THE RED NOSE GANG - ON TV?
This newsletter explains why I had to find a method of reducing the sizes of The Red Nose Gang Clowns.
In 1996 we got a call from a television production company – would The Red Nose Gang fancy starring in a series of children’s television programmes? Of course this recognition of the Gang's comical talents went straight to their bowler hats and they spent months coming up with daft plots, hilarious storylines and wacky scripts. Such show-offs you wouldn’t believe!
Meanwhile, I was left to sort out the technicalities. The big Clowns weighed in at 48cm [19in] high and at that size they were too unwieldy for stop-frame animation. But since The Gang was already famous, it was essential that they had to appear on television exactly as they are in real life – knitted, colour matched, identical to the originals but smaller.
The television versions would obviously have to move about and eventually require design revisions. However, my concern at that early stage was how to reduce the knitted pieces in order to provide smaller samples for the television executives.
By using 4 ply yarn and 2mm [No 14, USA 0] needles I ascertained that the reduction would be two-thirds of the original sizes. This would result in the big Clowns measuring 32cm [12½in] and Alf and Pals 26cm [10¼in] in height. We got approval for these sizes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find all the matching shades (around thirty) in the 4 ply ranges. So this is how I solved the problem.
Standard double knitting yarn in the UK is composed of three separate strands twisted together. If I could find a quick method of extracting one strand, the two remaining strands would knit up as two-thirds of the original sizes on the smaller needles, the equivalent of 4 ply. And I could match the original colours exactly.
If you have a bit of double knitting yarn handy, here is a demonstration of my method. This will give you the feel of the technique. Cut about a metre or yard length of yarn. Tease out one yarn end to separate one of the strands.
Hold this end of the yarn between the first two fingers and thumb of your left hand.
With your right hand, begin to pull out the single strand. You will notice that the other two strands begin to bunch up behind the fingers and thumb of your left hand.
When the single strand is about 30cm [12in] in length, wrap it round and round your right hand, then begin another pull, close to the fingers and thumb of your left hand as before. Continue until the single strand is pulled right out. Next, smooth out the bunched-up length of 2 ply yarn. I applied the same method to balls of double knitting yarn.
The only difference being, after pulling and winding a length of the 1 ply around my hand several times, I cut off the 1 ply and discarded it. Then the pulling, winding and trimming was repeated.
Eventually, the bunched-up 2 ply became tight. When this happened the bunches were smoothed out. After I had made a few yards of 2 ply, I wound it into a ball and put it in a container, so that it couldn’t unravel.
Sometimes the single strand of yarn broke while pulling. When this happened, I snipped off the frayed end with scissors. Scissor trimming ensured that the cut end could easily be found to start another pull.
This technique may sound laborious but in fact I found it quite relaxing. It can be done while watching television and the process speeds up with practice.
The knitting was somewhat slower on the smaller size needles and care had to be taken not to split the loosely twisted 2 ply yarn. But I soon got used to the 2mm needles, so much so that working on 3mm needles felt like knitting with pokers!
The measurements for stuffing the clowns had to be reduced to two-thirds and pattern shapes such as the shoe soles were reduced to 66% on a photocopier. The two-third’s also applied to the quantities of yarn required for the originals.
The wee clowns are shown beside the original Young Alf in the photograph. I think you will agree that there is something quite endearing about the little ones. I enjoyed knitting them so much that I’ve reduced several other designs just for fun.
Now I don’t imagine that you will want to go to the trouble of reducing miles and miles of yarn to knit the little clowns. But there are lots of other small designs in our booklets which don’t require so many colours and can be knitted in 4 ply. The garter stitch strip designs in Jiffyknits are all perfect for miniaturising. The originals are knitted on 4mm [No 8, USA 5] needles, so the reduction is a bit more than two-thirds. I knitted miniature mummies and they are really cute.
What happened to the Red Nose Gang’s TV debut? They are still waiting in the wings, but don’t really mind. After all, they have been entertaining their audience of millions for years!
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