Recently I came across the adorable knit animals of Sachiyo Ishii. Some of the animals look surprisingly realistic for tiny knits. I couldn’t resist buying both Mini Knitted Woodland and Mini Knitted Safari at once. I got out my cotton yarn and 00 needles, eager to get started. It wasn’t long before I discovered that these cute patterns aren’t as simple as they seem.
I began by making the hares out of Mini Knitted Woodland. Thanks to the vague instructions (“sew the head”), the first one didn’t look right. Dissatisfied, I tried again. After three, I felt like I’d gotten the hang of the pattern and working so small, and was ready to move on. I switched to some scrap wool yarn and made a raccoon.
While my difficulties with the hare were a clue, it wasn’t until I was stuffing the raccoon that I realized the instructions in the book were lacking. My raccoon looked like a no-necked gangster, while the pictures in the book showed a well-defined break between the head and shoulders, even though the body and head are knit as one. I used sculpting stitches along the neckline to get a better shape. It worked, sort of.
Next, I tried a squirrel and had my first complete fail. The tail is made from a tiny pompom, and since I’ve made pompoms in the past, I wasn’t too worried about the minimal directions. I followed the directions and it didn’t work. At all. So I set the squirrel parts aside for another day.
Discouraged by the failed squirrel, I decided to make a pompom-free tortoise. The little guy is adorable and one of the smallest things I have ever knit.
As Mother’s Day approached, I pulled out Mini Knitted Safari to make a VW van for my mom. I knew Mom would love a reminder of our family camping trips. The pattern in the book is a hippie camper complete with embroidered flowers, but I changed the colors and the embroidery to make it more like the one we’d owned.
Emboldened by my success, I went back to animals and made a polar bear. (Note: Apparently “safari” means “big wild animals” and is not limited to Africa.) It worked pretty well, although once again I had some trouble with the directions. The back end did not come out like the bear in the picture, and I had to do some additional stitching to make the shape more bear-like.
The last project I tried was a panda bear, mainly because I had black and white yarn on hand. The body went together pretty easily but the head is just weird and I can’t tell from the instructions how to put it together. If I use the flap as a neck and sew it to the body directly, it looks all wrong. If I sew up the head so it’s completely separate, it comes out too small. As soon as I added one black eye patches, it was clear that my panda does not look like the one in the book, and I have no idea how to fix it.
Much as I love the tiny animals in these two books, I’m not sure how many more I will try to make. I’m willing to put up with failure and fudging when I’m designing something from scratch, but if I am following a pattern, I expect it to work, no major adjustments, and certainly no failures.
How about you? How hard are you willing to work to construct something when you are given poor instructions? Also, if you have any tips on how to make a tiny pompom (less than an inch across), please share them! Some of the cutest critters in the book are made with pompoms.