I am rather fond of my tiny knitting. I’m noted for working tiny, and I enjoy the heck out of it. Knitted lace out of size 30 crochet cotton is one of my happiest places. (Totally not SCA period, don’t even try. Think 19th and 20th centuries for that, and it doesn’t make it any less ❤ for me. )
What’s tiny? This differs for everyone, IMO, but pretty much if it’s more thread than yarn, it probably qualifies as tiny knitting. Certainly the article that’s been making the rounds about 80 stitches to the inch is tiny, but that’s an extreme. (I’ve never gotten much finer than about 32 stitches to the inch, but hey, perhaps it’s time for a virtual grudge match.)
I get a lot of requests to teach classes in tiny knitting, but it’s hard to get across the details in a class setting. Instead, while I’m starting <cough> another tiny knitting swatch for another piece, I figured I’d hit the highlights in blog form.
This is not a beginner project
I mean, I hate telling beginners ‘oh you shouldnt do that thing you really want to, go knit a dishcloth’. I hate it a lot. I am a firm believer in learning on a project that makes you happy, because then you’re motivated to actually progress. That being said.. shove knitting XP into other things before you dig out the thread and sub 2 mm needles. Hell, you want to start small, start with a sock (or two or ten). Sock yarn is small but not tiny, it gets you in the right habits. (Also, home knitted socks are delightful. It’s a lovely way to shove XP in a skill)
The first row(s) will suck.
This is a given for any project, but somehow it is felt so much more keenly when working in silk at (approx) 20 stitches to the inch. (A bazillion times more when you’ve got 8 stitches on 4 needles and they all want to fall out. Thank you doilies.) You get everything cast on, and you start knitting, probably in the round, and it sucks. The first row, or two.. sometimes even three.. suck. Always. Tension is weird, and stitches aren’t quite sliding right, and there’s nothing holding it together in the round and gnngh. It will get better. Keep knitting.
Starting over is not the end of the world
Sometimes, it doesn’t get better. Sometimes there’s a catastrophic dropped stitch and any efforts to catch it are just .. just no. Sometimes, there is less wailing and gnashing of teeth when you pull out the needles and reclaim the thread. This is not the end of the world. Look at all that xp you just put into this pattern! Win! (Still frustrating
as all hell, don’t get me wrong, but it happens. It’s okay.)
Good light is not optional
This might be less of a concern for those knitters who are under 35, but certainly for those of us who creep ever higher in that age tally, good light is essential. Actual natural daylight is the gold standard of good lighting, but let’s be realistic about the approaching winter, and the fact that I’m indoors a lot. The lighting sucks. I swear by my Ott light, but any good bright light is a boon. Some people swear by a lighted magnifier, I find it really distractingly disorienting, but see what works for you. Save knitting in the movies for when you’re doing a plain vanilla dishcloth or something.
This is not a weekend project
This seems to sneak up on people, and it should be obvious, but it is worth repeating. When you need to do 20 stitches (or more) to get an inch worth of stitches, there is a lot of knitting in a piece with tiny stitches. A few mm of progress is significant. This is not going to whip up in a weekend, so zen into the process. You’ll get there eventually. I find that crossing things off on the pattern really helps give me visual cues that progress is being made.
Practice in cotton
Or in wool, if you prefer, but if your aim is to knit in silk, then practice in cotton. Wool has stretch, it’s more forgiving to colour work, it’s more forgiving in general. Silk, and cotton are both threads with not a bit of elasticity, and they will put you in your place and show you want they don’t like, even if wool is easy going about it. There is no shame at all in doing pieces in cotton. It’s cheap, it’s easy to find, comes in a variety of sizes and if you rip it out 10 times and it’s grotty, it’s cheap enough to throw out. Know that different cottons /do/ look and work differently. Cotton can be mercerized or not, which affects its hand and shine. (Mercerized is more shiny, non is not)
Crochet cotton usually starts at about size 5 and as the number goes up, the size goes down, which makes it very natural for progressing through sizes as you want to try smaller work. My tension is unusual (aka bullet proof tight usually) so suggestions on needle sizes vary wildly, but for solid fabric I’m usually about 1mm needles with size 20 yarn, and for ethereal lace, I’m usually 3 mm needles with size 30 cotton. There’s no firm answer on needle size, use what gives you a fabric you like, your tension is yours.
I love tiny knitting, I love the challenge, I love the complexity, I love the satisfaction. The reality of slow progress is one I can live with, but tiny knitting isn’t really something one can teach in an hour’s class. Knit, and knit lots. Find something you love, and knit it smaller than you usually would. Do that lots.