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Brewer Burns

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Latvian Mittens: Innocent Knitted Accessories or Tool of the Devil?

I figure that it’s time to do a proper write-up on Stephen’s Latvian Mittens.

Project Stats:
Pattern: Graph #50 from Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis
Yarn: Drops Alpaca, 100% Alpaca, 180 m./200 yds. per ball. I used almost all of one ball of black and most of one ball of orange/rust on this pair of mittens.
Needles: Size 1 dpn’s, 2.25mm
Gauge: ten stitches to the inch
Measurements: 9.5" wide, 11" long (from cuff to tip of top decreases), thumb: 1.5" wide, 3" long

I started this project by swatching. I cast on 45 stitches and worked a complete pattern repeat (of 12 rows.) This takes up very little yarn and very little time, especially when you consider the consequences of not swatching for this project. Then I washed and blocked my swatch. For those of you wondering what I do while I wait for my swatches to dry, I will tell you: I wrote out the entire chart for the pattern, and then I continued knitting on another project, the Fuzzy Feet for my SIL-to-be. I did not repeat the mistake of making a single color swatch. I used both colors. Incidentally, when I was working in this project I read some stuff I had skipped in Latvian Mittens. Ms. Upitis recommends that you swatch with two colors and then add two stitches for each additional color that you will be using in the mitten. That’s good information to have.

Once my swatch was dry I measured my gauge: ten stitches per inch. The pattern is twenty-two stitches wide. My initial measurement of Stephen’s hand revealed that his hand is between 9.5 and 10.5 inches around, including his thumb. Well, I thought, I can work with that. 10.5" x 10 stitches per inch = 105 stitches. 4 x 22 stitches per pattern repeat = 88 stitches. Way too small. 5 x 22 stitches per pattern repeat = 110 stitches. Perfect. Or so I thought. I cast on 110 stitches and knit, oh, about eight rows. It was at that point that I made Stephen stick his hand into the knitting. It was WAY too big. So I ripped it all the way back to yarn spaghetti and started my calculations again. This time I measured my mittens, which are a tad big on me, and my hand and figured out how much ease I have in my mittens. I realized, after I had measured my hand and measured my mittens a couple of times that the thumb really shouldn’t be included in the body of the mitten measurements because the thumb has it’s own thumb hole, with a couple extra stitches added for ease. Finally, I figured out that I should measure the circumference of Stephen’s hand without his thumb, and then add about an inch of ease to that. I also found that I was going to have to give up on the idea of having full pattern repeats around the mitten. 88 stitches was still way too small, and 110 was way too big. I settled on 98 stitches. Stephen’s hand was about 8.75 inches around, if you add an inch that means that you’re shooting for 9.75 stitches, which gives you 97.5 stitches if you’re getting ten stitches to the inch. Obviously you’re either going to have to round down to 97 stitches or up to 98 stitches. I chose 98 stitches because there are portions of the pattern that will look better with an even number of stitches..

I did have a couple of problems with that first mitten. When I held the stitches for the thumb gore, I only held fifteen, instead of the intended twenty, stitches. Then, to compound the problem, in the next round I cast on twenty stitches. And I fucked up the pattern repeat. On the round after that I discovered the problem with the pattern and artfully rearranged the stitches so that the pattern was correct but I didn’t notice the extra five stitches for several rows. When I did finally realize the problem I took the lazy way out, and decreased those stitches over the course of a couple of rows. Luckily, this part of the mitten is on the palm, so I doubt anyone will notice.

On the second mitten I: initially cast on using the wrong color, ripped back to the beginning and re-cast-on, then: completely forgot to add the thumb gore, ripped back to add the thumb gore and did so on the wrong side of the mitten, then tinked back 300-odd stitches to put the thumb gore in the right place. At least I held the right number of stitches. All in all the second mitten is more correct in its execution than the first mitten, but I suspect that’s the case with most knitted items that come in pairs.

I have to say that all of this two-color knitting has really inspired me and I definitely foresee more two and three and four color knitting in my future. Tonight: I am taking the plunge and setting out into the great unknown. I plan to attend the knit-night at Holy Threads. If you are there, I will be the shy one in the corner trying to fade into the wallpaper. Tomorrow: I will tell you all about the socks that I’m knitting my mother for Christmas.

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