Sunday, September 18, 2011

Miniatures Make Sense

One day as I sat at the LYS knitting a mini sock, a friend of mine and truly accomplished knitter said, "Why do you knit minis?  I could never be bothered wasting my time with that."  It wasn't as harsh as it might have sounded.  (We love her because she's never judgemental!)  She just truly didn't see the point. 

I had to give it some thought.  I started knitting minis because I thought they were adorable, and I gave them as gifts.  As I knit more of them, I realized that they include all the same skills as their full-sized counterparts.  In some cases, they even have the same number of stitches!  The blue hat on the left of the photo has about 2/3 as many stitches as a full sized hat, and it's made of a sportweight yarn on US 2s.  The red hat on the right has the same number as its "big brother", and was made from a full sized pattern with sport weight cashmere on US 1s.  Casting on 64 stitches for hat too small for Barbie made me think twice, but I love the finished project.

Then came the interesting part.  I realized that with DK and worsted yarns and needles in US 4-6, there would be far fewer stitches than the big projects, but all the same skills.  The brown mitten with the vertical stripes has the original full-sized stitch count, and took about the same amount of time.  The blueish mitten with the horizontal stripes was knit in a heavy worsted, and took about 90 minutes.  It has 1/3 as many stitches as the full-sized, but still uses the same decreases and striping skills as the big one would.  Aha!  I was on to something.

Now I teach folks to make socks by making minis first, with worsted yarns and size US 5 needles.  All the skills are there, but with far fewer stitches.  Knitting a mini won't use up much yarn, and turning the heel only takes a few rounds.  Ditto with teaching mittens, and many other techniques.  As you can see above, even stranded colorwork can be done in minis, and more quickly than a regular project. Every knitting skill can be practiced or refreshed by making a mini.

Last night, I knit up a mini sock (the one in the center bottom of the photo) to refresh a particular kind of decrease I like to use after the heel turn.  Now with my skill refreshed, I'll launch into my socks.  I have one more miniature to tie to a gift or use as holiday decor. 

Why do I knit minis?  To refresh and teach skills, to make cute little finished projects, to get a sense of how certain yarns behave in certain techniques, and to trade with other knitters at conferences and festivals.  I knit them to enjoy the last scraps of a favorite yarn after the main project is through.  I knit them because they delight me!

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