Gauge is still a thing

I bet, if I told you that I was going to knit a tiny snowflake, that you’d think that was no big deal. You’d think that, wouldn’t you? I mean, I can knit, and I’m getting pretty good at the tiny things. The main barrier to knitting a snowflake would be (you would think) that it might be a little fiddly… and you would be right. It would take a little time, you might suppose, to muck about with wee needles and wee yarn and what proved to be a teeny little chart, and all those things are true, and I saw them coming, and so on the weekend, when I was alone, and I’d already knit a few tiny things and was working up a good head of steam, wait… here’s the tiny things I knit to get warmed up.


That’s a tiny sock, and a tiny mitten (I faked it, using these and the sock charts)  and a tiny bluebird.  (The bird still needs eyes. Overlook it for the moment, will you?) I tossed a quarter in there for scale.  So I was feeling pretty good, and I found patterns for snowflakes – and I got to it. I got my tiny needles (2mm) and some white laceweight and with very little fanfare, I knit a snowflake, and blocked it. Now, while I was knitting it, I thought it wasn’t all that tiny. In fact, it seemed sort of big, but by the time I was blocking I’d committed to the thing (and I guess there was a part of me that thought something might change, though blocking lace never makes it smaller.) When I was done it was perfect….


and too big. A lot too big.  “Gauge, you bastard” I thought to myself, and looked around for what I could do to make it smaller. Smaller needles, naturally – and I went into my needle bin and came out with a set of 0000 DPNs (1.25mm) that I’ve been saving for a day I was feeling particularly lunatic.  An hour later, I’d thought of wonderful new ways to combine filthy words, had wept some, had loudly and bitterly complained to the cat about the difficulty of a central double decrease on needles that size, and had a much smaller snowflake, but I had a feeling it still wasn’t tiny enough.

As I walked to the kitchen to block it, I made a decision. I decided that this had gone far enough. I can get a little weird about the knitting, sure, but there’s a line and I was perilously close to it.  If it was small enough to fit in the pocket of the advent calendar I was stopping, I told myself.  I had a little chat with myself about perfectionism and how the pursuit of same isn’t always totally healthy, and as I took out the pins I congratulated myself on letting go. It isn’t totally characteristic of my nature. I may have even thought something about how glad I was that the snowflake interval was over… and then I started to block it.

The first few pins went fine, and then as I stretched one of the points out,


I found a dropped stitch in the worst possible way – as it sprung loose, and ran.  Now, you would have thought that I had invented all the way to put swearwords together while I knit that, but you would be wrong. Very wrong. I thought about getting a tiny crochet hook and trying to fix it, and then I got the bourbon out of the cupboard.  At the last possible moment I remembered that attempting to fix knitting problems with hard liquor doesn’t work.  (It’s not a moral problem, just one related to accuracy.)

I went back into the living room, swore one last time, admitted that I probably didn’t get gauge that time either, and since I was already using the smallest needles I had… I got smaller yarn.  This time, success was mine.  I won’t pretend that there wasn’t bourbon after though.


Gauge. It’s a thing. Same pattern, the first on  2mm needles, the second on 1.25mm, with cobweb instead of  laceweight.


The pattern is here, if you’d like to fall down your own little rabbit hole of neurosis. (Buy bourbon.)  After that, catching up was easy.

A flower – the recipient loves flowers. (This one is from Knitted Embellishments)


A little Christmas tree, complete with beads for ornaments. (Cast on 28 stitches, work garter in the round, decreasing  two stitches at each side every sixth row for the tree, then cast on 8 stitches for the trunk, and work garter for six rows. Cast off, sew up in the important places, and sew on beads. Voila.)


A little Christmas light


and finally, a wee bell. (Because someone will ask, yes, it’s hanging off the spindle of my walking wheel.)


For the bell, by the way, you may ask yourself “Can I buy a little bell to go in this at the dollar store?” The answer is:


No.  You can only buy a hundred.  I’m set for life.

Two more tiny things to go.



113 thoughts on “Gauge is still a thing

  1. I am a terrible person: your knitting is gorgeous, your idea is wonderful and I love it, and your snowflake should have six points. It is a Thing of mine. It does not diminish the adorableness or the cuteness or any of the ness, just the accuracy of your knitted water’s molecular geometry.

    • So glad you said it first, ’cause I don’t think there’s enough miles between me and Toronto to protect me from Stephanie’s wrath! But yeah, the 5-pointed snowflake is making me twitch, despite the exquisite knitting.

    • Thank you so very much, on behalf of all of us trying to come up with a tactful way to say ‘snowflake = 6 points’. I know Stephanie said she has (or had) bourbon, to help her cope, but I was afraid to be the one to tell her. I live too close to Toronto.

          • Thank you. I am always happy to have other people mention the geometry of molecules and hydrogen bonding and how important it is to life and everything else. It reminds me that I am not as much of a geek as I actually am when topics come up that merit these explanations and people look at me as if… well… you know… (knitting chemist: anyone want to knit periodic table mittens?)

          • Ianajoh, have you seen the periodic table of sewing elements? The scientific seamstress has it on her blog and I think you would enjoy. I am a fellow geek, in case you could not tell!

    • I nearly went off on a rant about 5 vs 6 points but then I realized my rant was about stars (the US flag has 5 pointed ones; the star of David has 6 points). Snowflakes totally have 6 points. But then again, snowflakes are made of frozen water, not cobweb lace, so I guess Stephanie wasn’t actually making a snowflake but rather an Advent calendar ornament meant to bring winter-y thoughts to mind.

    • So glad you said that first :-))
      But yes they are fantastic and tho I am not going down the rabbit hole, maybe when I have grandchildren….I love the wee knitted things as a retirement project….

  2. And I thought painting thumbnail sized hedgehogs was a degree of crazy only reached by certain people.

    Well done. I am in awe of your tiny things; and I am sure their recipient will be equally awed. ^^

    • Nope: the recipient will accept all of this as totally normal. Guaranteed. Because really, in said small person’s frame of reference, this IS normal!! =)

  3. The next question from a few of us might be can we buy one or two of your 100 bells? LOL Lovely snowflakes and other items! I have often wondered if it would be possible (or sane) to try to knit something tiny on round wooden toothpicks. One could even use them as dp needles!

    • Yes I have, but not in the round. Try it, it was fun. The sewing thread was dark navy blue, I cast on about 12 stitches and did some freestyle lace stitches. I crocheted the cast off to the cast on when it was long enough to fit around my finger. Next time I would sand the toothpicks better and buff with candle wax because they caught on the thread so I had to make very large stitches. It was a pretty Lacy ring and I added a bead to the centre but it got soggy everytime I washed my hands. The snowflake is so gorgeous I would do it again!

  4. Put the remaining 99 bells in a box with a very secure lid.
    Tape the bag shut first, even.

    There will still be bells in strange and unexpected places for the next 3-5 years. Or more. Though your children are older than mine, so maybe you’ll be safe.

  5. Each time you do one of these, I think about my wee nieces and nephew and how I could do one for each family. That’s only four (at this moment), but then I wonder.. would the kids fight over who gets to take the item out and hang it? Would I get the items right enough to reflect their individual tastes? Could I dare give one a year? No. No, I couldn’t. I would have to knit up four and give them all the same year, and then I smile and enjoy yours. <3

    • I have the same thought, only I have a set of4 yo granddaughters on the east coast and 4yo triplets(1 boy, 2 girls) on the west coast. Do I make 1set for each set or for each? They are 8 months apart

  6. Okay, I’ll admit it. As I read this post, I thought you had gone off the deep end with the tiny snowflake. There’s only so much perfectionism one can have around the holidays without causing an epic meltdown that radiates out to innocent bystanders.

    Then I saw the final product. It’s insanely, perfectly beautiful. The repeated five point motif in the center is awe-inspiring. I admit it, you were totally right. It was worth finding the red zone of the stress-o-meter. Now I must go make one too. Where does one buy 0000 needles and cobweb lace??

  7. “not a moral problem, just one related to accuracy” – that made me laugh out loud! The bourbon is always for after the knitting for me, too, unless it’s with something like a nice chunky-weight scarf. 🙂

  8. Re: bells. Are you sure you checked the bottom of the kitchen junk drawer (and your sewing box and notions box and button box and any other miscellaneous places) before you purchased the bag of bells? I’m pretty sure you have a single bell somewhere in your house…

  9. Those are exquisite – I love the light behind the snow flakes. Magic and more magic. Gads…do you use a magnifying glass. I would have to, one of those cool ones with a light that shines underneath.

    I do have a friend, exquisite strong knitter, who knows many of those words that one strings together … is a perfectionist and owns maaany smalls needles and teeny yarn. I believe I will torture her with these patterns and pix 🙂 Thank you so much.

  10. I was about to suggest tatting a snowflake instead (not sure how much it matters that all the wee bits are knitted).

    Your wee items are gorgeous, and I keep thinking I should join in and knit some for my granddaughter – and then I snap back to reality. 🙂 Maybe some day….

  11. I totally love your blog! What really made me laugh is that I’m going through all the same moves while I’m trying to figure out how to make even ONE sock (!).

  12. I have the 6 snowflakes my mom made in the 1970s.
    she called it “tatting”, old style lace making. Same size as yours. Heirlooms!

  13. Little ornaments with little bells tied to every Christmas present. Don’t we all want a tree with hand made ornaments? Or little bells for everyone, just a sweet present all by themselves.

  14. I love thread snowflakes — knitted, crocheted, whatever. I have dozens of them, and they hang on the tree, in the windows, from the light fixtures — dozens of them.

    After going berserk trying to make the first one, I ordered the rest of them off eBay.

  15. I am barely ready for Thanksgiving (forgot about it altogether) and now I have to catch up and think about Christmas? Really? I am so out of it this year. Not in the least bit ready…just like I ain’t ready for snow and it’s been flaking here for two days. No accumulation but…it left it’s reminder of it’s presence all over the trees. The year is effectively over and 2017 is staring me in the face. AAAAhhhhh!!!!

  16. I bought those same bells today, for a pair of Santa Mice! But they’re too big, so the recipient will have to be satisfied with pom-poms.

  17. Gorgeous little things (even if they do smell like bourbon). As for all those bells….well, Millie is set for cat toys for the rest of her nine lives!

  18. Did something happen on the plane when your returned from your last trip? Were there strange fumes in the cabin?
    I think you’ve gone mad as a hatter, my dear. 0000 DPNs were once torture devices, long ago banned in the UK. The first snowflake wasn’t enough,so you had to knit another? And then it turns out to be a five pointed star and not a snowflake at all? Good heavens. Next time just grab the bourbon and go to bed.

  19. Those snowflakes are beautiful, I have a couple we hang on the tree every year but they’re a smidge bigger. I find myself wondering if cobweb is very fragile though. Can a more experienced knitter chime in?

    • As @Barbara from further on in the thread noted, teeny tiny fine lace is one of the (very few! and I say that as a dedicated crocheter/novice knitter) things that crochet intrinsically does better than knitting.

      Yes, knitted cobweb-weight wool lace does tend to be soft, saggy and fragile (not to mention potentially vulnerable to moths while packed away in the ornaments box in the attic for 11 months of the year). Crocheted fine-thread cotton lace tends to be crisper, much sturdier, better at shape-holding, and more moth-resistant. You can make incredibly fine eensy little lace things with 80- or 100-weight cotton thread and a tiny steel hook.

      But then, of course, they wouldn’t be *knitted* tiny things, so there’s that.

  20. I once managed to buy a mere 20 bells. Predictably, I still have most of them. Five went on a jester hat some years ago, four on a wrist rattle I knit for a friend’s brand-new baby last week (pattern by Wendy Poush on Ravelry), and one turned out not to have the operative bit in the middle. It’s still around here, somewhere. Because I’m bound to find a need for a mute bell before I die, right?

  21. You’ve probably seen this site –
    but the needles page isn’t working. I’ve sent them an email.

    For more insanity, see –
    It has been moved from it’s original location, doesn’t seem to be maintained this any longer, and it pops up this annoying thing telling you to update your player, but you can kill that page and it doesn’t otherwise seem to do any harm.

  22. Stephanie, the snowflake would have been the perfect time to pull out a hook and crochet it. I’m a knitter but there are times when crochet does the job better.
    At any rate, your wee things are lovely. And Advent calendars bring joy year after year after year. Your niece will treasure it.

  23. What a beautiful collection of “Littlies”. They are all adorable. The snowflakes are out of this world. Could you use a spray stiffener on the largest one and use it as a tree or window decoration? They are all beautiful.

  24. These are so adorable, but every time you post them I’m grateful that I can crochet if I ever want to make tiny things. I know how hard small circumference knitting is.

  25. Lovely snowflake. A couple of people have mentioned this already — crochet has it’s uses and snowflakes are one of them. I’m a knitter but I’ve recently learned how to crochet. And it makes flat lacy things way better, faster and easier than knitting. It’s well worth a look-see. The crochet classes fill up at the Purple Purl. And it’s good for the subway because you secure it with just one tiny stitch marker each time.

  26. How about a little scarf….with fringe?
    I love your little things. Great advent things and so clever and imaginative. Sorry it’s driving you crazy. But you will heal!

  27. I adore the tiny things. Thanks for the inspiration. I don’t think I will mange them before the time is right But I think I can for next year. What a great idea. Thank you for sharing.

  28. That being said, it just occurred to me I made myself a mini sweater mini mini ornament last year that was quick and easy and I didn’t need alcohol either, although I probably had some.

  29. Did it ever cross your mind at some point to deliberately shrink something to size???? Maybe fewer words involved. I know the one with the dropped stitch was a lost cause, but just wondering.

    • I think it would have been too fuzzy – felted lace would be pretty dense, and you’d miss all the holes and stitch definition… what makes these so pretty is how open they are… right?

  30. It’s perfect, the snowflake. And now you have two other snowflakes to add to your tree or your windows. Starch will hold them in shape. Carry On.

  31. You amaze me.
    They are all lovely. The wee-est are magical.
    And I thoroughly get having hard liquor nearby-I named one of my projects the Scotch Shawl-swore it would drive me to drink.

  32. Hope I’m not asking a dumb question…what kind of starch did you use? A special product or just the regular stuff…Glide I think it’s called? When did you apply the starch? My thoughts would be to block it and then immediately spray the snot out of it while it’s still wet. A friend diluted white glue and soaked the project before blocking…she covered her mat in parchment.

    Oh sorry…the dumb question turned into three!

  33. I realize you’re probably being a knitting purist about this calendar, but snowflakes are one of the few things I will crochet rather than knit, especially since you start in the middle and can stop when they’re big enough!

  34. Many, many years ago a friend gifted me with a box of crocheted snowflakes, maybe 6 or 8, all different. I have treasured them, and this year will need to get them out and starch the hell out of them since they’ve become slightly curly on the edges. They are a beloved part of our Christmas tree, just as I’m sure yours will be a beloved addition to the advent calendar. Well done! (Although I’d have been hitting the spiced rum…) 😀

  35. Absolutely beautiful gift of love each and every one. I had the first snowflake I’d seen land on my arm two years ago. I had to wait until I was fifty one to have that amazing experience. It was the most exquisite thing I’ve ever seen. It was my first winter here in North Carolina. Snowflakes are a rarity in Western Australia lol

  36. Well, after a rough morning start to Turkey Day, I treated myself to your blog. Perfect remedy!
    By the end of this read I snorted with laughter. 🙂 I’m SO glad you’re set for life with those tiny bells. Or maybe now that you have so many you could sell them INDIVIDUALLY to the rest of the Tiny Knitted Things movement members. Who knows, you could make a killing. 😉
    Happy Thanksgiving from the USA and Happy Knitting!

  37. Well, yes, about the five-pointed-snowflake, but Stephanie has seen and made enough of them to actually know that, huh? It’s artistic license. It’s beautiful, and holy crap 1.25 needles and cobweb lace! Well done!!

  38. My first thought was also “snowflakes have 6 points” followed by ” a crochet snowflake would have been done and dusted in less than 5 minutes – no need for tears, cursing or bourbon” then I remembered Steph’s aversion to crochet and figured it may have got done quicker, but would still have involved tears, cursing and bourbon . . . . .

  39. I love ALL the bitty things. All of them. I’m not sure which one is my favorite. Currently, however, I’m knitting big things. I don’t have the time or patience at the moment for tiny; big is so much easier. I never thought about the difference in ease until I read your blog posts about the bitty things.

  40. I have been making tiny stockings with leftover sock yarn for days now. My husband calls it my “Tiny Sock Nation”. There is something satisfying in knitting tiny things! You have outdone me a thousand fold. I love seeing your tiny knitting!

  41. My friend is a ‘tiny’ knitter. She uses piano wire (surely Joe has something vaguely equivalent) and silk thread. Only suggesting … if you want complete insanity.

  42. That little mouse with the wings and a skirt may be the cutest thing I will see all year.. OMG.. I need to try tiny knitting.

  43. The bell brought back a flood of elementary school memories! My Mom was somehow suckered into being the PTA president every year (3 different schools) and for the Christmas bazaar every year she’d knit dozens upon dozens of the Christmas bells with a few mini-mittens and Santa hats trimmed with fluffy yarn.

  44. …and here I thought knitting socks on size 1 needles was a total pain in the a$$. This takes OCD to a whole new level. Loved this post. Mazel Tov on finally figuring out the snow flake.

  45. I love ALL the bitty things. All of them. I’m not sure which one is my favorite. Currently, however, I’m knitting big things. I don’t have the time or patience at the moment for tiny; big is so much easier. I never thought about the difference in ease until I read your blog posts about the bitty things.

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