Prototype

One of the designs that’s been kicking around my head for some time is a pair of convertible mittens in fingering weight yarn so that they’re not super warm and so that your fingers have maximum dexterity. I know I want them to be textured, but I can’t decide if I want to do cables or a simple knit purl design. While I still have to figure out the details of the design, I think I’ve got the gauge and sizing figured out.

I love convertible mittens. You get the best of both worlds–the warmth of mittens, the dexterity of gloves–and free fingers for texting and turning doorknobs. I also put a “hood” on the thumb so that when you are in mitten mode you get maximum warmness.
I sort of used Ann Budd’s glove template from the Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, but made lots of mods (obviously.) Now that I’ve got the basic shape down, I can start playing with finding the perfect texture.
The yarn I used was Knit Picks Stroll in colorway Saphire Heather. It took just barely more than a single ball. I ran out of my first ball just as I was finishing up the hood of the second glove. I had to use maybe 20 yards from the second ball.
I still need to figure out what texture I’m going to use and then who knows when I’ll have time to write it up… I guess what I’m trying to say is there is no time horizon for the pattern release yet, but I’m one step closer now.

Countess Mitts XL

Christmas 2012 I wanted to knit a gift for the woman who always hosts our family for dinner and makes amazing delicious food and really just goes all out. Don’t believe me? This is how she sets the table:


Unfortunately, and I say this with love, she has giant hands for a woman. The mitts I made were way too small. They were knit in fingering weight yarn on size 1.5 needles and they were lovely (see them here) but way too small.
Christmas 2013 I was determined to get it right. I used the same pattern and the same stitch counts, but used a worsted weight yarn and size 6 needles. They came out just right.
The pattern is Countess Mitts by Colleen Powley and I got it in a kit with the yarn to make the original pair of mitts, though it looks like you can also download it separately on Ravelry. These are very big on me, but they fit the recipient perfectly. They look a bit less delicate than the original, but I think it’s more fitting to her style anyway.
The yarn is Knit Picks Sugarbunny in colorway Peacock. It’s 80% merino and 20% angora so it has a lovely little halo and the mitts are incredibly soft. They advertise it as a worsted weight but I would say it’s a bit lighter than traditional. I’m guessing they suggest knitting it at a worsted gauge to give the angora halo room between the stitches to bloom.
I didn’t get much knit this month because 1) it’s been hot, and 2) I moved again and my yarn was all packed. I’m all unpacked now (except I can’t find my Kindle and it’s making me crazy!) and I’ve really been feeling the knitting bug lately. I’ve got a lot of projects that went on hold when I went through my knitting funk, and I’ve been pulling them all out and remembering why I cast them on and all the good things about them and wondering why I ever put them down. Time for a good knit I think.

Dashing

This knitting year doesn’t seen to be off to any better of a start than last year. It’s already May and I’ve completed 2 projects so far this year. Granted, one was a blanket, but that is still a woefully small number of projects for me. Sometimes I’m able to knit on the trail while I commute, but often in the morning I’m too exhausted and at the end of the day the train is packed and I have to stand… lame-o!

Luckily (?) I was terrible at blogging last year (not that I’ve done great this year…) so I still have a back log of projects from last year that you all haven’t seen yet. Almost a year ago now, I finished a pair of fingerless mitts for my best friend Bob. Because, you know, July is when you have a serious need for gloves… See.


They are Dashing by Cheryl Niamath from the Spring 2007 Knitty. I’ve intended to make them since the pattern was published but I never really had a push to cast it on. Until 6 years later when Bob said something like “I think those gloves that let you still use your fingers are cool” and WHAMO time for some knitting.

I made a few adjustments to the pattern. I only knit 10 rounds before the first cable and 9 rounds after the last cable to shorten them a bit. Also, I used the Jenny’s Stretchy Bind Off around the fingers and thumb to make sure it would not be too tight. Other than  that I followed the pattern as written.
I used the absolutely amazing Dream in Color Classy with Cashmere to knit these. The colorway is Grey Tabby. It is so fantastically soft. It’s also spun nice and tight so I don’t think it will pill much even though it’s a merino-cashmere blend. In my mind that makes it a pretty heavenly yarn.
While they didn’t get much use in July, I did see them in the wild several times over the winter. I suppose I can’t rule out that they were being worn for my benefit, but it seemed genuine. Every knitter knows that’s a win.

Braids

When we were trying to decide on the winter class schedule at the shop, I pitched a series of classes that we are calling the “Heritage Series.” Each class focuses on an design element or traditional knitting style from various regions around the globe. Think Irish cables, Estonian lace, Andean colored hats, Norwegian Selbu styles, Swedish bohus designs. One of the coolest things about it is that there are thousands of potential class topics.

My first class in the series is coming up this Thursday, and it is going to focus on knitting traditional Latvian braids. The project for the class is Simple Braided Mitts by Nicole Clark. Mine look like this:

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The braid is cleverly constructed by twisting your yarns around each other on the outside (right side) of your work. I love that they look nothing like “normal” knitting. I have been wearing them around the shop a lot and get tons of people asking me if I braided it and sewed it on afterward.
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I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in colorways 340002 and 340039 (I hate it when colors don’t have actual names.) The yarn is a nice blend of 55% wool, 33% microfiber, and 12% cashmere. If you dislike working with splitty yarns, this is not the yarn for you. It will split if you don’t watch it vigilantly. I didn’t mind it, but I think I have a very high tolerance. I also work with Spud and Chloe Fine a lot which is frequently accused of being splitty.
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My mitts have fuzzed up a bit with the constant wear they have been getting lately, but nothing that I would call actual “pilling.” I made the size small, which in hindsight was a mistake. The sizes are listed as S, M, L. I have very small hands for a woman, so I made the small. I think in reality the sizes are more in line with “Child, Woman, Man.” When I bound off, the entire mitt fit in the palm of my hand. Thankfully I had used a ver stretchy cast on and bind off, and a VERY aggressive blocking rendered them wearable.
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I did find a few math errors in the pattern. It’s a free pattern and the errors were easy to spot, so I am forgiving. There are incorrect numbers in the pattern concerning the thumb. If you do as instructed to increase the thumb gusset, then all of the numbers in the “Set Thumb Aside” section should be increased by one: they should be 6 (7, 8). All of the instructions for the thumb should have the same changes. The final number of stitches for your thumb will be 14 (16, 18).

Overall, a very enjoyable knit. It only took me about 3 evenings to whip these puppies up and I have enough yarn left over to make a second pair. (I won’t, because I don’t like making the same pattern twice, but I could.) If you’re in the Portland/Beaverton area and want to learn how to make Latvian braids, there are still a few spots in the class

 

Putting things in order

Round about the first of year I’m always in a mood to put everything I can in order. To that end, I’ve been running errands all day, doing laundry, cleaning, organizing, I even managed to go for a jog, though it was damn cold.

I’m feeling like things are pretty well in order to kick off 2013. How long they will stay that way… no one can say.

In the spirit of clearing the books, I went through and re-updated my Ravelry stash. I like to keep it cataloged so that I can’t delude myself. It doesn’t stop me from buying more, but I like to keep track of what I’ve got. Turns out, it’s a lot. I’m not going to say “too much” because I’d like to believe there’s no such thing. But it’s a lot. 191,682.2 yards according to Ravelry. A lot.

I’m not one for making resolutions. Never keep them. Plus, I think people get in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions and it sort of allows them to think that the only time they have to try to change is at the new year, and if it doesn’t work they can wait till the next year to try again. But I will say this, it would be pretty great if I could get through 2013 without adding any yardage to the stash. That doesn’t mean no buying, just keep buying in check as compared to what’s being used. Seems reasonable?

Now to continue my Christmas wrap up.

I wanted to make a hostess gift for the woman who always hosts my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. She is an amazing cook and thinks nothing of having 20 people show up at her house for dinner. These are what I came up with.

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They are the Countess Mitts from Blue Sky Alpaca. They are sold in these adorable little kits. You get two balls of heavenly soft Royal Alpaca, the pattern, and a cute little box. I got my kit in the colorway Vermillion. It’s a lovely dusty antique rose color. These pictures actually show it really accurately.
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Sadly, as it turns out, Kim has rather above-average sized hands for a woman and they were too small for her. I promised to remake them in a bigger size, so I’ll be casting on a second pair soon. Luckily they go really fast. First project of the new year maybe?
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Freja

I had been eyeing the Freja mittens by Emmy Petersson ever since they were released in the Winter 2011 Knitty. When I decided to teach a stranded knitting class at For Yarn’s Sake, I chose it as one of the patterns my students could pick from. Naturally, I had to make up a sample.

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Notice how I’m strategically hiding my other hand? That’s because I only made the one mitten. It’s going to live at the shop and the sad truth is that if we make pairs of things they tend to get stolen. (Let me know if you want to hear my some-people-are-jerks rant.) Single mittens, socks, slippers, etc. have a much longer shelf life.
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The yarn is Spud & Chloe Fine 80% wool 20% silk in colorways anemone and lipstick. If you’re thinking you’ve maybe heard me mention the yarn before it’s because you have. I love it. It’s soft, got great sheen, comes in some amazing solid colors, and is hands down the sturdiest fingering weight yarn I’ve come across yet.
This single mitten whipped up in about 6 days of off and on work. If I had been dedicated I could have easily finished the pair in one week.
I’m trying to put some love into a lace project that has been languishing on my needles for far too long. Hopefully I will be able to show it to you soon.  In the meantime I have several more one-offs for the shop I can show you to make it look like I’m being productive.

Douglas Mittens

When it comes to knitting I have a serious “Ooooo Shiny” problem. By which I mean I a easily distracted from my current projects by the newest coolest thing leading me to drop everything currently in progress to start something new.

Such was the fate of my Douglass Mittens by emilyelizabeth. I cast them on in March when I had a strong urge for some color work. Then something (I’m not sure what) distracted me for about 5 months. When I finally got back to them, they only took about 2 weeks to finish. I have no idea why I abandon things that are so close to completion. (See the above mentioned “oooo shiny” problem.) Have a look.

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I love them! I knit them in an aran weight yarn on size 5 needles as called for in the pattern and they came out too big for me. (This is not surprising because I have VERY small hands.) They fit my mother perfectly and she has already claimed them as her birthday present this December.
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The pattern is well written and easy to follow. It even comes with directions for how to knit a lining for your mittens. I think in theory linings are a great idea because they protect your colorwork strands from getting pulled and allow you to knit the colorwork in a “hearty” yarn like a traditional shetland but still have super soft comfy mittens by picking a soft yarn for the lining. That being said, I didn’t do the lining. It’s just not cold enough in Oregon to need mittens that warm.
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I used Madeline Tosh Vintage 100% Superwash Merino in colorways Antique Lace and Cloak. Even though the yarn is merino, it’s spun very tightly, so it shouldn’t have the problems with fuzzing and pilling that many merino yarns have. I have yet to meet a Madeline Tosh yarn that I didn’t love, and this is no exception.
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I find colorwork to be very addicting, and easily get into the “just one more row” mindset. In fact, I think I will cast on another pair of mittens this week. More on that later.

Douglas Mittens

For the last few weeks at knit night I’ve been working on a pair of Douglas Mittens by emilyelizabeth.  They are fun and since they are done in worsted weight they are super fast.  I’m already this far after just a few hours of work.

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They’re sized pretty big, so if you have small hands I’d suggest going down to a DK weight and a smaller needle.  These are for my dad… or maybe my uncle… some man I know with big hands anyway… they’ll sit in the Christmas box until December 20th when I finally will decide who gets them.  That’s how I roll.
I’m loving the big fat worsted weight colorwork stitches.  Tami’s blog has more great WIPs.

Most of a mitt

My Winter Twilight Mitts have been trucking along nicely.  All that is missing from the first one is the ribbing at the top of the thumb.

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My Christmas gift to myself this year was an iPad.  One of the best apps I’ve found so far is GoodReader.  It is a PFD reader and editor and it is great for knitting patterns.  I can “mark up” a PDF of a pattern, highlight the size I’m making, or follow along in my chart.  I can draw a line on the chart and move it as needed when I complete a row.  It’s been so helpful for keeping my place as I pick up and put down this project.
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Since I can’t really watch TV while I work on these, I’ve been taking them to knit-chat or working on them while listening to an audio book.  I just finished listening to the Hunger Games and loved it.  It’s very similar to Battle Royale (which I also loved) plot-wise–bunch of kids forced to fight to the death by a ruthless government.  If you don’t like violence/are squeamish I’d advise against picking this one up.  Otherwise it’s totally enthralling from about 20 minutes (couldn’t tell you in pages) onward.  I really want to start the next one, but it’s only available in hardcover (don’t like buying hardcover books) and I don’t get my next audible credit until the 22nd.  Resisting the urge to just buy it anyway.  I got the book per a recommendation on the Yarn Harlot’s blog then 2 days later learned they are making it into a movie.  I can’t wait to see how true they stay to the book.  They did a great job with Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so I have a bit of faith in Hollywood right now.

Jumping around

I feel a mad case of startitis brewing.  The burning desire to cast on every wonderful pattern in sight until I completely run out of knitting needles.  (Hint: I have a ton of knitting needles.)  I think I start to feel this way when all of my projects feel like they are “long term” projects (meaning more than one week to complete.)  When I start to feel like there is no end in sight, my logical (totally and completely logical, don’t laugh) reaction is to cast on another project that will be so fun and enjoyable that I will speed to the end and feel the sweet sweet gratification of having a finished object.

So far, I’ve been resisting the urge and haven’t cast on anything new since the new year.  To satisfy my lack of ability to focus on any one project, I’ve been jumping around putting a little bit of attention into one or two of my WIPs each day.  On the one hand, this satisfies my desire to constantly be working on something different, on the other hand, it also ensures that I continue to feel like “nothing will ever get done” which tends to bring on startitis in the first place.
Today, the project du jure was a fingreless mitt I’ve been working on, which will (hopefully) be part of a pair someday.
So far these have done a pretty good job of keeping me interested–they have that colorwork “just one more row” magic–but I suspect that as soon as it comes time to make the second one, working the pattern a second time will seem less charming.  I will resist casting one 15 new things.  I will!