GETTING STARTED WITH MINIATURE KNITTING
The idea of working with tiny needles and thread scares most knitters, but with practice and patience any knitter can learn to knit in miniature. The best way to begin is to choose the smallest needles and yarn you feel comfortable with, then gradually work your way down the scale until you are able to handle the finer threads and needles.
The smallest knitting needle size available for “full size” knitting is generally 2.00mm or UK size 14. If you are comfortable using those needles and 2 ply laceweight yarn, it is only a few small steps down to the finer needles and yarn used for miniature knitting. The table below shows the sizes in between.
Tension varies between knitters, so use the table as a guide only and feel free to experiment. A loose tension is sometimes desirable in full size knitting, but in miniature tension should be relatively tight. If your knitting appears loose and there are gaps between the stitches, you may need to reduce your needle size for that particular thread. Having said this, don’t make the knitting so tight that it will not move on the needles!
As with any miniature needlework, unless you have been blessed with exceptional eyesight, magnification and good lighting are essential for working. In daylight sit next to a window and at night use an adjustable work lamp – consider an energy saving light bulb as they generate a lot less heat. The type of magnification you need depends on your eyesight, so take a piece of your work with you when choosing a magnifier. Personally, I prefer the ones which clip onto your glasses, but there are others which hang around your neck or can be attached to a table.
True scale in miniature knitting is a difficult thing – to be truly 1/12th scale you will need to use the very smallest size needles and the finest of sewing threads. However, an illusion of the correct scale can be achieved with a judicious choice of stitch patterns. Look for patterns with a small number of stitches in the repeat (usually the part of the pattern between the brackets or *s) and a small number of rows. Generally, any pattern which has less than 10 stitches and 12 rows will appear relatively “in scale” if knitted with sewing thread. If you are using 1 ply yarn then I would suggest choosing a pattern with no more than 6 stitches and 8 rows. Don’t try to break any speed knitting records in miniature – it is better to take your time and be accurate.
Begin with items which don’t require complex shaping – for instance blankets, square cushions or rugs. Leave dressing dolls until you have more experience. Before using a yarn/needle combination you are unfamiliar with, knit a “test swatch” of 20 stitches by 20 rows in stocking or garter stitch. A good way of making use of these swatches is to sew them together to make an old-fashioned patchwork blanket. Personally, I keep these swatches labelled with needle and thread particulars for reference when choosing materials for my projects.
Finding the right thread for miniature knitting can be a challenge, but here are some suggestions to get you started. It is difficult to find wool fine enough, but consider using fine machine knitting yarn. This comes on a cone, and if you happen to know a machine knitter they may be prepared to let you have their leftover yarn or “end cones”. Another source of thread is your local needlework shop. Crochet and tatting cotton are two possibilities, but also look for embroidery and sewing threads. Wool is easier to knit with than cotton or silk because it has some elasticity, however wool splits easier so greater care is required when using it. I have often knitted with a single strand of DMC embroidery floss – this knits up nicely, doesn’t shrink, drapes beautifully and is readily available in a huge assortment of colours.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to “have a go” and try out your own ideas. Look at full size clothing and knitting patterns for inspiration. With a little ingenuity and perseverance, almost anything can be knitted in miniature. The key is really patience and practice.
© Beverley-Anne Miles and Dianne Smith 2007. Not for sale or distribution.