Mitts Are My Master

There was a time when I looked at pictures of fingerless mitts and… Meh! Really, why would anyone except maybe toll collectors wear fingerless mitts? thought I. Then smartphones. That was my A-ha! moment. I knitted my first pair of fingerless mitts for my DIL, and I haven’t stopped. Really, they are as addicting as socks, maybe even more addicting because they take so little time and yarn to knit. They are a great way to use up leftover yarn and can be knitted in any weight yarn. Fingerless mitts are the best thing ever.

And fingerless mitts are far more useful than I ever dreamed. I have always hated driving in gloves, so in the winter, my hands would be cold on the steering wheel. But now I’m nice and cosy when driving in cold weather because fingerless mitts! I can keep my mitts on in the store and handle money with no problems. I can read and send texts and answer or make phone calls without having to take off my mitts like I would have to do with gloves. I can carry shopping bags more securely with fingerless mitts on than with gloves on. And when it is super cold outside, I can slip a pair of fingerless mitts over a pair of gloves for extra warmth. Fingerless mitts are great!

I am always on the look-out for fingerless mitt patterns that appeal to me, and I recently found a free pattern from the Cascade Yarn Company. The Alhambra Hand Warmers really struck my eye. I thought the cable pattern was interesting, and that the pattern would look great worked up in worsted weight yarn. And I had some leftover lovely purple-blue worsted weight wool in my stash that I thought would show off this pattern perfectly.

Version 2

Because I worked the cables with a cable needle instead of using the method in the directions, and because I wasn’t paying close attention, I crossed my cables the wrong way, to the right instead of to the left.

But I thought the mitts as pictured on the pattern instructions left a lot to be desired.

The color of the yarn used doesn’t show off the cables very well.

Version 2

I don’t think this color would sing to anybody.

And the stocking stitch palm means the mitts will not fit a wide range of hands. On the model, the mitts look ill-fitting and sloppy.

DSC06694

The mitts droop around the wrists when the wrists are flexed. Ugh!

DSC06696

Really, just looking at these pictures might turn anyone away from making these mitts. The yarn they are knitted from is acrylic held double, the they just don’t look very good. And both mitts look like they have biased, but perhaps the model just didn’t bother to make certain they were on straight before the mitts were photographed.

So I decided to do some modifications to the pattern to produce a better fitting mitt.

Version 2

My main modification was to knit the palm in 2 x 2 ribbing. Now the wrists won’t be all droopy and the mitts will fit a wider range of hand sizes.

Version 2

I knitted an extra repeat of the cable pattern and did the thumb gusset increases every third round instead of every other round so that the mitts would fit my hand better. Otherwise, they would not have been long enough for me. Ignore my thumb. It looks worse than it is.

My modifications are detailed in the notes on my Ravelry project page, which you can view by clicking here.

The yarn I used is Brown Sheep Nature Spun worsted weight wool, my favorite basic wool yarn, in Sapphire that I had left over from another project, and I was pretty sure I had enough to knit these mitts. I don’t normally play yarn chicken, but I decided to give it a whirl and, YAY! I won!

Nearly completed. The yarn that is left is on the left. The mitt on the far right still needs the thumb. There will be just enough yarn to do the thumb and probably a yard or two leftover. Perfect!

The little ball of yarn that is on the left is all that remains. It should be plenty to finish the thumb on the right-hand mitt, which is on the far right of the picture. I was cutting it close.

These mitts were a lot of fun to knit, the pattern is pretty well written, and I found only one mistake. It is written for one size only, but the knitter could easily adjust the size by using larger or smaller needles or a different weight of yarn. The directions for the cables are written only, no charts, so if you prefer to work from charts, you would have to make your own. This is a free pattern, so I’m not complaining about these “deficiencies,” just making sure that anyone who is interested in the patterns knows that there are no charts and only one size.

As an aside, I really hate it when knitters complain when a free pattern doesn’t have multiple sizes, or doesn’t have both charts and written out directions, or contains a few minor mistakes. They are usually the same knitters who bitch about having to pay for a pattern. If you want all the bells and whistles, you are going to have to pay for it. Tech editors and test knitters don’t work for free, nor should they. End of rant. End of post.

What’s Off My Needles

Finishing a project is one of the most joyful events in a knitter’s life, especially when the project turns out as planned. It’s been a while since I’ve had a major knitting disaster, and I hope to keep it that way. Of course, I’ve been knitting a lot of fingerless mitts lately, but even when a project that small is a total fail, it can never qualify as a major knitting disaster. A fingerless mitt, after all, is little more than a swatch. So if you need to rip the darned thing out and start over, it’s no big deal. When that happens with, say, a sweater, well, that’s a big deal.

The previous paragraph may lead you, dear reader, to conclude that I have recently had a fingerless mitts fail of some sort. If so, I apologize for misleading you. My fingerless mitts have been humming along like a well-oiled spinning wheel. Two pairs have recently left my needles, and both turned out quite well, if I do say so myself.

I’ll start with Anne’s Little Twist Mitts. They are finished, and I’m very happy with how they turned out.

If I could play the bodhrán, I could play it wearing these mitts. 🙂

Although I prefer to have some ribbing in the hand of fingerless mitts because I think it gives a better fit, these mitts don’t bag and sag excessively.

No bagging or sagging, just a nice, snug fit

The yarn I used for these mitts is Brown Sheep Nature Spun worsted weight. It’s my favorite everyday  workhorse yarn because it comes in a wide range of colors, knits up nicely, softens a lot once it’s washed, wears well, is made in the USA of American wool, and is well priced. A lot of knitters are in love with Cascade 220, but in my opinion, Cascade 220 pales in comparison with Brown Sheep Nature Spun.

But that being said, Cascade 220 is a good, solid everyday yarn, and I do sometimes knit with it even though I’m not overly fond of either the twist or the feel of it. In fact, I just recently completed these fingerless mitts using Cascade 220 that I had in my stash.

 

Mr. Pittsburgh Penguins Gnome approves of my Let’s Go Pens Mitts.

The pattern is Center Ice Hockey Mitts, which is a free download on Ravelry. These mitts are intended as a prize for one of the members of the Let’s Go Pens Ravellenic Games team.

It’s very difficult to find a yarn in a color that matches the Las Vegas gold that is worn by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Cascade 220 comes the closest with the color they call “Pear.” I wish Brown Sheep had a comparable color, but they don’t. If they did, Cascade 220 would probably be banished from my stash.

 

Presents!

The holidays were wonderful this year. The weekend before Christmas we made a trip to Pittsburgh to visit James and Emily (and housemates Kelly and Alma the cat) and to exchange gifts. We had dinner at Emily’s mom’s place (yum!) and the next morning we had brunch at Zenith on the Southside (yum!) and then headed back home. It was a lovely time. And there were presents!

I gave James his Tea with Jam and Bread sweater

James’s sweater waiting to be blocked

and a pair of fingerless mitts in Brown Sheep Nature Spun wool in Bulldog Blue.

Simple K3 P1 mitts for James, modeled by yours truly.

James was very happy with his new sweater. It wasn’t a surprise. He had approved the yarn last summer and tried the sweater-in-progress on over Thanksgiving. But he was very happy with how it turned out, especially with how well it fit. I added three double sets of short rows to the back, one at the shoulders, one at the bottom of the armholes, and one above the bottom ribbing to add length to the back. The short rows at the shoulders gave a slightly rounded shape that fit across his upper back very nicely. And the other two sets of short rows made the back about an inch-and-a-half longer than the front so the sweater won’t ride up in the back when he wears it.

I also knitted the body longer than I usually do. I checked on-line to see how long commercial sweaters in “tall” sizes are from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the sweater and used that as a guide. It’s 31 inches for an XL. 🙂

James also seemed very happy with the fingerless mitts. He expressed an interest in giving them a try when he was here over Thanksgiving, so I knitted him a pair in very dark blue using a simple ribbing that makes them stretchy. I cast on four more stitches than I would were I knitting these for myself, and I knitted the cuffs just a little longer than I would for myself to accommodate his larger hands. When he tried them on, they fit, um, like a glove. 🙂

Emily also got a pair of fingerless mitts, knitted from Cascade 220 Heather in a lovely soft blue.

Emily’s mitt with fold-over cuffs on both the wrists and fingers for extra warmth

I was working on these mitts over Thanksgiving, and Emily really liked them, so they mysteriously found their way into her gift bag.

While James and Emily were showing off their fingerless mitts, their housemate Kelly was admiring them. So naturally, I asked him if he would like a pair. He said yes, so I told him to stop by when he was in town for the holidays and I would have a pair ready for him.

Kelly’s mitts in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Mist

They are identical to the ones I knitted for James except they are in a different color and yarn. He picked them up the Friday after Christmas and seemed pleased with them. Although I knitted them using the same stitch count and needles that I used for James’s mitts, these mitts are just a wee bit smaller because of the different yarn. But they are very stretchy, so it’s not really a problem. Fingerless mitts are very forgiving like that. 🙂

Oh, and let’s not forget the best present of all. I actually made a pair of fingerless mitts for myself.

The Pittsburgh Penguins gnome keeping watch over my mitts

Mine, all mine!

All I can say is, Fingerless mitts, where have you been all my life?

 

 

 

Best Birthday Ever

I recently turned 60. 60? Really? How did that happen?

I happen to have an excellent husband; he’s loving, kind, generous, and thoughtful. He set out to make my 60th birthday the best birthday ever.

<Begin historic present tense>

It all starts a few weeks before the big day. The DH asks me if I’d like to go to a Pittsburgh Penguins game for my birthday.  The only NHL game I’ve ever seen in person was a preseason game–the Pens vs the Washington Capitals in the Giant Center in Hershey, PA–in which none of the “star” players participated. So, DUH!!! Of course I’d like to go to a hockey game in Pittsburgh for my birthday. He gets on the Internet and finds four seats together in the lower level of the Consol Energy Center for the night of October 15. The Pens vs the Buffalo Sabres. I like the Sabres. I love the Pens. Four tickets so we could bring the boy and his sock-worthy GF along. The excitement is building!

Next, the DH says to me, Let’s go to Bleacher Bums and I’ll buy you a hockey sweater for your birthday.

What? say I. You already bought tickets for a hockey game.

That’s as much for me as for you, says he. Let me buy you a hockey sweater to wear to the game.

Okay, say I.

I mean, it’s a no-brainer, right? So, we go to bleacher bums, and as soon as we walk in the door, I spy the hockey sweater I want.

Yep, a #87 Sidney Crosby dark blue alternate jersey, aka a Winter Classic jersey. Best birthday ever. But, believe it or not, it gets even better.

Gameday arrives. We leave Carlisle in the morning and hit the PA Turnpike headed west. It’s a glorious, sunny day, and the autumn leaves have set the hillsides ablaze. I have my knitting along and work on another Winter’s Coming hat, this one in two shades of pink, one of which is very purplish. The yarn is Brown Sheep Nature Spun worsted weight wool in Peruvian Pink and Victorian Pink.

Winter's Coming Again Hat

Knitting in the car makes trips go much faster. We have an uneventful trip and arrive safely at our hotel in Monroeville. We couldn’t get a room in the city; the hotels are filled because both the Pens and the Steelers have home games. After checking in and getting everything stowed away, we drive to the GF’s place in Shadyside where we visit, watch college football, and eat Chinese take-out until it is time to leave for the game.

We leave the house and walk to the corner to catch the bus that will take us to the CEC. It’s been along time since I’ve ridden public transportation, so I’m enjoying myself immensely. I have a lot of really good memories growing up of riding the bus with my Grandma B, and this bus ride is bringing them back. The bus stops right smack in front of the CEC, which is an amazingly beautiful building. We walk around to the other side because that is where the will-call window is, and we have to pick up our tickets at will-call.

The will-call entrance is across the street from The Igloo, aka Mellon Arena, but for me it will forever be the Civic Arena. The old arena is in the process of being demolished, but the demolition is barely underway, so there it stands in all its glory. I never attended a hockey game in the Civic Arena, but I have been there for a political rally, dog shows, and a jazz festival. It’s kind of sad to see it go because it is definitely a Pittsburgh landmark, but the building has outlived its usefulness.

We enter the CEC, pick up our tickets, go to our seats, and soak up the atmosphere. The CEC was built to be a hockey arena.

It is very well designed. When you sit down in your seat, you realize that you are seated high enough that you can easily see over the heads of the folks in the row in front of you. You can look to the sides and see the action on the ice without having to lean forward and obstruct the view of the people beside you. The seats themselves are wide and well-padded and surprisingly comfortable. And there is plenty of leg room, even for the 6’4″ DS.

Our seats have a perfect view of the face-off circle and goal net in what will be the Pens offensive zone in Periods 1 and 3. That means that during the warm ups, I get some really good looks at the Sabres goalie, Ryan Miller, who is one of my favorite hockey players.

You may remember him as the USA goalie in the last Winter Olympics. He looked so sad after the OT loss. If you don’t remember him from the Olympics, you might recognize him from the Comcast  Xfinity commercials where he’s playing air hockey with Shaquille O’Neal and says to Shaq, “You’re in MY world now.” I love that commercial. Miller isn’t in goal this game, but I have a nice unobstructed view of him in the goalie’s corner of the Sabres bench.

The hockey game is really exciting.

It’s a little disappointing that the Pens fall behind, but they keep scrapping and get within one point of the Sabres in the third period when Jordan Staal scores a goal in the net right in front of us. The ending of the game is very exciting, but the Pens fall short and lose 3-2.

Under normal circumstances I might be a little disappointed because the Pens lost, but nothing could put a damper on this day.

Greg and me enjoying the game.

On a day when I get to spend the day with my husband, son, and son’s GF; when I get to eat Chinese take-out; when I get to see an NHL game live and in person; when I get to wear my #87 hockey sweater to the game; on a day when I get to do so many wonderful things, something even better happened. I got to meet, live and in person, Michelle The Knitting Lady and her DH Mike. I have followed Michelle and Mike’s Pittsburgh Penguinss hockey adventures on Ravelry and Mike’s blog for a while now, and finally meeting them in person was a real thrill. I actually had a pretty nice view of Mike and Michelle from my seat at the opposite end of the arena thanks to the telephoto lens on my camera.

Knitting Lady Says Do It!

Yep, Michelle is knitting! She’s able to knit and watch hockey at the same time because she can knit without looking at her knitting. I can knit when I watch hockey on TV, but not when I’m at an actual game, so I didn’t bring my knitting to the game.

The day finally has to come to an end. We hop on the bus and make our way back to Shadyside. We look at our pictures, finish our Chinese take-out, drink a little coffee, watch a little college football, and do a lot of chatting. And the icing on the top of the cake? Alma the Cat makes up with me. Perfect ending to a perfect day. We drive back to Monroeville, get a good night’s sleep, and hit the road headed east. When we arrive home and walk in the door, we are greeted by a couple of kitties who are very happy to see us. You’re in MY world now. ☺

Best. Birthday. Ever.

Which Came First, The Button Or The Hat?

I have fallen hard for button-tab hats. Buttons are a great way to embellish knitted hats, and the variety of buttons that are available is astounding. One can spend hours looking through buttons at the local fabric shop, not to mention spending lots of money. Buttons come in myriad designs, sizes, and materials, and the selection seems almost endless. So what comes first, the button or the hat?

Sometimes it’s the button that serves as inspiration. I made a trip to JoAnn Fabrics one day for the sole purpose of buying buttons to use as hat embellishments. I saw this big gold button and thought, Wow! That button would look great on a hat. But the hat would have to be all about the button; the button had to be the star. I had to select just the right yarn to show off this button, and I had to come up with a brim pattern that was proportional to the button.

I used Nature Spun worsted-weight wool in Navy Nite, which is a dark blue that is slightly purplish. This jewel-tone color provides a really nice backdrop for the big gold button, don’t you think?

I cast on 110 stitches on 3.75mm needles and because the button is 1-5/8s inches, I worked a 2-inch band using the garter rib pattern: row 1 (WS) k2, p2; row 2 (RS) k across. Then I bound off the first 10 stitches purl-wise and purled across, joined the knitting and knit the body of the hat in stocking stitch in the round. I did my standard crown decreases starting with k8, k2tog. After weaving in all the ends, I attached the button. I had my sister-in-law in mind when I made this hat, and when I showed it to her, sure enough, she loved it! The winters are cold where she lives, and the Big Gold Button Hat is sure to get a good work-out this winter.

Sometimes button-tab hats are built around a button, but sometimes the inspiration comes from elsewhere.

I joined Facebook a while back at the urging of my younger sister. I’ve reconnected with some childhood friends, and it has been fun catching up. I’ve been posting pictures of my knitting to Facebook and have gotten some very nice comments from my old friends. One of them, who now lives in Florida, rides a motorcycle. A burnt-orange colored motocycle. She admired my hats and jokingly said that I should knit her one in burnt orange to match her bike. I have a lot of good memories of this friend and have thought of her often through the years. I remember how much fun we had dancing in the old gym. Certain songs always bring her to mind. I can picture her so clearly in my mind’s eye dancing to those tunes.

Well, I just happened to have a ball of burnt-orange wool in my stash (Lion Brand Lion Wool in Pumpkin). So I thought about what sort of hat would suit this fun-loving and adventurous old friend who rides a burnt-orange motorcycle. What popped into my head was a button-tab hat, but I had to find the perfect button. I went through my stash of “extra buttons” and found a heart-shaped button that was exactly what this hat was calling for. And that’s how Button-Down Heart Hat was born.

I started with 3.5mm needles and a cast-on of 120 stitches. The rest is the same as the Big Gold Button Hat. After the hat had been washed and had dried thoroughly, I packed it up and sent it on its way to Florida. It arrived safely and now has a happy home with its new owner.

Who’da thunk buttons could do so much?

Red Is The Color

Red is my favorite color. Red. Any shade of red. Crimson, scarlet, cardinal, maroon, burgundy, cerise, flame, auburn, garnet, ruby, vermillion, rose red, lipstick red, fire engine red, apple red, brick red… You get the idea. I love red. And it shows in my knitting. Here’s a sampling of some of my red hats.

Yes, it’s the Joe Cool pattern again, this time worked in Brown Sheep Nature Spun worsted weight in Scarlet (which is a gorgeous deep crimson color) and Natural. There’s nothing quite like white to make red really pop.

While I was working with these lovely colors of Nature Spun, I couldn’t help but think how well they match Oklahoma University’s crimson and cream. Although I am by no means an Oklahoma fan–OU is among my least favorite college footbal teams– my brother-in-law is a rabid OU fan, so I decided to bite the bullet and knit him an OU hat. Hey, at least I was knitting with colors I loved. LOL Anyway, I designed a simple OU logo chart and cast on 120 stitches, knitted a fold-up 2 x 2 ribbing, did the stranded colorwork, and finished up with the crown increases. And, voilà! The Boomer Sooner Hat is born.

The pattern for the Boomer Sooner Hat can be downloaded for free from the Patterns section of All Kinds Of Knitting.

Red is definitely a superstar color, but it doesn’t always have to hog the limelight. Sometimes is it quite happy to take a supporting role. In the Red Hearts Hat, the lovely orangy-red Nature Spun (Husker Red) shares the stage with some adorable little red heart-shaped buttons on a backdrop of black. This is a button-tab hat with a little stranded colorwork added; simple to make, stunning to wear. 🙂

Years ago, I bought some Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted-weight wool in a dark red called Spice. I purchased the yarn specifically to knit a sweater that I gave to my younger sister. When the sweater was finished, I had nearly three balls of yarn left over. Well before my hat-knitting frenzy began, I saw a hat pattern that I thought would be perfect for the left-over yarn, and I planned to make my sister a hat to match her nice, warm, cozy sweater. But, meh! Hats? Who wants to knit hats? The yarn and pattern sat in my project cue for months and months. Then the Stanley Cup Playoffs Hat Trick began. I discovered the joy of knitting hats. So, finally, this hat got made.

The pattern is called Lock Gate, and I found it in the British knitting magazine Yarn Forward, No. 8, January 2009. Since that time, it has also become available on Ravelry under the name Redundancy by Sarah Wilson. The pattern is written for Brown Sheep Nature Spun, but because I was using Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride, which is more of an Aran-weight than a worsted weight, so I cast on fewer stitches (101), but otherwise I followed the directions. The cable may look complicated, but it is actually a very simple 1/1 that can easily be done without using a cable needle. I apologize for the not-so-great quality of the picture. The hat is no longer in my possession, so I can make another stab at getting a decent picture.

Whew! That was a hat whirlwind! Thanks for sticking with me to the end. 🙂