Tag Archives: Christmas

The view from here

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On Monday, I finished all my gift knitting. I can’t believe it took me this long to say it. I think, as crazy as this will sound, that I was worried that saying it out loud/in writing on the Internet would be the trigger to realize I’d forgotten about people and leave me scrambling. But that didn’t happen (yet) and now it’s too late – I’m in Switzerland.

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The view off over the village. It’s like a Christmas card over here.

Surprise! Yesterday, I left Toronto in huge scrambled hurry: not only did my sister realize her passport was expired – thank goodness we’re dual British citizens! – but it turned out my flight was not at 10:15 p.m. as I thought but instead at 5:30! Yeah, we’re disasters all around. But, it all worked out (holiday miracle!) and this morning/the middle of last night (depending on your point of view) we landed in Geneva. Tomorrow my other sister joins us and all five of us – my parents, my two sisters, and I – will all be together for the first time since last Christmas. Very exciting.

We dawdled on the way from the city to the little town where we’re staying, and the market in Lausanne had yarn for sale at the first booth, which I take as a good sign (I didn’t buy any, because I didn’t have any Swiss francs. Sigh) It got dark about an hour after we arrived at the apartment, but I’ll have more photos soon.

It's late in the day so the light is kind of crappy. The green isn't actually quite that dark, but you get the idea.

It’s late in the day so the light is kind of crappy. The green isn’t actually quite that dark, but you get the idea.

In the meantime, check out the progress on these Christmas socks! The striping is just perfect, if I do say so myself – they look just like the vintage Christmas balls that (I’m guessing) inspired the colourway.

What I knit this Christmas

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You’ve heard about it all of it, but a parade of finished and gifted knits is excellent closure. Plus, I didn’t really publish any proper shots of the finished pieces in case there were spies, so now you can see everything in its glory.

First up, the Daphne socks (a Cookie A. pattern) I knit for Jenny using Indigodragonfly Merino Silk 4-ply sock in Don’t You Have an Elsewhere to Be?. They were the first gift I finished and, weirdly, the first to be opened. They fit her very well and she says she can’t wait to go to a party where she can show them off.

I am going to have to knit myself a pair of these very soon I think.

I am going to have to knit myself a pair of these very soon I think.

Actually, technically speaking, L’s hat was the first gift to be opened, but that’s because we don’t spend Christmas day together, and instead exchange gifts on our anniversary the week before. I knit him a hat for his birthday in January (I was about to say last year, but that’s not quite true), and it has been well worn to the point of extreme fuzzy-ness. Thus, a new hat was in order. He requested dark grey, I obliged with Misti Alpaca Tonos Worsted, a gorgeous hand painted alpaca/wool blend in Marcasite. (The pattern is Horatio by Kristin Hanley Cardozo and I will almost certainly knit it again – it’s an excellent man hat.)

L has proclaimed this hat "very warm."

L has proclaimed this hat “very warm.”

My dad’s hat was something I half-planned for a while and then executed at the last minute. Initially, my plan was to design a fair isle hat in subtle greys, but I didn’t do it and then ran out of time, so things changed. I picked up some SweetGeorgia Superwash Worsted in Slate from the shop and, after a quick browse on Ravelry, settled on the Men’s Mock Aran Men’s Hat by Heather Tucker. It was basic enough to be an everyday hat for my dad, but interesting enough that I didn’t resent it during the knitting.

Next time I knit this, I'm charting it.

Next time I knit this, I’m charting it.

After starting a pair of mittens for Connie and then deciding that both pattern and yarn were wrong, I switched to these Lily Mittens by Annemor Sundbo. I ended up using some Louet Gems from my stash (in Willow and Navy) and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier. The Louet was really nice to work with and the finished mittens fit perfectly.

The back of the thumbs are surprise stripes! (The thumbs are also made up because I forgot the chart at home.)

The back of the thumbs are surprise stripes! (The thumbs are also made up because I forgot the chart at home.)

Finally, the tea cozy. What a friggin’ saga. I finished it in good time and then sewed in all the ends and then went to the workroom and sewed a lining before I left. I did think it looked a little big, but my mum’s tea pot is enormous, so I didn’t think much of it. I tried it on the tea pot when I got to my parents’ and wouldn’t you know, it was enormous. Luckily, I had not yet sewn in the lining, so I threw the tea cozy in the washing machine for a little felting action and, when it got about as small as I could make it without risking over-felting, I cut and re-sewed the lining and then sewed it in. Phew. It’s still a little big, but my mum is thrilled anyway because it’s the first tea cozy that’s ever actually covered the entire tea pot.

I don't know why the colours came out like this in the photo. They're much more accurate here.

I don’t know why the colours came out like this in the photo. They’re much more accurate here.

(I think where I went wrong was that, when I took my original measurements, I added in some positive ease when I wrote down the number. When I went to knit the thing, though, I forgot that and added more ease. That’ll teach me to keep better notes.)

I don’t really have pictures of the mittens I gave my grandmother (besides those you’ve already seen) or the foot tubes, because I didn’t have my camera on me when they opened them. The mittens were a perfect fit, and I’ve heard nothing at all about the bed socks, so that’s anyone’s guess. The main thing, though, was that I managed to finish everything on time without going crazy (or becoming a shut-in) in the meantime.

How did your holiday knitting go?

All over but the Kahlua

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Yesterday, I flew back to Toronto from Nova Scotia. As you may have heard, the East Coast (as well as Ontario, Quebec, and the American Midwest) got rather a lot of snow yesterday, so my flight was delayed. Since my mum drove me to the airport in a snowstorm, a delayed flight was a welcome excuse not to rush, and we got there in time to have dinner in the airport pub before hugging goodbye at security. My flight didn’t board for another hour and a bit, but I was knitting and it wasn’t cancelled, so I wasn’t upset.

In journalism, three instances or examples of something in a reasonable period of time is considered a trend, and if that’s the benchmark I think it’s fair to say that delays during holiday travel have become an annual tradition for me. Not a tradition of my own making (I’m not missing flights or anything), but nonetheless, I’m getting good at waiting patiently in airports, not freaking out about bad weather, and mentally preparing for cancellations.

So, delayed flight? No problem. I had a snack in my carry on; I had a sock to finish and another ball of yarn wound and ready in case I needed it; I had two books – in short, I was not worried. The flight boarded and when the woman I was sitting next to asked me to put away my knitting for take off, I said “no problem” and leafed through the in-flight magazine until she said she was okay with me knitting again (I was quietly annoyed, but it was a bumpy flight and she seemed nervous about everything, so whatever, it’s the holidays). I knit through the turbulence all the way to Ottawa (an hour and 45 minutes or so). My nervous neighbour disembarked. I knit while we sat on the ground. I knit through the announcement that the flight was going to be diverted to Hamilton.

Let’s pause here so I can point out that, when the plane lands at the Toronto Island airport, I’m 20 minutes from home, but when it lands in Hamilton, I’m nearly two hours from home. I knit through that and despite being annoyed, decided that it was better than having to spend the night in Ottawa. The airline said they’d have a free shuttle to bring us to Toronto, so I was still going to get home. In bad weather, this is what you have to cling to.

I finished knitting my sock on that flight and then proceeded to sew in the ends. All fifty million little ends (well, there were 12, but that felt like a lot). The light was bad, but by the time we landed, I was almost done. I picked up my luggage (both bags made it!) and got on the warm and waiting shuttle. I finished sewing in my ends, had a nap, arrived in Toronto, grabbed the second cab that pulled up, and was home by 2 a.m. Yes, that’s later than I was expecting to be there, but honestly, only by about two hours, so I considered myself lucky. L and Ganymede aren’t home yet, so our apartment was dark, but it was warm, and there was lots of fun mail, so it wasn’t a terrible homecoming.

It was when I opened my bag to get out my pajamas and whatnot that I got the sense something might be wrong. There was this smell. It was sweet, and unmistakably sticky, and rather coffee-ish. I am, generally, a very slow unpacker. It drives L crazy, but I can’t help it; I hate unpacking. Nonetheless, I went in to investigate. Kahlua. The smell was Kahlua, and it was everywhere. I had packed a bottle in my bag (a gift from my sister) and I guess the pressure must have been too much because the lid of the bottle just sheared right off. When I pulled out the bottle to assess the damage, it was dangerously light, and that’s when I realized how bad it was: not a drop, not a small spill, but an entire bottle of dark brown, sticky liqueur had emptied into my bag. The truly miraculous thing is that it managed to get on every single white object in there while leaving almost all the dark (majority) of my clothes entirely untouched.

Gingerly, I began pulling alcohol soaked shirts and dresses out of my pack. It was like some sort of twisted Rorschach Test – can you really handle holiday travel? what do you see in this impending stain? – and as it became clear that all my favourite clothes were soaked, I held it together. It’s just clothing, I told myself, totally replaceable. Then, oh god, then I pulled out a skein of beautiful hand-dyed yarn that my mum had given me for Chrismtas and discovered it soaked through and I just about lost it. That’s right: delays, diversions, alcohol soaked clothes – all nothing; but three skeins of damaged yarn? Tears. Only two or three, though, because who has time to cry when your wardrobe is on the verge or irreparable stains and your yarn is damaged? (I have no photos of any of this because, although it is excellent blog fodder, it didn’t occur to me to take photos until after everything was in the water. Use your imagination, I doubt you’re picturing something worse than the reality.)

Thank goodness I’m a knitter. We are, without a doubt, the best equipped to do major hand washing, and I sprang into action. SOAK is a lifesaver. Alongside Spray and Wash, I think I may have saved everything. Seriously. Everything was still so wet that nothing had a chance to set, so after dousing it all with stain remover, I plunged it into a bucket of warm water filled with SOAK and left it there overnight. This morning the water was the colour of dark toffee, but my clothes came out stain free. The yarn I rinsed (carefully) in very hot water and hung to dry, it looks okay I think.

I may never be able to drink (or smell) Kahlua again, and I still have to do a proper clean of my bag, and I’m pretty sleep deprived, but I’m home. And, as a gift to L, I’m unpacked uncharacteristically early. I can only hope that if you have holiday travelling ahead of you that it goes more smoothly!

Oh, the socks? Here’s a shot of them finished (but unblocked – I’ve been a little busy). I’ll do a proper post about them later.

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It’s Boxing Day and the knitting is easy

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I finished! It was a bit close – I cast off and blocked my dad’s hat on Christmas Eve – but I finished on time and without tears. What makes this really impressive (at least to me) is that on Dec. 20, after arriving in New Brunswick, I cast on for my Christmas socks because I needed some public knitting. I worked on them at my grandparents’ (and then knit on the mittens in secret at night) and then in the car on the way to Nova Scotia (a 4.5 hours drive) and then around the house, and managed to finish the first one in just three days! So, that means I finished a mitten, knit two thumbs, most of a hat, and a sock in four days. While socializing and shopping and eating and everything else that the holidays require. Not bad, I say.

I was just starting the pattern of the second sock on Christmas morning.

I was just starting the pattern of the second sock on Christmas morning.

I’ll do a proper Christmas post later this week, but I just wanted to pop in and wish you all Happy Holidays – I hope your Christmas (or just your Tuesday, if you don’t celebrate) was wonderful and well spent. I’m never sure if this is my last Christmas at home, so I always try to make the most of it, including going on chilly hikes with my dad on Christmas day. Here are a few shots from that to carry you through your turkey leftovers.

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We’ve hiked the same trail on Christmas day for years, and it never disappoints.

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If you look closely, you can see that my dad is wearing his new hat.

If you look closely, you can see that my dad is wearing his new hat.

The tide was mostly in when we started, but way out by the time we got back to the car.

The tide was mostly in when we started, but way out by the time we got back to the car.

I can see the finish line

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Standard Holiday Warning: If you are a member of my family, I love you, but if you read any further do so knowing that you will ruin Christmas.

Tomorrow, I get on a plane and head east to spend the holidays with my family. My original knitting plan was to be done everything today, so that tomorrow I could cast on my holiday socks knowing that everyone else was taken care of. Strictly speaking, that isn’t what’s going to happen, but I’m so close I can feel it.

Often with this blog absences indicate low knitting activity. I’m not working on much, or what I am knitting is boring to photograph repeatedly, so I don’t blog because I don’t want to bore. These last two weeks have been the opposite. There has been no time to blog because I have been knitting like a crazy person. For a while, I actually had an open cut on my left index finger because of the near constant pressure of the needle tip (this makes for painful knitting, and is not recommended).

On Friday, I finished L’s hat (I gave it to him on Sunday and it was very well received). On Saturday I finished the foot tubes. On Sunday I finished the first of my sister’s re-started mittens (minus the thumb, of course, since thumbs are last). I cast on for the second mitten on Sunday and am only 20 rows from finished (and since 15 of those rows are the decreases, that’s a quick 20 rows).

So close!

So close!

I don't know what it says about me that I always like the palm side of fair-isle mittens the best.

I don’t know what it says about me that I always like the palm side of fair-isle mittens the best.

I cast on for my dad’s hat on Monday, and am trucking right along (I’m knitting this one, in case you were also looking for a speedy man’s hat). If I didn’t have to work and pack and run last-minute errands today, I would totally be done everything before getting on the plane tomorrow. That’s a lot of ifs, I know, but still, all things considered I’m feeling okay about this. (I also still have to sew the lining into my mum’s tea cozy, but since the lining itself is done, that seems like no big deal. It’s no big deal, right?)

My new plan for tomorrow is to finish the hat and mitten on the plane. I’ll do the thumbs and tea cozy at night, and then I’ll be done! And then what, you ask? Well, as a treat for myself I’m going to knit these Cranberry Biscotti socks. I picked up some Koigu at the shop last week, and it’s all wound and in a project bag and ready to go. I may not quite be casting on on the plane, but it’ll be darn close, and that’s still okay with me.

*I promise proper FO photos after everything has been gifted, and in the meantime apologize for the crappy quality of the photos. It’s hard to get good shots when you’re trying to be both quick and sneaky.

Just like starting over

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Standard Holiday Warning: If you are a member of my family, I love you, but if you read any further do so knowing that you will ruin Christmas.

So, I made the hard decision. I went into the stash, assessed the Louet Gems colourways I had in there, chose two that approximated the colours I really wanted to be using, and then sat down to start again. Then I started thinking about the pattern, and how much recharting and fiddling the Dancing Grannies mittens were going to require (and then realized these need to be done by the 20th) and decided to start over again – new yarn, new pattern, new mitts. I’ve abandoned the plan, and while I know it was the right thing to do, I’m feeling a little time crunched and nervous about it.

I’m knitting these Lily mittens instead. They’re from the same book, and did require recharting (I’m adding a fourth layer of blossoms and an extra set of thumb increases, as well as borders), but it was pretty straightforward. Also, I realized that part of the trouble with the Dancing Grannies was that the floats were too long to allow for maximum stretchiness. That, combined with such a fine yarn made for mittens that were likely to end up too tight to be comfortable. The Louet is gorgeous and springy and has amazing stitch definition, so while it isn’t as fancy as the Road to China, it is still going to produce some pretty lovely mittens.

The colour is weird here, but it's a sort of light, leafy green with navy blue.

The colour is weird here, but it’s a sort of light, leafy green with navy blue.

(In case you were wondering, I didn’t actually rip out the other ones. I was going to, but I know someone with narrow hands who would probably love them, so they’re sitting on waste yarn and will one day be finished.)

Dancing Grannies

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Standard Holiday Warning: If you are a member of my family, I love you, but if you read any further do so knowing that you will ruin Christmas.

Last night, I finished the first of the foot tubes. I’m two days ahead of schedule on those, and it feels awesome. So much of my anxiety about my Christmas knitting was wrapped up in knitting these giant bed socks, but it turned out all I needed was a plan (two inches per day) and they became totally manageable.

Of course, because it’s the holidays and everything going right is boring, I’m starting to worry about my sister’s mittens. I picked out the pattern ages ago and cast on this week. They’re from the same book as Carmen’s mitts, so I had a general ideal of what to worry about going in. I recharted the pattern before starting (see, I’m learning), adding four stitches around and 12 rows to the length of the hand (I also lengthened the cuff). The problem, though, is that I think I’m using the wrong yarn. I’m actually pretty much convinced that I’m using the wrong yarn, but it’s so nice that I don’t want to admit it to myself.

For Carmen’s mittens I used Cascade 220 sport, which is 100% superwash merino and was quite nice to work with. For my sister, though, I chose The Fibre Company Road to China Light. It’s also a sport weight (although it looks quite like fingering), and it’s a blend of alpaca, silk, camel, and cashmere. Can you say soft? I mean, this yarn is so, so soft. So. Soft. It is beautiful to work with and, I think, would prove quite warm and yummy to wear. It is finer than the Cascade, though, so I went up a needle size to balance out the gauge. This thing is, I don’t think it’s enough. I’m worried this yarn isn’t as stretchy as the wool (it isn’t – duh, Angela, silk content) and so while my sister’s hands are a little smaller than mine, I rather suspect she’ll have equal trouble pushing them into this mitt. At least part of this is due to the very long floats required by the Dancing Grannies pattern. I’m keeping my floats extra-loose, but with less-than-stretchy yarn, there’s only so much you can do.

About a third of the way through the hand.

About a third of the way through the hand.

So this is where I have to make the tough choice: Push ahead and risk ending up with a finished mitten that’s definitely too small, and realize there isn’t enough time to replace it; push ahead and witness a knitting miracle in which the finished mitten is the perfect size and totally beloved by my sister; or suck it up – rip it out and start over with a different yarn (I have some Louet Gems sport weight in acceptable colours in my stash). What would you do? I’m leaning toward ripping, but first I’m going to try blocking what I have. It’ll still be on the needles, but maybe the yarn will grow enough to give me hope (yes, that’s right, I didn’t swatch. Ugh.) I have to decide this weekend, though. If I restart on Monday (or, better yet, Sunday night) I’ll still make it, but any later than that and it’ll be very tight.

At least the foot tubes are working out?

Problem solved!

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Standard Holiday Warning: If you are a member of my family, I love you, but if you read any further do so knowing that you will ruin Christmas.

I rather suspect it’s too much to ask for you to read two posts in a row about a stupid tea cozy, so I’ll keep this short: I figured it out. Yes, it took me four hours yesterday of ripping and reknitting and ripping and reknitting to get it right, but when I did, oh, I felt so clever I could have cried. Truly, there is nothing like knitting to make you feel smart (and sometimes also stupid, but lets leave that aside for now).

I as I mentioned, I wanted to try and use the moccasin sock technique for the top. Mostly, that’s because I wanted the tea cozy to be rounded on the ends, allowing for an easy fit over the spout and handle of my parents’ generously sized teapot. Often tea cozies are designed pretty flat (that is, the two sides could basically be knit flat and then seamed together) and while this is a tried and true method, I wanted something a little different.

Behold, the moccasin-topped tea cozy:

So much better than my previous attempt!

So much better than my previous attempt!

I love it. I kind of hated it while I was doing it (you try meticulously tinking about six ever-increasing rows stitch by stitch and see if you don’t hate it by the end), but I’m very pleased about the result. Now all it needs are its ends woven in, its side duplicate stitched (I think the beginning of the round side looks sloppy where I was simultaneously decreasing and starting/stopping the stripes), and a lining sewn. Truly, all of that seems totally doable now that I’m conquered the top.

Side view. This is very generous in size and an accurate portrayal of the colours.

Side view. This is very generous in size and an accurate portrayal of the colours.

Now, I promise there will be no more tea cosy talk until I have a proper FO shot after Christmas!

The never ending tea cozy

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Standard Holiday Warning: If you are a member of my family, I love you, but if you read any further do so knowing that you will ruin Christmas.

Yesterday, I finished the tea cozy. Or, I at least bound-off, but in this case that isn’t really finishing. First of all, I don’t like how it looks, so I’m going to have to rip it out anyway, which is annoying, but should be worth it in the end. Secondly, this thing is going to be lined, which will give it both structure and warmth, and that still needs to be done. Honestly, this tea cozy is never ending. (As before, photos at the bottom.)

I have a plan, though. When I bound off the first time, I used a three-needle bind-off and, honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking. I hate the ridge; I knew I would hate the ridge; I did it anyway. Stupid. So, I’m going to rip it out. I’m also going to take about a half-inch off the top (if you’re ripping, why not go big, right?) and try something else. I think this might be a little crazy, but I’m going to try shaping the top of this tea cozy the same way Elizabeth Zimmerman shaped the bottom of her moccasin socks. I know.

teacozy3

The thing is, I don’t want a rounded, almost-pointy top. I want to decrease to a point, and then have a sort of smooth flat-ish top (it sounds better in my head). The only trouble with that is how to shape it. I don’t want a rectangle – which I have now – so I’m casting about for ways to make it rounder – any ideas? I came up with the moccasin sock idea because (and I’m little embarrassed, so don’t judge) I was looking for a post-Christmas knitting project. I need a carrot to finish in time (or even early) and I like knitting socks for myself over the holidays, so I was planning. It’s just a little motivational push, and I think that’s mostly okay since it isn’t like I’m casting on or anything*.

Okay, that sad little admission out there and I’m going back to the tea cozy. And also the foot tubes, which are zipping along – I figured I needed to knit two inches a day to be done on time, and so far that has been entirely manageable. If I can get this tea cozy under control I might even cast on mittens today.

teacozy4

*I’m not casting on, but I am thinking about it a lot. I’m thinking I’ll either knit Monkeys in a red skein of indigodragonfly I have in my stash, or a pair of these in a green skein of SweetGeorgia’s Tough Love Sock (kind of similar, I know). What do you think?

Milestones

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Standard Holiday Warning: If you are a member of my family, I love you, but if you read any further do so knowing that you will ruin Christmas.

No, I am not buried under some big pile of yarn. Nearly, but not quite. That pile I showed you earlier has gotten a little smaller, but it still looms large every time I sit at my desk, which was meant to be inspiring but it starting to be just plain intimidating. It is the last day of November, and I’m not quite where I want to be.

I did finish the mittens for my grandmother (photo and details at the bottom of the post, just in case my family is trying to sneak a peek), and I am very pleased with them. They were a speedy and fun knit, and I now want a pair for myself more than ever. And, in fact, I had had the pattern queued (with the dark brown Maritime Wool in mind) for months. I love this pattern, and I hope my granny will too. So, that’s one more finished thing into the Christmas bag.

The tea cozy continues. I did end up running out of wool, and that plus the mittens has put it back a ways. It only has a couple of inches more to go, though, and since my decreasing has increased (if you see what I mean), each row is getting shorter and quicker, and I think I can buckle down and get it done this weekend. The knitting is only part of it though, since I plan to sew a lining and then sandwich a bat of wool between the lining and the knitted shell. It never ends.

I also cast on and ripped out (twice!) the hat I’m knitting for L. I knit him a hat last year for his birthday and it’s quite fuzzy and sad looking now, so he’s due for a replacement. I love the yarn, found the perfect pattern, and have somehow managed to screw it up twice. I’ve been thinking about it, though, and I have a plan of action now, so I’m thinking third time’s the charm. (Cross your fingers.)

Also on the needles are my grampa’s bed socks (also known fondly as foot tubes). He is a tall man with big feet, so yes, these are going to be big. They are my walking around knitting, and I will be knitting them for the next twenty days – I really, really, hope that’s enough time (bearing in mind that there are a few other knits to fit in too).

Not yet on the needles are my sister’s mittens (these ones), which I estimate will take two weeks or so, and my dad’s hat, which I have yet to chart out. Um, yes. That seems crazy. Twenty-five days – here we go.

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I will get a nicer photo one of these days.

Details
Pattern: Wood Hollow Mittens by Kirsten Kapur
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Goldenrod (#7827)
Needles: Addi Lace 3.75 mm
Modifications: Not many, actually. I knit these in the magic loop, so to keep the stitch count even on both needles through the ribbing (I like to end my ribbing on a purl), I cast on 44 stitches and then, after the ribbing, increased to 46. I also needed a little more height before decreasing for the top, so I flipped the chart. After decreasing, it seemed that, despite all the socks I knit, I am incapable of working a smooth Kitchener Stitch in worsted weight (I tried it three times, every time it came out with purl bumps and I have no idea why), so I just turned the mitten inside out and did a three-needle bind-off on the inside. I don’t know if that’s a thing, but it worked. My other work around was that since I seem to have lost my 3.75mm dpns (how? where? I have no idea) I used 3.25mm needles for the thumbs. To compensate, I picked up four extra stitches. You can hardly tell and I suspect (hope) that the difference will block right out. (Ravelled here.)

All in all, this pattern was fun and super fast. I will be making myself a pair (with other modifications) in the New Year.