New Year: Old Mittens & New Socks

Well I don’t know about you but I feel like I’ve been catapulted into this new year, or as everyone keeps emphasising, new decade, and rather than having any grand plans or dare I say it ‘resolutions’, I’m still trying to get my arms and legs in order and rub that bruise on my arse that resulted from the force of the propulsion combined with the weight of the landing.

So in terms of the blog, I have yet to reach for my planner, notebook, scrap of paper, or anything else on which to sketch out my  future plans. I did indulge my desire to have a way of posting quick updates directly onto the website other than through full blog posts, and felt very accomplished for working out the technical steps required to add the new ‘Notes in the Margin’ feature. This is now in the right hand sidebar and will have news, shout outs and anything else I think may be of interest to readers. So far we’ve had a radio programme that spoke intelligently about knitting, a couple of fabulous book releases, and reference to a blog post listing all the UK knitting/yarn/stitching shows in case you’d like to timetable them in this year.

Today however, as I sit here with my tea and slice of Christmas Cake, I do want to have a little look back to a project I finished last year which was started over 2 years ago intending to be a surprise gift for Christmas 2017.

A couple of years ago, while my partner was away, I though it would be a good idea to make him an new pair of mittens. His beloved mittens from his days as a postgraduate student in Minnesota, now approx. 30 years ago, had seen better days and many miles of cycling in them had worn away the palms. 

So I set about trying to find a pattern for a pair with the same motif. Therein lay the first hurdle, I couldn’t find one. In examining the mittens more closely I also realised that the construction was different to that of the only other pair of colorwork mittens I had made, namely the thumb didn’t sit to the side, but emerged from the palm of the gloves. Further delving suggested that these, based on the thumb placement and style of colorwork rather than lace or ribbed cuff, were traditional Men’s Selbu Mittens. Even with this information I couldn’t find a match so decided to reverse engineer the mittens with the originals as my pattern. (Since I embarked on this project, Anne Bardsgard has published Selbuvotter, the definitive text on Selbu Mittens, it has been translated into English and is supported by an informative website)

I started by charting the cuff then worked up to the main pattern. From this I learnt that a certain degree of ‘fudging’ took place to get from the required number of stitches for the cuff motifs to this for the hands. 

I also had a couple of false starts with the actual knitting as the first yarn chosen wasn’t quite thick enough to create a sturdy fabric at the required gauge for the size I needed, so a quick dash to my then new local yarn store was required where I opted for Jamieson & Smith’s jumper weight which worked better.

By this point, the weekend when my partner was away and I’d hoped to make good headway in the mittens was pretty much over and I was still only at the cast on stage. 

In the month up to Christmas I snuck in a few rounds here and a few rounds there wherever I could in between other gift knitting and made it to Christmas wth a single incomplete mitten. Not to be put off I wrapped it up with the promise of a second to come…

This was as far as I got that first Christmas. By the time I blogged about in in the January, that first mitten was ‘complete’ minus a thumb.
Despite the optimism I expressed in that blog post, they didn’t get done by the end of January for his birthday and indeed another Christmas came and went and they still didn’t get finished. 
However, I can now proudly declare that they are done, thanks in no short measure to the support of The Crimson Stitchery Podcast Wipalong on Ravelry. The WIPalong hosted by Anushka required participants to list all their current WIPs and aim to complete at least half of them, including any new WIPs cast on. These mittens were on my list but I still finished a fair few other projects before I got to confronting these. 
It’s silly really as by this point I only had the tip of one hand and 2 thumbs to finish up. Granted that meant I still needed to chart the thumb but once I had time to actually sit down and do it, it all went remarkably smoothly.
Looking back I was wondering what the block was with these mittens. It’s not as if I don’t like small circumference colour work: I knit the two top pairs of Stromfirth sock samples for The Vintage Shetland Project.
(Copyright: Susan Crawford)
I think it was because these mittens for big hands had too many stitches for my preferred shorter DPNs on which I distribute my stitches over 3 needles and work them with the fourth, and I don’t enjoy working with the longer ones. Conversely, there were just too few stitches for working on a short circular of the shortest length I can comfortably work with (30cm) and I really don’t enjoy magic loop of working with 2 circulars. As such they just didn’t hit the sweet spot.
Anyway, all’s well that ends well and hopefully these mittens completed just in time for this new decade will see it out and see my partner through another just like his original mitts. 

Take care and all the very best for this new decade. I hope it’s one you are planning on embracing and can look back on as a great one in the years to come. 

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