I know, I know - so much blogging as of late! I've finished quite a few things recently, which I'm very proud of. For about 5 minutes there I didn't have anything on the needles! Amazing. I've had these pictures hanging around for a few days and didn't want to post them until the recipients saw their new mittens!
You see, two of my most favorite people on earth left Chicago to spend this year in Russia. They'll be back, but in the meantime I am missing them like hell and worrying that they'll be warm enough in the Russian winter.
This is Kat and Jon, and they need warm woolens. When Kat said she would be in LA for a conference for a few days I took the opportunity to mail some handmade goodies to her there. For Jon - a pair of my Baker Street Mittens.
Jon had admired the original pairs that I was knitting up for Interweave (when it was 900 degrees out this summer) so I picked out a couple Moscow style-appropriate shades of knit picks wool of the andes and cast on for a pair for him, with slight variations. First of all, the yarn is different than what I used for the Interweave samples. I think these mittens would work great in any light worsted yarn like wool of the andes, cascade 220, etc. Secondly, I started these with a provisional cast on. I kept the braid, knit the rest of the mitten as the pattern calls for, then went back and added a laceweight lining in an alpaca/silk blend. In short, these mittens are a freaking dream.
Kat's mittens proved to be more of a complicated ordeal. I had bought some yarn in Taos, NM last summer with her specifically in mind. The yarn is wool, and hand dyed in beautiful colors, but it's VERY stiff. It looks about as heavy as cascade 220 but it can't be knit as tight. I cast on for a couple different patterns with this yarn and realized that, although it is lovely, I'd have to come back to it at some later date because nothing I was trying was working. Everything was so stiff I thought my fingers would just fall off. And then I remembered Elli's new Sprig Mittens, and that I had a few different colors of knit picks swish bulky stashed away, and THANK GOD for the Sprig pattern because otherwise I never would have gotten Kat's mittens done in time!
It cracks me up that while Elli and I both design stranded mittens, and clearly both feel that gusseted thumbs are completely necessary (I'll save that rant for some other post!), we take entirely different approaches to this. Yes, the thumbs of both of these mittens are striped, but the direction of the stripes is different because of how we each place our increases. Mine run straight up the side of the mitten; Elli's run out up the far side of the thumb. My point with all this rambling about thumbs is that it was fun to try a new approach.
Another thing that I love about this design is, well, the design. Let me explain - charts for stranded mittens can be a tricky thing to design because you always have a limited number of stitches. The bulkier yarn you use, the fewer stitches you have to work with, and a design made up of fewer stitches will make a less complicated graphic in the chart. And the stitches are big, which can make things look blocky and pixelated. And this is just the nature of chunky stranded designs, and a good designer will just run with this, in my opinion, which is exactly what Elli did. The sprigs are adorably blocky and use the space available efficiently.
Of course I can't knit anything without messing with the design, so here's what I changed: obviously my mitten doesn't have the ribbed cuff that Elli calls for. This is because my original plan was to line Kat's mittens just like I had done with Jon's. Of course, with all the dramz of the original yarn choice I ran out of time. When I cast on for these (two days before I had to send them express mail to California - what?!) I still had such high hopes for linings. Oh how naive of me. At any rate, I used the i-cord cast on of Adrian's Fiddlehead Mittens (the pattern that I used to learn colorwork! oh what an addiction it started.), of course adjusting the numbers for my bulky gauge. Then I added one set of leaves to Elli's chart in order to increase the length. Obviously I never got around to adding the lining, but I think the adjustments made for a nice mitten in the end anyway.
There is one other thing I learned from knitting all these mittens, which is that I most definitely do not think washable yarns work as well for stranded colorwork. The original samples of the Baker Street mittens that I knit for Interweave were in Bergère de France Berlaine, which is a washable wool. It's pretty much exactly like Cascade 220 but washable, so far as I can tell. Those mittens blocked fine, but Jon's pair in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes blocked AMAZINGLY. I noticed the same principle when I blocked Kat's mittens in Swish bulky - another washable yarn. The blocking just didn't cure all my colorwork ills like I did for the wool of the andes. So in the future I think feltable wools are definitely the way to go for colorwork. (except for socks! which I must wash since they touch my foul feet.)
Oh, and what am I doing ranting on and on about mittens! I must wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and get myself off of the computer. So happy Thanksgiving. I'll see you on the other side!