Yarn types and miniature knitting

knitting and crochet yarns
© F H Powell 2017
miniature knitting
© F H Powell 2013

When deciding on a miniature knitting project, the type of yarn to be used often plays an important part in the decision. However there are several points to bear in mind before you start on your project.

1. Substituting yarn from that listed in the pattern
Although it is best to always use the yarn recommended in the pattern, there maybe instances where this is not possible and substitutions may have to be made, for example you are not able to source the required yarn or have an allergy to wool.
However you need to bear in mind that when a different type of yarn is used the finished article may not look the same as the photo in the pattern or may turn out considerably larger or smaller than the original.
This is often found if acrylic or cotton is substituted for pure wool as wool has a natural springiness, which pulls the stitches together and the finished item may come up far larger if knitted using acrylic or cotton yarn because of this. This is especially noticeable in Aran designs, which usually look better knitted in wool.
When using acrylic yarns the finished knitting will often be much larger than if the same article was knitted in wool. This does not usually matter much in dolls houses as dolls vary a lot in size (rather like humans) and if your knitted item is too large for one doll it may fit another. Generally, a pattern using wool will come up ¼-inch (0.6 cm) larger overall if knitted with acrylic wool or cotton, the simplest solution here then is to use knitting needles a size or two smaller.
If yarns are substituted in a lace pattern, the lace effect may become more open or more closed depending on the thickness of the yarn substituted and may alter the look of the design completely.

miniature knitting
© F H Powell 2010

2. Displaying the finished article
You need to decide where you will display the article: is it to be draped over a chair? Placed on a bed? Hung on a hanger or even worn by a doll? All these factors may influence the type of yarn you choose to knit with.
a) Drape of finished article
If you wish to drape the article, for example a tablecloth or bedspread or even a dress laid out on a bed, it may be better to use a cotton or silk yarn rather than pure wool, which can be very stiff when knitted.
The size of the needles or the thickness of the yarn will also affect the drape. Smaller needles produce a tighter finished object, which will not drape as well as an article knitted on larger needles or using finer yarn.
b) Insect damage
If you are displaying an article in a dolls house or roombox you may wish to take into account possible insect damage, such as moth larvae eating through untreated wool or silk. In some cases small amounts of lavender tucked inside items of furniture, cushions or pillows may deter moths.
If using pure wool it is best to use wool that has been mothproofed by the manufacturer, as it can be heartbreaking to spend several days (or weeks) knitting a miniature item only to find that moth larvae have eaten right through the work. If the work is being displayed in a closed environment, such as under glass, this may not be such an important consideration.

3. Look of the yarn when knitted
Some people do not like the hairiness of pure wool when it is knitted up and prefer to use a yarn, which has a smoother finished surface. This is purely down to personal preference, but do check point 1 above when substituting yarns. Again an intricate lace pattern may be lost if knitted in wool and may show up much better if worked in silk or cotton yarn.

4. Yarn suggested in the pattern is too expensive
In miniature knitting it does not pay to use cheap yarn (or buy a large ball of non-mothproofed wool just because it’s cheaper than mothproofed). The finished item knitted using a cheap substitute, may not look the same as you were expecting from the pattern photos, it may be susceptible to moth damage or it may come out far larger than you expected and not fit the doll you intended the garment for.
Some pure wool yarns (apart from not being mothproofed) may also not be strong enough for miniature knitting, especially if travelling stitches (as in Aran patterns) are used and huge stresses are put on the fine yarn, which could break. Some very fine wool sold for lace knitting in full size, may not strong enough to cope with the stresses of miniature knitting, as the lace wool is generally used on much larger knitting needles to give a very open effect. It can be heartbreaking to find the yarn suddenly parts in the middle of a complex pattern.

So remember if the pattern designer recommends a certain type of yarn there is usually a reason behind it. Although if you are unable to obtain the correct yarn, then do try a small test patch to see the difference before you work the whole of the pattern.