Knitting patterns and fit on miniatures

miniature Aran knitting on needles
© F H Powell 2019

We are often asked why, even though people have followed the pattern exactly, the item being knitted has come out much larger/smaller than expected, so we will try to provide some answers here.

Perhaps it is best to regard knitting patterns as recipes:
Two people follow the same recipe to make the same cake, they weigh out the same ingredients, mix everything as directed and cook the cake for the same length of time, but the results are very different.

We would accept this as being perfectly normal and the next time we made the cake we might make slight adjustments, to obtain a better result.

However with a knitting pattern we sometimes become obsessed with trying to perfectly match the size of the original item. Pattern sizing is only ever given as a guide, as no two knitters will achieve identical results, even if they use identical materials.

We all knit differently, some knit very tightly, others knit quite loosely. This simple fact can produce huge differences in the finished size of an item. Add to this the way we were taught to knit, we all use different techniques and some people may have to radically change the way they knit when they work on miniatures. Sometimes people can have a very even tension when knitting in human size, but find when they knit in miniature their tension is uneven. This does improve with practice and even very experienced knitters may discover knitting in miniature is not as easy as it looks. Most people find the only solution to this is to work on a project slowly for a short while each day, rather than try to complete a whole item in one go. Remember it’s how it finally looks not how long it took that matters.

Also outside factors such as tiredness and stress can cause some people to knit more tightly than they would do normally. Knitting is supposed to be pleasurable, so if it becomes a chore or causes frustration – give up for the day. Maybe the knitting needles have sharp points, this may cause people to hold the needles in a different way from normal, to avoid harm, this too can affect the tension of the knitting.

tension in knitting
© A Moerbeek 2019

Anneliese very kindly allowed us to use her photo (above) which shows two pieces of knitting (a back and a front) she worked with identical materials and needles, but at different times. The upper narrower example was worked much more tightly than normal when she was more stressed.

The choice of yarn used can also give very different results. Acrylic and cotton will cause the item to knit up considerably larger than if pure wool (which naturally pulls the fibres together) had been used. As mentioned in our previous blog on Patterns and Sizing, the yarn companies have a very broad range of thicknesses within the different yarn size categories, not to mention some may spin the yarn tighter than others do. All of these factors can affect sizing.

So, if your sizes do not exactly match those given on the pattern, it doesn’t really matter, as long as the item fits your doll and you are happy with the result. To get a perfect fit on your doll you may simply need to experiment a little, just as you would if you were using a cake recipe.