Saturday, July 2, 2011


I often have trouble knitting two of the same thing.  I think this is part of the reason why I don't enjoy knitting socks.  (The other reason is the fact that I have canoes for feet.)  I know this about myself and I also know that it has caused problems in the past when six, twelve, eighteen months pass before I knit the second sock, or mitten, or whatever and my gauge in that intervening time has changed so much that I have two of something that aren't the same size.  It usually happens with things that take the largest investment of time, like colorwork mittens.  It would never happen to plain stockinette socks.  That would be too easy.

This is why when I finished the first Estonian mitten and felt myself slipping away from the project, looking for other things to cast on instead of the second one, I immediately gave myself a talking to about how wouldn't it be nice if I knit two mittens that were the same size?  Even if I know they're not going to fit me because the first one was too small, wouldn't it be nice to be able to give someone else two mittens that are the same size?  Shouldn't I just sit down and knit that second mitten?  Because really, the first one only took a day and a half so it shouldn't be too much trouble.

And you know what?  It wasn't.  (I figured out why the cast on was so much freaking bigger the second time around.  It's because the first time I cast on using Knit Picks harmony needles and the second time with Clover bamboo needles and the difference in slipperiness changed my tension.  Crazy, right?  But it's all fixed.)  I even discovered that knitting this mitten a second time was just as enchanting.

Pattern: Marko's Mittens (rav. link) from Folk Knitting in Estonia by Nancy Bush  Yarn: Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift  Needles: US 0

There was so much to love about these mittens.  I love how the thumbs practically disappear against the palm.  (Look at the one on the left.  You can barely see it!  So cool.)  I love the simple black/white of the mittens.  I think it's charming.  I love - and this is an important one - I love the fact that by knitting these mittens, I was connecting to a history.  A knitting tradition.  These are essentially reproductions of actual Estonian mittens, only I made them.  How cool is that?!  I love the little bits of red thrown in for a pop of color.  I love the braided cast on, and the bit of lace on the cuff.  I love the jagged looking pattern and the way that if you put the two mittens together, it makes another diamond pattern between them.  And I love how the inside of the thumb is like a little surprise for the wearer.

And I love that each mitten only weights 30 grams.  And they're warm like an oven, too.  Those Estonians know what they're doing.  I also love that I didn't have to break into my second ball of black because I had so much left of the first one when I finished.

I find these mittens so incredibly wonderful that I have a feeling I may be running into a knitting jag.  You know, where when you once thought you'd never be able to knit the same thing more than once because it just gets so boring and then all of a sudden you can't stop knitting hats and then all of a sudden people know you as the hat guy and you have so many that no one wants any more of them?  (It happened to me with the Kiwi Hat.  My brother's boyfriend now owns like five of them.)  That's what I think is happening here.  I want to knit colorwork mittens always.  I want to knit mittens from Latvia, and from Estonia.  Mittens from Scotland, mittens from Russia, Turkey, the UK.  I can't wait to explore all of these different knitting traditions through mittens and I've already picked out some wonderful color combinations in my favorite yarns.

Some nice warm heathers in Cascade 220:

Bold, eye-searing Malabrigo:

Natural colors in Harrisville:

Jewel tones in Manos:

You get the idea.  Mittens mittens mittens.  I don't know about you, but I want to knit mittens forever.  I just don't know which ones to start with.

(Ooh, and I just got a copy of Rae Compton's The Complete Book of Traditional Knitting (which, by the way, do you see that original hardcover edition for $360?  Definitely glad they reprinted this gem) and there are some pictures of mittens from the 1800s that I definitely want to recreate as well.)

And then when I was feeling a little, well, upset because I've been looking for authentic traditional mitten patterns and it seems as though so many patterns these days are "based on traditional mittens" but then maybe they're knit at a bigger gauge, or the pattern is made easier, or the shaping is changed, all to make it "easier for the modern knitter" and I was throwing a bit of a fit in my apartment because "I don't need the pattern to be made easier dammit I want to do things right!" (I don't really like change) when Yayo of the comments messaged me on Ravelry and pointed me to a pair of mittens that she had knit.  Go look at them and marvel at their amazingness.  Fully-lined mittens knit on size 0000 mittens.  Like I told her, I've been looking for the real deal and I'm pretty sure I just found it.

I need your input though.  The yarn called for, though excellent, is also only available from either (I find this endlessly amusing) Elizabeth Zimmermann's company or Nancy Bush's and although I think that verifies that it's great yarn, if I were to buy all that I needed these would be $100 mittens and I'm not going there.  So I'm going to the other end of the yarn spectrum and I'm looking at either Knit Picks Palette or Brown Sheep Nature Spun (which is what Ms. Yayo used) and I'd like to know which one you guys would choose.  I've never knit with Nature Spun, so if you've knit with both and have an opinion, I'd love to hear it.

So that's that.  Mittens.  I'm knittin' 'em.  Oh!  Except I have to knit some arm warmers for one of my sisters first because I promised her years ago that I would and I haven't yet.  So I started those.

It's not going well.  This post is quite long already so I won't go into much detail, but it went from that point to here:

Three different times using three different designs and they're all just too small.  I knit the first five inches of the first one and ripped it out, and then I knit it again a needle size up and ripped, and then I went up a needle size again and decided the pattern wasn't right.  So I switched to the pattern you see above and knit all that you see despite knowing that it used the same stitch count as the pattern before, which ended up being too small, and this one has a cable so it's definitely going to be too small especially because my sister wants slouchy arm warmers, but I kept knitting anyway.  I finally ripped that out and started a third pattern of my own devising only to realize four inches later that it's just stupid and crap and ripped it out and now I have nothing, but I'm going to return to that second pattern you see above and just use more stitches.  I don't know why I was being an idiot but I think my mind was elsewhere.

Like mittens.

P.S.  Thanks to DavidA for correcting me on that coral bridge.  The tour guide was wrong and it's actually made out of volcanic rock, which both sits better on my conscience and explains why every time I walk across it I think, "Huh.  Coral?  Really?  It kinda looks more like volcanic rock to me."  So there ya go.  Thanks DavidA.  (Only I couldn't reply to your comment because I don't have your contact info.)

P.P.S.  There are a lot of other comments that I also have not replied to yet, but I will.  I'm just behind and the only place I have internet is the practice room at school and it's already 1:45am and I don't want to be in a practice room any longer, so I'll reply to them later.

P.P.P.S.  Size 0000.  I'm just so frikkin' excited!  (That links to an SNL skit.  Very funny.  I bet she knit her sweater.)


  1. My favorite color is green...just sayin'..just in case you get a hankerin' to knit too many of something green and nobody wants anymore. :=)

  2. One of my knitting friends went on a mitten jag a few years ago, and made probably half a dozen pairs, most if not all Fiddleheads. I can hear her now: "Mittens mittens mittens!"

    Enjoy the jag. Resistance is useless!

  3. I have used both yarns. Both yarns are fine. Go for the one with the most yardage or that you can afford. I love the color of the wristers you are knitting for your sister. Good choice.

    Linda B (the one that isn't Johnny)

  4. I love those mittens! I looked up the yarn you are coveting (Satakieli) and found that although it says fingering on Ravelry, it is actually a sport weight yarn. (~1650 ypp, 2-ply, woolen spun, loosely plied). This makes it similar to J&S jumper weight, Harrisville Shetland, Bartlett yarns Sport, etc. I think any of these would give you a more "authentic" mitten over the two yarns you suggested. (although they are both perfectly adequate for knitting in general). Just remember, my hands are bigger than yours, so you may have to go up a needle size so they fit me. :P

  5. What a lovely post - you feel about mittens the way I feel about tams - must knit more and more of them.


  6. Those are lovely mittens and I love the way the thumb disappears as you described and how the motifs match when you put the mittens together. Whoever designed them was a knitting genius.

    Now of course I have to add yet another book (Sata) to my wish list.

  7. Love the mittens, and the disappearing thumbs. Could you upsize the Estonians by using a larger yarn?

  8. The thumbs are so cool that I had to stare at the picture for about 5 min to find the thumb on the left! AMAZING! Btw, I haven't used the brown sheep yarn but I do love knitpicks! Have fun! And follow your knitting mojo!!

  9. a) Hot damn! That was a long post.

    b) Those mittens look amazing. I totally wish I lived in a climate that required mittens so I could commission a pair from you.

    c) Umm...I forget what "c" was. It's only 11pm on a Saturday and my brain turned off about 2 hours ago. (And I just typed "afgao" instead of "ago". I think this means I need to go to bed.)

  10. I'm of the opinion that if a yarn has been recommended, and you don't love the other one, try the new one. Just so you know. And I wonder if the reason they're all "based on" traditional mittens is that the traditional materials they used aren't readily available anymore.

  11. I'm so very grateful that you linked to that skit. I love Kristen.

    And your mittens are lovely. I'm glad you figured out the gauge issue. Here's to many happy mittens!

  12. I'm sorry. I can't hear you over the sound coming off that sofa. :p

    Brown Sheep all the way, baby!

    Enjoy you Mitten Madness!

  13. Really nice mittens! There's something truly awesome in talking about knitting mittens when it's 90 degrees outside :D I love it!
    Yes, it's a rare and beautiful thing when you get hooked on one pattern for a while. I actually hope for that sometimes, instead of the oft "casting on something new when the first project is only 1/3 done" thing :|
    I'm thinking of giving Stephen West's wonderfully rustic "Splitbark" mittens a go when we start approaching the fall. Saw 'em on WillyG's blog, and I just couldn't look away :) Thanks for the great post!

  14. Yarndude, I'm teaching myself to knit and have been doing so for about a year now. I've tried mittens three times and been OK until time to finish off the thumb. How, how, how do you connect to the main mitten without the gap? I've seen video clips, read directions and still don't "get it". Help!