Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Eloquence - a free pattern for mittens and fingerless gloves

Something that may surprise you (or not) when you look at the ridiculous amount of knitting here is that I am a writer. But it is true.

It is also true that one of my teachers - Wayson Choy, someone I had already considered to be absolutely wonderful - has encouraged me to knit even at the expense of writing because it is important to go wherever your creativity leads you.

Well, here is where my creativity led me when I read Wayson's latest book, Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying.

I made these for him as a present - I so love when things like that actually fit, don't you?

This design is important to me for lots of reasons, but in knitting terms it is all about the thumb, which I redid about a million times before I settled on a gusset I liked. My technical editor tells me that this particular approach is unusual - and I am taking that as a compliment because it's so comfy.

The yarn choice gave me a lot of trouble too. I was swatching about the tenth hopeless attempt when my order from Toots LeBlanc & Co. turned up in the mailbox:

No matter how I tried to make do, Wayson's gloves needed to start with yarn that suggested it had seen animals fairly recently and hadn't had too much fussing over it since then. I had intended my much-coveted Jacob/Alpaca DK for something else, but when I saw it, I knew it was The One.

After that I had to put my sense of Wayson's approach to writing into words. One word, to be exact. One word that translated into Chinese in, ideally, two pictographs simple enough that even I could embroider them.

I spent a lot of time browsing through dictionaries before I was rewarded with this:

The pictograph on the left means 'mouth' and the one on the right means 'sprouting plant.'

When you put them together, they mean eloquence.

Isn't that beautiful? and it applies, I think, to artists in every conceivable medium, making an embroidered pair of these gloves perfect for anybody who works with their hands in a cold place.

Of course it must be said that if you don't embroider them, the thumb is reversible. And that makes it perfect for kids playing or snacking outside in cool weather, so I did a kids' size.

And then I thought, mittens are only a little bit more work to do - so I added instructions for that in all the kids' and adults' sizes.

I worked this particular cuff in Open Flame, an exclusive colourway from the Vesper Sock Club, for some extra zing. You gotta be in the club to get your hands on cuties like this! All Julia's sock colours are fabulous, though, and any bits of leftover sock yarn do just as well.

Knitting aside, I love this book. There is so much in it to relate to, and so much joy, inspiration, and hope. It is amazing enough to have such astonishing experiences and live to tell them, but to have Wayson's particular brand of eloquence too - that is something very special. Not Yet is, I think, a perfect gift.

(and so is a pair of Eloquence!)

Download .pdf of Eloquence


Andrew Craig Williams said...

Just beautiful. I love the symbolism, love the pattern, love the whole idea!

SupremeAntBee said...

Lovely story to go along with these wonderful mitts. Thank you for sharing the pattern.

Kathleen Taylor said...

Truly beautiful! (and knitting writing IS writing)

Sally Anne said...

I LOVE Eloquence and especially the embroidery, thank you for sharing the great story and the pattern too...beautiful !

Anonymous said...

I'm on my third pair of fingerless gloves and I end up crocheting the thumb instead of knitting them. This is because when I tried knitting them in the past I ended up with unsightly holes. I have been using a Martha Stewart pattern for all three pairs. How do you get the knitted thumbs to look so holeless? I will download your pattern and take a look at it. Maybe that will help.

Mary Keenan said...

Wormwood, I think it's mainly the raised increase I used for them! When I designed these I didn't know how to do a thumb, so I read a lot about what works and doesn't. Mostly what that turned up was complaints from knitters about this exact problem, so I spent about a week fussing until I got it to work without holes. It may also be the number of stitches, and the fact that I added one extra so I could knit it together with another stitch later and bring it a bit tighter.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a free pattern for mittens shown. Mary L

Mary Keenan said...

Mary - click on the last line of the post that says 'view .pdf of Eloquence' - it will take you to the file with the pattern for both fingerless gloves and the full mitten version. If it won't download for you, e-mail me and I'll be glad to send it!

ベッキー said...

The characters you wrote were correct save for the second one. It means "O" and it is in Japanese Katakana not in Chinese alphabet. The Japanese took their Kanji character's from the Chinese when the Buddhist monks came over to Japan. After that around the time the tale of Genji came out a smaller written system was created for women to write love letters. ォ is a Japanese character meaning "O" and it is in Katakana (the Chinese do not have Katakana though they share the written system called Kanji).  口 is in fact Chinese for mouth. I was an East Asian languages and Cultures Major with a specialization in Japanese. I can read Chinese and Japanese. I currently live in Japan. I hope this sheds some light. I'm sorry to inform you about the Kanji.

Karen Chew said...

Thank you so much for keeping this archived post. Your pattern has the very best, most beautiful thumb gusset! It rocks!

I made and gave a few pairs for Christmas, Hannukah, etc. and they've been really appreciated. I've used the cast-on tails to embroider a random flourish or two as well.

Thanks again for sharing!

Mary Keenan said...

Thank you so much, Karen! What a nice thing to say :^) So glad you were able to make good use of it!