when gauge matters

Basically I’ve always lived on the edge when it comes to my knitting. I don’t do gauge swatches. I don’t worry too much about matching up my yarns. I don’t do a whole lot of counting and calculating. So far there haven’t been too many circumstances where this has come back to bite me in the ass, but last week, it did.

The funny thing is that it was and wasn’t my fault. I knit two fingerless mittens using the same needles and diligently counted the rows. When I was done, one was little and the other was big. I counted and recounted, but I had the same number of stitches. Waaah!? The gauge was off, but it wasn’t simply a tension issue. The yarn had actually increased in size! And here is where it was my fault. I spun that yarn. It was a navajo-plied yarn, so if the single had gotten thicker as I went, the ply would have gotten thicker and thicker too. Looking at the two mitts, I knew I couldn’t block them to match, so I knit another mitt. With barely enough yarn, I managed to complete a third mitt. It was just slightly larger than the second. Aarrrrg! Thankfully, the difference is minimal and I should be able to block them to match.

Here they are: my Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear mitts!

gauge issues

new pattern is complete!

Say hello to Sideways Gull Stitch Mitts. Wow. I am not very creative with my naming. This pair has a cable along the bottom cuff and is knit sideways.  I love this cable in particular — it’s only a four-row repeat, so it’s easy to remember and it looks fancy without much effort. Also, adjusting the size for larger/smaller hands or a heavier yarn is simple.

I used a handspun singles yarn for the initial pair. It is 100% undyed alpaca. If you were to use a yarn that was more worsted (not woolen), the cables would be clearer. However, I do not plan for things such as that, so it is what it is.

gull stitch mitts

I want to thank Rebecca of Dusty Tree Soap and April of Studio Strategos who were both a big help testing and editing this pattern. I am still very new at the writing of patterns, so I tend to be insecure. April has a great technical eye, so she gave me lots of suggestions on the terminology and Rebecca worked through the pattern twice. The first time she didn’t have enough yarn, so she only got one mitt done. It’s still beautiful though!

rebeccamitts02
On the second pair she used a heavier yarn and size #9 needles. She noted that the lighter yarn required 12 pattern repeats and the heavier required nine. Also, she used a provisional cast-on and added a thumb. They look so cool!

rebeccamitts

a survey of fingerless mittens

Today I went through my Flickr photos and Ravelry projects to see just how many different styles of fingerless mittens I’ve made over the years. The two basic styles are those with thumb gussets and those without. I always get the question, “Which is warmer?” And on the surface the answer would be the one with the thumb since more of your fingers are covered. However, I use lots of different fibers and weights of yarn, so it isn’t always that simple. I knit both kinds because it makes things more interesting for me. That’s important too.

I started knitting fingerless mittens to sell in 2006. Honestly, I am not entirely sure how many pairs I have made since then, but it’s easily over 100. Initially I used handdyed commercial yarn, but eventually I transitioned into primarily handspun with a bit of recycled yarn here and there.

mosaic506e8ee7ed7498a5311af670de435ea6b9dcd846

Recently I’ve begun to consider writing down some of the patterns I created during this endeavor. None of the mittens are a groundbreaking revision of the standard mitten. They are basically standard mittens with colorwork or an interesting stitch pattern. In fact, most of them have probably been done by someone else already, but since I don’t look at patterns much, I wouldn’t know.

It also occurred to me that I could use the same pattern multiple times. I have this habit of not wanting to repeat things. The same goes for recipes (which makes no sense). But if I used the same patterns with different yarns, oh! my life would be so much simpler. So, in order to practice pattern writing and preserve my remaining sanity, I’m going to try to document the patterns as I make them. We’ll see how that goes.

In my enthusiasm, I actually wrote down my latest pattern. It should be ready for public consumption in the next week. I just need to get some decent photos taken and add a few more details to the notes and it will be ready! Dying to see it, aren’t you?

a pair of fingerless mitts

Look! I still knit sometimes. And not only that, but the green yarn was spun from a batt I carded using my new Strauch drumcarder. It was the first time I went from beginning to end with a batt: carding – spinning – knitting. So exciting! It’s mostly wool, but there’s a bit of mohair, silk, and firestar in there for a bit of spice. I used moss stitch for the body of these mittens with a ribbing of handspun natural wool at the cuffs. Quick and easy.

moss stitch mitts

moss stitch mitts

feather & fan fever

Apparently it got stuck in my head. After making that first pair of mitts with the pattern at the cuffs, I couldn’t help thinking, “what else can I do with this?” So I proceeded to make a neckwarmer using the same alpaca yarn. I’m wearing it right now. I put it on for this picture and now I don’t want to take it off.

feather n fan neckwarmer

I also wanted to see what it would look like to carry the stitch pattern up the entire length of the mitt, rather than just at the top and bottom. So I used this recently spun Falkland singles to test out the idea. It was a perfect match — the yarn was the right weight to accommodate two repeats of the stitch pattern.

feather n fan fever

Okay, so this last project does not use the feather & fan stitch pattern. Rather, it is a remnant from my wet felting experiments. I finally had the chance to get back and finish it. My original intention was to create a small purse/pouch. Instead I ended up with this.

mint green teapot sweater

some knits

Here is the sad truth: I don’t knit much anymore. It’s a bit comical when you think about it. Ever since I walked away from an office job to pursue a career in fiber arts, I cut way back on my knitting. It’s partly due to stress on my hands, but I think it’s also due to time. Now that I have more time and I could do it at any time, I don’t want to. Some of the magic is gone I suppose.

But since I’m going to Handmade Arcade this weekend in Pittsburgh, I figured I ought to get some knitting done. Here is a sampling of my new fingerless mitts. I even finished the pair of flip-top mitts that I started a mere three years ago.

feather 'n fan mitts

flip-top mitts

fingerless mitts

test knitters wanted. will receive presents.

I am really bad at writing and giving instructions. Or just explaining things in general. I should be sharing techniques, giving tutorials, and writing patterns, but I am not. First, I don’t feel like I have anything worthwhile to share. Second, I just can’t manage to explain things in a logical, useful way.

So far I have put on paper one mitt pattern out of all the different fingerless mitts I have knitted. Rich tells me it’s so simple that no one would ever need a pattern for it, but then I see instructions on Ravelry about knitting a square (which is basically what this is), so maybe I should just share this and let you decide. In fact, I’ve been meaning to post this free pattern for over a year and have not done it.  Now is your chance to check out Easy Garter Stitch Mitts, my first pattern. Gotta start someplace, right? If you do take a look at the pattern and find any glaring errors, let me know. I don’t really know what I’m doing.

Garter Stitch Mitts, knit 2 @ a time!

And if you are feeling more adventurous, test knit my brand new, absolutely unrefined pattern, Squares Sophisticuff. I will even give you a present if you make one of these and help me work on the pattern. Since it will probably be obvious to you that I need help. Just send me an email through the contact form here on my blog or a message on Ravelry (gwenerin).

TEST KNIT. FEEDBACK. PRESENT.

squares cuff
Squares Sophisticuff

friday’s question

Last Saturday I spent the entire day at a table with a set of double pointed needles, two balls of yarn, and a Barbara Walker treasury. My plan was to make a pair of fingerless mitts (note: I was at an SCA event). I had everything I needed except an idea. That’s what the book was for — browse the stitch patterns and whip something up. It never happened. I cast on at least five or six different times, but still ended up with nothing. Eyelets, colorwork, ribbing, slipped stitches. After hours of work, there was still nothing to show for it. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. Eventually on Sunday I settled on something: moss stitch body in green with 3×2 ribbing in orange. It’ll work. But what about next time?

Question: How do you get inspired? How do you take something interesting and get inspired by it? What do you do to find inspiration? What does “inspiration” mean to you?

yarn in action!

Erin recently learned to knit. And she’s been kicking butt. Just a week or two ago I sent her some yarn in exchange for working on my business cards, and she’s already made something awesome with it. Check out these great fingerless mitts! My handspun on top combined with a commercial yarn. Thanks for sharing, Erin!

Fingerless Mitts
Gwen Erin Handspun with commercial yarn