Friday, November 16, 2012

Two-End Mittens, glamour edition

You saw pictures of these in progress last summer, but here is the finished version of my twined mitten project:

The pattern is 'Two End Mittens' by Carol Rhoades, which is included in Linda Ligon's 1987 book Homespun, Handknit.  The book is out of print now, but you can still get copies at used bookstores or borrow them from the library.  The library is where I found it first and then I hunted around at Biblio and Alibris to find a used copy of my own.

I loved this pattern right away - the photograph just sang to me - but I wasn't sure I could master the technique.  A couple of years ago I was able to take a class in twined knitting and that helped my confidence, but the point of twined knitting is warmth and I didn't want to bother unless I had the warmest possible yarn.

Eventually, I decided that was the romney/mohair blend I buy from Stoddart Family Farm.  How I ended up thinking I would spin the mitten yarn myself I don't know - probably it was because the pattern is in a book of patterns for handspun yarn?  But when I looked at my finished handspun I didn't think I'd get gauge so I went with a fingering weight yarn I'd bought ready-ready made.

Just before I started I found Theresa Vinsen Stenersen's very good article on twined knitting on Knitty, which was helpful because by that time I'd forgotten what I'd learned in the class I took.  Once I got to work though I found this style of knitting is pretty logical; as long as you unwind the working yarn often enough, it's a very simple technique of knitting with one strand of yarn and then the next, so that the carried yarn traps more heat inside and blocks more wind.

Casting on proved interesting.  I could have just done my usual longtail method but I knew there was a specific technique for twining and I had a copy of the then-newly-released Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor at my desk.  (Incidentally, this turned out to be one of the strongest selling new knitting book titles this year and I'm not a bit surprised.  If you don't have a copy yet, you should definitely put it on your list - it's the sort of present anybody who loves you would be glad to give!)

In fact, the book does give instructions for a twined cast on method, but I preferred the look of the Two-Colour Braided technique so I went with that.  It was so easy to follow and even easier to do... especially the fourth time.  I kind of messed up as late as the third (overexcitement I'm afraid) and didn't bother correcting it, so there's a blotch on one part of on mitt's wrist.  I don't worry about that any more because it's always under my coat cuff anyway.

A long while ago I read a story on Yarn Harlot about a friend's 'dress mittens' and the phrase really stuck with me.  In my world, mittens are for play and gloves are for dress - and that's not super practical because you get even more cold when you're dressed up.  You're not running around and being silly (much) when you're walking sedately to the theatre so there's no chance of getting overheated.  Furthermore, the friend's dress mitten had fingertips like the toe like you'd find on a sock, not a nice rounded end.  I found it very strange, and over time, very very appealing.

So I love the fingertips on this mitten most of all.  Well, next to the fabric I got from the combination of romney, mohair, fingering-weight yarn, and twining.  These are the dressiest mittens I have ever seen and I can't believe I made them.  At this weight, it turns out they aren't warm enough for a day within three degrees of freezing (Celcius) but they feel incredible inside.  And for a transition mitt, they do a great job.

A final remark: I never did get gauge, even with the fingering yarn, so after a couple of false starts I settled on a different number of stitches to cast on, thumb-gusset rows to knit, and thumb-stitches to work from.  I also adjusted the stitches on my needles when it came to the fingertip decreases, so as to have an ergonomically correct left and right mitten.  These fixes were all very easy, quick, and logical to make because all you have to do to double check them is slip your hand into the work in progress and adjust accordingly.

Come back next week for a look at the heavier version I made next!  And in the meantime, have a fantastic weekend, with something nice in it just for you.

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