Warm hands

Norwegian mittens

The mittens are Done, and very nice too.

And the thumb technique worked brilliantly. As I mentioned in my last post, this pattern introduced me to a technique I hadn’t encountered before – you knit your thumbstitches on to a piece of waste yarn then knit across the waste yarn itself.

Thumb stitches held on waste yarn.

At the thumb-knitting stage you then pick up the stitches from either side of the waste yarn, unpick it, and hey presto!


A beautifully neat set of stitches to knit the thumb on. I was very careful, but I’m not 100% happy with how the pattern carries over on to the thumb. Though literally nobody but me will ever care about that.

Thumb pattern

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This could get addictive

There’s been a major cold snap in the UK (and it’s always a source of satisfaction when I have all the family out on a walk with hats, mitts, and sweaters that I have knitted!) and Oldest Child has been patiently waiting for some new mittens, having outgrown hers last year. These were on their way from Diligent Grandmother, who also knits :-), but they were a bit tight when they arrived, so have been passed down to Youngest Boy.

This meant that Oldest was still cold-handed. I’ve knitted several sets of mittens in the past but have always made pretty basic ones:

Basic mittens

because they do rather tend to get lost at school, caked in mud, or outgrown very quickly.

However, Oldest Child is now reaching an age of discretion and also slowing down a bit growth-wise, so I thought I’d make her some rather nicer Norwegian-style ones. I’ve made a pair before for a friend but wanted to try a different pattern so I downloaded one from Ravelry. I’m using some yarn frogged from a sweater that the children outgrew unusually fast, so it was still in good shape. I think it’s Rowan merino DK – in any case it’s knitting up nicely (albeit slightly bumpily).

Norwegian mittens

The bumps are because it’s made with frogged yarn and will smooth out when it’s blocked. The most interesting thing for me is that it’s using a thumb method I haven’t encountered before. Usually you leave your thumb stitches on some scrap yarn and then come back to them – picking up some additional ones and carrying on. These mittens knit-in the scrap yarn like so:

Scrap yarn for the thumb

You knit along the thumb stitches with the scrap yarn and then reknit the same stitches using your ‘proper’ yarn. At the thumb-knitting stage you then unpick the scrap, leaving two sets of live stitches. I’m looking forward to this part because it could be an interesting technique for ‘afterthought’ heels on socks too, so I will report back!

The other excellent thing about this pattern is that it provides a useful template that one could use to design one’s own mittens…

Gauge and other matters

I’m a pretty arrogant knitter. I generally assume that if there’s something wrong with a knit then it’s the pattern’s fault. So if a sweater fabric is stiff and unresponsive, then it is Not Because Of Anything I Have Done. However… after knitting the Julien sweater twice (because the first time its recipient was essentially unable to breathe), I did do myself the favour of reading Kate Davies’s excellent disquisition on the subject of gauge. I don’t do gauge swatches. The only time I ever did it was for a sweater that I hated (though that was more to do with the colour, the yarn, the pattern and the fact that I hate wearing sweaters I’ve knitted than the gauge). But after reading Kate on the subject it did, belatedly, occur to me that it was just possible that I ought to do a swatch before knitting.  (The Julien turned out ok in the end)

Boy wearing a sweater-vest
Julien sweater

So on the latest sweater for Oldest Child (who is growing so fast that sweaters now have a shelf-life of approximately six months) I actually did the swatch thing. And it was worth it because the recommended needle size for the yarn gave me something far too stiff.

This was always going to be a super-basic, throw-on sweater. Debbie Bliss cotton dk print that I got (very) cheap on eBay, but a really pretty turquoise. I eked it a bit with some other balls that came bundled with it, which make quite a nice yoke (though if I was doing it again I’d start the yoke higher) and she’s immediately snatched it, refusing to even let me sew in the yarn ends (fine by me).

Girl wearing sweater
Top-down plain sweater

Mystery knits from the freezer

Okay, so I had kind of forgotten about this one…  I was having a bit of a tidyup in the freezer (because I store all the woollen hats and scarves and gloves in the freezer during the summer to keep the moth-demons away) and found this lurking at the bottom underneath some pizzas.

A quick try-on reveals that it is, miraculously, still just about big enough for the child it was originally intended for (though the shirt it was supposed to go over has been outgrown), so I think I’d better pick it back up.

This one has had a troubled history… it was first knitted by a kind grandmother for Boy 1, but then he outgrew it and rather than wait for Boy 2 to grow into it, I thought I’d reknit it as something else for Boy 1. It had been heavily cabled with a pocket on the front, so I was pretty sure that I’d have enough for a plain pattern. I picked Julien by Drops and planned to make it a sleeveless pullover. So I frogged the cabled sweater.

The next problem was that I had no idea what yarn it was, thought it was a 4ply and used needles accordingly. Friends, it was not 4ply. I knitted the whole thing without bothering to check my gauge, and realised extremely belatedly it was far too dense a fabric, and had come up far too small. (It did look nice, though.)

So I sighed, and frogged the sweater – again- and figured out that in fact it was more like a sportweight and would function perfectly adequately with 3.25 needles, so here we are again. Just need to do sleeveless sleeves now.

(you can’t tell, but it’s bigger)

Good meeting, thanks!

One of the small upsides of the current situation for me is that now so many meetings are online I can knit during them, so my work-rate has shot up. The sweater I started recently is now ginormous (honestly, this is supposed to be a for a 12 year old, but it would fit me. I can only assume that the yarn the pattern was created for shrinks by about 30%).

Finished the back and about to start the front. One unconsidered side-effect of using a variegated yarn is that of course when your stitch-count changes – as it does when you shape for the sleeve-holes – then the yarn puddles very slightly differently. So there’s a rather nice optical illusion here that the diamonds are smaller.

Also have a pair of socks on the go in some Scheepjes yarn I bought a-a-a-a-ges ago.

I’ve never knitted with Scheepjes before, and it’s lovely. Super-soft and cosy, and the way this one (Our Tribe Happy in Red) colour-changes is very pretty. I might feel less positive when it comes to trying to get my feet to match, but I’ll cross that one when I come to it. In the meantime there are some rather lovely other colours that it comes in…

We’re not going to talk about the shawl.

Strange times

I am getting rather more knitting than usual done just now, mainly because I am At Home. Of course the reason I am At Home is the same as everyone’s else’s reason for being At Home, ie a global pandemic. It feels quite weird for us to be carrying on relatively as normal – barring going out or doing anything – while some people are having the most stressful and dangerous time tangling with CV19, and I am very conscious of being in an extremely fortunate position. I’m employed and can still work, I’m a student and can still study, my family are all healthy and I am able to homeschool because they are primary-age and even though I don’t know a fronted adverbial from a hole in the road, I can handle most of the rest of the curriculum.

So – as part of being responsibly #stayathome, I am notching up a reasonable number of wins on my needles. Finished a chunky sweater last week, also a pair of socks

Plain vanilla socks in WYS Kingfisher sockyarn

then did a stash dive to see if there was anything I had enough of for a child-sized sweater. Lo and Behold there was a pack of Debbie Bliss cotton DK I’d completely forgotten about, in their ‘print’ series.

Very pleasing blues, and a nice pattern from Rowan that has enough to keep me interested but not so much I lose track.

The same cannot be said for the other WIP, which is the wrap I picked up a couple of months back (or it could be a couple of weeks, time is weird right now). I’ve never managed to learn the border pattern on this, so I have to painfully follow the chart for every border repeat.

I’ve done a dozen repeats so am hopeful that it will bed in at some point, but the fact that I’m not loving it means it’s very easy to be distracted by other things. <checks the stash for more sockyarn>

I didn’t mean to cast you on

But there was half-price Rowan Cocoon in the John Lewis sale and it would have been CRIMINAL not to buy it and then I sort of had to cast it on just to see what it looked like and then there was more knitting…

The sweater did go on hiatus while I finished up some socks for a friend who was just coming to the end of a round of chemo. They were in King Cole Zig-Zag Holly Berry, and I didn’t take a photo of them (though I really wish I had because he has size 14 feet and they were the biggest socks I’ve ever knitted), but this:

knits up like this:I do love a self-patterning yarn.

Anyway, the sweater is a Very Basic chunky sweater pattern. The recipient doesn’t like patterns, shapes or bright colours when it comes to sweaters, so this straight-down-the-line pattern has now been knitted four times.

Handily finished just in time for the weather to get boiling.

Time-travelled gratitude

Just occasionally I am grateful to my past self.

I’ve had a shawl/wrap project on the go for a while. By ‘on the go’ I mean I knitted 70% of it – the centre and a chunk of the border – about two years ago and then didn’t like it enough to bring myself to buy a final ball of yarn to finish it. However, I bit the bullet this Christmas holiday when I realised that Lang were discontinuing the colourway and if I didn’t buy it now then I was probably never going to be able to. And then there would be another long pause while I brought myself to terms with ripping the whole thing out and turning it into something else. Which was the least-preferred option. Had to get the yarn from Germany because there was none in the UK, so I think I might have cut it pretty fine.The yarn arrived a few days ago. There were gloves to knit, and a sweater to finish, so I didn’t have to think about it. But finally I sighed, dug out the project and went to look it up on Ravelry to see what the pattern, needles were etc.Reader, I had not Ravelled it. And after two years’ hiatus there was no chance whatever that I remembered what pattern I’d used, what size needles – anything. My best guess was that it was a pattern from Victorian Lace Today…… but had no idea which one. So I started leafing through randomly, hoping I could recognise the pattern, squinting at shawl-centres sideways, waiting for something to feel familiar (not very useful, as I’ve knitted a couple of other things from this book). Then found this.

Enough to tell me that it’s this pattern, and that when I started the border I was using 4mm needles.

Thank you, two-years-ago self.

Warm hands

While this isn’t exactly the winter-to-end-all-winters, nonetheless the children like to wear gloves to school. Which (despite name-tagging) generally means lost gloves. But it was a while since I’d knitted any, and to be honest the youngest’s were too small anyway, so I wasn’t too cross about him losing one. He picked the yarn, and plumped for Flamingo Pink Cascade chunky.

I’ve used the same pattern as a basis for these extremely simple mittens several times, but I can never remember what I’ve done after I’ve finished a pair because I’m always knitting them in different yarns and to fit different children’s hands. The first one always takes a few goes to get right, because we try on as I go, then the second one is the work of a couple of hours.

These fit, but another time I would probably cast on 30 for the cuff and knit it with a smaller needle so there’s enough stretch. There’s enough yarn to knit a third one, which seems like it would probably be a good use of my time…

Probably never going to knit this again

The grey Starshine is finished. It’s in Rowan Superwash Pure Wool DK.

I think the recipient likes it,

and now I get to do the all-three wearing-matching-sweaters-at-the-same-time shot.

You would not believe the bribery I had to resort to for this picture.