Archive for the ‘mittens’ Category

Moody House

I don’t know about you, but this time of year makes me only want to knit hats and mittens. I have four sweaters, all nearly completed, stewing in my progress basket for now, having been utterly and completely abandoned for hats and mittens. Looking back through my archive, it appears I write this same thing year after year. Now that my mind has been thoroughly overrun with medical facts, jargon, and clinical vignettes, perhaps this year’s accessory fever post will read somewhat differently.

The patient, a knitter of 11 years, presents today with a chief complaint of knitted accessory fever of four weeks’ duration. Physical exam is significant for a high grade fever related to stashbusting hats and mittens, general malaise regarding non-accessory knits, and deep somnolence with respect to hand knitted sweaters.  The patient reports experiencing similar episodes annually beginning in mid-November, lasting approximately nine weeks, and breaking by late January.  Symptoms are exacerbated by Ravelry, pinterest, and Twitter; ameliorated by complete disconnection from the internet. Patient experiences grave lack of focus, and is unable to concentrate on work. She denies fatigue, reports boundless energy, dreams of wool, and urgent desire to knit all the things.

While I come to terms with my mitten frenzy, have a look at my newest accessory designs, the Moody House set. Knitted in The Plucky Knitter’s Primo! Worsted, these are a dream to both knit and wear. Sarah’s dyes are stunning, both in depth and saturation. I cannot wait to plan some more projects with her yarns!

The Moody House hat and mitten patterns are each available on Ravelry for $6.00, the set containing both patterns is available for $9.00.

Until this fever breaks, stay tuned for more obsessively knitted winter accessories!

Forest Mushroom Mittens

All of my favorite knitting books follow the people’s history of the craft. Michael Pearson’s Traditional Knitting is, as far as I’m concerned, the best social history of knitting ever written. Nearly all the others on my list of top knitting books are primarily concerned with mittens: Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis, Folk Knitting in Estonia by Nancy Bush, Selbuvotter by Terri Shea, Mostly Mittens by Charlene Schurch, Folk Mittens by Marcia Lewandowski, Magnificent Mittens & Socks by Anna Zilboorg, Favorite Mittens by Robin Hansen. And what about the Ukrainian folk story, The Mitten?

I love mittens with a story, don’t you? Mittens are the most fascinating article of knitted apparel because no matter where they come from, they always seem to reflect the cultural and religious values of those who wore them. As contemporary knitters, we have lost track of the tradition of our craft. We knit for enjoyment, for fashion, to make gifts for friends and family; we drift from stockinette to cables to fair isle and back again, dabbling in all sorts of styles and techniques along the way with little regard to those who came before us. People like Lizbeth Upitis and Nancy Bush bring us back to the roots of our craft with their research in the folk art of the humble mitten.

Last winter, while rereading Lizbeth Upitis’ book, I followed a footnote to the text Latviesu cimdu raksti. Ornaments in Latvian gloves and mittens, by Irma Lesina, a text Upitis noted had many wonderful plates of mitten designs. Published by a small Nebraskan press in 1969, the book was long out-of-print. In fact, there were so few copies left in circulation that it took my university’s inter-library loan service a month to track down a Canadian copy for me; needless to say, it was most certainly worth the wait!

I pored over hundreds of traditional designs from Kurzeme, Latgale, Vidzeme, and Zemgale, recharting many stitch patterns that interested me. I created a large Excel file of stitch patterns, mixing and matching different ones as I went along. I remained faithful to regional distinctions, trying only to pair up patterns originating in the same region.

Copyright Jane Heller

Copyright Jane Heller

My Forest Mushroom design in Twist Collective Winter 2010 (Ravelry link) is one of the fruits of this lovely labor, combining several different motifs from the Kurzeme region of Latvia to be knitted with more contemporary colors at modern gauges.

Copyright Jane Heller

Copyright Jane Heller

The cuff is elaborately detailed and includes three distinctive brown and white braids before breaking into the mushroom-like pattern of the upper mitten. Unlike a traditional Latvian mitten, the top rounds off instead of coming to a hard point.

The peasant thumb is placed with waste yarn and knitted in the mushroom pattern to blend in with the mitten body.

Some designs you love more than others and these are one of my favorites; they combine everything I love about knitting: gorgeous colors, Latvian braids, long mitten cuffs, and old, complex, crafting traditions. Every knitter needs to make a pair of Latvian mittens in his or her knitting life, perhaps these will be yours!

The pattern is available at Twist Collective for $6.00.

Exercise Before Knitting Gifts

Exercise Before Knitting Gifts? Yes, go out for a little jog before committing to that queen-sized afghan for your cousin’s child’s girlfriend’s dorm room! Or, use the coupon code EXERCISEBEFOREKNITTINGGIFTS in my Ravelry pattern shop to buy 2 patterns and receive the 3rd free! The promotion will end 12/31/2010.

Otherwise, check out the Holiday and Winter issues of Interweave Knits for some new Exercise Before Knitting designs. These two colorwork patterns for Interweave Knits Holiday were inspired by that old Latvian mitten book I found last year.

Copyright Interweave Knits

Copyright Interweave Knits

Slanted Peerie Mittens feature a more unusual stranded pattern, one that moves diagonally across the fabric. The design reminded me of ribbons and wrapping paper, a good motif for the holidays. Although these have three different colors of yarn, the little bits of red are actually duplicate stitched on once the knitting is completed.

Copyright Interweave Knits

Copyright Interweave Knits

Parallax Hat came about as I went looking for an easy stranded pattern to work at worsted weight into a pointy little elf-like cap. I am mad for the spiral top on hats in general, and I think it looks even better in colorwork. Consequently, I made the two-color spiral the heart of the design, then worked out the rest from there.

Tuckernuck Cardigan, a baby/child (3 mos – 5 yrs) pattern appearing in Interweave Knits Winter 2010, comes with a bit of history.

Copyright Interweave Knits

Copyright Interweave Knits

While we impatiently awaited the arrival of baby #2 this time last fall, I thought I would pass the time in part by knitting Beatrix a big sister sweater with lots of lovely cables. Intending to self-publish the finished product, I sketched out the design, set up a spreadsheet, planned a list of sizes, and then powered through the knitting. Baby Odysseus interrupted my seaming, so this sat untouched for a few months. I finished it just as I was packing away our winter woolens. When someone from Interweave asked if I had any children’s patterns for Winter 2010, I sent off my sketches.

Normally, I dread selecting buttons because I have an incredible knack for making extremely poor button choices. One of my coping strategies is to ask other shoppers in the store what they think of my button choice. Did you know most knitters and sewers love choosing buttons? They do. AND they’re usually quite good at it, don’t you think? These particular buttons pleased me very much. They look great with the gray yarn, and don’t detract from the cables at all.

I realize many people do not want to think about baby or kids’ patterns, but I maintain the set-in sleeve is worth the (small) trouble. Well fitting knits look great on children, don’t you think?

Stay tuned for some more gift ideas, namely a pair of Latvian-inspired mittens from Twist Collective!

Dunbar’s Point Mittens

Do any of you have a signature color? One to which you faithfully return even despite your best efforts? My friend Danielle does, I’ll let you guess what color it could be. A few weeks ago, Danielle accepted a great job offer after a long and frustrating hunt for the perfect position. I am really proud of her for landing the job for which she worked so doggedly. This clearly called for some celebratory knitting, and I had the perfect yarn on top of my stash: some leftover scraps from a project with Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Hand Dyes in Petunia. I didn’t quite have enough yarn for full-sized mittens, but I knew I could eke out a nice pair of fingerless mittens with what I had (about 120 yards).

Dunbar’s Point Mittens are basic stockinette, fingerless mittens with simple lace edgings knitted on afterwards. The pattern offers photo tutorials of a provisional lace cast-on and the knitted attachment of the edging. Dunbar’s Point provides the opportunity to learn and practice new techniques in a small, unintimidating setting.

Both seamless and fairly easy, this is a perfect project for using up scraps too big to throw out and too little for much else. Plus, the knitting flies by rapidly – I knitted the pair in one evening, then attached the edgings the next evening.

Although I considered using lace edgings on the thumb, I decided against it to give the thumbs need more freedom. After all, these should be useful, not just pretty.

I hope these will serve Danielle well in her brand new office. At the very least, I feel fairly confident they will match whatever she’s wearing on any given day. Good luck on your first day, Danielle!

AccessoryFest 2010: Ladybug Picnic Mittens

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

These mittens take their name from the Sesame Street counting sketch about a ladybug picnic. You know you know it. Don’t remember it? Click the link. I dare you. Here, I’ll share it again. You’ll be singing that goofy song for the rest of the day.

(You’re welcome.)

Oh, come on, it’s not so annoying, is it? I think it’s kind of cute! Elizabeth Mitchell does a wonderful rendition of it on one of her children’s albums.

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

Once I got the idea to knit some ladybugs, it bounced around in my head just as relentlessly as that silly song will in yours. I swatched them on a white background on the way to Washington, D. C. a few weeks ago, but the dark floats really showed through. Unfortunately, I did not have any other appropriate yarn with me so the idea had to kick around my head for a few more days before I could actually do anything about it!

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

I made this pair of mittens for JulieFrick, who claims to be incapable of stranded knitting. I don’t believe it. Have you seen her knitting? It is categorically not the work of the knitting skill-challenged. Nevertheless, I thought the lady needed a pair of stranded mitts because I know she’s never going to make herself any!!

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

Pattern: Ladybug Picnic Mittens (Ravelry link)

Yarn: Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Limestone, Red Fox, and Pepper

Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) and US 1 (2.5 mm)

I tried so hard to get this pattern to come out with only twelve ladybugs – like in the song – but in order to maintain uniform tension, the adult sizes required fifteen ladybugs. I made sure that the child-size mitten, the XS, only has twelve. After all, why call them Ladybug Picnic Mittens if there were not twelve ladybugs? That’s the entire point of the song! The mittens feature a picot cuff and red and black braid at the cuff, a peasant thumb, and a rounded top. The ladybugs are knitted into the mitten; however, the bugs’ spots and feet are duplicate stitched on afterwards.

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

I am especially pleased with the palm side. I did not really want to put ladybugs on the inside, but I needed a way to carry the yarn across. I love this effect. I might see about using the stitch pattern in other designs.

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

Now that the Fricknits family is outfitted with stranded knitwear, they can start shoveling out from under all that snow!