Smitten Mitten

~ Raven Work Mitten ~

Finished Mitten
Finished Mitten

I say mitten because I’ve completed only one so far.  This mitten didn’t take long once I got into the groove of working on it.  It started out as an Icelandic lambs fleece that I had no idea what to do with.  I read an article by Judith MacKenzie McCuin in a Winter 2007 issue of Spin off; she knitted a pair of mittens from a Gutefar sheep fleece.  Icelandic wool has similar properties to Gutefar and I found my project.  These mittens aren’t soft but they’re warm and weather resistant.  They should repel water quite well and thankfully we don’t have snow to worry about in North Florida.  These will be great when I need to do work outside in the Winter.  We do have a good many days in the 30’s in my area, and it always seems that it’s wet when I have something outside to do.  Perhaps I’ll make another pair with a soft wool for enjoying the cold weather and running errands.  

Washed Fleece drying
Washed Fleece drying

I started these mittens with a knit-1, purl-1 ribbing, then I switched to a stockinette stitch for the body of the mitten.  Initially, I used the same size needle for the ribbing that worked from my gauge for the body.  It didn’t take long to realize that the ribbing was too big compared to the stockinette stitch.  While the ribbed cuff fit, if it were tighter it would be a better fit.  After agonizing over pulling four inches of knitting out and starting over, I finally just did it.  I decided to use a needle one size smaller for the ribbing.  I’ve had to do this with hats before, I don’t know why I didn’t think about that when I started.  Lesson learned ribbing looks nicer made with the needle one size smaller than the body of the garment, and not to worry since ribbing is elastic.

This ribbing is too large for the stockinette stitch used in the body. This must be ripped out and a smaller needle used for the ribbing.
This ribbing is too large for the stockinette stitch used in the body. This must be ripped out and a smaller needle used for the ribbing.

I cast on with a technique I only recently discovered.  I use it whenever I knit ribbing now. A video of it can be found here.  It uses “Judy’s magic cast” on and turns into a tubular cast on for ribbing.  I used a size 4 needle (1 size larger than the body and 2 sizes larger than the ribbing), to cast on for elasticity.  Then switched to size 2 double pointed needles for the ribbing and joined to work in the round.  I used the red yarn for the cast on and three rows of ribbing, then I switched to the natural gray.  I knitted a total of 3 inches of ribbing, then switched to stockinette stitch.  The band of ravens is worked with the black yarn after the thumb hole is made.  The body of the mitten tapers until it covers the hand completely, then is grafted with the dreaded Kitchener stitch.  The mitten is tried on repeatedly, so the pattern is quite fluid and specific to the knitter’s hand.  Care will need to be taken to position the thumb hole opposite on the next one or I’ll have two left-hand mittens :). The thumb is the last to be worked, and then a number of ends need to be woven in.  I had to stitch up a hole that was left when starting the thumb where it meets the palm.  I wanted to do some stitching here anyway since this area will see the bulk of the stress.

Nearly there. The thumb needs knitted and top grafted closed.
Nearly there. The thumb needs to be knitted and top grafted closed.

There were a few things I found to be challenging.  The yarn for instance, while I spin relatively even, it’s not perfect or to any factory specs.  While looking nice and even, when knitted or crocheted there are inconsistencies that pop up.  While these add to the character of the yarn, in something small like a mitten, it’s more a pain.  Still, I think this is good practice both for my knitting and spinning.  The ravens were a challenge I didn’t foresee.  It’s the first time I’ve done color work with knitting.  I found it awkward to switch yarns repeatedly and pay extra attention to not pulling the yarn from one motif to another.  While I did a good job of reducing floats that would snag on the inside, it’s still a little tighter where the color work is from not leaving enough yarn between motifs.  I’m not entirely happy with the look of some of my ravens and I followed the chart for each of them.  I kept a meticulous record of what I did and how many rows so I could reproduce the next mitten.  I spun just enough yarn, I had two balls of gray (one for each mitten) one with 71 yards and one with 76 yards, one red and one black ball (one ball for both mittens)  I used almost all of the smaller ball for the mitten.  I washed and soaked the mitten in hot water with no agitation for 30 minutes with a small amount of wool wash and Retayne to prevent color bleed.  The mitten lays so much nicer after a good soak.  Hopefully, I don’t develop second mitten syndrome as I need to finish that other mitten.

Just enough of the grey (left) for one mitten. One ball of grey for the other mitten, along with remaining red and black.
Just enough of the gray (left) for one mitten. One ball of gray for the other mitten, along with remaining red and black.

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A website devoted to learning, sharing and teaching a wide range of fiber arts. Inkle, Tablet and Navajo style weaving, Spinning, Knitting, Crochet, Sewing and Lace Making. Silver Work, Beading and Tool Making grace my bench as well.

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