Category Archives: breast cancer
October is already here, as is breast cancer awareness month. If you didn’t get around to making a pink sock monkey last year, why not make one now?
The cool thing about making pink sock monkeys is the special pink Rockford Red Heel socks are sold in 2-pair packages so you can make a sock monkey for yourself and another to give away or donate to a breast cancer charity auction.
Here are step-by-step instructions from last year’s Pink Sock Monkey Craft-along to get you started. It’s as simple as 1-2-3.
If you’re not making a pink sock monkey, what are you doing for breast cancer awareness month?
Remember the latest pair of pink sock monkeys I made?
I made them at the request of Cyndy, a family member who spends winters in Texas. Each year she organizes a golf outing with a luncheon and raffle to raise funds for local breast cancer organizations. The sock monkeys were among several items raffled at this year’s event.
I’m happy to say Cyndy’s efforts raised another $1,000 for Texas-based breast cancer programs, with a portion of the funds going to providing free mammograms for local women.
Turns out both monkeys will soon be relocating to Canada with their new families. I’m sure these cheeky monkeys will continue their crusade against cancer for many years to come.
Congratulations on a job well done, Cyndy!
I’m thrilled to announce that our favorite pink sock monkey sisters, Cupcake and Endura, are now happily ensconced in their new homes!
Once my sister, Lisa, got her hands on the girls, she dolled them up with some jewelry and added notecards introducing each monkey to her new caretaker.
Endura brought her new person some fun laces for her running shoes, while Cupcake gave hers some pretty pink cupcake liners. Thoughtful little monkeys, aren’t they?
I hope Cupcake and Endura will bring their new people plenty of comfort and cuddles for many years to come!
I hope you decided to join our pink sock monkey craft-along in honor of breast cancer awareness month. If you haven’t started yet, there’s still time to make your monkey!
You’ve already met Cupcake, but allow me to introduce her slightly younger sister (only three weeks apart in age, go figure!), Endura. She’s the monkey you saw being pieced and constructed through much of the craft-along.
As a distance runner, the aptly named Endura sports a somewhat shorter ‘do than Cupcake. As a baker, Cupcake prefers her tresses long enough to pull back so they’ll stay out of the batter.
Both girls will soon be in new homes. Cupcake is going to a cupcake-obsessed woman fighting breast cancer for the second time, and Endura is going to a runner who is also battling breast cancer. These pink sock monkeys are more than sisters, they share a common bond as cheerleaders against a loathsome disease.
How’s your pink sock monkey progressing?
Look at classic sock monkeys and you’ll notice some are bald and some have tufts of hair – usually made of red worsted-weight yarn. I always thought the short red ‘dos made them look like clowns. That’s why I left the brown sock monkeys bald, and let my niece and nephew decide if they wanted their monkeys to have hair or not. They opted for bald monkeys.
When I asked my sister if she wanted hair for the first pink sock monkey — which is going to a friend of hers who’s about to complete chemo for the second time —Lisa said, “Someone undergoing chemo will want a monkey with hair. Long hair.”
I raided my not-so-humble yarn stash looking for a color that would work with the pink monkey’s complexion. Magenta? Pink? Rose? Purple? Nothing seemed quite right until I spotted a bag of yarn I picked up at a neighbor’s garage sale a couple months ago. It’s silky soft and has all those colors and more.
I don’t want to brag, but I think she turned out pretty cute (still need to trim those eyelashes a bit!). Getting there took some effort.
Initially I tried stitching the strands in by hand, thinking I’d knot them as I did the eyelashes. Only this particular yarn – silky as it is – isn’t very smooth. It has nubs here and there that wouldn’t pull through the sock very easily. I was afraid it would distort poor Cupcake’s head.
Then it hit me: make a wig!
When I told my sister about the wig, she said to make it a long wig, since Cupcake’s soon-to-be-owner has a long, flowing wig of her own.
Then I had to figure out how to make a wig. Or would it be a weave?
I started by mapping out where the hair should go. Then took a piece of muslin (any thin fabric roughly the same color as the “scalp” will do) and sewed sort of a bean-shaped circle just large enough to cover that area, leaving room to turn it inside out.
Once you tuck the open edge in and stitch it closed, it looks sort of like a lopsided heart with the bottom trimmed off. The indented area is to make it look like the hair has a natural part.
Next, I cut at least 30 strands of yarn to start – and made them a bit longer than twice the desired length. Why? 1) They’ll be folded over, and 2) she can have a haircut later.
I set a few strands flat across the “scalp,” positioning the center of the strands near one side.
Let’s see that again, with another row:
Don’t worry if the sewing machine pushes the strands around or misses a strand or two. You can always hand stitch in “hair plugs” later.
Once the wig was made, I used off-white thread to whip stitch it onto the monkey. It may try to shift around on you, so you might want to secure it – with stitches or pins – on one side, than the other to keep the balance right.
Finally, I used “plugs” to help hide the hair line. I simply cut a strand of yarn, folded it in half, and used two or three little stitches to attach it exactly where it needed to go. If there are any bald spots, you can fill them the same way.
So, which look do you prefer?
You do? Great. The next part is simple – filling them.
I used good old polyester fiberfill, but you can fill it with old nylons, yarn scraps, anything soft – and preferably washable. If you have an old throw pillow you don’t care for anymore you can even use that stuffing to fill your sock monkey – call it creative up-cycling.
When stuffing your monkey bits, adding the filling a little at a time can help avoid lumps. A chopstick or pencil (eraser end, so you won’t accidentally poke through the sock) helps work the filling into arms, legs and ears.
After the ears are filled, fold in the open ends and close them up with a couple of quick stitches.
After your final stitch, make a knot by taking another stitch and pulling the needle through the loop just before you pull it tight, then push the needle through the monkey – in any direction, just don’t let go of the needle before you pull it out the other side – tug slightly, snip the thread close to the monkey and the loose end will disappear into the stuffing. Magic! (This trick will come in handy when assembling your monkey.)
Set the ears aside – we’ll attach those later. Let’s move onto the body.
I prefer to fill the body before filling the legs, but either way is fine. The tricky part here is having enough stuffing so there aren’t any gaps while still allowing enough space to sew the opening closed. If you’re using fiberfill, add a little more than you think you’ll need because you’ll be able to push it around a bit and it will bounce back fairly well.
Since there’s not as much material here to fold in like you did when closing the ears, I like to slip the needle in one full stitch from the cut edge on either side. If any stitches look like they might unravel, I loop some thread through those for a bit of added security before stitching that spot closed.
With the body stuffed and closed, it’s time to attach the mouth. The mouth needs to be filled, too, but you have to stuff it while attaching it. Tuck some fiberfill (or material of your choice) into the mouth, fold in the top edge so there’s no pink showing, then decide where you want to place it.
For this monkey, I tried to line up the outer white corners of the mouth as close as possible to where the toe seams (in the white portion of the head) meet the pink part of the body of the sock. It helps to use a small safety pin to hold the opposite side of the mouth in place while sewing. Where the top of the nose meets the face I use off-white or white thread, since pink thread would stand out.
When you work around to the lower lip, you don’t have to be as careful about folding all of the pink inside since it will be attached to the pink part of the main body. This is when you can pull out any excess filling or tuck a bit more in to get the look you want.
While we’re working on the head, let’s add the ears.
Again, you can position them however you like. I set the ears of this monkey just behind the same seam lines I used to position the mouth, and tried to keep the top half of each ear on the white part of the head and the lower half on the pink part of the body. You might want the ears on your monkey slightly lower, higher, further forward or further back.
Because the ears are fairly flat, I stitch them along the front and back for a little extra security.
It’s starting to look more like a sock monkey, isn’t it?
Now it’s time to attach the arms. I like to place them fairly high on the torso, leaving a little neck space in case the recipient wants to put a scarf or necklace on the monkey. You might prefer them a little lower.
Step one: tuck the raw edges in so you’ll have a clean edge to attach to the body.
Step two: safety pin the arms on at various spots to see where they look best.
Have you decided where you want the arms? Good. There’s a third thing to consider before making your first stitch. Remember the seams you sewed before cutting the pieces? They usually aren’t that obvious, but I try to hide those seams in the monkey’s arm pits, which is where I start stitching.
Last up – the tail. When I made my first sock monkeys, I wasn’t sure where, exactly, the tail should go. The official instructions don’t specify if it’s on the white or colored part of the sock. I knew it wouldn’t look right on the red. I thought it looked cute close to the white, but still on the pink part of the body.
Now that the mouth, ears, arms and tail are all attached, you shouldn’t have any spare parts lying around. (If you do, you may be making a mutant monkey.)
Congratulations! You’ve just completed the hardest part of making your own sock monkey. At least it’s the hardest part for me – I’m not a big fan of all that hand sewing. But it’s worth the effort to make a sock monkey.
Cute, huh? Just wait until next time when we personalize it with a face – and even hair if you like.
Do you have your Rockford Red Heel Socks ready?
Be sure to save the cardboard label since the directions for the sock monkeys are printed on the inside. If you forgot to save the tag, you can download instructions here, just scroll down a bit – they’re available in English or Spanish.
The first thing you do is turn both socks inside out. Fold the first sock flat, front-to-back, so the red heel is all on one side (this sock will be the body so the heel becomes the monkey’s rear end). Then fold the other sock so you see the profile of the foot. The heels might not align perfectly, so just do your best. The trick I use for the second sock is aligning the red corners on each side, like this, before folding:
Next you need to measure, stitch and cut the legs. This is where the written pattern is a bit tricky. It says to start sewing 3″ from the white heel (but which part of the white heel?), and cut between the seams to within 1-1/2″ of the heel. After making a couple monkeys, I realized precision doesn’t matter here as long as you stop cutting at least 1″ before the outer edge of the white heel. If you stop cutting 2″ or so before the heel, your monkey will just have slightly shorter legs. Not a big deal.
I used a special water-soluble pen to mark approximate sewing lines, but any water-soluble pen or pencil will work.
Actually, you’re marking the inside, so you could probably even use a pencil. (I’ve been known to mark fabric with colored pencils, chalk, anything that won’t bleed through the fabric.)
Leave a gap of 1/4″ or more between the lines, since you’ll need to cut between the seams after sewing. I use a sewing machine, but you can sew these by hand if you don’t have a machine.
I like to start sewing the legs (and arms) from the middle of the sock. That’s just me. You can start at the cuff ends (aka Monkey paws) in you prefer.
I want you to notice that the curved ends are not perfect. One leg is a bit shorter and slightly squared off, the other is a bit rounder. It doesn’t matter. Once you turn the pieces right-side out and fill them you won’t even notice.
Onto the second sock. Use the diagram in the directions as a guide. The arms are sewn much like the legs, only they are shorter. The tail continues down the topside of the sock, curving down the white toe a bit. Again, sew before you cut.
The ears are fairly free form. The thing to remember with the ears is to leave about 3/4″ unsewn so you can turn the pieces right-side out and fill them. That’s something I forgot when I sewed the first ear for this monkey (I had to pull out a few stitches but it worked). So I marked the second ear with a pin so I would see where to stop or start sewing.
Before you start cutting the tail, ears, arms and mouth remember you’ll need to leave a little fabric between the pieces to help hold the stitches. The mouth doesn’t have any stitches around it, so make sure you leave at least 1/4″ of pink all the way around. This is when you’ll understand why you had to align the sock before folding – it makes cutting the mouth easier.
As carefully as I tried to align the heel, you can see I had less pink on the right side than the left. The good news is, because I didn’t cut too close to the heel, I still have plenty of fabric to turn under for a clean edge when I attach the mouth.
Notice how I positioned the folded (straight) edges of the ears down? That’s to remind me that the flat edge is what attaches to the head, not the open areas (which face the center, above).
These are the pieces you’ll have once you’re done cutting:
Just turn them right side out (chopsticks are great tools for turning the legs, arms and tail), and you’ve got the makings of your new sock monkey.
Next time: Filling and forming your monkey!
Happy October! You know what that means, it’s officially Breast Cancer Awareness Month — and time to kick off the Pink Sock Monkey Craft-Along!
My mom died of breast cancer when I was little, and my sister Lisa is a 13+ year breast cancer survivor, so this is an important month for our family.
Lisa’s taken a (triple) negative and done something really great: She became a peer counselor and uses her own experiences and insights to help other young women dealing with disease navigate their way through testing, treatment, recovery – and figuring out what to do if your health insurance company bails on you. (That’s a whole different story.)
So I wasn’t surprised when Lisa saw the sock monkeys I made for our niece and nephew and asked if I could make one — using pink socks — for a friend of hers who’s currently undergoing treatment for her second bout with breast cancer. When Lisa realized each 2-pair package of Rockford Red Heel Socks can make two sock monkeys, she asked if I could make one for another friend. That’s when I decided we should try a craft-along.
The project is pretty simple since the socks are really forgiving. Precision is not required, so don’t be scared off if you don’t sew. I’m not a great sewer, either, but see how darn cute Pink Monkey #1 turned out?
Get your pink socks, fiberfill and thread ready! Tomorrow we’ll start making a twin for the monkey above.
After seeing the sock monkeys I made for my niece and nephew, my sister asked if I could make one more. In pink. It’s for a sock monkey loving friend of hers who is battling breast cancer, so how could I refuse?
Since the official Rockford Red Heel socks also come in pink, it makes a pink sock monkey a great project to start now to give to someone battling breast cancer or to your favorite breast cancer survivor in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October!
The socks are sold in two-pair packs, so I have another pink monkey to make.
Anyone up for an unofficial craft-along?