mittens


Welcome Back Mittens

14034838_10157336521250603_2674321381275197185_nSaturday this past weekend I just… needed to knit. I haven’t really had a knitty frame of mind for a few months. Maybe it is because I had sort of overdosed on knitting and my brain just needed a break from it. Whatever the reason, I haven’t knit much in months and had been focusing on other crafts/hobbies to fill the huge gaping void that knitting usually held in my life.

But then saturday, something changed…

Lesley’s Basic Mittens

US9 Needles

Patton’s Shetland Chunky in “Blue Jeans” colourway

  • Magic CO 18 (9 on each needle)
  • KFB the first stitch on each needle, knitting the rest (increasing by 2 each round) until there is 28 stitches total (14 on each needle)
  • K until the bottom edge reaches where thumb meets palm, but the other side also easily stretches to the bottom of palm
  • 6 stitch afterthought thumb
  • K another inch or two, until the mitten top reaches wrist plus a bit
  • 2×2 ribbing for 4 inches or so.
  • stretchy bind off
  • pick up stitches for thumb. Pick up 2 in each corner to close gap but knit those 2 together. If it still looks gappy do it again the next round to close gaps.
  • knit until reaches the top of the thumb, then do rounds of K2tog until 2 stitches left. Pull end through those stitches.
  • Weave in ends.

I had a craving for yarn and clicking needles.

I went to my stash… oh my lovely stash… and pawed through it all. I delighted in textures and colours and breathed deeply in the sheepy perfume of my more rustic wool blends. I rubbed various skeins against my face (the only TRUE way to feel yarn as far as I am concerned). I unearthed some long-dormant projects (like my Stripes Gone Crazy sweater) and tsk’d at my failure to show them the respect they deserved. As I mentally re-inventoried I was reminded of all the projects and plans I had made for all of these various yarns and my knitter passion was set aflame once more. Hell, it is a damned blowtorch.

Note the lack of comma in the subject line. I’m not welcoming back mittens. That would be silly. I’m Canadian; mittens are a mainstay in my life and to welcome them back would imply they left at some point. See? Silly. No, what I am referring to is “Welcome Back Mittens”, the mittens I made to welcome myself back into knitting.

14053945_10157336521195603_176939692907972448_nAre they simple? Yep. Dead basic top down mitten with an afterthought thumb. No pattern, no plan. No fancy colour work, cables, or techniques.  Nothing new or complicated or challenging to see here. Just plain old mittens. But hot damn, I made them and I finished them in no time and they are awesome. And for once, they are the same size. When I wing things that come in pairs (mittens, socks, etc) they NEVER end up the same size, but these? These are PERFECTLY THE SAME SIZE. Even the thumbs are the same size!

This has to be a sign.

The knitting gods smiled upon me, friends, and welcomed me back.


One Day Rainbow Thrummed Mittens

Ow.

rainbow_midFor real, these mittens shall forever be known as the cause of my inevitable carpal tunnel. The problem isn’t the mittens really, but rather my insane choice to try to knit these mittens in one day. I started them one saturday morning, just casually knitting and managed to finish one by the early/mid afternoon. Plenty of the day left! Maybe I can finish the other one too!

I’m an idiot.

I mean, yes, of course I could. There are lots of things I COULD do, like smash lightbulbs on my face, or shave curse words into cats, but should I? No. No I shouldn’t. I need to stop and think harder over the “SHOULD I” question. Because in this case I probably shouldn’t have.

Signs that I should have stopped:

  • I developed knitting blisters on the sides of my palm where my needle rubs. The solution CLEARLY was to put on protective bandaids to reduce the friction. No thoughts of stopping.

    rainbow_thrums_for_days

    I also had to make all the thrums, which was a feat of its own

  • During the couple “breaks” (and I use that term very very loosely, since the breaks were only long enough to pee or eat something) I found it increasingly difficult and painful to bend some of my fingers.
  • Wrist pain. Wrist pain that started before I had even finished the first mitten and only got worse as the day went on.
  • A cramp in my hip/butt muscles from the weird way I sit when I knit.

Did I heed any of these signs? No. No I did not. These mittens became a matter of knititng HONOUR. I turned in to some sort of weird knitting Klingon, with a fatalistic “Perhaps today is a good day to die!” attitude. Nothing was going to stop me from finishing these mittens in one day.

 

12 hours, over 300 thrums, a handful of Advil, and five bandaids later, I finished them.

rainbow_finished

I spent the day after popping advil and having ice packs on my wrists while my husband repeatedly reminded me that I did this to myself and that that I had no one else to blame for the pain and discomfort I was in. I wasn’t able to knit for days because of the pain in my wrists and fingers, but you know… I’m still proud of having done it. And the mittens are undeniably warm and beautiful. I just love them.


I played chicken, and the chicken won.

The first mitten before I removed and frogged the flap and tore back and redid the grey edging bindoff.

I am not a fan of playing yarn chicken. I know, in the grand scheme of things yarn chicken isn’t exactly the most badass or risky of behaviours, but it is outstandingly annoying when you end up NOT having enough yarn to finish a project as you planned. And yet, despite my hatred of yarn chicken, I played it.

My Tri-Blend set is so fabulous I can hardly breathe, and looking at the yarn I had left over after I finished the cowl I thought for SURE I’d have enough yarn to make some matching mittens. So I went ahead and just started knitting. I finished one and declared it pretty damned cool. I had some things I wasn’t 100% on, like the thickness of the icord bindoff around the top (which I frogged and redid as just a normal bindoff, looks way better), but overall I totally liked it.

I went to start the second one I had a moment of “Oh crud…” because the amount of blue yarn I had left seemed extremely insufficient for the second mitten. “Maybe it is more than it looks!” I said to myself, steeped in denial and misplaced optimism, and I started the second mitt.

Yeah, no. It was exactly as much as it looked. I was down to INCHES to spare when I was finishing the thumb, so no way in hell did I have enough for the finger flappy bit. My husband said to just knit the flap using the yellow, saying it wouldn’t matter if they weren’t exactly the same. I scoffed at this suggestion, declaring that I put too damned much work into this set, I was NOT going to settle for an unmatching imperfect pair of mittens after all this.

This is all I have left from the three skeins I bought in PEI. Notice how the blue is just a ramen-noodle resembling mess. I haven’t properly balled it up after frogging the first flap.

I had no choice.

I carefully detached the flap from the first mitten and frogged it. I now have two matching fingerless mitts with no finger flap, and yeah, I could just leave them this way but that would defeat the purpose since I’m aiming to make a super warm set to battle the cold cold Canadian winter weather. Fingerless mitts = frostbite. So my plan now is to redo the flaps, each flap being its own little tri-blend gradient. My plan is to go Grey – Yellow – Blue so that when I attach the flap to the mitt it will be blue on blue and therefore look tidier. I’m also going to actually WEIGH the blue yarn to make sure I have an equal/even amount of yarn for both flap.

Even then, I’m pretty sure I am going to come very close to using up every little bit of this yarn. I have hardly any blue left, even less grey, and a bit more yellow, but still! I feel sort of proud for so completely using up the three original skeins of yarn I got from MacAusland’s Woolen Mill. I continue to be very happy with this yarn and I continue to totally regret not buying more of it when I had the chance. The only thing I can say against it is that when I soaked and blocked my hat and cowl there was a surprising amount of colour in the water from the blue and yellow yarns, but honestly that isn’t a huge deal for me.


Matching Cowl Success! The ultimate Canadian Winter set has been made!

20150716_185240Matching cowl complete! Honest to God, how awesome is this set? I know I know, blah blah modesty blah, but seriously… this set has turned out way way better than anything else I have made, and way better than I was hoping. It looks so cool! And unique! And cool!!! My friend in Texas said that when she first saw the picture of me in the set that it looked like a cool X-Men character. My husband described the look as a sort of brightly coloured ninja. Both sound awesome to me!

Okay, so we’ve established the set LOOKS great. As for functionality, lets delve into this a bit.

It gets extremely cold here in New Brunswick, and the windchill is fairly epic in its terribleness. -40°C level terribleness. I’ve lived here all my life and am as “used to it” as anyone can be, but it still sucks. I think a lot of people who suffer through weather like this every year are always in search of the Perfect Winter Combo™. I know I have been. So when I bought the yarn from MacAusland’s I saw this as my chance.

The whole basis for this project was to create a cute set that would be great for general winter days, would work well as separates, but when paired be able to shield against the worst of the windchills.

Cute? CHECK!

Works well as separates? CHECK!

Shields against extreme winter windchills? As yet untested but I’m thinking it is going to be perfect. Why? I’m glad you asked! 20150716_185202

  1. I knit these at a fairly tight gauge, which makes them snuggly warm but also more resistant to wind. I also made a point of felting them just the tiniest bit to help with that, and to just make the colour blending blur a bit.
  2. The double thickness band on the front of the bonnet creates a fairly robust and effective windbreak. Normal hats that sit snug to the head do nothing to protect your eyes/face from the stinging winds, but this style hat really does a great job of creating a protective buffer from the wind. This isn’t just a guess, I know this first hand – my Birthday Sprinkles hat last winter was great for this!
  3. The extra-thick i-cord edging along the top of the cowl creates a bit of a form-fitting cushion along my face. I’m a fan of scarves/neckers/cowls, but have found that they all either 1) squash too tightly against my face/mouth to be comfortable or 2) are too loose and therefore gappy and drafty. My cowl allows for a snug (but comfortable fit) along the top while still having a looser more comfortable fit for along the body of the cowl.
  4. The cowl stays up. I am not a fan of super floppy cowls that don’t stay up.  Function over fashion, people!
  5. The bonnet overlaps the cowl in the back , creating a wind-proof result. I haaaaaaaaaate when there is a gap between my hat and my scarf/cowl that the wind and cold air can get at, but this combo works perfectly. Plus, it isn’t excessively bulky or lumpy looking.

 

The only thing I would have done differently with the cowl is to make it a bit longer and to have done a bit of shaping to make it wider at the bottom so that it could spread out and and sort of splay out on to my shoulders a little bit so that when I put my coat on it has a solid amount of overlap, again ensuring a wind-proof seam. As it is I think it will be fine. I’m half considering picking up the bottom stitches and extending things a bit, but I honestly don’t think it is necessary. And, well, I don’t think I have enough yarn. I think I have juuuuuuust enough to finish my matching mittens, but I think that will be it. I’m making the mittens the convertible type so that I can expose my fingers if need be. I’m doing this because I want to be able to put on my mittens, then put on my coat (so that the mittens are properly tucked in and sealed by the jacket cuff) and then zip up my coat without difficulty. Have you ever tried zipping up a coat with mittens on? Yeah, it is tricky business.20150716_205432 I’ve completed one mitten and am pretty happy with it. I did a thick i-cord edging along the top but I’m not happy with it – too bulky, especially when the mitten top is pulled over my fingers – so I’m probably going to tear that out and just do a standard bind-off. I also need to come up with a way to secure my mitten tops to the back of the mitten…. maybe. I strongly suspect that the mitten top will be over my fingers more often than not and that the pulled back option will be on an as-needed basis and then be returned to the top on position as soon as I am done using my fingers. If this is the case then going through the effort of making some way to secure the top to the back of the mitten would be unnecessary. If I DO end up securing the flap somehow it will NOT be velcro. Sure, its easy and effective, but it sticks to the whole mitten, not just the loopy bit that it is supposed to stick to, and it ruins the knit.

 

Once I finish the mittens I am definitely going to be writing up the patterns for the whole set.