January is for Mittens

Scrolling through my Instagram feed in early November, a pair of handknit mittens caught my eye. They were colorwork mittens, with a contrast hem, and a tree motif – swoon – designed and knit by the inimitable Kirsten Kapur. I was totally captivated and immediately obsessed. Turned out, it was a soon-to-be-released design, and Kirsten was looking for test knitters. I was thrilled to get to test this pattern.

I had some green handspun in my stash (I believe I spun it up three, maybe four, years ago) that was just begging to become trees in this mitten pattern. And who am I to stand in the way of yarn fulfilling its destiny?

Handspun Metasequoia Mittens. LOVE these mittens. Another @throughtheloops winner! #handspun #handknit #mittens

This was a truly delightful knit, from beginning to end. Watching the trees grow out of the cuff, especially in the subtle shades of this handspun, was nothing but joy.

Metasequoia Mittens

Metasequoia Mittens

I also learned how to be more mindful with my colorwork. I had tension issues early on, which resulted in my having to knit back an entire half mitten and try again.

These beauties were worth it.

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The pattern is well-written, clear, and easy to follow, as is always the case with Kirsten’s patterns. If you are new to colorwork, this would be a perfect first colorwork design for you to try.

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The end result is totally cozy and completely charming. The contrast hem inside the cuff is a sweet little detail (I didn’t manage to get good pictures of mine, but it’s done in a rich brown). (The non-handspun yarns I used for the white background and the brown hem were both Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Worsted – have I mentioned it’s made in Michigan?).

But I do have one problem.
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I love these mittens so much that I haven’t been able to bring myself to actually wear them. They are just too precious and I’m afraid of ruining them!

But mittens are made to be worn, so I will wear them, I promise, once I get done admiring them.

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Thanks, Kirsten, for another perfect pattern!

The rest of you need to knit these. You won’t be sorry! You can get your own copy of the pattern here.

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Sometimes I Have to Rip

For those of you who don’t knit, we call this “frogging,” because you have to rip it, rip it. We knitters are hilarious, wouldn’t you agree? When the situation is less extreme, and doesn’t require actually ripping back, then all we have to do is tink, which is “knit” spelled backwards. To tink back a little bit hurts the heart less than frogging, I can assure you. But there are times when the ripping is unavoidable.

After knitting merrily along on my handspun colorwork mittens, and getting roughly halfway done with the first one, I had to come to grips with a reality I had been trying my best to deny: my colorwork was puckering, an indicator that my tension was off, despite my best efforts.

I let the mitten sit for a couple of days, then I took a deep breath, and then I ripped:

handspun mitten cuff

handspun mitten cuff

It’s emotionally difficult to rip. Knitters, am I overstating things? Those stitches represent time and energy, so it feels like a loss to undo it all. That’s why it’s so hard to do sometimes, even when you can tell you have made a mistake in your knitting. This ability to rip back, though, is a benefit of knitting that we don’t always have in life: the clean slate, the chance to get things just right. I’ll take it! So now I’m ready to try again. As I pay renewed attention to my colorwork tension, I am happy to hear any tips you might have!

Sometimes I Swatch

I am so delighted to have the chance to test knit Kirsten’s newest mitten design, to be released next month. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw her picture of it on Instagram, and I immediately went stash diving to see if I might have the necessary yarns. I showed you yesterday what I came up with: a combination of Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Wool (worsted) and my own handspun.

I’ve knit with Stonehedge a lot. A lot. A LOT. A LOT, I TELL YOU. And I have found that it can handle a wide range of needle sizes – I’ve knit with it on size 2 needles as well as on size 8. So I often skip the swatching for a new project, because I have a pretty good idea of my gauge on various needle sizes. But this project involves colorwork, and my tension with colorwork is still evolving, so I want to make sure I get this right.

mitten swatch

mitten swatch

I sometimes forget that my tension with stranded knitting is a bit tighter than my tension with plain knitting, so I’m really glad I took  I experimented with needle size. Verdict: I’ll do the plain portion on size 2 needles and the colorwork on size 3. All systems are go, and I’m ready to cast on tonight!

Smitten :: all done but the seaming

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Kind of wishing I’d seamed each as I finished knitting, but oh well – the knitting’s done, baby! Seaming each one only takes about 4 minutes – perfect for the breaks I’ll be taking between other work this afternoon and tonight. This IS going in the mail tomorrow and it WILL get to its recipient in time to hang for Advent. Yeehaw!

Then there were 14. Sort of. (Smitten)

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I mean, I can’t really call them done until I’ve gotten all those ends taken care of, can I?

Not to mention the little loop thingies.

But I’ve been leaving off all the individual finishing details for the sake of momentum – it seems to work well for me to immediately cast on for the next mitten as soon as I’m done knitting one. I timed myself on the most recent one, and it took me 49 minutes to make it. That was without reading or watching TV, and I usually do at least one of those things while I knit. Watching TV while knitting doesn’t slow me down at all, but I know that reading does, at least a little bit.

My goal is to get these finished (including the weaving in of ends! including the sewing of the little loop thingies! including the crocheting of a chain for them to hang on!) in time to get them in the mail in a little more than a week, so my friend will receive them in time to hang for Advent.

I know it sounds like I’m a great friend for doing this – but you should see what she made for me! And you will, soon.

(Fashion Friday will be back next Friday, with – at last! – another Stitch Fix! My box is finally on its way to me now, scheduled to arrive on Monday. It’s all I can do to keep from looking at my account info to see what they’ve sent me. I’m trying to be surprised. Happily, I hope.)

in progress :: nine down, fifteen to go (Smitten)

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Just like last year, only this time for a friend.