a bit if it's been packed too densely. To help it sit up, fold the monkey in half so its butt is in the air and squeeze to make its butt round and full. 

The next step is to sew the feet shut. You have two choices here, leave the cuff end or fold it inside, unless you've used a cut-off knee sock, then you'll have to fold the ends inside. I decided to tuck the cuff inside on this monkey because I liked how it looked with this sock pattern. If you left the thread attached to the leg before you turned it right-side out, just use this thread to sew up the foot. 

If you haven't (also for the second foot) thread your needle and put a large knot in the end. Anchor your thread with a loop inside the leg. I've tried to show pictures of how I sew invisibly (my cousin called it the Wiggle Stitch when we were sewing monkeys a couple of weeks ago) but it's difficult with only two hands.

The trick to making it invisible is to never let the thread be outside the sock, I attach the bits folded inside to each other. Because socks are knit, this is easier to do with sock monkeys than with anything else I've tried to sew invisibly (mostly pillows) It's a wiggle stitch because when I sew it looks like I'm just wiggling the needle back and forth from one side of the foot to the other (I kind of am, but catching fabric on the needle with each wiggle)

When you get to the other end, push the needle back into the foot and come out somewhere near the middle. Make a knot.

To hide the knot, put your needle through the knot and out somewhere in the leg, it doesn't really matter where. Pull the thread taut and trim. The end of the thread should disappear into the leg.

Lay your second sock flat and cut where I've indicated. You could draw the lines before you cut, or just guess. First cut around the heel, this will be the nose/mouth. Second cut from the cuff to past the curve to the foot, tapering at the end. This will be the tail. Third cut along the line from the heel to the tail, then along fold to separate the rest of the leg portion of the sock into two rectangles. These will be the legs.

From the foot of the sock cut two rectangles 

(for this one I cut on the line then on the folds to make two pieces) 

 Fold the rectangles in half the round the edge away from the fold. These will be the ears.

Fold all the pieces in half, right sides together. Pin them along the open edges. This will make them easier to sew.

To sew the tail, anchor the knot at the small end, and with small running stitches sew along the open edge. When you get to the end, make a loop to secure the stitches so they don't come undone when you turn the tail right-side out. If you want to be lazy you can leave the thread attached to use for sewing the tail shut and then to the body.

Hold the tail so the seam is centered on the bottom and sew the tail shut. Depending on how big the tail is you might want to stuff it. A chopstick is useful for this.

Hold the tail against the butt of the monkey with the end pointing to the monkeys tail.

With small whipstitches attach the top (non seam) side of the tail to the body.

Hold the tail straight out and sew the seam side of the tail to the monkey's bum. Once it feels securely attached tie a knot, and hide it like you did with the feet.

Now is the time to decide if you want a neck. I make a neck on larger socks, small children's socks aren't usually big enough for a neck. To start a neck anchor a knot on the side of the body. 

Wrap the thread around the body several times, pulling tight to separate the head from the body. When it feels secure tie a knot and hid it like with the feet and tail.

To make the arms sew the cuff end shut first, then sew down the long open side. Anchor the stitching at the end. Turn right-side out and stuff.

Turn the edges of the end of the arm in and do the wiggle-stitch to close it. 

Attach the arm the same way we attached the tail, just below the shoulder area. Repeat for the other arm. Make sure the seams are on the bottom so they don't show.

For the ears, fold them right sides together and with a running stitch (start with a know and loop anchor, like always) sew the entire edge. Loop and knot at the end of the seam.

With the sharp scissors make a slit in the fold.

Turn the ear right-side out through the slit.

Line the ear up with the toe seam and attach with invisible stitches.

For the nose/mouth, turn the edge under and pin to the face, near the neck (if there is one) or just above the arms. Stitch with invisible stitches. 

Stitch around the entire nose/mouth, pinning as you go.

Leave an opening at the top to stuff with fluff.

Using invisible stitches close the remainder of the nose.

To add the mouth, after you tie the knot, hide the knot, making sure to bring the needle back out at the corner of the mouth.

Catch one or two loops of the knit in the middle, place the needle into the other corner of the mouth, catch another couple of loops then go back across and run the thread back through the middle loops again. 

Repeat until the mouth is as thick as you would like.

Put the needle back through the corner, you could make a knot or be lazy and pull the needle back out where the first eye should go.

Attach the button for the eye. Once again, put the needle back down through the button and pull it back out where the second eye goes.

Once the second eye is attached, make a knot behind the button and pull the thread through the top of the monkey's head to hide the tail.

Enjoy your new friend!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Best Ever Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Last year I worked at a bakery in California. While I was there I baked a LOT of chocolate chip cookies. The recipe was so good I took it with me to adapt for home use. It's still in grams, which is tricky if you don't have a scale, but I think it's faster to bake with a scale than with cups and spoons so I keep forgetting to convert it. Maybe someday. 

The recipe is pretty standard, with nearly equal parts brown sugar, white sugar, and butter and the usual eggs, flour, leavening, vanilla and chocolate. The most different thing about this recipe is the method. This is a recipe best suited for a stand mixer, and fits easily in a 5 quart mixer bowl (rather than the 60 quart bowl the original recipe requires!)

The method makes a cookie that's crisp on the edge, soft and chewy in the middle, with gooey chocolate chunks in every bite. The chocolate really makes the cookie, so use the nicest you have. My favorites are the dark bar from Trader Joe's or Guittard buttons, either the Lever du Soleil 61% or the French Vanilla. 

 This recipe works best when it's followed exactly. I often just kind of throw things together, but not these. They're the best chocolate chip cookies you'll ever make.


Makes 5 dozen 3 inch cookies

284 g butter, softened but not melty
284 g brown sugar
228 g sugar
6 g baking soda
6 g baking powder
9 g salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
500 g chopped chocolate
480 g all-purpose flour

Combine butter and sugar. Beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl and beat another minute. 

Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla.  Beat until combined. 
Add eggs, mix until combined. 

Scrape and beat for 10 minutes. Yep, 10 minutes at a medium speed. 

Add chocolate and mix until equally distributed. 

Add half the flour, mix until just combined. Stop and scrape down the bowl. Repeat with the other half of the flour. 

Scoop onto a cookie sheet with a #40 scoop, or form balls of dough about 1 1/4" in diameter. I scoop all the cookies at once since they bake best cold. I then throw the cookies in the freezer for about 15 minutes while the oven preheats. 

[At this point you can freeze some of the dough solid to bake later, since 5 dozen is a lot of cookies. When you want to bake them, let the cookies sit overnight in the fridge and continue as below.]

Arrange cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet, 12 to a half-sheet pan or 8 to a jelly-roll size pan. Bake 8-11 minutes, or until the edges just start to turn golden. 

Let cool for a few minutes on the pan, then remove to a rack to cool. 

Store in an airtight container for... I'm not sure how long they should last, they've never lasted more than 3 days in my house.