11 October 2008

Mittens in Atlanta?

Ok, this may sound really bizarre, but we did a mitten knit-along in Atlanta in August. Really. People knitting Fair Isle mittens in the Deep South in August.

The Fall 2008 Vogue Knitting arrived at the shop. Several of us were batting around ideas for the Wednesday morning Knit-Lit / Knit Along. The shop had gotten in the kits for the Potpourri mittens featured in the magazine. People had been talking about wanting to learn Fair Isle. The next thing, somebody said we ought to buy the kits and make the mittens. In fact, so many people signed up and bought kits that the shop had to order extra!

The kits contained two standard 50g skeins, one each of Claudia Handpaint blue boy and natural. There's about a quarter of a ball of citrus and just a few yards of cherries. I used my handy kitchen scale to weigh everything ahead of time. I used about half or a little more of the balls of blue boy and natural. I used most of citrus and just a few yards of cherries. Koigu and Jitterbug are similar to Claudia Handpaint. So if you want to change the colors and have leftover sock yarn lying about, you might be able to use up stash bits for the orange and red. If you made the mittens a little shorter or substituted different colors for a round or two of the pattern or made the thumb different, you might be able to stretch to get four mittens (two pairs) out of the 50g skeins. You should be able to get one adult pair and one child's pair out of the kit. Also worth mentioning, the blue boy yarn in the kit was more variegated than that in the sample pictured in Vogue Knitting. You may wish to compare my mittens and those in Vogue Knitting to see if this effect matters to you.

I should mention that I had a lot of trouble with over-twist in Claudia Handpaint. I can't say for sure that it was the yarn -- it might have been me and the two-handed Fair Isle technique. I can say that when I wet-blocked the finished mittens, the yarn r-e-l-a-x-e-d. Things blocked out nicely and the lumpy tension improved dramatically. The yarn also softened and bloomed. So, do not be afraid to let the Claudia Handpaint take a dip in the sink. It likes water.

The cast-on in this pattern produces a lovely picot edge. I did not follow the pattern perfectly. I prefer a centered double-decrease for the fingertips, so that's what I did. And I extended that line across the tips rather than grafting -- this made the chain stitch I'd established run all the way to the tips. I significantly narrowed but lengthened the thumbs and also repeated my decrease on them instead of just pulling it all together in a circle. One thing I didn't change and am sorry I didn't -- the thumb springs a little too soon for my hands. I should have worked 16 rounds of pattern instead of only 8 before inserting the thumb. The contrasting red line cuts across the bottom of my palm rather than delineating my wrist. Or, if I knit it again, I might want to knit a true thumb gusset.

Another tip for newer knitters -- it is easy to get lost in the pattern once you start the decrease rounds for the finger tips. It might be easier to plot it all out on graph paper.

And for you Fair Isle knitters, I carried citrus underneath but in my right hand and natural above and in my left hand on the cuff. I should have changed on the mitten body, but forgot to. So the mitten body was knit with blue boy carried underneath and in the right hand and natural carried above and in the left hand. Consequently, you'll notice that the ring pattern seems a little stronger and bolder on the cuff.

All in all, a good kit and a good pattern. The Fair Isle pattern is only 8 stitches tall (and the 8th row is all one color), so it isn't difficult to do. There are only a couple rows where you'd need to trap the carried yarn in the middle of five stitches -- most rows don't require any trapping. I'd definitely recommend this project as a class for people who want to learn Fair Isle technique.

Now, where can I test these out on some snow?

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