Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Swirly &#*%)( Mittens

As promised, the story of the mittens to this point:

The blog where I found the mittens I really like had an interesting cuff. It's knit double. First, you knit the lighter color for a couple inches, then do a couple border rows, then knit the darker color for a couple inches. Then you fold the lighter color inside the darker color and knit them together, creating a fabric of double thickness.

Warm wrists? Sign me up.

First, I had a problem. The pattern called for size 2.25 mm needles. Those needles were currently residing in a sock-in-progress. Well, good grief. The next size up is a 2.5 mm, for heaven's sake. It's one-quart of a millimeter. No big deal.

This, of course, was stupid and a lie and would lead to weeping.

I also had decided that I really, desperately needed a braid. I had read about them in a book about Estonian Knitting, and I needed my mittens to have one--no, TWO. Yes, two braids. See the braid at the bottom of this mitten--the pretty blue and white? That's what I needed.

So, I bravely knit a couple inches of light silver, then started a braid that would actually form the edge of the cuff.

I don't know how many of you knit, so I don't know how technical you want me to be.

Twisty. Fiddly. Fascinating. Tangled. Slow.

And it was beautiful. Thrilled, I continued with the couple of inches of dark gray. I then did a second braid (see above for adjectives). Thrilled with my hours and hours of knitting and tiny little mitten cuff, I folded the light silver inside the dark gray, admired the cuff and its little braids, and slid the whole thing over my wrist.

I don't even need to tell you that the thing was too fucking big.

There was some unreasonable shock, some pinching of fabric, some pleading with Andrew to tell me that it really wasn't that big, some denial, and then finally--acceptance.

I ripped the whole damn thing out and started again. Now, as I have noted above, the needles I needed are in a sock. Instead of putting this sock on a holder or waste yarn, I decided to knit with the size smaller. You know, 'cause my hands are so small.

I know this is stupid, and I know there's a really, really good chance it will bite me on the ass. I am also more in denial right now than you would think possible for an otherwise intelligent human being.

So, where was I? Ah, yes. Frog #1.

I reknit. I rebraided. I reknit. I rebraided. I started the pattern.

After some time, I realized the palm side of the mitten only seemed to have the bottom half of a braid. That's weird, I thought, did it pull out? Stupid braids.

It wasn't for a few more rows that I decided that it could, possibly be my fault. If the braid didn't "pull out" of the back of the hand, why would it have pulled out of the palm side? That just didn't make sense.

I had to accept that I had just forgotten to knit the second half of the braid.

Frog #2.

I ripped out down to the braid, and reknit. This time, unsurprisingly, it didn't "pull out." It stayed just where it was supposed to. Huh.

Now, I'm not a visual person. I like words. Ikea instruction books are my own personal Kryptonite. This pattern is not really a pattern; it's a chart for the back of the mitten and a tiny, partial chart for the palm.

It's not a partial chart. It's more like a hint. A "take these few blackened squares and see where they may take you" kind of thing.

Frog #3.

At this point, I have begun seriously to ponder the future of these mittens.

The trouble I had with the palm "chart" is too lengthy to explain. The amount of times I ripped it out--well, it still stings. I kept trying to talk to Andrew about it as if he understood what I was talking about. "You see? There's only 16 stitches! But two of them have to be border stitches, and that means there must be two on the other side, and if I just knit to the end of the chart and then start knitting back to the front of the chart, I'll have this wonky spot in the middle, and, hey! Are you listening to me?"

I pressed on, and I finally felt like I had made peace with the palm. I didn't know if I was knitting it the way the "chart" author had intended, but it was pretty and would work.

At this point, I was smug. I had struggled for days with this mitten. However, I had prevailed. I was going to have beautiful mittens. I had learned how to make braids. I was knitting with two colors of yarn at once on tiny needles, and I was impressive.

The chart for the back of the hand is white with black spots.

I had carefully knit the chart with the wrong colors. I had used the dark gray for the black spots and the light silver for the white background, which meant I was going to have silver mittens instead of dark gray ones. I had already decided the pattern would show up more dramatically if the swirls were done in the lighter color, as in the picture on the magic blog.

Frog #4.

I don't need to tell you that I pondered the mitten for awhile at this point.

Perhaps it wasn't meant to be. Perhaps the universe trying to tell me not to knit these mittens. Perhaps I should move somewhere warmer.

I spent the next day at lunch researching mitten thumbs. The chart has a tiny black square that indicates where the thumb gusset starts. That's it. There's no instructions for how one actually makes a thumb gusset, just the spot marked for where you should do it. I settled on a properly Estonian course of action and made some notes. See that strange line of color on the back of the mitten in the picture above? That's where the thumb will eventually be.

The next evening I started again.

This time, it worked.


  1. Of course, I don't knit. So that whole knitting in three dimensions thing astounds me. Scarves? Yeah, I get that. Mittens and socks? How does that even work?

  2. Black magic. And I can teach you if you ever want to learn. Then you can call yourself a wicked sorcerer.