Casey’s Mittens

When my friend Casey was accepted to graduate school in Boston, it was pretty much met with excitement and congratulations. There was, however, one cold reality to deal with — and that is, how does a well-read, literary type from Delaware deal with the Massachusetts cold?

I personally am not a cold weather person, and my mother was born in Massachusetts. Clearly, however, the end of the gene pool that was iced over did not extend to me.

So, knowing that someone from a relatively temperate climate was heading into the snow and ice zone, this naturally triggered the need for an appropriate going-away gift that was warm. And, since Casey is known to be “wool friendly,” this also meant I could make something without having to listen to, “… but wool is so itchy.”

Somewhere in the recent past, I had acquired a copy of Amy Clark Moore’s book, “All New Handspun Handknit.” Flipping through it, I suddenly was inspired with the same dogged determinedness that overcame me with the Russula Cap and the Rivendell Socks. The Moth Mittens from designer Sarah Anderson.

Maybe it was because I had a skein of handspun in an orangy color and knew Casey would like it, because she had bought the corresponding skein from me a year or so ago. Maybe I just downright took leave of my senses. I had never done charted knitting prior to the Rivendell Socks, and they were in one color. The Moth Mittens required 2 colors. I had never done stranded work before, but no matter, I was enchanted by the mittens and had to make them.

Of course, I began this little project in July. If you are in the mid-Atlantic, you might remember we had the hottest July on record, with most days going above 90 degrees when they weren’t hitting 100 plus. Just the sort of weather you want to work with wool in!

In addition to the orangy handspun, I used a natural color chocolate brown Shetland that complimented it:

The orangey yarn had some colorations of green and darker orange. It was all the result of an early dyeing experiment and I did get sort of the color I was after. Knowing Casey had the matching skein was the real kicker — obviously, this was meant to be.

I cast on and launched into charted waters. Got halfway up the gauntlet cuff and had to rip back the stitches, learning quickly that you want to keep one color on top of the other at all times. If you pick up your colors randomly from the top or the bottom, you will never get them untangled in a timely manner unless, of course, you are absolutely sure of what you are doing and never have to rip them back.

I could go on about the heat, the wool, and ripping back stitches but it is sort of a hazy memory at this point. Except the Sunday I worked almost the entire hand of Mitten Number One and had to rip it all back when I discovered I had the wrong number of stitches. Still, I pressed on and without too much difficulty had Mitten Number One complete:

The design represents metamorphosis, which seemed appropriate for someone going off to forge a new chapter in their life. You have the caterpillar parallel to the thumb, a row of cocoons above, and above the cocoons, the butterfly. Or moth, as the case may be.

Finishing one mitten is akin to finishing one sock. You need two to make a pair. Now that I felt a little more confident in my ability to work from a chart and in two colors, no less, I launched into Mitten Number Two. I obviously was more relaxed this time around, as evidenced by the fact that Mitten Number Two came out slightly larger than Mitten Number One. There is alot to be said for not keeping your gauge at the same tension. However, it dawned on me that since Casey is left-handed and Mitten Number Two is, indeed, the left mitten, a extra quarter-inch might not be a bad thing.

Mitten Number Two was completed in not too much time. When I tried the mittens on, they were loose. I have fairly small hands, though, and perhaps the recipient had slightly larger hands. No, they still felt loose. Plus, some of the stranding had rather long carries. One was 32 stitches. This leaves too many opportunities to get tangled in. So, in the interest of trying to make the mittens a bit more snug will improving their wearability, I found a length of orange flannel and lined the backs of the hands and the wrists:

This also shows part of the palm design with checks and circles.

So, now I had a nice, heavy pair of toasty warm wool mittens guaranteed to ward off the worst of winter. But … something still wasn’t quite right. I didn’t feel they were finished. They were heavy, they were now partially lined, but they were still a little loose.

I tried to rationalize all the old arguments that Casey’s hands were larger than mine, etc., etc., but couldn’t quite go for it. Suddenly, in a different pattern book, I saw gloves with fingers being worn under fingerless gloves. Bingo! If these mittens were of Norwegian design, and Norway being an extremely cold climate, you wouldn’t wear mittens that were loose. But … if you wore them over something …

Suddenly I knew what to do with the extra 130 yards of leftover orangy handspun …

There was no pattern for these. I split the remaining skein into two equal balls. I just cast on 24 stitches and worked in a K3, P1 rib for about three inches or so, worked 4 or 5 rows in stockinette, did a standard thumb gusset, completed the hand in stockinette, and went back to add in the thumb. I think I had about a yard of yarn left over from each hand, which was calling it pretty close. I could have knitted one more row, probably, but was afraid I wouldn’t have enough for the thumb. Wearing the finished product under the mittens make the mittens a much more snug fit and less likely to fly off during a snowball fight.

Moth Mittens with matching fingerless mitts.

So, Casey, if you are reading this and would like to send photos of how the mittens and mitts look on you, as well as Conner’s fingerless gloves, I can feature you on a blog entry!

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