Knitting is in. Julia Roberts knits, high schoolers are knitting in the cafeteria, urbanites are knitting on the subway, college students are knitting in the dorms, and bookstores are sponsoring knitting groups. Colorful new yarns, the availability of simple patterns, gift giving, stress relief - all are reasons for picking up knitting needles and getting started on a great project.
Though knitting is growing in popularity, knitters still want projects that are fast and easy, but ultimately useful and attractive. KNIT MITTENS! is a colorful die-cut book that's small enough to tuck into a knitting bag, backpack, or purse.
The book begins with an easy-to-understand, illustrated overview of the basic techniques followed by 15 fun project patterns (with instructions for a range of sizes) bound between sturdy, die-cut board covers. Each pattern includes the following: a close-to-life-size color photo of the completed mitten or hat; a brief introduction to the pattern; materials and equipment lists; gauge information; a color chart; special tips and hints; and a detailed drawing of any unusual techniques involved. Because the rich palette flows through each book, knitters can mix and match hats (in Knit Hats!) and mittens to create unique sets.
About the Author
Robin Hansen, author of Knit Mittens!, is the first researcher to document traditional knitting in New England. She has written four knitting books: Fox and Geese and Fences, Flying Geese and Partridge Feet, Sunny's Mittens, and Lost and Found Mittens. Her whimsical non-knitting book Whistling with Olives: 54+ Things to Do at Dinner Besides Eating was published in 1996. She has degrees in folklore and folklife. She knits, spins, and farms sheep in West Bath, Maine.
Read an Excerpt
Warm Hands, Warm Heart
You won't find mittens like these in the big clothing chains or fancy dress shops, or even in sporting goods stores. Good, warm wool mittens are one of the holdouts from our great-grandmothers' day, something never successfully manufactured either in America or anywhere else in the world. The only way to get great mittens today, as a century ago, is to talk someone into making them for you or to make them yourself.
And make them you can - even if you have felt overwhelmed by inscrutable abbreviations or unexplained techniques before. If you can knit at all, I will sit beside you through directions for some of the niftiest mittens on the continent, which you will then own, in body and spirit, and will be able to make again and again for everyone you care about. Most of these mittens have been passed down through generations, but some are new looks at old ideas. They're good, solid mittens - fun, warm, and, for the most part, easy to make. Try them! When you have made a pair, you will wear them, and you will discover just how good some old ideas can be.
Many handcrafts require a big investment in tools and equipment, along with a hobby room or studio to contain them. And most handcrafts don't travel well, because either the equipment or the materials are messy, big, dangerous, wet, poisonous, or noisy.
Knitting is different: Knitting is peaceful and portable, inexpensive and nonpolluting. All you really need in order to knit is knitting needles, yarn, a place to sit, and a willingness to try. Even avid knitters need little more. They may have collections of knitting needles and boxes full of yarn, but when they sit down to knit, it is little more than that - yarn, needles, and the excitement about what is to come.
A Cheerful Yarn
All of these mittens are knitted with sheep's wool or fibers from another animal - llamas, goats, or rabbits. The two fulled mittens (pages 22 and 46) cannot even be produced with yarn from a plant or synthetic fiber, because they're knitted extra large and rely on the ability of wool to shrink and mat. But that's good: Wool is the warmest fiber in the world, and it's the only fiber that actually keeps you warm when it's wet. When synthetic mittens get wet, they soak and don't easily dry; when wool mittens get damp, the wool pulls together within each fiber and absorbs the wetness. A wool mitten can be quite wet before it actually feels wet. When it is, fling out your arm and shake your hand: Water sprays out in an arc, and the mitten is again damp but toasty.
Whatever yarn you buy, make sure you have enough of each color (and dye lot!) for your project. That may sound strange for such small projects, but the adult sizes can easily go into a second skein in single-color mittens, and if you plan to make more than one pair, you may get stuck with half a mitten less than you planned and no way to buy more yarn in a color that matches exactly. Gather your yarn in consultation with the yarn consumption figures accompanying each pattern. It's better to have yarn left over than not to have enough.
If the yarn store winds the yarn into balls for you, wait until you're ready to start the last skein of each color before having it wound, as unopened skeins can usually be returned or exchanged.
A Colorful Mix
For this collection of mittens, I've selected colors that make me smile. You are, of course, free to use the same colors or to choose other colors that inspire you. Some people prefer to knit in natural sheep's colors; others like rich, deep, tweedy colors. No matter what your taste, choosing colors is a playground. Enjoy the selection or experiment with your own combinations. The Stop-and-Go mittens (page 16) use yarn dyed in the microwave with Kool-Aid. (See "Colors from the Kitchen," page 21.)
Most of the mittens in this book are knitted "in-the-round," which means you use four double-point needles to knit in a continuous spiral. If you are buying knitting needles only for a particular project and from a congenial shop owner, you might ask if you can knit a test swatch in the store to see if you actually knit at the recommended gauge with that size needle. This could save you from having to buy several sets of needles for a single project.
Spruce, bamboo, aluminum, steel, or plastic - which is best for knitting mittens? Well, it depends. If you are a beginning knitter and are concerned about dropping stitches, you might try wooden or bamboo knitting needles, which are light and stiff but hold onto the stitches well. If you are an experienced knitter, you already know that shiny, coated, metal needles are the fastest in small needle sizes. For needle sizes larger than #8, bamboo or plastic is better, as large metal needles are ungainly and heavy. Knitters with arthritic fingers often like the gentle-ness and slight give of wooden needles.
The needle sizes in this book are given in American standard (US) and metric sizes. Here are the equivalents for metric and UK/Canadian needle sizes you may need to know for the mittens. Notice that some metric sizes have no US or Canadian equivalent.
A Tension, Please!
The important thing about needle size is that needle and yarn sizes regulate the number of stitches you knit per inch - the tension, or gauge, of your knitting. When knitting patterns are set up, the sizes are determined by the knitting tension. You must knit the same number of stitches per inch as the recommended gauge to achieve the same finished measurements and the size you want.
Some knitters will tell you never to knit anything without making a test swatch - a little square more than 2 inches wide made with the same needles, pattern, and yarn as your project. I won't tell you that, since some mittens themselves are barely that wide. For the purposes of mitten knitting only, consider your mitten as a swatch with a thumb, and use that to check the tension.
Knit the cuff with the recommended needle size for the ribbing. Ribbing can be a little tight or loose without the sky falling. When you get to the stockinette portion of the mitten, knit about 1 inch in the pattern and with the suggested needle size, then knit halfway around, and stop. Move the stitches around on the needles so they seem uncrowded and relaxed. Gently flatten out the piece on a smooth surface.
Using a metal needle gauge/ruler, line up the widthwise leg with the very bottom points of a row of stitches and the vertical leg exactly along the edge of a line of stitches. Count either one side of the stitches or the points until you get to 1 inch. If it's doesn't exactly line up with the inch mark, keep counting and see whether it comes out even at 2 inches. If you do not get exactly the gauge called for, try a couple of other locations on the mitten, avoiding spots with thumb gore increases. If you don't have the correct gauge anywhere, rip back to the round above the cuff and reknit on different size needles. Don't just change needles in midstream.
If you have too many stitches per 2 inches, try a larger size needle. If you have too few, try a smaller needle. I find that each US needle size changes the gauge by about half a stitch in either direction.
Sizing: Thumbs Rule!
Even though the patterns in this book are arranged by named sizes (Men's medium, for instance), hand measurements and finished mitten measurements are given at the beginning of each pattern. The sizes are based on the theory that human body parts have fairly standard proportions: The girth of your wrist is half the girth of your neck, for instance; the length from fingertip to fingertip with arms outstretched is about the same as your height; your hand is as long as your face - that sort of thing.
With hands, it's the thumb that rules: The thumb is one-third the length of the hand. The thumb leaves the hand one-third of the way to the fingertips. Widthwise, the thumb is 40 percent as big around as the hand. However, the thumb itself is hard to measure. Not so the hand.
Place a ruler on a flat surface. Place your hand on top of it with the crease at the base of your palm at the zero line. Read the number at the tip of the middle finger. Divide that number by 3, and you get your thumb length. With that number and a calculator, you can figure all the length measurements of your hand.
To measure the circumference of your hand for a mitten, use a tape measure. Hold up your hand with the fingers touching and the thumb alongside the index finger. Measure around, just above the index finger knuckle, and include the tip of the thumb. That number is the girth of your mitten (or a loose glove) and allows just enough ease for comfort and proper insulation. Here's a formula for knitting a custom-fit mitten, if the hand you're knitting for falls between the given sizes:
Hand length ÿ 3 = Thumb length Hand length + Thumb length = Finished mitten length, including cuff Hand circumference, including tip of thumb ÿ 2 = Finished mitten width Hand circumference, including tip of thumb x .40 = Mitten thumb circumference
When knitting for children, you might want to measure, then go up a size. Unlike their mittens, children never shrink!
Know-How to Do It
The most general instructions I can give you are to ask you to read the instructions and follow them. Whether you have knitted all your life or are just starting, many of the techniques here may be just a little different from those you have learned and can improve the appearance and wear of the mittens you make.
The Maine Cast-On
The Maine cast-on gives a firm, slightly elastic edge and is the easiest cast-on to knit into that I've ever encountered. Plus, it keeps stockinette cuffs from curling at the edge. Follow these steps:
1. To cast on about 10 stitches, start about 18 inches from the end of the yarn, holding the end closest to the ball in your right hand and the short end in your left hand. Anchor both, ends downward, with your lesser fingers. Then, scoop your left thumb over, under, and up toward you, catching the yarn on the back of your thumb (this gives it a half twist).
2. Slide your index finger down into the loop, alongside your thumb, and transfer the loop to your index finger, pointing your finger away from you, like a pretend pistol (this gives it another half twist).
3. Insert the right needle into the loop knitwise, as if your index finger were the left needle. Use the long end of yarn to knit the loop off your finger onto the needle. Pull up firmly, first with your left hand, then with your right. Settle the stitch comfortably but firmly on the needle.
Table of Contents
|Warm Hands, Warm Heart||4|
|Polar Bear Mitts||22|
|Chicky Feet Mittens||34|
|Kid's Fulled Mittens||46|
|Skier's Finger Mitts||52|
|Covered with Colors||78|
|North Star Mittens||114|