Jill and I recently started designing fiber-inspired window displays for our local yarn shop, Nine Rubies, in downtown San Mateo, California. Here is our previous knitted window display, with pom-pom Christmas tree and knit wrapping paper. Saloni, the shop owner, challenged us to a 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics window display to enliven the remainder of what little winter we get in California. As always, the challenge is to design an entirely knit window display–or at least entirely knit, crochet, and fiber-filled. Since you guys loved seeing our process in the Squid Tree post, I’ll show you a little here too. We love how it turned out!
The knit window displays at Lion Brand Yarn’s flagship Manhattan store always inspire Jill and I. We view them as a dare, goading us to rival or even top them. Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochi Land and the Happy Knits LYS in Portland, Oregon also inspire us with their elaborate knit window displays. You can see the Lion Brand window displays here, the Mochimochi knit window display here, and Happy Knits’ Mario Brothers knit window display here.
A cute animal performing in an Olympic sport was a must, and for greatest impact we either needed huge animals or tons of animals. Jill had just the thing from her winning submission to the Mochimochi Photo Contest: the giant Squidpocalypse from Anna’s new book, Huge and Huggable Mochimochi. One of our efficiency secrets is to repurpose things we’ve already made.
Olympic rings were a must, but as we know from the “Ravelympics” controversy, saber-toothed lawyers fiercely protect those Olympic trademarks. In the spirit of the Olympic rings and winter, we scoured Ravelry’s crochet snowflakes for a ring-like free crochet snowflake pattern and hooked up huge ones.
We had to pick a sport. Ski jumping is clearly adorable, but I know from the knit wrapping paper that making that slope would be a bitch. The other stand-out sport is ice skating… but ice dancing would be so much cuter. And all we’d need is a second 40-hour squid. Oh geez, here we go again making more work for ourselves, but who cares? So what! It will be so cute. We used Lion Brand’s Vanna’s Choice for the squid in Dark Grey Heather, Linen, Soft Pink, and Goldfish.
As a last detail we needed to bring home the gold from Russia. Another secret of our success is that the devil is in the details.
Let the games begin! Here’s a rundown of our process to inspire you to fill all the windows everywhere with knit and crochet wonder.
Your customer and collaborators always need a visual of what you plan to do to win them over, and evidence that you can follow through. Make prototypes to try different materials and sizes to really nail it.
Think outside the (cardboard) box
Temporary installations require creative use of cheap materials.
An ounce of prep is worth a pound of cure
Swatch swatch swatch. It’s the only way to calculate how much yarn to buy, how many stitches to cast on, and how many rows to knit. Stretch your swatch to the tension you plan to use it in your install before measuring. We knit the ice rink on a hand-operated Ultimate Sweater Machine with Lion Brand Wool-Ease in white multi, which sparkles just like fresh snow.
Make it work
You already have a laundry list of great tools at your disposal. A staple gun, glue gun, hole punch, cardboard, dowels, starch, pins and needles, felt, pens, thread, wire, and fishing line are all your friends.
Every craft and yarn has its place
No need to be a yarn and needlecraft snob when you can be a yarn and needlecraft whore! Cheap yarn is best for temporary installations, unless you want to feature a special yarn. Sculptural and lacy items are easier to crochet. Flat items look better knit. Large flat items and long i-cords are easier to machine knit. We use any of our four hand-operated knitting machines: an Embellish-Knit! Machine ($15) for i-cord, an Ultimate Sweater Machine ($150) for flat items with worsted weight yarn, an Addi Express knitting machine ($200) for flat or circular items with worsted weight, or a vintage Elna similar to a Brother Knitting Machine ($400) for flat single- or double-stranded items with sport weight yarn.
Can’t find it? Design it!
Jill didn’t like any of the ice skate baby bootie patterns she tried, so she made one up with the details she was looking for. I couldn’t find a gold medal pattern I liked or a sufficiently simple nesting doll pattern, so I made them up. We used stash wool and acrylics for the details, including Caron Simply Soft for the skate blades and Lion Brand’s Vanna’s Glamour to put a little sparkle in the gold medal.
If you your work isn’t fun for you, it won’t be fun for anyone else.
Maximize how photogenic your work is at every step of the process, from sketching to selecting colors to the weather and time of day when you photograph. We continue to learn–we thought a grey squid would contrast nicely with pink one, but the details got lost both in photos and in person at certain times of day. Bright colors are best. Also, consider a photography class, book, or club. Jill and I joined a photography club with educational and competition components to push us to improve.
So many people stopped in their tracks to look and laugh at the silly ice dancing squid. Kids noticed the Olympic moment faster than adults, which is a compliment as far as we’re concerned. It’s also a good sign that kids’ hand prints cover the window. High five, kids! We hope it inspires you to carry the torch for knitting and crochet as one of your own hobbies.
If you’re in Northern California over the next month or so, come see the knit window display in person at Nine Rubies at 28 E 3rd Ave in San Mateo.
If you want to see more of our process follow us on Instagram at knitsforlife and thedappertoad or on Facebook and Twitter. I’m always stalking the #knitting and #crochet hashtags, so be sure to share your own work to inspire the rest of us!
Lorna & Jill