Anna Hrachovec is a Brooklyn-based designer and fiber artist who creates strange and adorable characters for all ages. She divides her time between designing knitting patterns that she shares with the crafting community and creating complex knitted worlds for exhibition. She is the author of two books of knitted toy patterns, Knitting Mochimochi and Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi, and you can find her blog and patterns at mochimochiland.com.
Knitting Teeny-Tiny Toys
I’m really excited to be guest blogging on Whipup again!
This time I want to share with you my biggest (but actually smallest) knitting obsession over the past two years: really tiny knitting. I’ve been knitting toys nonstop since 2007, but in July of 2009 I decided to challenge myself by designing and knitting a new miniature toy every day for a month, and sharing a photo of the finished project on my blog. My subject matter was about as random as you can get: animals, foods, people, and any kind of object I could think of. I started with a Tiny Brain.
Some days it was more of a challenge than other days (a Tiny Mailbox turned out to be a tricky project, for example), but I was having lots of fun with it and getting encouragement from my blog readers. So I decided to continue the challenge on a weekly basis, and 130 Tinys later, it’s still ongoing to this day! I never thought I would stick with it this long, but it seems that there is no end to the things that are fun to make in miniature knitted form. You wouldn’t think that a Tiny Asparagus would be so cute, but often I am surprised by which random things turn out to be my favorites.
So I started out the project because I was looking for a challenge, and I continued it because the challenge was so much fun. The fact that it turned into a book was a huge bonus! Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi was just released by Potter Craft in August (at least in the US; the release date for other countries is happening this fall).
Designing a Tiny takes about one to three hours, depending on how complex it is.
I start with an idea of something that I want to knit, whether it’s a frog, a hamburger, or a fire hydrant. I make a sketch of what I think that thing looks like. I think it’s valuable to put on paper my imagined idea of what this thing generally looks like (I’m not a skilled illustrator by any means, so it truly is a general idea).
Then I usually do a Google Images search to see if there are any important features that I left out. Sometimes I’ll look at other simple line drawings, like clip art, although I don’t want to be too influenced by another person’s artistic rendering.
Next, I go back to my notebook, and keep sketching until I arrive at a design that’s as simple as possible while capturing the essence of whatever it is I want to represent. Sometimes this means sketching something over and over again, until something takes shape. In the end, I usually have one basic shape with just a few details. And a pair of eyes, of course!
Now it’s time to knit. Since I’ve been knitting toys for about five years now, I have some go-to formulas in my head that I use for basic shapes. But there’s nothing better than trial-and-error when knitting toys, and since the designs are so small, it doesn’t hurt to just start knitting and then start over if I have to.
For the main piece, I usually work from the bottom up, or from back to front, because the closed-up end looks better than the cast-on end. I almost always knit this main piece in the round using double-pointed needles.
Time for details. For flat pieces, I will often pick up the stitches, which looks like this:
And for long, thin pieces, I make an I-cord and thread it through the main piece. I do this with lots of arms and legs on animals and people.
Embroider on the eyes and a few other details, and we’re done: a tiny blue penguin!
It’s so simple and quick, I bet any intermediate knitter could tackle their own Tiny toy design. Let me know if you do! You can see all of my Tinys on the Mochimochi Blog. Happy knitting!