Frequently Asked Questions

“These are a few of the questions people often ask me.”

I’m having difficulty knitting the hands that have separate fingers. Can you help me, please?

If you look at the bottom of the Toy Patterns page you will find a link to a free tutorial that you can download, and this will tell you everything you need to know.

VAT has been added to my order. Why is this?

From 1 January 2015, digital sales to countries in the European Union are required to have Value Added Tax added to their order, at the tax rate of the country in which the customer lives. This legislation was agreed upon in 2006 by all the countries in the EU, when online selling was in its infancy, and its intention was to tax large companies that sited their businesses in countries that had low tax rates. The unintended consequences mean that anyone who sells digital products online to customers in EU countries, no matter how few, is now obliged to charge and to account for EU VAT. Unfortunately, sole traders and micro businesses have no choice in this matter, and they would be fined if they didn’t comply with the law.

I’ve downloaded a pattern to my iPad but can no longer find it.

You need to save the pdf file as well as downloading it.

1. Check that you have the free iBooks app installed on your iPad.

2. Download the pattern as usual. You can test this method by downloading the free Furry Fairies pattern.

3. When the pattern has downloaded completely, touch the very top of the pattern page and, briefly, two labels will show. One says ‘open in iBooks’ and the other ‘open in …’. Touch the iBooks one and the pattern will open on the pdf shelf of iBooks, and will remain there until you delete it. The second label will list any other apps you have on the iPad that will open and save the pattern, but iBooks is the best.

4. Should you need to print the pattern from your iPad, and don’t have an Airprint compatible printer, you can use PRINTOPIA, although this only works via a mac. Download the software to your mac (from ecamm.com/mac/printopia – there’s a 7 day free demo). When you want to print from your iPad you choose ‘print’ on that and it finds your computer wirelessly and uses any switched-on printer that is attached to the computer.

I haven’t downloaded a PDF file before. Would you describe what happens?

Once you’ve paid for your order through PayPal you will be directed to a page from which you can download the pattern(s). Click (once only) on each ‘download’ button in turn and your computer should ask you where you would like the file to be saved. Each computer has a different way of doing this, but the main point is to save the file to your hard disk, because if you click on the ‘download’ button again (or double-click in the first place) you will lose the file. Once saved, you can open each pattern, using Adobe Acrobat Reader, and then print it out. Should you have any problems and are unable to download all or part of your order, then please write to me via the ‘contact’ page of this website. Don’t forget to give details of the patterns you have ordered, the order number, and the email address you used when placing the order. I will then be able to send you replacement patterns as attachments to an email. If you’re in a different time zone from the UK, then please bear this in mind and don’t expect an immediate response.

I’m new to knitting, so are any of your patterns suitable for a beginner?

Although my patterns only use basic knitting techniques, most contain a good deal of shaping. However, if you take things slowly, and follow the instructions line-by-line, then you should have no problems. You could download one of the free patterns (Chick and Egg or Furry Fairies) to see how I write the instructions, and you may like to join the Alan Dart Group on Ravelry, because this has a Rapid Response Team who are there to help members with any queries regarding the knitting and making-up of my designs. They are a lovely group of people, many of whom will also be beginners, and I’m sure they would be more than happy to give you any advice you might need.

I’m having difficulty getting the head to stay upright, even though I have followed the instructions and made a neck former from a drinking straw. I also can’t get some of my toys to stand up on their own. What am I doing wrong?

The toys in all the photographs you see on the website standing on their own, and have no hidden means of support. I suspect the stuffing you are using is too dense, which makes the head too heavy for the neck, legs or feet to support, and I always use a very light, ‘high loft’, toy stuffing, as this gives bulk without being weighty. In the UK you can buy this stuffing online or by phone from Dainty Supplies. It’s worth paying a little extra for this because cheaper stuffings weigh much heavier but also compact, which means you end up using more. You should also remember that you won’t get a good result if you simply push a large amount of stuffing inside, and you should gradually add small amounts of stuffing and mould the piece between your hands as you do this to achieve the shape.

I don’t have a PayPal account, and don’t want to open one. Can I pay for my order by another method?

You don’t need to have an account to pay via PayPal, and can choose to use a credit or debit card instead. You will given this option when you are redirected to the PayPal page after you have proceeded through checkout.

If I knit all the pieces first, I sometimes forget which piece is which. What can I do about this?

Why not pin a little label on to the right side of each piece after you have knitted it? This is also particularly helpful when using textured yarns where it is sometimes difficult to tell which is the right and wrong side

You sometimes use plastic safety eyes or felt dot eyes on your toys. Are these suitable if the toy is to be given to a baby, or should I substitute with something else?

If you’re making the toy for a baby or toddler under 3 years old, it’s probably wiser to embroider the eyes, using yarn and working a tiny circle of chain stitches. Some of my patterns use this method, usually splitting the yarn so you only use two strands for the embroidery.

Why is my toy so much larger than the size given? It took more yarn and stuffing than quoted in the pattern too.

You probably didn’t check your tension first. I know it’s boring, but it is the only way to make absolutely sure that you get a perfect finish. All my designs are knitted with smaller needles than those recommended for the yarn used, as this makes a firm fabric through which you can’t see the stuffing. If your tension is too loose, you’ll need to adjust the needle size until the number of stitches and rows match those quoted in the pattern. The looser your tension, the larger the finished toy will be, and the more yarn and stuffing you will use.

Where can I buy the patterns you designed of well-known characters like Brambly Hedge and Beatrix Potter? I have seen copies for sale but believe these aren’t legal.

All the patterns for these and other licensed characters are now long out of print and the licenses to sell them have expired. A licensed character is one that appears in other mediums, such as books, films, or television programmes and, although I own the copyright to the pattern instructions, a very expensive license would need to be purchased for each collection of characters before they could be reissued. In the past, all the licenses were bought by the companies that printed the leaflets, and because the license fees are so high I can’t afford to buy new licenses in order to reissue the patterns myself, so this is why they are no longer available. You may be able to find some original patterns offered for sale, but photocopies, CDs and downloads of these designs are illegal because they not only infringe my copyright but also that of the creators of the characters and/or their agents, and I’d be most grateful if you would report these sellers to me. I can very easily, and swiftly, have any infringing items that are listed on eBay removed since I am registered with their Verified Rights Ownership programme.

Some of your patterns use ‘towelling effect yarn’. What is this?

The yarn used for these patterns was Sirdar Snowflake DK, which was discontinued for a short while, but then re-introduced as a baby yarn, in pastel shades and in smaller balls, under the name of Sirdar Snuggly Snowflake DK. The current colour range is very small, so if you are unable to find this yarn there are alternatives available, such as Vesper Super-Soft Baby Double Knitting, produced by V & A Products Ltd., Bradford BD8 8JL, although any double knitting equivalent can be substituted provided the tension matches that quoted in the pattern. Be aware that the purl side of this yarn is treated as the right side, so you should take this into consideration if you choose to use a standard, non-textured, DK yarn.

I’ve followed the pattern, but the number of stitches on my needle isn’t the same as that stated. What am I doing wrong?

Please check the abbreviations list that is on each pattern, especially when it comes to increasing. I always work into the front and back of the next stitch to increase, written as ‘inc 1’ in my patterns but also known as KFB, however many people decide to use an alternative method of increasing which results in a different number count and then assume that there are mistakes in the pattern. This is the most common fault amongst toy knitters, and can easily be remedied by taking time to read the instructions first. I only ever use this one method of increasing, so once you have mastered it you can be sure that every one of my patterns will work for you.

I’m never happy with the finish when I sew up a toy with backstitch, and turning some of the smaller pieces through to the right side can be very difficult. What method do you use?

I always sew every seam with mattress stitch, which is worked from the right side of the knitting, and all my patterns have a one stitch seam allowance added to accommodate it. If you use this method the seam is virtually invisible and you have no need to turn small pieces to the right side – because they’re there already! Any good knitting book should have diagrams to illustrate this stitch, which is sometimes also called ladder stitch.

I’m having difficulty adding items to my basket as when I look at it there’s nothing in it. Why is this?

Make sure that cookies are enabled for your browser, or try again, this time using a different browser. This usually solves the problem.

I often get so engrossed with knitting a toy I find that my arms and back hurt afterwards. Do you have any advice?

It is a good idea to make sure you have a break every 30 minutes or so. Just standing up and walking round for a few minutes will do. I always sit on an upright chair to knit and try not to lean to one side or twist my body. You’re doing this for enjoyment, so take your time and relax!

I live in the States and it took me quite a while to translate ‘cotton buds’ into the American ‘Q-tips’. Would it be possible to include a UK/US glossary somewhere on your website? And could I also use chopsticks where you quote ‘bamboo skewers’?

To save you from wasting valuable knitting time having to translate from British to American, here are a few items I use that have different names across the Atlantic. Chenille stems are pipe cleaners; cocktail sticks are tooth picks; and wadding is batting. The bamboo skewers I use are sometimes called ‘satay skewers’ and are much thinner than chopsticks. They are just a little bit thicker than a toothpick, are pointed on one end only, and usually come in 12in/30cm lengths.

I like to knit for charity. Am I allowed to use your patterns for this purpose?

I’m perfectly happy for you to knit toys from my patterns to sell, either for charity or to make yourself a little cash, as long as this is not done on a large scale and I am given a credit as the designer. You can download a free sheet of labels to attach to your work by clicking here. However, if you wanted to knit licensed characters you would need to ask the copyright owner of the character, whose name will appear on the leaflet or magazine article, for their permission.

Do you have a favourite glue to use on knitting, and can I use water-based PVA adhesive so I’d be able to wash off any mistakes I made?

I always use UHU clear adhesive as this dries quite quickly and holds small pieces securely. To avoid leaving glue trails over your work, don’t spread the glue straight from the tube but instead use a cocktail stick or toothpick to dab a spot of glue where needed. PVA adhesive is not really suitable for toymaking because it would dissolve if the toy was washed or somehow became wet.