Back in 2009, Anna Hrachovec figured out how to knit a tiny brain. That little project touched off a two-year Tiny Challenge: Anna created a new tiny design every weekday for the first month, and then continued with a new design each week after that. As of today, she’s still challenging herself to come up with new tiny knitting and share it on her blog, Mochimochi Land. After making over 100 tiny designs (and writing patterns for some of them), Anna has learned some things about how a long-term crafty challenge grows new skills and pushes boundaries. She talked with me about the process.
What inspired you to give yourself the original challenge to come up with a new tiny design every weekday? This was in July 2009, and I had just finished writing my first book of knitted toy patterns, Knitting Mochimochi. I was exhausted from that, but in a way, I was also itching for a new project – one that would be about instant gratification instead of the longer-term goals of a book. I thought working with small goals on a daily basis would make me forget about bigger stuff for a while. I really didn’t think it would last beyond one month. (Or that it would turn into another book!) Why do you think a creative challenge like this is beneficial for crafters? Taking on a project that seems borderline crazy and slightly more than you might be capable of is a fantastic way to stretch your brain and learn new skills. Accomplishing the end goal is rewarding, but the problem-solving and experimentation that happens along the way are such valuable things in themselves too. This doesn’t just apply to crafting, of course, but working with your hands and discovering new materials and techniques opens up an enormous number of different paths you can take with your creativity. Have there been any points in the last two years where you felt like giving up? What did you do to keep yourself engaged in the project? I’ve definitely had days when I’ll work on two or more different concepts, and none of them are working out. (To me, it’s a failure if you really can’t tell what the design is supposed to be.) I always go back to sketching any animal, person, or object that I can think of until I see something iconic that would be fun to see in knitted form. I like to remind myself that the entire universe is full of possibilities (and yes, I’ve already knitted the earth, the moon, the sun, and Saturn), so there’s no reason why I can’t find something new to knit. When you look back on your two years’ worth of designs, what are the most important things you’ve learned from the process of making them? I’ve learned that animals and plants are easy to knit, and toasters and mailboxes are more difficult (but can be really exciting when done right). I’ve learned that I have more sticktoitiveness than I had ever thought, and I’ve learned that bamboo needles are extremely durable. (I’ve used the same set of size 1 double-pointed needles throughout.) Do you see yourself continuing with this project? How will you know when it’s time to stop? I don’t exactly see myself continuing forever, but I also don’t see myself quitting when there are so many things that could be knitted in a tiny version. Maybe it will be time to stop when I find a new challenge, or when the Tiny Caveman and Tiny Viking get together and mutiny. Honestly, I have no idea, but I do know that I’m going to be at peace with stopping whenever that happens.