Tag Archives: mittens

The dalas of my dreams

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I first started scheming about set of accessories featuring dala horses nearly five months ago, right as I was on the cusp of my holiday knitting. It took me a while, but that set is now finished, and it turned out better than I could have imagined.

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Let’s tackle the hat first. This is Karusellen by Erica Knits, from the recent Autumn issue of Pom Pom Quarterly. I wanted a deeper folding brim, so I subbed in the one from Skiff, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the Platonic ideal of a fold-up brim. I took basically no notes about my mods, apparently, but I think I cast on 120 stitches and then followed the instructions for Skiff with one further modification: After I was about an inch into the brim, I realized that my chosen yarn* was, to put it mildly, rather sheepy. That’s pretty perfect for a pattern from Pom Pom’s “wool issue,” but not the most comfortable next-to-skin yarn. So, after the turning row (makes sense in the Skiff pattern), I switched and knit the next 2.75 inches with some leftover Shelter in Snowbound. It’s pretty invisible when I’m wearing the hat, but much more comfortable against my forehead.

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Aside from the brim, I knit this exactly as written and it was a total pleasure. It’s alway fun to watch charts appear in your knitting, and though I did have to tink back a few times when I wasn’t quite paying attention, it was quite straightforward. I made the larger size, for a bit of slouch (and to accommodate all my hair) and I’m very pleased with the size and the big pompom. I can’t remember ever having a pompom hat before (maybe when I was a kid?) but I’m quite taken with this one and think there are probably more in my future.

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Now, the mittens. The pattern is really just a few notes and a chart that you work right-to-left for one mitten and then left-to-right for the other. It’s quite barebones, but if you’ve ever knit stranded mittens before it’s quite easy to follow along.

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I did (of course) make a few modifications. I added length to the heel of the hand (before starting the thumb increases) and then added a few more rows at the top of the thumb gusset, before placing those stitches onto waste yarn. Then, I recharted the top of the hand to add extra length. I added length to the thumb as well, and changed the chart for the inside of the thumb — rather than adding words, I just continued the palm charts up the thumb. I also changed the cuff — just straight 2×2 ribbing, knit in a contrast since the grey came from my stash and I didn’t want to risk running out (turns out I would have been fine, but best to be sure).

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As an overall set, I think they work very well. They all match, but do so without being matchy, if you know what I mean. The dala charts themselves are exactly the same, just knit at very different gauges, which was a nice coincidence, and meant that by the time I’d knit all the horses on the hat I was pretty much a pro when it came time to knit the mittens! They’re quite cozy, and though I know they’ll fuzz up quite a lot (Fresco does that — it looks a little messy, but it does make for very warm mitts), I don’t mind so much. They’re nice and crisp right now, and I’m enjoying them very much.

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*A note about my yarn choice. This yarn is from a sheep farm and dyer local to my parents in Nova Scotia. If I am remembering all of this correctly (dam my scanty notes!), the yarn was milled at the MacAusland Woollen Mills in Prince Edward Island. They sell yarn wholesale, but farmers can also send in their own wool to be milled. All the wool gets milled together, and the farmer receives the same weight back as they sent in, though all the fleeces are mixed. The neutral is an undyed grey/brown and the gold/brown is hand-dyed, both are a wool-mohair blend.

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In for a penny

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In a for a pound, or so the saying goes, and which is really just my way of saying that the dala set I started with Karusellen is really and truly happening. And, look! I even have half a pair of mittens to prove it.

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The colours are not an exact match for the hat, but the scheme is the same, and they both feature dala horses, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider them a set. The first mitten flew off my needles (sans thumb) over the weekend, and the second one (despite appearances here) is well into the thumb increases. If I’m very lucky, I’ll have a finished pair by this time next week, which would be very good. I had to mend my old mittens again the other day, and they are in no shape to see me through the cold days to come.

Make, do, mend

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I really love that sentiment. I know the original is “make do and mend,” but I like that punctuation can subtly change the meaning and modernize the sentiment. For me, the “do” here is about use. Make something, use it (wear it), and mend it.

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I’ve written about mending before (and since that post I’ve darned so many other parts of those gloves that replacing them entirely is on my summer to-do list), but it seems to be in the air these days: Karen did a great post about the resurgence of mending and the corresponding shift in attitude; Ysolda linked to a Guardian piece about the popularity of mending shops; and last fall Julie posted some shots of how she made the best of her moth-eaten sweaters.

L's gloves, still in need of some mending.

L’s gloves, still in need of some mending. After the first few darns, I started darning on both the inside and the outside, to make the areas prone to holes double-thick. After the first time, I gave up on trying to make the mending invisible.

Not that it’s a new idea or anything, but it feels like there’s momentum right now. I have definitely noticed that the more I knit (and now, sew) the more particular I am about what I buy and the more interested I am in fixing what I have. I certainly would never have mended any of the store-bought wool socks I used to wear (which inevitably wore out after one winter) but last week, as I was plodding along on Grace, I took a break to darn some holes and weak spots in a couple of pairs of my hand-knit socks. Both pairs were already a couple of years old and, as some of my first hand-knit socks, had been in heavy rotation, that they only now required repair makes me think of the darns as badges of honour – they lasted well; they’re worth repairing.

The orange socks needed repairs to both heels and both toes. The purple ones wore through in a weak spot I knew would probably be trouble.

The orange socks needed repairs to both heels and both toes. The purple ones wore through in a weak spot I knew would probably be trouble.

The question I have, though, is where do you draw the line? I am happy to darn a few holes to get more use out of a pair of socks, or put a patch over the elbow of a sweater, but at some point items do need replacing, and when that time comes, I don’t want to feel guilty about it. Take L’s gloves, for example. He has worn the heck out of them, and I’ve darned them close to a dozen times, but in the last few months of cold weather it really felt like there was a new hole every week (a combination of hard wear and lofty, woollen-spun yarn). He loves his gloves, but I’m tired of fixing them and ready to just knit a new pair, which is fine, except what do I do with the old ones?

I wear through this part of all my mittens far more quickly than any other part. When he thumbs started to get threadbare, I knit myself a new pair.

I wear through this part of all my mittens far more quickly than any other part. When the thumbs on these started to get threadbare, I knit myself a new pair.

Similarly, I have a pair of socks that’s been in need of new heels for months. I know I could remove the old heels and re-knit them, but to be honest, they’re not the most comfortable socks I’ve ever knit and I don’t miss wearing them. Aside from the heels, though, they’re in good shape, so what do I do? Replace the heels and give them away? Let them sit at the bottom of the drawer for a while longer and then throw them out? I did not have these qualms with store-bought items!

What do you do? Do you say “oh darn” as you drop them in the trash (as the Yarn Harlot suggests) or do you mend them until there’s nothing original left? Do you wonder/worry about this too?

DNF

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One thing the Olympics makes clear is that you can analyse every little performance detail forever and it won’t change the outcome: If the snow was firmer, if he’d just stepped to his left, if her takeoff had been slightly later, etc. And so it is with knitting, I think. If I’d just had more time this week, or knit a couple more rows on the weekend, or focused on one project, I’d be done by now.

I turned the heel during the men's gold-medal game this morning, but since I have to work today, finishing these will have to wait.

I turned the heel during the men’s gold-medal game this morning, but since I have to work today, finishing these will have to wait.

But I’m not, and honestly, that’s fine. My Sochi socks are three-quarters finished, and if it takes me the next week to get the second foot done, well, that’s how long it takes. Of course, I can say this now, but earlier this week I was feeling a little adrift. There’s something making a goal public – even one that doesn’t have life-changing implications – that makes not meeting it hard to swallow. I think it burned all the more because I was a bit adrift knitting-wise. The weather here has been up and down, and I’m starting to feel the weight of how colourless it is. I think snow is very pretty, and we’ve had a much sunnier winter than usual, but still, months and months without any real colour (aside from fluorescent signs) is oppressive.

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You know those days/weeks where nothing you have on your needles seems interesting or necessary and makes you want to throw it all into a corner and start fresh? Yeah, that was this week for me. I didn’t do it (no time) but I thought a lot about it. I’m over it now (that feeling tends to only last a day or two for me) but it was close. Thank goodness for rainbow-coloured socks.

Anyway. I did finish my Hodgepodge Mittens last weekend (as planned) and although it hasn’t been that cold in Toronto this past week, the have proven themselves quite warm, and pretty close to wind-proof (it has been very windy). The Fresco is so dreamy to wear, and the short floats mean the fabric is compact and dense without being heavy. It’s supposed to get cold again this week, so we’ll see how they stand up, but I suspect they’ll prove warmer than the mittens I’ve been wearing for the last year.

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As a bonus, since they were part of the Holla Knits KAL that’s happening right now (thank you for telling me, elloluv!) I got a free pattern of my choosing for finishing! I went with the New Girl skirt, since I’ve been thinking a lot about knitted skirts lately and that one has been in my favourites since it came out. I’m resisting casting on until I finish a few more things, but I am starting to mull over colours and yarns. Any suggestions?

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Details
Pattern: Hodgepodge Mittens by Annie Watts
Yarn: Classic Elite Fresco in Graystone, Port Royal, and Parchment
Needles: 2.75mm + 3mm
Notes: I changed the cuff to 2×2 rib (with the smaller needle) because I like my mitten cuffs to tuck into my sleeves, which means they need to be slim. I also added length to the hand by doing a fifth row of the contrast triangle portion and moving the thumb up to the second repeat. I found the thumb opening to be kind of big, so I used the smaller needle for the thumb to keep it from being huge. They’re still slightly big, but not in an awkward way. Ravelled here.

Hodgepodge

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Every year, at about this time, I find myself suddenly and desperately in need of new mittens. A few weeks ago I darned a hole in my current mittens (I Instagramed the patch job) and thought that would be enough to get me through this winter. Then last week I was carrying a coffee to work and noticed that the inside of the thumb on the right hand mitt was almost completely worn away. Literally, it was holding on by a thread. The left thumb wasn’t far behind.

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My darned patch has held up well, but the thumbs were a whole new issue. I could cut them out, pick up the stitches again, and knit new thumbs, but there were other weak spots making themselves known, and a hole in the cuff I’d been ignoring, so… Clearly the best and only choice was to knit new mittens.

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I actually love knitting mittens, and was planning a new pair anyway, so I’m pretty pleased that this whole situation meant I didn’t have to justify to myself why I had to buy new yarn and cast on right away. Not that I really feel bad about yarn buying or casting on whatever I want, it’s just nice when doing those things happens to also fill a pressing need.

I went with Classic Elite Fresco for the yarn. I used it to knit these mittens as a wedding gift, and it is so soft and cozy that it seemed a natural choice. It’s also nice a sticky, which is great for stranded colourwork, since it helps the floats stick to the main fabric. It also means that if you happen to drop a stitch, it won’t unravel far (this has actually saved me a couple of times and I can’t figure out what I’m doing that’s causing me to lose stitches, but it’s annoying.)

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After casting around for a pattern (my first choice was the Divelish Mittens by Rachel Coopey, but they aren’t available as an individual pattern, at least not yet) I settled on Hodgepodge Mittens by Annie Watts. They are so much fun to knit! The rows are similar but not the same, and the all-over colourwork means my hands will be toasty warm. I’m into the top part of the second mitten now, so assuming this weekend doesn’t go crazy, I should have new mittens to wear on Monday.

Wool in the wild

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camping1It’s weekends like the one was just had that make me so, so glad that I’m a knitter. L and I, and our friends Sam and Carmen, went camping in almost-Northern Ontario (almost northern because we didn’t go as far as, say, Sudbury or North Bay, but were north of Barrie – this will mean nothing to you if you aren’t from around here, but if you’re curious about where we were, here it is on a map). Basically, it was far enough north to already be fall, which meant it was not exactly warm.

It rained for most of the first day, but it wasn’t too hard, and there were some breaks, and it was warm-ish rain, so none of us really minded. The temperature dropped quite a bit over night, though, and it can’t have been warmer than 8 Celsius the next morning (that’s about 45 Fahrenheit). It was cold and still overcast when we set out for our second site. By the time we got there (about an hour of canoeing) Carmen and I were freezing. It was quite windy and the site, while gorgeous, was very exposed. We set up a windscreen and put up the tents and then L and Sam (impervious to cold) went for an afternoon paddle while Carmen and I tried to warm up.

Here I am, trying to start a fire (with great success a few minutes later). For the record, I'm wearing wool socks, hiking boots, two pairs of pants, a wicking t-shirt, a wool base layer, a medium-weight base layer, a fleece jacket, a rain coat, my shawl, and mitts – and I was still cold.

Here I am, trying to start a fire (with great success a few minutes later). For the record, I’m wearing wool socks, hiking boots, two pairs of pants, a wicking t-shirt, a wool base layer, a medium-weight base layer, a fleece jacket, a rain coat, my shawl, and mitts – and I was still cold.

Luckily, I brought a lot of wool. In addition to a wool base layer, I brought four pairs of hand knit socks (one for each day and a fourth for sleeping – my sleeping bag is rated up to -25 Celsius, but I still need wool socks to keep my feet warm when then temperature drops to single digits); my Sweet Street shawl, which was lightweight and warm and wrapped snuggly around my neck twice, and was basically perfect; and a pair of Camp Out Fingerless Mitts that I decided I really needed about 36 hours before we left and finished in the car on the way there – I will never go camping without a pair of these mitts again.

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I was in a rush when I cast on and didn’t read the instructions properly (what is it about simple-looking patterns that makes me think I don’t have to read the directions?). Anyway, I cast on nearly three-times as many stitches as necessary for the cuffs that go around the fingers. This part is knit sideways, though, so they didn’t end to too big, just very long. I was a little annoyed about this (I only had a few hours to knit these and three times as many stitches means three times as long) but when I put them on I realized it was one of those happy accidents. At full-length, they were kind of like open-ended mittens, which made them warm while still giving me the full use of my hands.

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Rolled-down, they were the perfect fingerless-mitts height, and also doubly warm around my palm. That easy convertibility meant I basically didn’t take them off for three days. They’re a bit felted now (I wore them while paddling) and could use a good wash, but they were exactly what I needed and I’m already planning to knit another pair with a couple of other mods (the main one being to pick up stitches around the thumb and knit three or four garter ridges up, since my thumb did get a little chilly).

This pink sky at night did indeed portend a sailor's (or, canoeist's) delight the next day.

This pink sky at night did indeed portend a sailor’s (or, canoeist’s) delight the next day.

Our last day, yesterday, was absolutely gorgeous. It was that perfect fall day when the sky is a deep, endless blue, and the wind is low so the water is just slightly rippled, like antique glass. It was warm in the sun and our paddle out was perfect. It’s the kind of weather you hope for, and I’m glad we got at least one day of it; even if it was our shortest, it was the perfect way to end the weekend.

Details
Pattern: Camp Out Fingerless Mitts by tante ehm
Yarn: Cascade Eco+ in Lake Chelan Heather (shade #9451) from my stash
Needle: 4.5mm
Mods: Mainly just casting on too many stitches initially. I also shortened the hands/arms because I was in a hurry, and added four rows of 1×1 rib to the bottom. When I knit the next pair, I’ll add a couple of garter ridges to the top so I can pick up a few more stitches for the hand. I’ll also knit up the thumb a bit and, before the bottom ribbing, I’ll cast on a few stitches just to make the bottom a little stretchier. I pulled these on just fine, but even with a loose cast-off, they were tight coming over my hands. I’d probably knit them longer too. Ravelled here.

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How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun? I brought my Skyp socks with me, but didn’t manage to knit more than a few rows while we were camping (and a few inches in the car on the way home).

Marriage mittens

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A little while ago, I read Nancy Bush’s Folk Knitting in Estonia (yes, read; there’s a lot of front matter on customs and traditions  before you even get to the patterns) and I was amazed by the role mittens played in Estonian traditions, especially marriage. For example: by the time they were brides, women were expected to have at least 50 pairs of mittens in their dowry chest. And not just regular mittens, either, fancy mittens they could present as gifts to their wedding party and their groom and his family and the guests. Mittens were also traditional gifts for an Estonian bride because, as Nancy Bush says, in Estonia people would often go through three or more pairs of mittens a winter.

I read all this after having knit a pair of mittens as a wedding gift for my friend Carmen last year. They were the fanciest mittens I’d ever knit and, for reasons I couldn’t quite express at the time, seemed like a perfect wedding gift for an October bride.

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This October, my good friend Jacq is getting married. I knew I wanted to knit her a wedding gift, and after reading Nancy Bush’s book, I knew that mittens would be perfect.  She is someone with a deep appreciation for tradition, especially where women’s work and wisdom are concerned, and I knew she would appreciate not only that the mittens were hand knit, but also that they relate back to marriage tradition – albeit, one from a country and culture that neither of us are related to.

The trouble was, of course, what mittens to knit? There are a lot of patterns out there and I wanted them to be pretty but also suitable for everyday wear. Jacq often walks to work, so they needed to be warm (Toronto winters can get cold), but not so thick that she couldn’t easily hold a coffee cup or use her phone while wearing them.

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I looked at a lot of patterns before remembering how much I liked Rachel Coopey’s Chamomile mittens and hat set from last winter’s Twist Collective. I knit them up in Classic Elite Fresco, which is a blend of wool, alpaca, and angora, making it lightweight and super warm and perfect for stranded colour work. The pattern also suggests traditional lace edgings to me and, although I have not yet seen the wedding dress, I just know it’s going to feature lace detailing.

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Jacq’s bridal shower was yesterday; she didn’t open any gifts during the shower, but she e-mailed me this morning to say she opened the mittens last night, and, in her words, “they’re perfect for me.” Her wedding is in October, and while I hope it isn’t yet cold enough for her to need the mittens, I hope they keep her hands warm and cozy through the first few winters of her marriage, and, when they wear out, I will happily replace them.

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Details
Pattern: Chamomile by Rachel Coopey
Yarn: Classic Elite Fresco in Cornflower and Parchment
Needles: 2.5 mm
Mods: I knit the pattern almost entirely as written. My only real change was to rechart the middle row of the colour work (between the “lace” borders). As written, the charts would make mittens to fit my hands perfectly, but I am probably 7 inches taller than she is, and her hands are thus proportionally smaller than mine. I took nine rows (!) out of each colour work repeat, which shortened the whole mitten by about two inches and the finger area specifically by about an inch, which was perfect. It took me a few tries to figure out a mod that I liked, but after that, the knitting flew. Ravelled here.