Some New Mittens for Fall

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After I finished my summer fair knitting, I had nearly a whole ball of left-over Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love yarn in a pretty, ruby red color left just sitting on the table next to my favorite chair.  For a commercially produced yarn, I actually really like the way it looks and feels.

I have a mini-stash of Debbie Stoller (of Stitch N’ Bitch fame) yarns, including Washable Ewe, Alpaca Love and Bamboo Ewe.  I tend to pick these up when odd balls go on clearance at the big chain craft stores in the area.  Since this one was the only ball of this yarn that I had, I wanted to make something nice for myself with it, both to have the satisfaction of using up all of the yarn, and to have something made from it close to me so that I could continue to enjoy it.

  I decided to make myself a new pair of fingerless mitts for my early morning drives into work.  It is always chilly in the Midwest in the early mornings during fall, and my hands are often cold when I’m driving.  I have an old, go-to pair that someone from knitting group made for me several years ago, but they are well-worn, and thought I could use new ones to add to the mix.

I wanted something simple, so after perusing patterns on Ravelry, I decided on the Peekaboo Mitts pattern as a template.  I wouldn’t have enough yarn to make the pattern as written, so I made a smaller version, and I added a little heart motif to the back of each hand by strategically placing purl stitches within the stockinette stitch.

 

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Top and bottom surface of each mitt.

I more or less just improvised the placement of the little heart motif, and I thought it turned out well.

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As you can see, I often block my mitts on the ankle area of some sock blockers.  The ones used here are a set from my vintage collection.  When they are not in use, they are displayed on the wall of my office at home.

So much basil in my garden this year!

So much basil in my garden this year!

I’ve actually gotten some use out of these mitts already this season.

Nearly fall and my tomatoes are still green...

Nearly fall and my tomatoes are still green…

I knit these on size 8, double pointed needles.  I decreased a few cast-on stitches to make the mitts narrower (since I have small hands and I wanted the mitts to be snug). 

I have also since finished my Skyp socks, and cast on (and nearly finished as of this post) a new, fall hat.  Details are coming soon…

~Happy knitting!

 

Knitting Socks that Last

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It’s been a crazy week, and I’m happy to get back to action on my current work in progress – my Skyp Socks. 

By last weekend, I had knit one sock from the cuff all of the way down to the start of the toe, and began the foot on the other.  As mentioned in a previous post, I’m trying a new approach (just for the heck of it) by knitting each sock simultaneously on DPNs.  When I finish a component of one sock, I pick up the other and knit that one to match, and so on. 

I took this photo last week, when I had achieved the cuff and leg for each of the two socks:

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As you can see, I’m using my trusty Kollage Square needles.  Since I only have one set of them in size 1 (keeping enough sets of all of these needles gets pricey when you’re a knitting junkie like me), I held stitches on the resting sock with bamboo needles, and just switched them out when I was ready to knit on the next sock. 

As mentioned before, I love the color of this yarn, and hey, it’s just in time for fall!  I LOVE the fall, and even on the day I took these photos, when it was above 80 degrees outside, I could feel that fall was in the air.  I can’t even explain it.  I just know it when I feel it.  And to prove that I’m not just imagining it, I snapped a quick pic of my yard:

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I am lucky enough to live under what I think is a spectacular canopy of trees.  Just look at all of those leaves on the ground!  That happened in a matter of about 48 hours.  The trees knew it wanted to be fall outside too, even in the midst of the hot and humid weather.

So lovely, hand dyed merino yarn in fall colors is the perfect thing for right now!  My only worry is that the yarn is not officially a ‘sock yarn’ in that it has no nylon or supportive fiber component to help it last with use.  The book that I have been reading, Knit Socks by Betsy Lee McCarthy, has great content on considerations for knitting socks that will hold up to regular wear.  In a nutshell, wool that is blended with nylon, bamboo, mohair, silk or Tencel will hold up for much longer than plain fingering weight wool.  (Tencel is a tough, biodegradable fiber made from wood pulp.)  She mentions mohair more than once for this purpose, and suggests fingering weight wool with both added nylon and mohair as a great choice for socks that will last.

She also makes an interesting case for tightening up your gauge.  Like really tightening it up.  Like going down four needle sizes from the size recommended by the yarn’s manufacturer wherever possible.  Four needle sizes!  That’s a concept that is new to me, and in her book Betsy admits that many people raise an eyebrow when she suggests it, but she claims to have a system for getting good, long wear out of her hand knit socks and that is part of it.

Of course, I read this AFTER I purchased this yarn (which is light fingering weight merino wool) and started my socks.  I can tell you that this yarn (did I mention that I’m in love with this yarn?), is not going to stand up to lots of wear according to Betsy’s criteria.  From the book, I learned that there is compromise that needs to be made when choosing sock yarn for socks that one really means to wear, between beautiful (sometimes one of a kind) yarn that will make amazing LOOKING socks, and lovely yarns that will make amazing socks that not only look good, but will also not wear out after several weeks in a shoe. 

When I bought this yarn, I was all about amazing LOOKING socks, and the happiness I get out of working with gorgeous yarn that I love.  I did end up putting a heel in each sock in a brown wool/nylon blend that I hope will help to extend the life of this pair.  Another option for these socks would be to hold nylon thread double with my yarn for at least the heel and toe portions of the sock to help toughen the fabric in those areas.

Here is a closer look at the cute ribs that are achieved by the Skyp pattern.  It’s like a wide rib with a decorative little braid running down the center of it.  So cute!

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The stitches will even out a little more after blocking.  And I have to say that the colors in this yarn are so much better in person.

These socks have been a little slower going than I was expecting.  Last weekend, with the onset of cooler, fall weather, I wanted to knit up a quick pair of fingerless mitts for my early drives in to work.  At that hour, it is chilly outside, and my hands get cold holding the steering wheel.  So I took a little break from these socks to do that, and then the following week was a bit of a marathon, so I had nearly no time to work on them in the evenings either.

Yesterday, I drove down to Purdue University for a conference I was attending, and I initially planned to bring these socks along.  I thought I might knit on them during any down time.  I changed my mind at the last minute, suspecting that I would be too busy to really have any real knitting opportunities.  (I was wrong, and wished I had brought them on at least two occasions during the day.)

Since I was in the town of West Lafayette, IN, I was also hoping to make it over to River Knits, which is the local yarn shop out there.  Unfortunately, the shop was closed by the time the conference was over, and I didn’t get to visit the yarn.

I’m looking forward to relaxing a little this weekend, and knitting on my socks.  Maybe I’ll even finish them, but I a little part of me wants to put them down again to knit up some quick mittens.  We’ll see what happens…

 

~Happy (lasting sock) knitting!

 

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FO: Chicanery Mitts

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This week, I finished a pair of Chicanery Mitts, a pattern written by Angela Myers for Three Irish Girls yarn.  I LOVE this pattern, and I actually just finished a second pair in worsted weight that is still blocking, but will be posted about soon.

 

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I completed these last weekend, but they waited all week to be ‘finished’ (knitter’s F-word) in that they still needed loose ends woven in, and a good blocking.  I used one of my favorite sets of antique sock blockers to block these mitts.  Pardon the mess!  I block most of my work in my office which has now become somewhat of a workshop, and it is cluttered. 

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The stitch pattern is meant to break up colors in variegated and hand dyed yarns, similar to the way linen stitch does, but it also gives this great cobble-stone appearance to the fabric that I think is so great.  It also makes these mitts extra thick (due to slipped stitches within the pattern), so this pattern can be done well with fingering weight yarn, which will still make thick, warm mitts.

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I actually did a little stash busting with this pair, and used some left-overs of some of my nicest yarn.  If you remember my Cladonia Shawl, you will recognize the yarn (which was just as wonderful to work with the second time around!  Why haven’t I got more of this stuff!?).   The yarn is Madelintosh Tosh Sport in the colors Sequoia B and Twig. 

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This yarn is hand dyed, which gives it that gorgeous appearance.  I so wish I had enough yarn to do a second pair for myself, but I’m nearly certain what I have left won’t make it.  I had to weigh the left-overs out on a gram scale just to be sure I had enough for this pair.  This pair was made for sale in my Etsy shop, which I will blog about soon.

Happy knitting!

~Kristen