flowergirl knits

flowers, cats and knitting

Category: Mittens

Mittens Are the New Socks

Another mitten.

hope these are done before the "End of May"! haha!

Mittens! Suddenly all I want to knit is mittens! Much like socks they are small and portable and are the perfect platform for your current knitting technique obsession. All variety of yarns can be used, from rustic and tweedy to smooth and elegant, sturdy worsteds to finest fingering weight. Except for those sometimes pesky thumbs, they are generally simpler to knit than socks and quicker too.

Of course, socks have not lost their appeal. In my opinion, turning the heel of a sock is one of the great thrills of knitting (turning a cable is a close second), a I-can’t-believe-I-just-did-that-and-I’m-still-not-sure-how-it-works-but-it-does! moment. Mittens just don’t have any moments like that, except for the thrill of a completed project (also always a good moment)

Emboldened by the success of my Fiddleheads, I’ve gone Mitten Crazy, scouring Ravelry for patterns, weighing the qualities of yarn as mitten-knitting candidates, even thinking about buying a “mitten tree” (a contraption that holds mittens individually to dry, usually set next to a fireplace or heater) to display them (I’ve decided that’s going a bit far – at least for now) The excellent Help for Haiti pattern selling program on Ravelry has been a great excuse to pick up some new patterns – End of May by Mandy Powers, Squirrel Sampler by Adrian Bizillia (who also designed the Fiddlehead pattern) and Northman Mittens by David Schulz. I’m also planning on knitting more Fiddleheads as gifts (but only for knit-worthy people!)

Of course, I don’t really need all those mittens, and style snobs frown on them. What I know is that they’re challenging yet fun to knit, that they keep my perpetually cold hands warm and that, as the snow flies (again) and the temperatures drop (again), there’s nothing quite as cozy and satisfying as handknit mittens.

Fabulous-ness Alert!

Brace yourself – fabulous-ness ahead!

Pattern: Fiddlehead Mittens by Adrian Bizilia of Hello Yarn

Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Fiddlehead Mitten Kit, Yellow label yarn, “Jewel” colorway

Notes: I’m so very happy with how these turned out, but most of the credit needs to go to the beautifully written pattern by Adrian Bizilia of Hello Yarn and the gorgeous, hand-dyed yarn from Tanis of Tanis Fiber Arts. It was a match made in heaven; I just was the happy recipient of their talents.

The pattern stretched my skills to learn new techniques (I-cord cast-on, lining a mitten) and practice my stranding. The I-cord cast-on takes a little extra time but the result creates a lovely, tidy edge and also makes picking up stitches for the lining a breeze. Lining a mitten is such a clever yet practical idea, making them super warm and cozy – I plan to line future mittens whether it’s in the pattern or not! And oh yeah, the design itself – who doesn’t love swirls, especially swirls as charming and lovely as these?

The yarn (which is soft and springy) was a bit of a splurge, purchased as a kit from Tanis Fiber Arts, but was worth every penny. People literally gasp when they see the colors. The slight variations of the hand-dyed yarns compliment the design perfectly, never detracting from the fiddleheads. “Jewel” describes these colors perfectly – the contrast colors are vibrant and rich with the main color setting the stage beautifully. Some things are best left to the professionals; color co-ordinating is one of these.

Knitting these was a joy – I will definitely be knitting more Fiddleheads! They became that project you always hope for – a fun knit that you’re always anxious to get back to, a beautiful finished product. I should have made the lining just a teeny bit narrower and my stranding continues to be a work-in-progress, but essentially they’re perfect.

I just may sleep with them under my pillow tonight.

New Year, New Mittens

New mittens for the New Year! I call them Pussywillow Mittens because the grey color and kitten-softness of the yarn and the knot/bobble shapes of the pattern are all a bit reminiscent of pussywillow catkins.

Pattern: Merion Mittens by MintyFresh

Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino, colorway “Silver Fox”

Notes: I’m very pleased with this project. The pattern was detailed and clearly written. The actual knitting was tons of fun and surprisingly quick. There is a lot going on (knots, seed stitch on the palm, through-the-back-loop ribbing, branches-and-knots pattern on the back) which keeps things interesting, but it all works together for a clean and sophisticated design.

I’m not 100% sure that I did all of the decreases correctly (decreasing in seed stitch can be frustrating), and this was the first time I’d done knots like this, so some are smoother than others, but overall I think the mittens turned out looking pretty good. They also fit really well!

The yarn is heavenly – super-soft and a bit silky and easy to work with. As far as my uneducated yarn eye can tell, it is a dead ringer for Malabrigo Worsted. This colorway is mostly solid, but with lots of depth. It does have a slight vinegar odor (which I believe has something to do with setting the dye) but it isn’t overwhelming and disappears with a sudsy bath.

Because they’ve been knit with the same yarn as my Thermis cowl, they make a nice set that “goes together” but isn’t “matchy-matchy”.  And there’s enough yarn leftover from these two projects that I might even attempt to squeeze out a hat.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year – hope it’s full of fun and successful knitting!

Sunshine on a Winter’s Day

Spring officially arrives in a few days but winter is not really paying much attention to the calendar. And although we’ve got lovely temperatures in the 60s today (for a couple days), it’s still very brown and drab outside. Time to knit up some color.

no one else in the house has opposable thumbs, so no modeled shots!

Pattern: Breathe Deep mittens by Kirsten Kapur

Yarn: Malabrigo worsted, colorway “Sauterne”

Notes: This is a great project – surprisingly quick and lots of fun. The pattern is clear and easy to follow and comes with two size options. The Malabrigo makes an especially soft and cozy mitten and that color – wow! Eye-popping! Just the thing for March to get you through those last chilly days until the daffodils arrive.

brave fellow

This is my third finished project for Malabrigo March 2009. I’m going to try to finish one more yet this month, but may not meet the deadline. Inspite of not getting as much down as I’d hoped, I’ve really enjoyed this knitting focus – I’ve discovered lots of patterns that are ideal for Malabrigo and picked up lots of tips for the patterns I’ve been working on. It’s been fun – and very colorful – to see everyone’s progress.

One last bit of sunshine – the first flower to bloom this year in my garden! This is a species crocus, very tiny (about 2 inches tall) in a lovely creamy yellow. Such a brave fellow! We’re very happy to see you!

AmBIGuous

mitten debut in the snow

Pretty, aren’t they? Something about the combination of red-fushia-pink in the contrast yarn that is both feminine and strong, the graceful design of the front of the mitten that reminds me of flowers, the checkerboard pattern on the palms that seems almost three-dimensional – all of this comes together in an exceptional mitten.

One problem. They’re too big, unless you’re an exceptionally long-fingered man who likes red-pink-and-white mittens.  I, however,  don’t know any long-fingered men who like red-pink-and-white mittens. I don’t know any men past the age of oh about eight that like mittens, let along red-pink-and-white ones. So, for better or worse, they’re my mittens.

let me read your palm...

Pattern: NHM #7 from Selbuvotter by Teri Shea

Yarn: Shelridge Farm Soft Touch Ultra, one skein in Natural and one skein in Handpaints #SU0208-032. This color combination/yarn choice is a complete and absolute rip-off of the colors/yarn used by Yarnharlot and micha224 as seen on Ravelry. I did step outside the box and choose a variegated yarn that is red and pink; theirs was red and orange. I’m nothing if not bold.

so pretty!

Notes: Besides being way too long, my knitting technique would not hold up to close scrutiny. I still have a lot of work to do on perfecting stranded knitting – my floats are still too uneven. Aggressive blocking with the steam iron helps somewhat.  I also had a bear of a time with the thumbs, especially when picking up stitches “in pattern”. It became a spiral into frustration until I just wanted to get them done, no matter what.

Teri Shea explains in her book  that many Selbu mittens are long – this allows for the design to remain uninterrupted to its conclusion. She assures us that after a few washes, they’ll shrink lengthwise a bit. I have pretty long fingers – I often have trouble finding comfortable gloves. These mittens are a good inch and a half to two inches too long. Guess I could carry extra change or a spare key in that space…

Startitis

I didn’t use to be this way – I used to have one, at the most two projects (one for knitting on the go, a larger one for knitting at home) on the needles at any one time. Suddenly, I have six – six! – projects all in progress. I blame Ravelry, that temptress, with all those fabulous patterns, many free, constantly on display. I also blame the cold – our sub-zero temps make me dream of blankets and mitts and cowls and sweaters, all of which need to be knit immediately.

Of course, if I don’t stop starting and start finishing (got that?!) I won’t have any of these warm woolies finished until about oh, July when I definitely won’t want to be wearing them! Also, even though I’ve been knitting up a storm, there’s very little to blog about.

that's a lot of blue

Noro Striped Scarf in Noro Silk Garden- Not sure about this color combination but it’s early yet. Love the pattern and the yarn.

Hemlock Ring Blanket in Malabrigo – I’d studied this pattern when it first hit Ravelry and thought I didn’t have the skills/knowledge to attempt it but in fact it’s been lots of fun.

Tang (Rav link) in Malabrigo worsted – Body is completed and first sleeve is about one third done. Learning lots of new skills with this pattern.

NHM #7 Mitten (Rav link) in Shelridge Farm in Soft Touch Ultra – Second mitten is completed through the cuff.

Retro Rib Socks (Rav link) in ShiBui Sock – These have been untouched the longest; they’re to match – you guessed it – Tang.

Saxony Socks (Rav link) in Dream in Color Smooshy – These are my “lunchtime knitting” so they are growing slowly. First sock finished, second sock started.

As far as I know, Startitis isn’t fatal. Each of these projects fills a need – simple socks for short bursts of knitting time, plain stockinette for mindless knitting, complex patterns to challenge. And I’m pretty confident that all of these will get done – I certainly haven’t lost the love for any of them!

almost as good as chocolate!

To complete my “bad knitter” rap sheet, I broke my Yarn Diet this week. This was a planned break – for a variety of reasons I knew I would need a small indulgence as a reward for getting through this past week, something soft and colorful and extravagant but not wallet busting. I came up with this: Dream in Color Smooshy sock yarn in one of their new colors, “Shiny Moss” and a lovely wooden shawl pin. Makes me happy just to look at them. Now I just need to knit a shawl for the pin…..hmmmm, I wonder what’s on Ravelry?

Deep Freeze

We’re in the Deep Freeze here, folks and let me tell you – Mother Nature is not kidding around. The temperature today was around 8 degrees, and tomorrow we’re not supposed to get above zero. And then there’s the wind – bone-chilling, teeth-chattering, breath-stopping wind. Thank goodness for soft, cozy handknits!

with stripes!

The Malabrigo Mitts were a big hit with my co-workers. I knit a second pair  in the same pattern, this time using leftover light blue from the Amanda Hat I knit earlier along with a stripe of purple from the previous pair of mitts. Such a great way to use up leftover bits of yarn!

I also knit up a third pair of mitts (these are all so quick and easy). I am especially pleased with myself that I managed to make the striping on them nearly identical, although I had to cannabalize the skein to make it work.

Pattern: Maine Morning Mitts by Clara Parks

nearly twins!

Yarn: Noro Kureyon, colorway #185

Notes: This is the first time that I’ve ever used Noro. I found it scratchy and stiff to work with, but the colors, the glorious colors! The yarn did soften after a warm bath and with use, and I expect them to continue to soften. They are perfectly comfortable to wear and toasty warm. I have some Noro Silk Garden in the stash that’s earmarked for one of those famous Striped Scarves – can’t wait to watch the colors emerge.

I ran a small, unscientific experiment this afternoon, while shoveling the walks. My hands are always getting cold so earlier this winter I purchased a pair of heavy, insulated gloves. They’re meant for using during outdoor winter activities. I first shoveled my front walks wearing these gloves and by the end (about 20 minutes) my fingers were very cold and tingling. After coming inside and warming them up, I shoveled the back walks and driveway (again about 20 minutes) But this time I wore my glove (thin gloves from Target) and Squirrel and Oak mittens combo. Guess what – the glove/mitten combo kept my hands much warmer for much longer! The power of wool!

pretty!

Those Squirrel and Oak mittens have done a lot of work both last winter and this winter – they desperately need a bath and clean-up. But since I’ve been so remiss on knitting mittens I have no others to wear and  I refuse to give these up long enough for them to dry! I have finally started new mittens – NHM #7 from Selbuvotter by Teri Shea (Rav link) There have been a couple of bumps getting started, but seem to be sailing along now – maybe in a couple of weeks the Squirrel and Oaks can take much-needed break!

Mighty Mitts

I used to not “get” fingerless mitts – when my hands get cold (which is pretty often) I want the whole hand – fingers and all – covered. But then they rearranged our desks at work and now the cold rush of winter weather blasts us every time the door opens (very Dickensian-sounding, isn’t it?) We’ve blocked drafts as best as we could and keep blankets for our legs and laps and wear multiple layers of sweaters and shirts, but our hands need to be free to be able to use the computer. Mighty Mitts to the rescue!

Pattern: 75 Yard Malabrigo Fingerless Mitts by Jeanne Stevenson

Yarn: Malabrigo worsted, colorway  “Purple Mystery”

Notes: This is a great little project in so many ways. It’s very fast – I finished these in under three hours total for both mitts. The pattern is elegantly simple, yet clever details such as the construction of the thumb gusset and changing needle size to create a close-fit at the fingers – make it wearable and fun. I used less than half  a skein of Malabrigo (left over from my Crofter’s Cowl) making it perfect for using up some of that fabulous yarn. And of course, the Malabrigo makes them warm and super soft.

It’s been cold here but now they’re are predicting Arctic cold – as in highs in the single digits during the day – for next week. I may try to churn out a couple more pairs of these quick – I think Mighty Mitts are going to be very popular!

Mitten Futures

In modern farming, many farmers sell their livestock and crops on futures; that is, they sell their product, which won’t be harvested for months, for future delivery. There is a lot of financial risk/reward going on here (my poor grasp of economics doesn’t allow for a more in-depth explanation) and every farmer I’ve ever known follows the futures market avidly.

The yarn for my Bird-in-Hand mittens has arrived and I’m pretty pleased with the colors. The garnet heather (the reds seen on the left) are a dark, rich red; I think they’ll do nicely. The very bright red on the right is a little too bright for BIH, but I think it’ll work great as accent color in some of the Selbuvotter mittens (which are mostly black and white) I bought both fingering weight and sport weight. The Selbuvotter mittens require fingering weight; I’ll have to swatch for the BIH to decide on a weight.

I just read a day or two ago about how the legendary Elizabeth Zimmermann stated her book The Knitters Almanac, that mittens should be knit in April when the need for them isn’t so pressing. That way, the knitter will take their time and not skimp on the thumb length or rush the colorwork. I think this makes excellent sense. However, my mittens are probably more likely going to be August mittens what with all the cotton sweaters that I’ve suddenly lined up to work on (Somehow I’ve gotten it into my head that just because the sleeves are shorter, summer sweaters are quick to knit; they might be quicker, but I just know they’re not going to be quick. And yet it doesn’t stop me….) Mittens are small enough that, even though they are wool, knitting them in the summer should be fine.

So these are my Mitten Futures. I still remember eating lunch in my grandparents big farmhouse kitchen, the radio tuned to the local station and hearing the market report. “Hogs up .12 a pound…..Corn down .05 a bushel……Beans up .07 a bushel”. The market reporter’s voice is very distinctive and like a home team’s baseball announcer, lends personality to the facts. Everything stops for the market report – conversations, noises, even chewing – so that my Grandpa can hear what’s being reported (the same is true for the weather report) In my memories it is perpetually summer and always sunny and there are a thousand interesting things to do. I still stop everything and listen to the weather when it comes on (I am at heart a farmer), but I haven’t heard a market report for a long time (it’s probably on the internet now anyway!) In my head the market report continues in that one-of-a-kind voice, from an old radio in a sunny kitchen filled with homegrown, homemade food – “Cattle up .11 a pound…..Corn up .03 a bushel…..mittens up .15 a pair……Beans down .02 a bushel……”

Failure to Launch

These were going to be Bird in Hand Mittens, a pattern that I fell in love with the minute I saw it. Things were going swimmingly (flyingly?) – the picot edge went in without a hitch, I conquered the braids (lots of futzing and slow going but the results are well worth it), and my colorwork stranding was actually looking good (I’m getting more comfortable with stranding which is one of my knitting goals this year). And I love the color combination (Cascade 220 yarn) – a nice dark red (I call it “cranberry”) which makes the white pop. Sadly, one thing was wrong. Yup, that knitting bugaboo – gauge. It was off. Way off. So off it was on another planet. To make things worse, I was knitting with size 1 needles! With worsted weight yarn! Apparently I’m a freakishly loose knitter; I just couldn’t imagine trying to knit with this yarn on size 0.

However. I have not given up on the pattern. I have ordered more yarn from Knitpicks – buying mitten yarn from Knitpicks was one of my exceptions in my knit-from-my-stash resolution, so I haven’t violated any goals. And the prices are so reasonable, I spent well under $20 even with shipping and handling so the save-money corollary of this resolution is also safe. Unfortunately, they do not have the same color selection as Cascade 220; I choose a straightforward bright red and also a “garnet heather” that I have high hopes for. These should also work for future mittens, such as the Selbuvotter mittens.

In the meantime, sock knitting continues. I’m working on Embossed Leaves socks with a lovely yarn called Mama E’s C*Ber*Fiber. The color is divine – soft spring greens and a tiny bit of pale turquoise blue. After working with dark colors and seeing nothing but white and brown and grey outside, it’s a joy to work with light colors again.