Knitting Instructions for the Lions for the Children of the Beverly School in Kenya

We hope to have at least fifty knitted lions by next summer. The first fifty will be for the beds of the fifty students that will enroll at the school in the fall of 2008. This will be the first group of students arriving at the Beverly School.

If we have more lions, we can ask Megan and Ben or others going to help at the Beverly School to share these extra lions with children in the Kisumu slums where Megan and Ben gave out knitted bears this summer.
Please feel free to use a different pattern than this one or to crochet instead of knit! There is a gorgeous but complicated lion pattern in the Victoria and Albert knitting archives on the web. There may be many other much better patterns for knitted lions than this one.

In particular, my lion face is a work in progress, so please let me know your face ideas and improvements on this lion face.

Size 7 knitting needles
Worsted weight yarn either machine washable or cotton (I use Saucy cotton wool myself)

Leg and pants:
Cast on 10 stitches in lion colored wool. I’ve tried tawny brown but think shades of yellow work better.

Knit 10 rows.

Note: An easy way to count these garter stitch rows is to count the raised rows. Five raised rows equals ten rows, because with garter stitch, every other row is raised up.

Switch to the color you choose for the pants. Cut your lion colored yarn leaving a healthy tail of yarn. By the time you finish knitting your lion, you’ll have a lot of these yarn strands, but you’ll use these strands later to sew the lion together. Knit 20 rows in the pant colored wool.

Now start the other leg. Leave the first leg on your knitting needle and cast on 10 new stitches in the lion color onto your knitting needle that is holding the first leg. By casting onto this needle you will knit two legs that can easily be joined with the same side up on both legs

(Because of the way the knitting looks when you change colors, you will see that one side of your work is the front while the other side looks like the back).
Repeat as with the first leg knitting 10 rows in the lion color and then 20 in the pants color.
Here are two legs ready to be knit together.

Now you are ready to knit both legs together. Just knit across both your first and second leg and then keep going knitting 16 more rows for the top of the pants.

Torso of the lion:
Change to a color for the top of your lion body. Knit 20 rows in this color. You can do stripes or anything you want with any of these sections.

Here, the legs and pants are knit, the torso is knit and I have begun to knit the rows for the head.

Change to lion color and knit 5 ½ inches in this color. I find this is about 44-46 rows of knitting but it will be a bit different for knitters knitting tighter or looser than me.

Back of lion:
When you have knit the 5 ½ inches of lion color for the head, you are now going to knit the back of the torso and the back of the pants and legs. This means knitting 20 rows of the torso color, 16 of the pants color then knitting each leg separately. Basically what you are doing is what you did on the front only in reverse order. Bind off at the end of each leg.

This is what your knitting will look like, a long strange skinny thing.

Yes I know. You have a lot of yarn strands everywhere, but don’t worry! You really will need a lot of them for knitting the lion together!

Putting the lion together:


Fold it in half at the middle of the head section. See how the front and back match up! Stitch together the back and front of the head, Stop stitching at the place where the torso color starts.
Working on the face:


You can make the ears as you sew up the sides by sewing across the top corners on each side of the head. Lion ears are not that prominent with the mane falling over and around them. Stuff the lion head before embroidering the face. Polyester type filling works well.

When you go to embroider the face note that lions have slanting eyes, narrow chins, and distinct wide nose bridges with a triangle of nostrils much like domestic cats. If you google lions you will find lots of helpful photos. Use a contrasting yarn color when embroidering the face.

My first attempt didn’t have enough contrast between the skin of the lion and the embroidery color. It was hard to see the face.

I think the lion above with the pink top looks a bit like a lion and is easier to see, but please feel free to find your own way with this (and then share with me your tips!). I will be knitting lions all winter, so I welcome suggestions!

When you have your face done you can stuff it with some kind of fiberfill stuff and then start a running stitch along the bottom of the neck encircling the whole head. Slowly tightening this running stitch as you stitch round a second time so that the lion head gets pulled in and there begins to be a pronounced neck. Gradually tightening the yarn in a couple times round the head makes for a head that doesn’t look like a knitted square. The tighter you make your running stitch the more it will look like a lion as, like other cats, lions have narrow chins with their heads widening at the top.
Now the arms:
With your torso’s color yarn pick up 8 stitches along the side of the torso near the head on the front of your lion and then 8 more stitches along the side of torso on the back of the torso.


This is the trickiest bit. At the risk of confusing you, I am showing you exactly where the first 8 of the 16 stitches come from on a lion with no face yet. The other 8 come from the back torso.


Here is another photo about the arms. Looking down on the lion from above, I hope you can see where I picked up the stitches for the arms after I sewed the head together.

You will have 16 stitches. Knit 16 rows in this color then switch to the lion color for 10 rows. Bind off. You will see how it naturally folds in two and becomes an arm. Now pick up stitches on the other side of the lion for the second arm and knit the same 16 stitches in the torso color and 10 in the lion color.

Finishing the lion:
Lots of sewing up seams here. I don’t know if its better to knit a couple of lions then do all the sewing or sew them as you go along. Depends on your personality. I don’t always like finish work so I tend to knit a bunch of lions then sew them all up when I feel like it. Anyways, you’ll see how the front and back match up and sew together. Stuff with polyester fiberfill of some sort as you go. I sew up the arms then stuff them, then sew the torso and stuff it and so on.

Tail and Mane: I have made tails by casting on three or four stitches then knitting two inches or so and then adding strands for the end of the tail. Attach them almost where the legs begin not at the waist. They look wrong farther up on the pants, sort of like a tail coming out of the middle of the back instead of at the hind end (as if lion’s wear pants). For the mane, I have used a crochet hook to attach lots of various lengths of different mane colored yarn. For the girl lions, I don’t plan to give them manes since female lions do not have manes. So far, the manes I have made for the male lions look better with strands in front of the ears as well as all down the back side of the head. Some longer strands seem to help the lions look lion like.



Here is a lion front and back. Please let me know your questions about this pattern!

Send all lions to Green Hope Farm, POB 125, Meriden, NH 03770 and we will see that they get to Kenya. Thank you so much!

PS Skirts for fancy lionesses:
Pick up about 40 stitches around the waist of the female lions with three or four double pointed needles. Take another double pointed needle and knit around the body of the lion increasing every fifth stitch for eight or so rows (not an exact science). Switch to a contrasting color for the hem, knit a row in this contrasting color then purl a row while binding off. One of the bears Ben and Megan gave to a child in Kisumu had a pink skirt. I loved seeing the little girl holding that bear- but it is a lot of extra work.


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