Knitting a gnome

It’s fall in Portland and nights are getting colder. At Binta’s house that means sitting around the wood burning stove, drinking endless mugs of tea, and knitting.

The first two are habits I could already easily fall into. The knitting part posed a bit of a challenge.

Lucky for me, Binta’s oldest sister Mariama is the lead handwork teacher at the Portland Waldorf School. We figured that if she can teach school-age children how to knit, she’d be able to teach me.

Spoiler: We were right!

Mariama gave me the full Waldorf experience. Before starting on our project, we crafted my own knitting needles. We sanded down pieces of a dowel rod to rounded tips, smoothed the dowels with steel wool, polished the needles with beeswax, and finished each one off with an acorn cap.

Handmade knitting needles

Once the needles were done, we started on my first project: a stuffed gnome.

I picked up the pattern and rhythm of knitting quickly and easily—falling into a meditative trance of clicking needles crossing, looping and sliding .

I’ve always been attentive to detail and obsessive about finishing things once I get started. This quality is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to knitting: my stitches are tight and even and meticulous, but I’m prone to keep going way past bedtime to finish that one step (and then probably start and finish the next one, too).

In the zone

Before I knew it, I had the body done.

Gnome body

The arms, head, and feet soon followed. The arms were long rectangles with cinched-in, purled hands that got sewn up into little cylindrical sleeves before being stuffed with carded wool. The head was a wider, cinched-up purled rectangle. And the feet were little purled pillows.

Finally, I made the hat—a red-orange triangle sewn into a cone and finished with a button, ready to perch jauntily on the head.

All the pieces finished and rolling around in the craft basket, it was finally time to assemble. The head was sewn slightly to the front of the chest to form a jutting chin. The arms were attached wing-like to the back, wrapping around from hunched shoulders. The feet were stuck onto the ends of the legs—the seams becoming little toes.

And then came the finishing touch—a beard of wool fleece, complete with a curly hipster-esque mustache.

Hipster gnome 'stache

Now all he needs is a name. . . Clive, perhaps?

Finished gnome



  1. Your gnome is so adorable! It also made me laugh out loud (must have been the beard or just the attitude it projects). My first knitting experiments were nowhere near as fun or productive, which is why I stuck with crochet.

  2. P.S. I can’t believe you made your own knitting needles! so cool…

  3. I love the idea of starting by making your own needles…

  4. Ashley · · Reply

    this is all precious. I’ll have 5. 😉

  5. Knitting is weirdly addicting… I’ve definitely skipped bed in order to knit a few times. Also, I love his mustache! Maybe you should be Clive for Halloween…

    1. I like the way you think…

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