BITSTOBUY: HINTS AND TIPS FOR MINIATURE KNITTING
If you are new to miniature knitting, you might like to take a few minutes to read these hints and tips.
My patterns are suitable for both the miniature collector, and for children’s dolls houses, but I should point out that tiny knitted items could represent a choking hazard, and may not be suitable for small children.
Knitting should be fun and relaxing, and I hope my patterns will inspire you to fill your dolls house with your handiwork!
Do you need previous knitting experience?
- There is nothing magical about miniature knitting – it is just like full size knitting but uses thinner yarn and smaller sized knitting needles
- Unless you are fairly confident about hand knitting at full scale, it is probably best to leave miniature knitting until you are more experienced. You must know how to cast on and cast off, knit and purl, increase and decrease, and how to follow a pattern
- If you are a more experienced knitter, you can try miniature patterns which include cables and lacy stitches, or knitting with two or more colours
- If you are not sure, try knitting a small piece with DK yarn on 3.25mm needles (UK size 10) until you are confident that you understand the pattern, then move to the smaller scale
- If you are not able to work at the smaller scale, try using a size bigger knitting needles and slightly thicker yarn. The overall size of the finished item will be larger, but may still be acceptable, and will not matter for most furnishing items in the dolls house
- bitstobuy patterns are designed to be quick and easy to knit. Most of my 1:12 scale patterns use 2.00 mm knitting needles and 2 ply yarn, which are not too difficult for most knitters to work with.
- My patterns use readily available materials and are not fiddly or time consuming to knit. You may find that the size of the stitches is not exactly in scale with the dolls house, but this is almost impossible to achieve in practice even with the smallest knitting needles and finest yarns, and is not noticeable when the knitted items are in place
- Difficulties can arise when dressing dolls in miniature clothing because they are inflexible and it can be hard to pull clothing over heads and arms. My patterns all allow a large opening to make dressing easy, and are fully removable.
- bitstobuy knitting patterns are designed in the UK. If you are a US knitter you may find that the patterns are written in a slightly different way to that you are used to. If in doubt refer to the list of abbreviations
- At this scale tension is not really important, so is not usually given in miniature knitting patterns
- The finished items may vary slightly in size depending on how tightly or loosely you knit, but does not matter for the dolls house – furnishings and clothes always vary in size anyway, and dolls are often not a standard size
- If you know you are a tight or loose knitter you can always use knitting needles of a bigger or smaller size
- Do not cast on too tightly, and cast off fairly loosely around neckbands and cuffs on clothes
- Keep the knitting fairly loose when working twisted stitches (for miniature cables) and on the row before knitting lots of stitches together
- All my patterns can be converted to 1:24 scale by using 1mm knitting needles and a thinner 1 ply yarn. or other threads such as 100% silk yarn or one strand of embroidery silk
- To achieve the right size the knitting needle size is more critical than the yarn
- My patterns mainly use 2.00 mm knitting needles. Size 2.00 mm are available from knitting retailers, or bitstobuy
- 2mm knitting needles are also known as size 14 in the UK, or size 0 in the US
- For 1:12 scale my patterns are mainly based on using 2 ply yarn. 'Ply' is a loose term, and I find that 2 ply yarn from different manufacturers can vary quite a lot in thickness
- 2 ply yarn is often described as 2/14, 2/16, 2/20, 2/24, 2/28, 2/30, with the higher numbers being finer. This description is related to the composition of the yarn, and the length per weight. Generally any of these weights are suitable to use as 2 ply in my patterns, but the thickness does vary, so the sizes of the finished items will be slightly bigger or smaller
- The only 2 ply yarn available now in knitting shops seems to be baby yarn, in white, cream or pastels. Machine knitting 2 ply yarn on large cones is available from specialist suppliers
- For knitting tiny toys, I recommend a low bulk 2 ply yarn (2/28), as the finished toys come out slightly smaller than with the higher bulk 2 plys. I sell a mixed pack of eight colours 2/28 mixed fibre yarns containing 10 yards of each colour. This pack will knit up to 8 small toys. Using 2 strands of embroidery silk knitted together also works well for these patterns
- Many of my patterns list the quantity of yarn required as 'scraps or small balls'. In practice this means 1 - 2g but it is not practical to weigh this amount. For guidance, 20g of my 2 ply yarn will knit a double size blanket and two cushions in 1:12 scale. The kits give you the right amount of yarn needed in all the colours to make the finished item
- Garments and household items knitted from 2 ply yarn on 2mm (UK size 14) needles are quite fine and drape well for the dolls house
- You can use many other different yarns as long as they are a similar thickness to 2 ply - for example my 1:12 scale patterns work just as well using a 20 gauge crochet cotton, or two strands of 1 ply used together
- Unlike full scale knitting, when choosing a yarn you do not have to worry about washability or durability in wear
- It is impossible to obtain scale fastenings for miniature knitting – they would just be too small to sew onto the finished garment
- A tiny bead can be used as a button but is difficult to fasten – make a loop out of your knitting yarn to hold the garment closed
- Small buttons can be obtained from dolls house suppliers or make your own from modelling material which is baked in the oven such as Fimo. They have to have holes large enough to sew onto the garment so tend to look out of scale, but are suitable for ‘chunky’ garments
- The smallest press-stud available is size 000, and you will need a fine needle to sew it to the garment. Hide it under a flap so that it doesn’t show on the finished garment
- Small hooks and eyes can be hidden in the same way
- If you are very patient you can sew on a piece of Velcro fastening so that it doesn’t show when closed
- Even the narrowest ribbon can also look out of scale – use a small piece of knitting yarn or cotton to tie a bow on a toy
- If you are happy to sew a garment onto a doll, making it non-removable, you can dispense with fastenings
Making up the finished work
- When casting off, leave a length of yarn to use for sewing the pieces together
- Small pieces of miniature knitting can twist or distort in shape while working, and it is a good idea to block and steam the pieces before sewing them together (not for all stitches though, such as raised motifs or cables; be guided by the pattern)
- If you are using a specialised yarn, for example Lurex or a metallic thread, check with the label instructions first that it can be pressed
- Pin the piece out on an ironing board to the right shape and size. Use lots of pins around the edges so that the piece lies flat without pulling. With the iron on the lowest steam setting, carefully hold it about ½ inch above the work for a few seconds, working on one area at a time. Avoid any ribbed areas. When cool, remove the pins
- Blocking and steaming is very effective for dolls house knitting, as it tends to give softness and improve the drape. Blankets especially benefit from this treatment
- When sewing miniature pieces together, it is often best to oversew the seam on the wrong side, as this gives a less bulky effect
- On shoulders of garments, use a backstitch as this catches in the cast off edge so that it doesn’t show on the front
- After sewing the item together, it is a good idea to press seams again under a cloth, avoiding any rib
Some general hints, tips and tricks for miniature knitting
- Good eyesight and lots of patience will help! It can be helpful to use a magnifying glass - use one of those which fits around the neck and sits on your chest above the work, leaving the hands free
- It is easier to knit in daylight or in the evening use a ‘daylight bulb’ in your lamp
- Do not expect to work at the same speed if you are used to full scale knitting. Work each stitch slowly and carefully
- If you drop a stitch, try to pick it up with a fine crochet hook. If that doesn't work it may be better to abandon that piece of knitting and start again
- If you make a mistake in the pattern and need to unravel, do it stitch by stitch using a knitting needle to pick up the stitches from the previous row. Small stitches can be very difficult to pick up if you take them off the needle. Keep a count of how many rows you have unpicked so that you know where you are up to in the pattern
- If adding beading, invest in a special beading needle from the haberdashery counter; it is much finer for threading tiny beads
- Where the pattern calls for stitches to be held on a stitch holder, use a safety pin
- When working a complicated pattern such as lace, attach a paper clip to the edge of the pattern against the row you are working; slide it down to the next row as you work
- Slipping the first stitch on every row gives a smooth edge – especially useful for blankets and rugs
- When using more than one colour, allow the colour not in use to carry loosely along the back of the work, and take colours loosely up the side of the work
- When using more than one colour, wind the yarn into small balls, or use short lengths, to avoid tangles. Pull each colour free at the end of each row
- Make sure your hands are clean before you start knitting to avoid soiling, as the finished item will probably not be washed
I first picked up a pair of knitting needles nearly 50 years ago, and taught by my mother I learned most of the techniques by knitting for my dolls. Many years later I have knitted uncounted garments, blankets, toys and baby clothes. I have had stints knitting for a premature baby and stillborn charity, for another charity sending toys to third world countries, and have contributed squares to many blankets.
When I was a child, I can remember knitting on ordinary sewing pins with sewing thread to make tiny scarves and hats – quite a difficult thing to attempt, so when I went back to miniature knitting I decided to look for an easier way. I began to use patterns I found in magazines and on the internet, but didn’t find exactly what I wanted, so started to design my own.
Right from the start I wanted to use easy to obtain materials, and concentrated on patterns which used 2mm knitting needles, with 2 ply yarn, in easy and quick to knit designs. I started with jumpers and trousers for 1:12 scale dolls, and blankets and cushions in 1:12 scale. Before long my head was buzzing with ideas, and I used my knowledge of knitting techniques including cables and lace to make more intricate designs. I particularly enjoyed designing tiny toys such as teddy bears and dolls – not difficult to knit but very eye-catching at just over one inch tall.
Now my range includes all the clothing a dolls house family may need, and furnishings including heirloom and patterned bedcovers, rugs and cushions. I have a Santa Claus outfit for Christmas, patterns for unusual items such as baskets, and a moses basket for the nursery. I even have a knitted dolls house family suitable for a child’s dolls house, which can be dressed in the garments from other patterns. I am working on new patterns all the time, with lots of ideas.
My kits have proved very popular, as they include all the yarn needed to knit the design, avoiding the need to buy lots of different colours.
I am always happy to design a special pattern to your specification, for which I don’t charge as long as it is suitable to add to the range.