Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mittens it is!

I think. The mitten yarn more or less threw itself into my lap and begged to be knit up. So I started out using 5 dpns and the pattern from Knitting Pretty, which said to cast on 36 stitches with size 4. I had size 5, but that should make it a bit bigger than their predicted "average woman's hand." For 3 hours, I painstakingly worked on the first cuff, and it was working fine, but when I took a good look at its tininess, I had doubts. I put it on my wrist--hmm, barely.

Then I compared that pattern with the Lillemor's Mittens I have already completed, and saw that those used the same yarn and the same needles and had 44 stitches. (20% bigger? Something like that.) I began to doubt the wisdom of the pattern. I also had cause to doubt whether 22 rounds for the cuff and 25 rounds for the hand made any sense at all. (and why would they tell me how many rounds, thus making me count--which I wasn't doing anyhow--rather than telling me how many inches to knit, so that i could simply measure?

So I lost faith in the pattern entirely, and tore the thing out. And then I decided that this would be a good chance to try a cool new technique. Instead of knitting on 4 needles plus a working needle, why not try the two circular needle method.

So I bought $15 worth of size 5 circulars and set back to work. This time I managed to get working on the inside instead of the outside, and in trying to fix that I got the whole thing would around itself in a mess, but in the end (ie by midnight) I have 2 inches of cuff and the beginning of a stockinette hand of a reasonable size.

But pitfalls loom. I am using the Lillemor pattern, but that is intended to be knit flat in garter stitch, and I am knitting in the round in stockinette. I can make the right adjustments, can't I? I can figure out how to make the decreases come out in the right places even though it talks about the first two stitches on needle 1, the first stitch on needle 2 and the last stitch on needle 3. Right? Well, as a last resort, I can switch to dpns at the end. But this 2-circulars method, while not exactly super smooth, is I think easier than the 3 or 4 dpns. The only real problem is that there's a tangle of twisty cords all over the place (almost as bad as the porcupine of needles), and you do have to stop and re-organize yourself after every 22 stitches. (slide stitches from one end to the other, get the resting needles out of the way). Anyhow, it's intriguing. Mysterious.

But I had always pictured knitting as rather elegant and homey looking, granny rocking in her chair by the fire, two needles smoothly clicking along. And neither dpns nor circular cables fits that image at all. It looks mechanical, wiry, ugly actually. But the mitten is growing and looks lovely.

Isn't the concept mitten just intrinsically appealing? The word is charming, much nicer sounding than glove. And all the feelings of being warm and cozy in winter, snowball fights and hot cocoa afterwards, grandma or mama making loving items to keep you safe and warm--all in one word mitten. And their shape! Who could fail to be charmed by a group of small hand-knit woolen mittens in various earthy tones, or in bright cheery colors? They echo the human hand, one of our most distinctive characteristics. Also, mittens seem to have many of the plusses of hand-knitting socks, but easier. There is still shaping and overall smallness and opportunity for experimentation, but it is done in worsted yarn on size 4 or 5 needles rather than fingering yarn on size 0 or 1.

The Lion brand all-wool felting yarn is extremely pleasant--in the skein it feels a little rough, but in use it feels much smoother somehow. There's a springiness to it and the word buttery keeps coming to my mind. The color is called Ocean Blues, but they must have looked at the ocean at night, because it's much darker than anything ocean-y. It has shades of turquoise, purple, navy blue and black. It reminds me of how trees look against the blackening sky in winter in a cold climate. But what would you call that? Evening Sky Blues maybe.

So on with mittens!

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