Thursday, December 20, 2007

Subway Mittens

Teresa saw a woman on the subway in Boston wearing a pair of mittens with a pocket for her transit pass. Teresa was impressed and called me to ask me to knit her a pair for Christmas. I had been looking through the winter 2007 issue of Interweave Knits magazine and saw Colleen Meagher's pattern a few days before Teresa called. I played around with a different pocket design that I can knit at the same time as I knit the mitten, eliminating the need to sew the pocket on later. I think I am on to something, but need more experimentation time to solidify it. So in the interest of time - I had a little over a week to knit the mittens for Teresa for Christmas - I chose to knit the subway mittens following Meagher's pattern. I knew I could have them done in time that way. I will work on my other idea some more after Christmas.

Meagher offers a nice pattern . I chose to add a knit lining to make the mittens warmer. I used my own hand spun yarns that I had on hand and adjusted the gauge as needed. I wanted a dense and warm fabric so I used smaller needles (US size 3) than suggested in the pattern.
I knit the lining by picking up stitches along the inside edge of the mitten cuff where the ribbing ends and st st begins. The stitches were picked up from the back purl bump on the first knit rowof the miten. That way the lining fiber is not visible from the outside of the mitten. From the picked up stitches I knit the second mitten as a lining and inverted it into the outer mitten . The lining yarn was slightly thinner than the mitten yarn so I knit the lining with the same number of stitches as the mitten. This created a lining that is slightly smaller than the mitten so when inverted into the mitten it lays nice and smooth.

The mitten is knit in 100% wool. The cuff and outer layer are from a raw fleece I received in 2005. I am not sure of the breed of sheep the fleece came from. It is nice soft fiber of varying shades of brown with a high crimp. It was a joy to spin - not so fun to pick VM out of and hand wash, but worth it in the end. I spun it somewhat loose to create a lofty yarn. The 2 ply, 12 wpi yarn was spun Z and plyed S on my Louet s10 wheel in May of 2006. I spun 1200 yards from the original fleece. Last year I knit a sweater for myself with most of the yarn; I had enough left in my stash for a pair of mittens, maybe two.

I spun the yarn for the lining in August 2006 from a wonderful roving I purchased in 2004 at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival from Spin-n-Knit Crafts. The sheep breed is listed as Blue Faced Leicester. The final 2 ply yarn measured 14 wpi and has a slightly tighter twist and smoother finish than the mitten yarn. I spun 435 yds from the 8 oz roving and all of it was in my stash, ready to use. Plenty enough for lining a pair of mittens with yarn left over for another project later on.
The past week has been VERY cold here in New England. Our yard looks like an ice rink after a Zamboni has gone over it - with the added dimension of slopes here and there. I don't mind winter snow so much, but this slightly-thawed-then-overly-frozen-hard-as-a-rock version is horrid. I guess that's partly what inspired the lining construction for the mittens: my thoughts are focused on how to stay warm. I was brave today, though, and took the mittens outside to photograph in natural light. I'm pleased with the finished project and hope Teresa likes them, too. May they keep her hands warm and her transit pass easy to use.

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