Archives for posts with tag: mittens

Pattern: Herringbone Mittens with Poms (PDF link) by Bloomington knitting friend Elliphantom
Yarn Used: Outer shell: Briggs and Little Heritage in 75 Mulberry; Briggs and Little Regal in 23 Forest Brown
Lining: Fonty Coeur d’Angora in 207 Royal; Plymouth Baby Alpaca Brush in 1000 Vanilla
Needles used: US 6 (4.0 mm) for most of mitten, and US 4 (3.5 mm) for ribbing. Knit Picks Options metal, magic loop
Date started: December 18, 2011 for outer shell; January 12, 2012 for linings
Date completed: December 26, 2011 for outer shell; January 21, 2012 for linings
Mods/Notes: I made a pair of these a couple of years ago for a mitten swap, during my short-lived membership in the Madison Knitters’ Guild (I just never found myself inclined to go to the meetings, so why pay the dues?) I liked the results a lot and bought this yarn in 2009 as well, at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool, with the intention of making a pair for myself, but somehow never got around to doing it until this year.

I picked out the skeins of rough, rustic Briggs and Little from a big basket after comparing all the color combos, and was so involved in the color selection process that I somehow didn’t notice they were two different yarns, of two different weights, until after I got home. They seemed to work just fine together regardless.

I made the mittens one at a time, on Magic Loop, without much of a break between finishing one and starting the other, but my gauge varied hugely on the two mittens, so the first one hugged my hand pretty snugly, and the second was far roomier. I tried to fix this by blocking mitten #1 as severely as I could, but unfortunately, they’re still noticeably different in size. Oh well.

We had a very warm winter here; it was 50 degrees and snowless well into January, so I wore the mittens as-is for a while. On January 12, we had a first snowfall and I decided I might need to make them a little warmer. The cashmere-lined Bodhi mittens I made last year made me a firm believer in the power of a good mitten lining, so I dug out a couple of skeins of yarn that have been sitting around for ages and ages: a fluffy royal blue angora (I thought it was 100%, but it’s only 80%) and some scraps of a somewhat thicker brushed baby alpaca in white.

I was hoping the angora would last through both linings, but I ended up having to finish the second lining (cuff and thumb) with the alpaca.

I made the linings top-down for kicks:
CO 18 sts on 6s with the Turkish cast-on. Since I was using Magic Loop, I divided the stitches evenly between the two needles, 9 sts per needle.
Knitting in the round, increase at each end of both needles every round until there are 50 sts on the needles.
Continue in the round until the mitten reaches the thumb crotch.
CO 21 sts with waste yarn and backwards loop cast-on; knit onto these with the main yarn and continue working in the round, decreasing 2 sts at the center of the thumb every other row for the thumb gusset until all 21 thumb sts are gone and you’ve reached the base of the wrist.
Switch to size 4 needles and work one round as *k3, k2tog* around.
Work in 1×1 rib until cuff length matches outer cuff. BO loosely.
Unpick the waste yarn and put the thumb sts onto your needles. Join yarn, leaving a long tail, and knit in the round until about 1/4 inch from the tip of the thumb. K2tog around. Knit one more round, then cut yarn and pull through remaining sts.

Weave in ends, turn lining inside out (so the wrong sides of lining and mitten face each other), and stuff the lining inside the mitten shell. I joined the two by threading a needle with the purple yarn and sewing along the edge of the cuff with loose running stitch.

Forgive the pilliness of the mittens in these photos–they’ve been worn and dragged around in my purse for several weeks.

Things I’d change: if I’d planned for the linings, I’d probably have knit these on 7s for a roomier fit (they are very tight with the linings inside) and knit them two at a time for a consistent gauge. I’d also ideally have one consistent yarn for the linings; the Baby Alpaca Brush felt similar in the skein, but creates a much thicker fabric than the angora yarn. Classic Elite Fresco has a nice gentle halo, both alpaca and angora, and might make a nice alternative. Or, if they’re not too rich for your blood, Filatura di Crosa Superior brushed cashmere for a lightweight lining or Great Northern Yarns Mink Cashmere for a fuller-bodied alternative.

I had been saving that angora for “something special”, feeling like I shouldn’t waste it on something invisible like mitten linings, but decided “what’s more special than something functional that I’ll enjoy next to my skin every day for months?” It feels so lovely to slip on a pair of toasty warm, kitteny-soft mittens when it’s freezing outside.

You know, though, angora may be wonderful and fluffy and warm, but Jesus, it’s like the asbestos of knitting*. The fluff floats up EVERYWHERE. Up your nose, in your eyes, all over your clothes, and it’s near-impossible to get it all off. I wish there was some kind of knitting equivalent of those containment gloveboxes they use for handling radioactive materials, but for angora.

*Glitter is the angora of papercrafts.

Those guys from Firefly would have looked a lot less sinister if they had worn blue mittens instead of gloves. Like these.


Pattern: Bodhi Mittens, from RiverPoet Designs

Size made: Medium, knit to the length suggested for Small

Yarn used: Malabrigo Merino Worsted in Azul Profundo for the outer mitten and inner cuff (every last bit of one skein); Plymouth Royal Cashmere DK in Sage for the lining, about 90 yards/30 grams (I have about 20 grams left). I bought the Malabrigo at Stitches West in February and the cashmere, from DBNY, has been sitting in my stash for years now, periodically being swatched and frogged–somehow I just never found an application that seemed right for it until now. I think it’s a cabled yarn (multiple two-plies plied together) so it is a bit ropier-looking than you might expect 100% cashmere to be.

Needles used: US size 6/4.0 mm (magic loop for the main mitten, magic loop two at a time for the linings, DPNs for the thumbs of both shell and lining)

Date started: First mitten: June 6. Second mitten: June 16. Linings: June 18.

Date completed: First mitten: June 8. Second mitten: June 18. Linings: June 21.

Mods/Notes: I’ve been admiring this pattern for a bit; it’s not too well known, I think, but I saw a few FOs and KALs going on in the Malabrigo Junkies group, and I had wanted to cast on for these during Malabrigo March but just felt like I couldn’t commit to another WIP at the time. I brought the pattern and yarn with me when I went to Boston, and completed the first mitten there in just a couple of evenings. Worsted weight, non-stranded mittens are so gloriously fast!

I cast on for the size Medium (using a tubular CO) but realized as I neared completion on the hand that I would only need to knit it to the length specified for Small. I probably should have chosen the size Small to knit to begin with, in fact, because the fit was a bit roomy. The underside of the cuff is knit in seed stitch, which looks really sharp but obviously doesn’t draw in at all. So the wrist was outright baggy, and the rest of the hand was a little looser than I wanted.

To remedy this, and counteract the relatively thin and holey single-stranded fabric, I decided to knit linings for the mittens. I thought for a while about how to do it, and I think I got it almost right. I decided to use the rest of the Malabrigo to knit ribbed cuffs for the lining–it seemed perfect to have a combination of ribbing to draw it in tight against my skin, and the thicker worsted weight yarn to fill in as much of the empty space as possible. I was also worried that a) the cashmere would show if I used it to knit the cuff, b) it wouldn’t have as much elasticity as the merino, so the ribbing would sag, and c) it wouldn’t have as much body as the merino, so cold air would get up into the mitten.

I picked up stitches around the wrist edge, right side facing, at a 1 to 1 ratio (destroying my lovely tubular cast-on in the process). This is the only thing I think I might have done differently–if I’d planned ahead I would have done a provisional CO, and otherwise I might have picked up with the WS facing to create a purl ridge on the outside for a turning row, so the cuff could be folded in with a nice sharp fold.



I knit in 1×1 rib until I ran out of the Malabrigo. Serendipitously, this took me exactly to the end of the wrist area/beginning of the palm. I switched to the DK weight cashmere, which I chose because the finished fabric would be thinner and presumably would allow enough ease inside the mitten (particularly the thumb) for me to bend my fingers. Using the same needles, I knit in stockinette (RS facing), following the main pattern exactly for stitch and row counts but omitting the patterning on the back of the hand. After I finished the thumbs, and wove in the ends (not much weaving required–long tails can be hidden between the lining and the shell of the mitten) the lining could be turned inside out and pushed up inside the main mitten.

The mittens are extremely thick, warm, and cozy now. I was concerned at first about the little holes formed at the base of each blossom motif–holes in a mitten are no good for a Wisconsin winter!–but the linings will counteract those nicely. It will feel so luxurious to have these secret cashmere linings and gloriously warm hands to look forward to come winter. I love the way the mittens look, too–the flowery bodhi tree motif on the back of the hands is very pretty.

The pattern was nice to work with–I had no issues with it. It could have been condensed (I didn’t read the pages with the visual explanation of the mitten setup, but I can see how they would be helpful; and the left and right mitten instructions were spelled out line by line, instead of having one set of instructions with just the thumb placement reversed).

If I made these again, I would just go with a normal ribbed cuff instead of the seed stitch, even if I were doing the lining again. Seed stitch is pretty, but it looks really poochy in the wrist area.

The instructions provide a couple of methods for working the twist stitches–I used the k2tog variations (i.e. no cable needle).

Have you ever lined mittens? Do you have any tips for sizing, yarn selection, etc.? The sizing on these was easy since the gauge was the same between the shell and lining, but I’ve always been unsure about how to deal with it for stranded mittens. (Easy answer… gauge swatch for the lining in stockinette… but what a pain in the ass.) I’ve read that angora makes a fantastic lining, and I was thinking of experimenting with Kidsilk Haze or a KSH-type light and fuzzy yarn for a low-bulk lining that would still trap a lot of warm air.

Sooo my trip planning is going kind of poorly. One of the airlines I have tickets with (Siem Reap Airways) got blacklisted by the EU for inadequate safety standards and suspended all flights about 6 days after I bought the tickets. Supposedly we can still fly with their parent carrier (but is that any better?) And then tonight, at Stitch ‘n’ Bitch, I broke my glasses! The earpiece just snapped right off. We’re leaving on Monday and tomorrow and Friday we’re supposed to get 6-12 inches of snow, so I’m not sure I want to venture out to the optometrist until the weekend. Not sure what to do about this, and I can’t find my spares. For the moment, I’m supergluing the broken pair back together. Things are not going well!

But I do have something knitting-related that I’m happy about, at least. More than one thing, but I don’t know how many of them I’ll get a chance to write up before I go.

Some background: my absolute favorite mittens are my Bird in Hand mittens (pattern available here.) The only problem is that when it gets down to below zero, like it was here in Madison the other day,

stranded worsted weight knit at a fingering weight gauge, while plenty warm, just isn’t quite warm enough. I wanted a pair of thrummed mittens like the ones I made Rahul (see the guts? I didn’t have a picture of them last time)

but I also wanted to wear my favorite mittens.

So I decided to retrofit my mitts with afterthought thrums!

They are invisible from the outside (aside from the mitten looking a little puffy, and fitting tighter than it used to) and super warm.

Here’s how to do it:
Gather your supplies:

  • one pair of stranded mittens, preferably a pair with more ease in them than mine have,
  • a couple of ounces of nice woolly roving, matching or not–mine is indigo and osage-dyed Corriedale from Handspun by Stefania, and really I should have used the random bright pink and orange roving I have lying around that I’ll never make anything with, rather than the expensive natural-dyed stuff, but I couldn’t resist the matching green. Whatever color you pick, it won’t show. The important thing is that the fibers should be at least a couple of inches long, and have some crimp, so they’ll stay in the mitten. There was a thread on Ravelry about thrummed mittens where someone suggested cashmere thrums. This is a bad idea, because down fibers are so short, they’ll never stay in place. You want something where you can pull off a decent-sized lock.
  • a crochet hook of a decent size (I don’t know much about crochet hook sizing, but I think I used a G hook. Something a reasonable size for worsted-weight yarn)

Turn the mitten inside out.

Pull off a piece of wool about the width of your finger and a few inches long. This is your thrum.

Stick your crochet hook under a couple of floats. Do not go through the main part of the knitted fabric, just under the floats.

Fold the thrum in half and loop the middle over the crochet hook (sorry, this is a little blurry, but you get the idea).

Use the crochet hook to pull the center of the thrum under the floats.

Now go over the floats with the crochet hook and grab the tail ends of the thrum with it…

And pull these through the loop formed by the folded middle of the thrum.

Voila, a thrum attached invisibly to the inside of the mitten, after the fact!

Continue to attach thrums evenly across the back of the fabric so you have a nice woolly layer. I have a short attention span and a lot of Christmas knitting to do, so my mittens are still pretty much in the partially-thrummed state you see below, but it has really improved their insulating powers. (For one mitt. I have part of one mitt thrummed. But on Monday I will be in a place where it’s 80 degrees out, so I’m not in a huge hurry to get this done.)

Pretty awesome, right?

I hope this trick is useful to my fellow knitters in similarly fiercely cold climates!

Look, I made thrummed mittens! (Ravelry page.) And the picture is really terrible because I can’t take good pictures at night. I’ll have to try and wrest the mittens back for a proper photoshoot at some point.

If you’re not familiar with thrummed mittens, they are mittens with little tufts of wool (thrums, originally bits of yarn left over from weaving, but here referring to little bits of unspun roving) knit into the fabric to make a warm, fleecy layer on the inside that keeps the wearer extra-super-duper warm. The Yarn Harlot’s Thrum FAQ has more info and a great photo of an inside-out thrummed mitten. The mittens I made didn’t look nearly as fluffy and nice on the inside, unfortunately.

Pattern: Basic Mitten Pattern from The Knitter’s Book of Patterns, by Ann Budd

Size made: Used the cast-on and increase/decrease numbers for Men’s Large (to allow extra ease for the thrums), but knit to the specified lengths for Men’s Medium, 5 sts per inch gauge

Yarn used: Patons Classic Wool (looks like they don’t call it Merino on the label anymore) in 00231 Chestnut Brown, a little bit less than 1 skein; charcoal gray 70% superwash merino/30% alpaca  roving from River’s Edge Weaving Studio, about 2 oz.

Needles used: US size 7/4.5 mm 40″ circulars (Options)

Date started: December 6, 2008

Date finished: December 8, 2008

Mods:

  • Knit the cuff in twisted rib (knit every knit stitch through back loop, purl every purl stitch)
  • Thrums! I added thrums to these mittens by pulling off about pencil-width pieces of the roving. It was slippery and wouldn’t pull into short enough pieces, so I ended up knitting two stitches with each thrum, stranding it across the back of the three intervening stitches like for stranded knitting. I used more or less the following chart, where | = plain knit stitch, T = thrummed stitch. I had to kind of fudge the thrum pattern on the thumb and top decreases where the stitch counts didn’t quite work out right.
| | | | | | | | 8
| | | | | | | | 7
| | | | | | | | 6
| T | | | T | | 5
| | | | | | | | 4
| | | | | | | | 3
| | | | | | | | 2
| | | T | | | T 1

Notes: I made these as a birthday/Christmas present for Rahul because it’s cold here, and I thought they would be good to keep him warm on his way to school. I meant for them to be a surprise but, as it turns out, I’m really terrible at keeping things secret. He came home while I was knitting them and I decided to go on working on them anyway since he usually doesn’t pay attention to what I’m knitting until I’m done, and he usually sits in the other room to study.

He came and sat by me to study and I decided to act natural and go on knitting the mittens anyway.

Then I finished them and thought as I was weaving in the ends that perhaps I should block them and wrap them up nicely before giving them to him, but that sentiment lasted about 2 seconds before I burst out with “Guess what, I have a present for you!”

“Wow!” he said, laughing, when I presented him with them. “Why, I haven’t seen you working on these at all.” They fit him perfectly, and he says they’re warm.

The fiber I used wasn’t that great for thrums–I would try to avoid it next time in favor of a more curly, woolly yarn. I guess I can’t quite say “crimpier” since the superwash merino has crimp, but it’s so fine that along with the superwash process, it makes the whole fiber come out seeming quite straight and silky rather than in curly, fluffy locks. In its favor, it’s very soft, I had it lying around in a nice manly color that coordinated with the yarn, and the staple length was way shorter than the natural Icelandic roving that was my other choice (though still a bit too long, as it turned out).

My hope is that as the mittens see some use, the outer shell will felt a bit while the superwash roving knit into them will stay warm and fluffy.

I will!

Pattern: Kate Gilbert’s Bird in Hand

Size: Smallest size, downsized further for a 7″ hand; finished size about 7″ around and 5″ from thumb crotch to fingertip; thumb about 2.5″ long and 3″ around. They fit my hands perfectly!

Yarn used: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Chocolate, about 1.5 skeins; Classic Elite Tapestry (Ravelry link) color 2272 (green), just less than one skein.

This photo shows the amount of yarn I had left afterwards. I started with about 1.5 skeins of WOTA (one full skein plus about half a skein left over from a scarf) and exactly 1 skein of Tapestry.

Needles used: Knit Picks nickel-plated DPNs, US size 0/2.0 mm, for about 80% of the hand of the first mitten, and Knit Picks Harmony DPNs, US size 1.5/2.5 mm for the rest.

Started: 1/3/08

Finished: 1/11/08

Mods: Aimed for a gauge of about 8 sts per inch to downsize the mittens. Since my gauge went down as I was knitting the first mitten, the size shrank accordingly and I had to block severely to fix it–the mittens are roughly the same size now, but you can see that they’re fraternal in the side-by-side pictures:



Following the advice of some people on the Ravelry Bird in Hand KAL, I used a two-color Estonian braid for the middle braid of the second mitten, to mix things up a bit. Link to the two-color braid discussion here. I like the look of it better than the single-color braid. I went back and duplicate-stitched over the middle braid in the first mitten so it would match. They look nearly identical, see?


To work a two-color braid: M1 using CC, put it back on left needle.
*From behind, knit the second st through the back loop using MC and leave it on the needle, knit the first st through the front loop using MC and drop both sts, put new st back on left needle;

From behind, knit the second st using MC and leave it on the needle, knit the first st through the front loop using CC and drop both sts, put new st back on left needle;* and so on, always knitting the back st with MC and alternating colors for the front st, until the end of the round.

Notes: The best advice I got on making these from the knitalong was to do the embroidery before closing up the thumb. My embroidery could use some work. Maybe I’ll have to make another pair so I can have another go at making realistic birds.

Here they are:


And some colorwork close-ups:


I have lots of other notes on these mittens in the previous posts about them. So I don’t have much more to say right now–I just have to say I love these mittens, they fit wonderfully, and I’d totally make another pair. I’m not sure I could say that about any of the other ones I’ve knit so far–with their repeating motifs, they somehow all seemed like much more of a slog.

Soundtrack: The Littlest Birds, by the Be Good Tanyas

“Well, the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs…”

I guess I should get around to writing up the official finished object post for the Selbuvotter Black Lilies mittens, too. There are lots more pictures and details on these in the archives.

Pattern: NHM #7 from Selbuvotter

Size: Finished size: About 6″ from thumb crotch to fingertip (i.e. about 1″ too long for my hands); thumb about 3″ long and 3.75″ around; hand about 9″ around (i.e. about 2″ too wide for my hands). There’s probably enough room in there for a fuzzy mitten liner, if I get around to making one. I think my gauge (and row gauge) is about 8 sts per inch.

Yarn used: Knit Picks Telemark in cream and black, 2 skeins each. About 1.25 skeins of black, 1.75 skeins of cream.

Needles used: US 1/2.25 mm (What was I doing with these? I wrote it down but don’t remember why I used them–the ribbing, maybe, and/or the thumb?) and US 1.5/2.5 mm circs, magic looped, for most of the mitten

Started: 9/26/07

Finished: 12/22/07

Mods: Used a striped thumb instead of the charted thumb from the pattern, as detailed here.

Notes: I ran out of black yarn when I was thisclose to finishing the second mitten:

And I stalled for a while. I don’t think a pair of mittens would normally take me three months to make.

My gauge changed kind of a lot between mittens. You can see the difference in size here, with the smaller mitten placed on top of the larger one:

Eh. They’re pretty anyway!
Here are the lilies:

The palms with the stripey thumbs:

and the undersides of the thumbs, where I more or less successfully continued the palm pattern upwards–a detail I’m quite proud of, but which would be lost on most non-knitters:

I might need some convertible mittens/glittens next. I do have a pair I cobbled together by making Knucks and putting together my own flip-top pattern, but the yarn is thin and they’re not that warm.

Berroco has their Spring 2008 collection up now. I kind of love Currer, from Norah Gaughan Vol. 2, but started to worry that perhaps this was one of those things where I’m drawn to a pattern because it’s unusual and has an interesting construction technique, but it’s actually a major fashion mistake when viewed by any non-knitter. I’m thinking this because when I looked at Ellis, Currer’s sister pattern, my first thought was that the model looked very much like a grasshopper , with wings folded neatly back.

I also like the circular neckline insert thing going on with Athos and Porthos, but I’d probably make the Lacy Waves top from Lace Style before going with either of those.

I’ve made four pairs of stranded mittens in the last year or so:

1. North Star mittens from Robin Hansen’s Knit Mittens! in Patons SWS, since given to my mother, who think they’re lovely and wants to hang them on the wall, having no use for them in California


2. Top-down mittens 5/16 from Anna Zilboorg’s Magnificent Mittens in Rowan Yorkshire Tweed DK and Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted, same pattern as Hello Yarn’s, if you can believe it (hers look so much nicer!)



3. NHM #7 mittens from Terri Shea’s Selbuvotter in Knit Picks Telemark


4. and my Bird in Hand mittens from Kate Gilbert’s site, in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes and Classic Elite Tapestry (Ravelry link). These are still blocking, so this post is still not the big reveal.

I’ve learned some things from each project, and from the fascinating hive mind of the internet, along the way, so I just wanted to post about the tips and techniques I’ve been using, and the lessons I’ve learned. I am still far from an expert on colorwork and I look forward to learning more from each project I try.

Things I’ve learned the hard way:
– Yarn choice matters. (Duh! But I always seem to learn this the hard way.) I realized after my first two pairs of mittens, particularly after seeing the contrast between HelloYarn’s Magnificent Mittens in Cascade 220 and mine, in two different weights of leftover yarn, one woolly and tweedy, the other a fuzzy, hairy singles, that using a smooth, plied yarn (and using the same weight for both colors) can make all the difference in getting your colorwork to stand out and look good. The mohair haze and sheen muddled up my colorwork, and the tension suffered from the different yarns, so your eye is drawn more to the contrast between the textures in the two yarns than the contrast between the colors. So I went with Telemark for the next pair, and the difference is plain to see.
– Color choice matters a lot. For best results, pick two colors that contrast as much as possible in both color warmth and color saturation/value. One warm, light color and one cool, dark color, or vice versa. The Patons SWS in my first pair was pretty, but because the two colorways I picked (Natural Plum and Natural Navy) were too similar in tone, the pattern got lost and you have to search a little to pick it out. Swatch as much as possible before deciding on your colors; something that looks like it should make a good combination when you’re holding the skeins next to each other might not look so great once it’s been knit up. I swatched with a couple of other colors before deciding on brown and green for my Bird in Hand mittens; the front runner going into the swatch-off was a combination of brown and periwinkle that looked very pretty in the skein, but once I swatched it, I realized the periwinkle was too close in value to the brown and wouldn’t stand out… I needed something lighter and brighter. So lime green pulled a surprise upset victory.
– Knitting at a tight gauge makes for warm hands and pretty colorwork. Knitting at a looser gauge makes for soft, comfy mittens. Three of the four mittens above are knit at a bulletproof gauge–worsted weight on size 0, 1.5, and 3 needles and sport weight on size 1.5 needles. The Magnificent Mittens were knit on size 6 needles. They’re soft and pliable, but the wind gets into them on cold days, and I can’t make snowballs with them without the snow getting into them in about 2 seconds. I wore the Patons SWS mittens through a whole day of snowman-building and snowball fights and it was hours before the snow seeped through.
Size matters. A lot. Check your row gauge against the number of rows before and after the thumb, and make sure you’ll wind up with some correspondence to your actual hand size. Unlike plain-colored or cabled pieces, many colorwork mittens are not really properly structured for easily lengthening or shortening without destroying the pattern. (Patterns with small repeats of geometric patterns are an exception–Elli’s Herringbone Mittens or Squirrelly Swedish Mittens come to mind.)

You’ll note the strange and non-anatomical thumb placement in my North Star mittens. Contrary to what you might believe from careful study of those mittens, my thumb does not emerge from my second finger joint and shoot up from there to the length of my fingertips. (I blithely assumed that all hands were roughly the same shape and that by following the directions, I’d be fine.) They were slightly better once on, but all the blocking in the world couldn’t save the fingers from being uncomfortably short. When I rode my bike while wearing those mittens, I’d have trouble squeezing the hand brakes because my fingers wouldn’t comfortably reach that far if my thumbs were still on the handlebars.

The Magnificent Mittens and Bird in Hand mittens fit the best. The Selbuvotter, as it turns out after blocking, are tragically about half an inch or an inch too long and quite a bit too wide in the hand. However, I might use the extra space to add an angora mitten liner.
– As techniques for working a small circumference in the round, Two circs, Magic Loop, and double-pointed needles (DPNs) all have their pluses and minuses. Two circs and Magic Loop are easy to transport and easy to work with–with DPNs, I tend to get all tangled up every now and then with the yarns getting caught on stray needle tips, and sometimes the needles fall out of my work. Also, you can divide the stitches into halves, a natural way to divide them up when you’re working on a mitten. Two circs has an advantage over Magic Loop in that you can use this technique with stiff-cabled or short circular needles. Magic Loop has the fewest needle tips to wrangle with, so it’s the easiest and tidiest in many circumstances, but you do need a flexible-cabled needle like Addi Turbos or Knit Picks Options to use with it. I think that generally, for colorwork, DPNs work the best for me. The reason for this is that you can always flatten the two needles you’re working on and keep the join between needles as flat as possible, minimizing the tendency to pull too tight on the yarn or strand the floats too tightly at corners. They also have a built-in stitch marker system without annoying dangly things–you can tell by the end of each needle if you’ve muffed up the pattern somewhere because your stitch count will be wrong by that point.

If you’re doing colorwork for the first time, making a hat, like the Inga Hat, the Red Light Special, or We Call Them Pirates, would be an easier way to start than mittens, because for most of the hat, you can just work on a 16″ circular needle instead of having the double frustration of keeping your colorwork even on DPNs, magic loop, or two circs.

Things I’ve learned the easy way (aka reading up in books and on the internet, and doing what I was told):
Knitting two-handed makes colorwork much easier for me. I couldn’t work out holding two yarns in my left hand, so I re-learned how to knit English style, and now I hold the contrast color in my left hand and the main color in my right hand.
– Be consistent with the way you carry your yarns, and carry the contrast color ahead. Nonaknits has a good post on this. Since I knit colorwork two-handed, her notes about establishing color dominance couldn’t be applied to my knitting wholesale and I had to figure out that I first need to pick up the contrast color in my left hand, and then pick up the main color in my right hand so that it travels over the left-hand strand of yarn when I wrap it around the needle.

– Catch your floats as you go. (The float being the strand of yarn carried across the back of the work while not in use.) If a float travels over a significant number of stitches in a row–“significant” may vary from two stitches to five or six stitches–you should weave it in using the other color to keep it from snagging on your fingers when wearing the mitten. I also usually catch floats in the corners of my mittens, on the last stitch of a needle or the first stitch of the next one, so that the yarn doesn’t take the shortest path possible across the corner and make the work pucker on the right side. There are a lot of tutorials out there for how to do this. Sockpr0n has an extensive tutorial. I found this Knit Picks tutorial (warning, PDF) the most helpful, personally.

If I’m weaving in a float from my left hand (CC), I keep my left hand where it is, and instead of moving my right hand over the CC yarn to wrap the MC around the needle, I move my right hand under the CC yarn and wrap the MC around the needle. I resume knitting the normal way on the next stitch.

If I’m weaving in a float from my right hand (MC)–this isn’t a concern in most patterns, but the Bird in Hand mittens feature long runs of both MC and CC–I use the method shown in the Knit Picks PDF: wrap the MC as if to knit, wrap the CC as if to knit, unwrap the MC while leaving the CC on the needle, then complete the stitch. Unfortunately, it’s not as fluid of a motion for me as weaving in CC yarn and I find it much slower.

Either way, I have to give the stranded yarn a little tug after it’s caught in order to to pull it back, away from the front of the fabric.

– On a related note, strand your yarn as loosely as possible. I’m not very good at this yet, but in theory, your work will look best if you leave big sloppy floats hanging off the back of it. I have an unfortunate tendency to pull my floats pretty tight.

– Blocking is essential to colorwork, and covers a multitude of sins, so choose a blockable yarn and preferably one that can be ironed (i.e. no acrylic). Your colorwork will almost certainly look like crap once it comes off the needles, but it will undergo a magical transformation into a flat, even, well-behaved piece of knitting once it’s been blocked. I love blocking colorwork so much, I block twice. I soak the piece in Eucalan for a while (free samples at that link), squeeze the water out with a towel, and let the piece dry, either flat or stretched out on a bottle. After it’s dry, or mostly dry, I iron it with a hot iron, and it becomes ever so flat and lovely.

– Floats give you a nice way to weave in ends so nobody can see them from the outside. My end-weaving technique is not very beautiful or elegant, but it works. I thread a tapestry needle and weave the tail in and out over the floats like I’m darning a sock. I usually weave in ends by following the path of the yarn through the backs of stitches, but I can’t usually see the actual stitches due to all the floats, and my gauge is usually so tight with colorwork that weaving into the stitches is a royal pain. So I use my hybrid weaving technique and it works just fine for me.

As a general rule, I try to let the ends of yarn do double duty wherever possible so as to minimize the number of ends to weave in. So, for example, in the Bird in Hand mittens, which call for sewing down a picot hem on the inside of the work, I left a very long tail from the cast-on and used it to sew up the hem at the end. I also left long tails from where I attached the yarn again to knit the thumb, carried them up the inside of the thumb along the inside of the floats as I worked, and used them to embroider the details (eye, wing, beak, legs) on the bird on the tip of the thumb.

I hope this is helpful and I hope I haven’t left anything out! If you have any colorwork tips, techniques, or lessons learned the hard way, please share.

I have two Bird in Hand mittens finished! I made it to the top decreases after 3 hours at knitting night; the cafe closed and kicked us out, so I went home and knit, embroidered, and wove in ends for another few hours… and I have one more Bird in Hand mitten to show for it. I did not run out of yarn, but it was close–I have probably less than 10 yards of yarn left, of either color. So 50g/95 yards seems to be (barely) sufficient yardage for the contrast color (Classic Elite Tapestry), and roughly 100g/220 yards would be safest to get for the main color–I had 1.5 skeins of chocolate brown Wool of the Andes to start with, but I have no idea exactly how many yards it was, nor how many are left over.

I love the bird on the thumb–such a little treat to look forward to. It’s like saving the cherry on top of your ice cream sundae for last.

Pictures coming soon. Mitten #1, at least, fits and is gorgeous. Mitten #2, 80% of which was knit on different sized needles than mitten #1, is somewhere in the neighborhood of the same size. I will see how it fits after blocking.

The Bird in Hand mittens, as I mentioned in my last post, have been hurting my hands. I bent one or two of my steel DPNs into gentle arcs trying to force the decreases. Still, soldiering on with them in search of the perfect mittens–the Selbuvotter mittens, as it turns out, are about an inch too long for my hands, and rather loose, so they’re not as warm or comfortable as they should be. I’m considering making liners, but the thumbs are already pretty stiff and snug, so that might not work well.

Here’s the palm of the mitten in progress, no flash…

And here’s the back of the hand in progress, with flash.

Because my fingers were hurting from wrestling with the DPNs, I just had to take a break when my package from WEBS arrived.

On the left, one of the size 0 DPNs I’m using for the mittens; on the right, one of the size 19 Denise needles I used for this latest FO.

The sweater in question? The Shopping Tunic, from Twinkle’s Big City Knits–and I knit the entire sweater in two evenings. At this rate, I could knit 182 sweaters a year!

Unfortunately, you kind of get out of it what you put into it. All my photos came out hideous and I have a sinking feeling this is because the sweater itself is hideous.

Here’s the least hideous of the snapshots. Gah! I mean, I love it in theory, but the gauge looks so loose and sloppy. I blocked it and everything. And it’s certainly not very flattering. Perhaps if I wore sleeker clothes underneath, in similar and darker colors, it would work better. I don’t like that big lump where you can see the waistband of my jeans.

Rahul was not a big fan of this. I tried it on to show him, and he looked dubious.

“Um. Are you giving this to someone else?”

“No.”

“Is it meant for wearing around the house?”

“No, you’re supposed to wear it out.”

He considered this for a moment and said, diplomatically, “I think the stitch size is too big.”

“But that’s the designer’s signature style!”

“Sorry. I guess I’m just a plebeian.”

“Well… it’s stylish! It was in Anthropologie!”

“No WAY!!” he exclaimed, unable to restrain his disbelief–then added, “Actually, I don’t know what Anthropologie is, but whoever they are, they did not have this sweater.”

I had to try and find the Butter Hill funnelneck online to show him. Then, because it was striped and this is not, he wouldn’t believe it was the same sweater.

“It looks like chain mail!”

“Nooo!”

“It looks like you’re about to ride into battle! You look like Barbarossa!”

Anyway–I’ll have to see if I can do anything with the styling to make it more wearable. Till then, the jury is still out on this one.

Thankfully, I do like this Flared Lace Smoke Ring I finished last week. (Isn’t that a great sweater I’m wearing? Sadly, I didn’t make it–I bought it at an Old Navy after-Christmas sale)

And this is how we wear the cowl in the old country:

Pattern: Heartstrings Flared Lace Smoke Ring

Size: As specified by the pattern: 28″ around at the base, 22″ around at the top, 18″ long.

Yarn used: Elann Silken Kydd in Baked Apple, 1 skein

Needles used: US size 6/4.0 mm Denises

Started: 12/26/07

Finished: 1/3/08

Mods: Used less than the specified yardage of yarn. Bound off with a *k1, k2tog, slip st back to left needle* BO to create a stretchy, ruffled BO edge. Other than that, nothing.

Notes: Fluffy, soft, easy, and pretty–a nice use for one skein of laceweight. Notes on the yarn are here. The stitch pattern looks complicated, but is repetitive enough that this became my TV knitting once I got through the decrease charts. (You knit from the bottom up, decreasing for a few lace repeats, and then work the last chart, keeping the stitch count constant, until the cowl is the length you want it.)

I might send this to my grandma. I’m not sure if she would wear it or if she would prefer the traditionally shaped scarves/shawls she already has.

I’m buying Barbara Abbey’s Knitting Lace with my latest Amazon gift certificate. Has anyone seen/used this book? I love the edgings section in Barbara Walker vol. 2, and I’m hoping this book will be a worthwhile supplement. Plus, it sounds like the patterns are charted–bonus!

I have some things I feel like bitching about.

Non-bitching content first. I finished my Selbuvotter mittens, after entirely too long, with a hiatus in there caused by running out of of CC yarn. I’ll post more about the project details later… in the meantime, just a couple of pretty pictures:

I finished the flared lace smoke ring I was working on and immediately cast on for yet another pair of mittens. “Didn’t you just make a pair of mittens?” said my boyfriend suspiciously. “How many mittens do you need?”

The pattern I’m using is Kate Gilbert’s lovely Bird in Hand–the flowers and vines! the Estonian braids! The tiny, adorable thumb-bird!–and it’s gorgeous, but [commence bitch #1] my hands are killing me! I thought knitting the Selbuvotter mittens using Telemark, a sport weight yarn, on US size 1.5/2.5 mm was bad enough. Now I know that was nothing compared to knitting worsted weight on size US size 0/2.0 mm needles. It’s not that my wrists hurt or anything, but I seem to have some slight bruising where my steel DPN has been pushing against my left pinky and ring finger for leverage. The main part of the knitting is OK, but all the decreases and twists in the cuff were murder on my finger. Ow.

I’m using Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Chocolate for the main color. It’s the lighter brown on the right in the picture below:

And I’m using Classic Elite Tapestry in a kind of lime green color for the contrast. It’s the skein on the left in the picture below:

(I got all 6 of these skeins for $5 at a thrift store. One of the best yarn finds ever!)

[Commence bitch #2]
I bought some Jaggerspun Zephyr yarn from Sarah’s Yarns. She had kindly posted to let people know her prices were going up due to increases in the wholesale cost, so I thought I’d make an order so I could see what all the fuss was about with this cult classic yarn. I got a couple of skeins of the laceweight in a dark grapey purple, perhaps for the Peacock Feathers shawl, and some of the DK weight in Ruby–not sure what for, but I have a weakness for burgundy reds.

The UPS tracking number said it was delivered on December 15th, but I have seen no sign of it.

I have every confidence that Sarah will make it right if the package doesn’t ever show up (for the moment, she’s she put a trace on it) but if someone stole the package, that just sucks. I highly doubt that any of my neighbors is a sticky-fingered knitter. Maybe one, or the other, but probably not both. Maybe it was a drive-by swiping, or maybe my package accidentally got sent to Texas or something.

[Commence bitch #3]
I had a big package of Malabrigo on order through a group buy. I didn’t realize this was an issue, but apparently some retailer didn’t like the competition, secretly added themselves to the list, and ratted out the group to Malabrigo, making them cancel the order. Stoolie! Mole!

I guess I can’t really complain that strongly about the backstabby retailer trying to get rid of their competition if Malabrigo has an explicit anti-coop policy, although I still feel like it’s sneaky and underhanded to secretly join the group, pretending all the while that they have good intentions. Some yarn manufacturers, like 100purewool and Peace Fleece, encourage coop/group buys, but others have issues with it and I guess Malabrigo is one of them.

Sad. I had enough worsted weight in Garnet headed my way to make the balloon-sleeve jacket from the cover of Sensual Knits, and I was going to try some of the absolutely luscious (but incredibly expensive) handspun, hand-dyed angora in Velvet Grapes.

One of these days. I’ve still never tried Malabrigo and this is one of those other cult classic yarns that everyone raves about. Maybe I’ll pick some up at the LYS next time they have a good color in stock.

[Commence bitch #4]
Also, I ordered from the WEBS anniversary sale and they were out of part of my order. I only found this out when they shipped the incomplete package and I noticed the billed total was different from what I was expecting. I wish they had told me first, because I ended up substituting colors and now they’re sending me a second, separate package when everything could easily have gone in the same box.

[Commence bitch #5]
My computer crashed while I was writing this.

[Commence bitch #6]
I thought Rahul was just making it up when he told me the New York Times had reported that Mike Huckabee, who just won the Republican Iowa caucus, used to cook up squirrels in a popcorn popper and eat them.

Progress: I knit a couple of feet on my “mindless knitting” project, the Forest Rib Scarf–2-row stripes of brown (color 6) and green (color 3) Plymouth Boku over 27 stitches of mistake rib on size 8 needles.  Although I had my first encounter with Plymouth Boku (a soft singles yarn) pulling apart unexpectedly, overall, it was good, and nothing disastrous happened. I’m planning to give this as a Christmas present to my dad or stepdad.

Anti-progress:  The reason I was working on the mindless knitting was that I realized I had knit several rows of my second Selbuvotter mitten without casting on the extra stitches over the thumb hole, then had to spend the better part of an hour carefully tinking back, stitch by stitch. After which I realized I’d left the pattern book with the thumb instructions at home.