Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thumbs For Our Mittens

Now we need thumbs for our mittens, right?

And I don't think I can improve on the directions shared in this video by Knitpicks for picking up the stitches for the afterthought thumb!  Clear and simple.  Well done!  Our friend Rachel at Treehouse Knits also has a tutorial that would help you work these stitches, be sure to check her out (and watch her podcast if you don't already!!!)

Below are my stitches, all picked up.  I do this exactly as the Knitpicks video mentioned above shows except that I normally use dpn's, or whatever is easiest for you. At this point, my waste yarn is still on the stitches, but I'm about ready to carefully remove it

Now here is the thumb opening, waste yarn removed ~

See my awkwardly drawn red circle in the photo?  That's where I would begin knitting around for the thumb.  For years I made the beginning of the thumb round at the "edge" but by moving it to this spot on the underside of the thumb it was just a little neater, at least in my knitting!  In the picture below, I've tried to show how this would be - the white needle is needle 1 (beginning of round), the red needle in the background is needle 2 and the green needle is needle 3.  I would be just ready to start the next round in this photo

So I pick up my yarn at this point and work all the way around in plain knitting, making sure my stitches are all facing correctly and picking up one, or even two, stitches in those corner spaces IF it seems I need to.  There seems to be two different thoughts on that says you should do this to close that gap and another that says it will tend to distort the thumb if you do.  Make that decision for yourself.  If you end up with a "hole" or gap at the corners, similar to those on the gusset of a heel in sock knitting, you can always close it up after finishing using a tapestry needle and bit of your yarn.  

Back to the thumb...if I have chosen to pick up extra stitches, I would knit another plain round and on the following round, decrease those extras by simply knitting two together.  From there on, nothing fancy, just knit until it is the length you want to cover your thumb, then knit 2 together all the way around.  Break the yarn, leaving a length of a few inches, enough to thread onto a tapestry needle, draw that through the remaining stitches and snug it down.  

For the fingerless mitts, we do exactly the same as for full mitten as far as picking up thumb stitches, only this time you're only going to work that thumb till about the top of the knuckle.

Just like for the top of the mitt, I then did the I-cord bind off, following the Craftsy tutorial here.  Or mimic whatever you did for your mitt (garter rows, ribbing, etc.)

Now turn your mittens inside out and darn in the yarn ends.  What could be easier!

So tell me about your mittens!  Have you cast on?  Have you finished them up?  Have you joined the Basket of Mittens KAL 2018 on Ravelry?  Are you tagging them on instagram #shareacupmittens and #basketofmittenskal2018?  Do you have questions or any helpful tips?

I'm feeling an overwhelming urge to cast on a new pair myself ~

Part 1 of the mitten recipe here

Part 2 of the mitten recipe here

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

On To Finer Things - Mittens Part 2

To finer yarn at least ~

Fingerless mitts, in fingering weight yarn using magic loop and 2 contrast colors
You can probably guess that to make a pair of Share A Cup mittens with fingering weight yarn, the pattern will stay pretty much the same except for number of stitches and size of the needles.


You'll need a skein, 438 yards (400 meters) of pretty fingering weight (sock) yarn (MC) and approximately 100 yards (91.4 meters) of contrasting color for your cups (CC) (the mustard gold of the cups above).  If you'd like to do a third color for the background of the cups, as I did with the white in the sample above, you'll need only 100 yards or less of that as well (CC2).  A short piece of smooth yarn in a shockingly different color from your MC.

Needles to give you a fabric you like with your tension.  I used size US 2 (2.75 mm) and US 3 (3.25 mm).  This makes a fairly flexible fabric, if you prefer something denser go down to a US 1 (2.25 mm) and US 2 (2.75 mm).  I should say here that I use the larger needles size on my color work section.  I just know from experience that this is going to give me the nicest final fabric.  If you're color work tension is fine without changing needle size, then just stick with the smaller needle throughout.  By the way, do you know this tip for selecting needle size to suit your yarn if you aren't sure ~

Slip a piece of your yarn into the needle sizer to give you an approximate idea of what needle might work best (particularly helpful with handspun).  Of course, your personal knitting tension is still going to dictate the final decision but I find this to be a helpful tip sometimes.

A beginning of the round marker.  Sewing up needle to weave in ends.


As in the worsted weight version of the mitten, the easiest cuff in the world is to simply cast on with MC the number of required stitches (in this case 60) on the smaller size needle, join in the round and begin knitting to make a nice rolled cuff.  Or work back and forth to make a garter stitch cuff (in the round, that would be k 1 round, p 1 round).  If you prefer ribbing on the cuff, do a few rows of rib.  I like to have about 10 to 12 rounds worked before I start the color work section.

But maybe you'd like to do an I-cord cast on to produce a nice edging like this ~

VeryPink Knits has a nice video tutorial on how to do the I-cord cast on here (all of her tutorials are helpful!)  But honestly, on this small item, I think the simplest and fastest thing to do is just a 3-stitch I-cord with the number of repeats that you need stitches (in this case 60). 

3 stitch I-cord on the right (colored pencils on the left)   

Pick up stitches from the I-cord 

...join, and begin working in the round, knit plain for 10 rounds.  Switching to larger size needle, work 1 more round, then begin the motif.  I'll repeat them here so you don't have to look back at the previous post 

Left mitten motif

Right mitten motif
Follow these charts, using one or two contrasting colors (your choice) with the larger needle.  Knit 1 more round plain with the MC before switching back to the smaller size needle to finish up the hand of your mitt.  Work until you reach the base of your thumb, the spot you want to place your thumb opening.  For me that was 25 more rows with the fingering yarn.  Remember the tip of adding a few extra stitches to allow for ease around the thumb area?  I didn't find I needed to do that with the finer yarn, but do add them if you need it.

Red yarn for the afterthought thumb
For the left hand, knit around until you are 10 stitches from the end of the round.  With your placement yarn, knit the next 8 stitches.  Now, slip those 8 stitches back to the left needle and knit them again with your working yarn as well as the last 2 stitches of the round.  If you look at the photo above, you'll see the red yarn for my thumb stitches.  It's just going to hang out there as you finish knitting the hand of your mitten.  When working the right hand, you will knit 2, work your 8 thumb placement stitches, then knit on to the end of the round.  I find that giving myself 2 stitches before the side of the mitten keeps it from distorting, rather than placing it right on the edge.

Continue knitting until you reach the place you want your fingerless mitts to end, usually right around the knuckle of your middle finger.  I knit 20 rows, decreasing 2 stitches evenly spaced on that last row (I found that helped to snug up the top of the mitt)  Bind off with an I-cord bind off to match your I-cord cast on (if that's how you started your mitt)  I find these instructions from Craftsy's blog very clear and easy (lots of good tips on that Craftsy blog!)  If you started your mitt with ribbing or garter stitch, I would stop knitting the hand of the mitt a few rows sooner and then work either ribbing or garter to match your cast on.

In the next post, we'll finish the afterthought thumbs on our mittens!  In the meantime, what edging have you used?  Did you try the I-cord?  I love the look!

I wanted to apologize, too, for taking so long to get this second post up for you!  Sometimes life...right?  I'll be faster getting the thumb post up.  And thank you again for knitting along.  Don't forget to ask any questions if you have them either in the comments here or over in the Ravelry group for The Woolen Homestead.  And post your project pictures there for a chance to win the March prize ;)

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Such a Simple Way To Start

Let's get started with some simple mittens!  Pour yourself a cup and pull up a seat at the table...(and if you haven't already, please read the previous post).  This is a very long post.  I wrote it as if you were sitting here with me and I was talking you through the steps of making the mitten.  I'm going to put the sockweight version in a separate post, just so your eyes don't blur.

It takes a little thought at the beginning, but honestly if you just want to give the mittens a "one time through" as written, just to see if you like them, they're bound to fit someone you know in the end and you can take the first pair and go on from there (whew, that's a long sentence!).  The easiest thing is, if you have a mitten pattern you like to make that fits you well simply plug the ten-stitch repeat of the motif into it on the cuff (or anywhere you want to cups to be!)

The two samples I knit up are in vastly different weights of yarn.  The black and tan pair are knit in Brown Sheep Lambs Pride Worsted, a wool mohair blend (the black) and my sport weight farm yarn held double (the tan).  I used size US 5 and US 6 needles on 40 stitches.  The variegated fingerless mitts are done with sock yarn, fingering weight, from The Woolen Homestead and our farm yarn sock blend (the white and the rustic gold) which is a little bit thicker but worked fine together.  Size US 2 and US 3 needles over 56 stitches. I like the fit of them both for me personally, but here is where you should give a little thought.

If you're knitting for yourself, how do you like your mitten to fit?  Do you like a snug, dense fabric or do you prefer a little room in your mittens? You can quite easily change the stitch count up a bit and still fit the cup motif, adding "plain" stitches between the cups, or try going up or down a needle size with the yarn you're working with.  You've probably heard it a thousand times, but every knitter is different and your tension and knitting preference will make a difference.

How shall we start?  I thought it might be easiest to just go through the steps exactly as I made the mittens, and then discuss changes/options after.  If you have a question, drop a note in the comments below or in the Ravelry group.  Shall we try that?  Keeping in mind, as I said in the previous post, this is more a mitten plan than a pattern - be brave and follow your knitters heart!  Here we go!


Worsted weight variety:

A main color (MC) yarn and small amount of contrast color (CC).  I used a readily available commercial yarn, Brown Sheep Lambs Pride (one of my favorites) that is 190 yards  (173 M) per skein with plenty left over.  I used less than 100 yards of the contrast color.  If you want to add a third color for a contrasting background of the cups (different than the MC) you can certainly do that, as I did on the sock yarn version.  You'll need less than 100 yards of that as well and we'll call it (CC2).  A short piece of smooth yarn for the afterthought thought thumb in a shockingly different, easy to see color ;)

The worsted weight version with one contrast color & shockingly bright thumb placement yarn

The sock yarn version, showing two contrast colors

Size 5 (3.75 mm) and size 6 (4.25 mm) needles for working in the round, your preference (dpns, magic loop, etc)  For denser fabric or snugger fit, try size 4 (3.5 mm) and size 5 (3.75 mm)

If you need a marker to remind you where the beginning of the round is, grab one of those.  I tend to just look for the tail of my yarn.  A marker for your top decreases.  You'll also need a sewing up needle for weaving in ends


Using size 5 needles and MC yarn, cast on 40 stitches, join for working in the round (marking the beginning of the round if you need to), and simply begin knitting.  That's it!  Working this way, your stockinette fabric gets a nice little roll in it that is very pleasing and nothing could be simpler.  I worked 10 rounds, changed to the size 6 needle and knit 1 more round plain.

Cuff Options:  If you prefer ribbing on your mitten cuff, absolutely do ribbing, about 10 rounds, change to size 6 needle and knit 1 round.  You could also make a garter cuff, if you don't like the roll of stockinette.  In my second mitten, I cast on and did 4 rows of garter followed by 6 rows of stockinette, change to size 6 needle and knit 1 round.  One more choice is an I-cord cast on.  This is what I did for the sock yarn version.  I quite like it, and we can talk about that more in the sock yarn version discussion!  Now, get ready to add your cups ~

Left hand mitten cuff (do you like my fancy motif writing?)

Right hand mitten cuff
Please let me know if my chart is difficult to see, I'll make it darker if needed. In my scribbles, the darker blocks represents the contrast color (CC), the lighter blocks represent your main color (MC)  This is where, if you were doing a three-color version, those lighter blocks would be your second contrast color (CC2)

Option:  I've given you a motif for each hand, I liked the idea of my cups facing different directions ;)  But you can absolutely chose one and work the same motif on each hand, don't worry about changing directions.  Knitters choice, whatever is easiest for you!

Work these 15 rows using the size 6 needle.  Over 40 stitches, this gives you two cups on each side of your cuff, front and back, with 2 stitches between cups.  On longer color repeats, catch your floats (I usually do this every three stitches). Work 1 more round plain with size 6 needle, then switch back to size 5.

With the size 5's, continue knitting plain until you reach the web of your thumb, the base.  For me that was 12 rounds, but adjust for your hand.  Tip:  One of the complaints of afterthought thumbs is that there isn't enough ease through that widest part of your hand.  My tip is, increase a few stitches as you prepare for the thumb insertion.  For example on my 12th round, I increased 2 stitches (one on the front of the hand and one on the back) and that was enough for me.  You may need to add 3 or 4, evenly spaced, or you may not need to add any.  Now grab your piece of smooth, brightly colored yarn for thumb placement.

I've opened up the thumb stitches, just to give you an idea of placement
For the left hand, knit around until you are 10 stitches from the end of the round.  With your placement yarn, knit the next 8 stitches.  Now, slip those 8 stitches back to the left needle and knit them again with your working yarn as well as the last 2 stitches of the round.  If you look at the first photo in this post, you'll see I just leave the tails of my placement yarn (the red yarn) hanging out as I continue knitting.  It's just going to hang out there as you finish knitting the hand of your mitten.  When working the right hand, you will knit 2, work your 8 thumb placement stitches, then knit on to the end of the round.  I find that giving myself 2 stitches before the side of the mitten keeps it from distorting, rather than placing it right on the edge.

There is a rule of thumb (lol, no pun intended) that says your thumb stitches should be approximately 1/4th of the total number of stitches.  Hmm, that never quite works out for me.  Using the 8 stitches we did here, for example, we'll have 16 thumb stitches when we open it up.  Now if that's to many for you, go down to 6 on the afterthought placement (giving you 12 stitches when you open them up for the base of your thumb).  It's totally up to you and the size hand you are making these for.

Now simply continue knitting on size 5's in your MC until you reach the top of your little finger and are ready to start decreasing.  (If you made any increases to allow for the thumb, for example I did those extra 2 sts, decrease them at some point, back to your 40 sts) For me, that was 20 rounds, but whatever gets you to the decrease point.  Tip:  Take a look at the photo above, the one where I've opened up the thumb stitches.  That isn't just for show...I do this on nearly every mitten I make with afterthought thumbs!  I don't wait until I'm finished the hand before opening it up and trying it on.  For me, that's the best way to insure I've made the hand of my mitten long enough!  Does that make sense?  When I open up the thumb and slip it on my hand to test for length, I insure that I won't make the mitten to short.  It's easy enough to do, I don't find the extra needles for the thumbs get in my way, but if you do, put those stitches onto a holder of some kind (thread them back onto the length of yarn possibly).

On to the top of the mitten decreasing.  I can't remember what it's called, but it's similar to toe decreases on a sock.

Knit 20 sts, place marker, knit to the end of the round.  Then ~

Decrease Rnd 1: ssk, knit to 2 sts before marker, k2tog, slip marker, ssk, knit to 2 sts before end of the round, k2tog (36 sts)

Decrease Rnd 2: Knit

Decrease Rnd 3: ssk, knit to 2 sts before marker, k2tog, slip marker, ssk, knit to 2 sts before end of the round, k2tog (34 sts)

Decrease Rnd 4: Knit

Decrease Rnd 5: ssk twice, knit to 4 sts before marker, k2tog twice, slip marker, ssk twice, knit to 4 sts before end of the round, k2tog twice (24 sts)

Decrease Rnd 6: Knit

Decrease Rnd 7: ssk twice, knit to 4 sts before marker, k2tog twice, slip marker, ssk twice, knit to 4 sts before end of the round, k2tog twice (16 sts)

Decrease Rnd 8: k2tog around, removing marker (8 sts)

Break the yarn, leaving a few inches of tail. Using the sewing up needle, thread the yarn through the last 8 sts and pull tight.

Now, this post is so amazingly long that I'm going to pause.  My eyes need a break and so do yours!  Do you have any questions?  Do you have any suggestions?  Have you found a mistake?  What do you think so far?  Let's pour ourselves another cup, stretch, and come back for the next installment, where we do the numbers for knitting with fingering yarn, and finally, we put in our thumbs!  Be sure to follow The Woolen Homestead on Ravelry, where we have a group KAL, if you want a chance for a lovely prize at the end of this (and be sure to watch The Woolen Homestead podcast!)

Tag your mittens on Instagram as #shareacupmittens and #basketofmittenskal2018 if you're joining us for that!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Come And Share A Cup ~ a Mitten Recipe

I used to like to teach sock knitting.  For a time before it closed, my then local yarn shop was attached to a coffee house and so I sketched a little pattern for a coffee (or tea) cup motif to add to the sock pattern.  Over the years I've knit that pattern on the cuffs or heel flap or across the toe of socks and I always thought that some time I'd put it on a mitten.  Thinking again recently as I have been, about the symbolism of mittens - extending a hand, holding a hand, warming hands, the power of hands, I thought also about that little cup motif and how sharing of cup of something warm to drink holds meaning, too.

Fuzzy wool and mohair mittens
So I put the two ideas together.  And I wanted to share them.

I'm not a pattern writer.  And I'm not usually a follow all the rules knitter.  I tend to take parts of the rules and use what works for me, a little from here or a little from there ;)  So this is not a pattern.  It hasn't been tech edited.  It's just my mitten knitting notes, jotted down and shared.  More of a mitten plan, if you will.  A recipe.  An offering.

There are so many brilliant mitten designs and patterns available, intricate, ornate, works of art.  I love them all!  I've made a few.  I'll make more!  But what represents me and my life these days (maybe always, lol) is something a bit more common, humble and straightforward, comforting but with a little dash of color to remind me of joy.  My hands and mind simply aren't able to comfortably grasp much more just now, and tiny needles, tight stitches and tangles of yarn will do me in!  So I went back to the basics, with a sturdy worsted weight yarn, solid needles and a few numbers punched into a plan and here we go - a fairly quick mitten, with the gift of a coffee cup going round.

This is knitting around the kitchen table, folks!

I know I said worsted weight yarn.  But a lovely fingering or sport weight, when it's straight out knitting, doesn't boggle me to much ;)  So you can see, it's pretty easy to change the numbers up and make a pair of mittens or mitts using the lighter weights.  In the WIP photo above, I'm using Blueberry Crumbcake sock yarn from The Woolen Homestead with a contrast of our farm sock yarn (Corriedale and Alpaca blend).

My mitten uses an afterthought thumb.  Sometimes called the peasant thumb, I think it's the easiest and most often overlooked way of making thumbs!  I use it because it fits my hand well.  I know that isn't the case for every hand, but I've learned a few tips over the years that might make it work for you if you'd like to give it a try.  If thumb gussets have tripped you up in the past, the afterthought thumb might give your mitten knitting new meaning!

Ribbing is not my best knitting skill, especially in small circular objects.  This mitten recipe will offer you a few other choices for the cuff to get you off and running on your mitten.  The cup motif is a simple one, you're only going to use two colors at any time, so it's an easy opportunity to do a little colorwork if you haven't before (or mindless colorwork if you have!).  It doesn't take much yarn.  The black and tan pair of full mittens shown, knit in worsted weight to fit my medium sized hands, used approximately 135 yards of the main color and less than 60 yards of the contrast.  I haven't measured yardage of the fingering weight pair, but by weight I've used less than half of the skein of main color.

Would you like to make a pair?  I'd love to share!  Grab your knitting bag, needles and yarn and let me pour you a cup, lets sit and knit together.  I'll be sharing the "mitten recipe" here on the blog, and I'll do that over a few days time, starting with what you'll need to make them and then the cuff, moving on to the thumb and the simple matter of finishing up.  Are you participating in the Basket of Mittens 2018 KAL (I hope you are!)  If so, Tiffany and I are planning a little "KAL within the KAL" for March, using this pattern.  If you decide to knit them and post to the Ravelry group, you will be eligible for an extra prize particular to these.  That will run from March 1 to 31st.  Not on Ravelry?  I'd still love to see if you knit these mittens, so feel free to tag me on instagram, where I'm @mywoolmitten

If you've made it this far, thank you for letting me ramble about mittens and sharing.  If you have any questions, please ask away!  And do consider making the mittens, maybe a pair for yourself and a pair to gift to someone.  All in the spirit of Share A Cup ~

Edited to add ~ my mitten knitting plans/goals for March are Roses Are Red by Pia Kammeborn; a cast on for NH Knits, probably the Selbu package I won last year (will double dip this one with Knitogrophy & Treehouse Knits Year Of The Mitten KAL) and another pair of our Share A Cup mittens.  Any bets on how many I will actually get finished?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Full Pockets ~ Year Two of Knitting Mittens

((Oh my poor dear blog, how I do neglect you...))

It's hard to put into words how much knitting mittens (and gloves) means to me.  The symbolism of warm hands, holding hands, hands reaching out, offering a hand to another.  Not to mention living here in the middle of the mitten state.  Friends I've made through knitting mittens.  Warm and fuzzy feelings ;)

Thinking on these things and knitting Pia's Shine Mittens last year inspired my own Year Of The Mitten 2017 and then the Basket of Mittens Knit-A-Long. My friend Tiffany of The Woolen Homestead podcast and etsy shop has been a wonderful co-host and her Ravelry group is where we base the KAL.  Fun and relaxed, meant mostly to encourage and inspire, when asked we were most happy to continue for a second year the Basket of Mittens KAL.

Come and join us!  I have a goal ~ mittens for every pocket, LOL, so whatever coat or sweater or jacket I'm wearing, I'll have a pair of mittens to go along and not have to search for any (full pockets you see)  But you can knit one pair, or six or a dozen it's totally up to you!  Knit or crochet, full mittens or fingerless mitts, gloves.  Make them for yourself or for gifts or charity.  We occasionally offer prizes, too!  

If you're on instagram, be sure to tag your project #basketofmittenskal2018 so we all can see.  There are several other wonderful mitten kals happening this year and we welcome double-dipping!  One thing we really try to encourage in this kal is sharing mitten knitting tips and hints, favorite patterns and designs.  In that spirit, I have something I want to share with you about my personal favorite mitten technique and a little design to offer up.  I'll be putting that here on the blog, beginning tomorrow (February 21)  Not a pattern so much as a plan for making mittens.  I'd love to see you here so I can share!  Bring your favorite cup of something warm to drink ;)

Mittens in progress, coffee always close at hand ~

Be sure to join The Woolen Homestead Ravelry group if you haven't already to be eligible for prizes and show us your mittens!

Pattern above Minky Mittens by Gretchen Tracy