Friday, January 20, 2012

Sittin' Knittin' Mittens

I wish I could say that my most recent projects have gone smoothly, but it’s quite the opposite. The Bird In The Hand Mittens were started and frogged four times. Not the fault of the pattern, just to clarify. First problem was gauge. My handspun yarn, from a friend’s East Fresian sheep took a couple of needle size attempts before I was in the right gauge range. (I am not counting those first attempts.) Then came the realization that although I was knitting white birds on a dark background, the pattern was the reverse. A sort of color value dyslexia, if you will, which threw me off within the first several rows of the pattern. Then, factor in my decision to change the pattern’s thumb to the version in the SELBUVOTTER book . I discovered that I had begun the thumb gusset increases waaaaay too early, resulting in a very short (if existent at all) cuff. So back to the frog pond. After those mishaps resolved, I sailed along with the graph, delighted with my progress. Gauge was good, fit was great, and I was very pleased with the contrast in value of the yarns, both of which had come from a single fleece from an apparently polka-dotted sheep. So I cast on the second mitten. After progressing a generous third of the way through, I realized that I was making two right mittens. So I ripped back to the wrist on the second mitten. Then discovered that the left & right mittens *are not* simply mirror images of each other. They are slightly different. Which put the thumb gusset three rows lower than I thought it was. Fortunately just a few rows to rip back. So there you go. I am rather proud of myself for not hurling the lot under the truck & running it over a few times.

The other mitten project is one that I started three years ago, at St. Distaff’s Day. It has been living in a basket on a time out, and for what reason, I couldn’t recall. I remember being seduced by some lovely hand-dyed yarn, locks of mohair which I carefully selected to blend with the yarn colors, and realizing that I had *exactly the right color* of alpaca roving at home to use for thrums. All my friends were making thrummed mittens by the dozens. Certainly it couldn’t be difficult, and really, it’s not. It’s just a matter of taking segments of roving, folding it into little bows, spit-twirling the centers together (well, that’s what worked for me) to compact/full the fiber, and knitting those into the body of the mittens. What my friends taught me was to pull the middle of the thrum through the stitch below the one on the needle, pull the loop up to the needle, and knit it together with the stitch. Every four stitches, every four rows (offset). At 48 stitches around, that’s 12 thrums per thrum row. I have discovered that I don’t *like* making thrums. Silly, really. What’s not to like about playing with fiber? But I discovered after this length of time that the alpaca, with the lovely pale camel color, that blends so well with the multicolored hand-dyed yarn, that has a lovely texture by itself, has segments *full* of VM. Not the large chunky kind which is easily pulled out. This is the nasty stuff - minute bits of grass, seeds, and molecules of God-Knows-What the alpaca liked to roll in. But I am determined, and slogging through.

The inspiration for The Great Mitten Binge is a snowfall, which happened here a few days ago. Temperatures have been as low as 8 degrees, have hovered for days in the teens, and for the first time, just now, are up to 32 degrees. We have had winds (Thank You Canada) that bite noses & earlobes. I hear temps are supposed to get up to 40 degrees now (somewhere). But when I got up this morning, expecting to see melty slush outside, I was disheartened to find yet another inch of crunchiness. Back to the mittens. I’ll probably have them done in time for the thaw.