Convertible Season

It’s Springtime here along the Front Range, which means the forecast is usually “mostly sunny, highs around 70, with a chance of a blizzard.” Some days, you can drive a convertible with the top down. Some days, you drive your all-wheel-drive vehicle with snow tires. Such is life.

So, when I decided I just had to have mittens to match my new shawl:

Yowza on

I decided I’d make them convertible so that I could have warm mitten tops covering my fingers for cold days, and I could button back those tops when it’s not so cold.

I bought Mountain Colors yarn to match the shawl in sturdy, springy 4/8 (colorway: Thunderhead), and cast on the day the yarn arrived. I decided to size up to my size 3 Signatures, instead of my usual size 2’s that I use for mittens. I think the size-up worked well because this yarn is more of a true worsted weight than the usual fingering that I use for mittens. The pattern is my go-to Smitten With Mittens, modified as discussed below.

Modifications: The ribbing is three inches long, which I prefer for better coverage. I did KFB increases for the thumb gussets, rather than m1’s. I picked up an additional two stitches at the thumb crotch for a total of 18 stitches, to keep the thumb from being too small in circumference. When I picked up the four thumb crotch stitches, I twisted them by knitting into the backs of the stitches. I knit the thumb almost to cover my thumb before doing the decreases.

I knit the mitt until I was happy with the length in the fingers, and then ribbed for about one inch (about 8 rows). For the mitten tops, I used a size 1 DPN to pick up the left leg of 20 stitches (that’s half the total) along the back of the hand-side.

stitches picked up

I knit across those stitches TBL, which creates a row of twisted stitches and makes the picked-up row tight.

knitted across stitches

crossed line of stitches

Then, I CO 20 additional stitches along the palm-side using the knitted cast-on,

cast on additional stitches

distributed the stitches among 4 needles (using a 5th working needle), then knitted the back-side stitches and ribbed the palm-side stitches in 1 X 1 rib for about 8 rows.

knitting top back knitting top palmside

I then changed to all stockinette until the overall length was right. Finally, I decreased according to the pattern. At the top, I made a little single-chain crochet chain and attached it as a loop. I sewed buttons right above the cuff ribbing in the center of the back-side.

finished on

The mittens blocked up just a bit short in the mitten tops, creating a gap along the palm side instead of a goodoverlap.

finished short

So, I wet the mitten tops and spot-blocked them about a half-inch longer.

spot blocking

The result gave me just a bit more room in the fingertips, which beats re-knitting, anyway.

finished longer

Now, I’m ready for convertible season.


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Knitting the Gremlins Out

I’ve recently finished knitting the gremlins out of two projects I plan to take on a trip to visit family in California. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not sufficient to simply cast on a project and throw it in my luggage. When I do so, I risk all sorts of gremlins appearing:

  • The yarn and needles may suffer from irreconcilable differences, and I have no other needles in my luggage to switch out.
  • The yarn turns out to be a knotty mess impossible to untangle while wedged in an airplane seat.
  • The project is too fiddly for good travel knitting.
  • The project requires more or different notions that I brought along.

So, if I’m going to take new projects on a trip, I always try to knit the gremlins out — I knit up enough of the project so that I get a feel for the pattern, and how well the needles work with the yarn. Sometimes, I knit a full repeat. Whatever I do, I try to make sure I won’t have any unpleasant surprises when I’m 36,000 feet up or otherwise far, far away from the nearest yarn store.

Project 1: The Rosebury Cowl

I’d been looking for a project to knit up three skeins of Debbie Bliss BFL yarn that I bought in Windsor, England. I finally decided on Rosebury, which is simple, pretty, and will use up just about all of the yarn. I cast on and began to knit.

Rosebury Cowl started


While I found out that I loved the color, and the pattern has just enough complexity to be interesting without being too fiddly, I hate the yarn. It’s splitty and fuzzy and lacks stitch definition. Ordinarily, I’d simply take it off the needles, place it in the donate bin, and choose another yarn. In this case, however, the yarn is a souvenir from a wonderful vacation, so I do want to knit it up.

The other gremlin? I realized that this project is just four repeats long, and that it’s going to go very, very quickly. If I take only this project, I’ll likely be underyarned.

Gremlins Tamed:

Well, probably not exactly. I’m using my 16-inch circular Chiagoo’s, which will help mitigate issues caused by the splittiness. Otherwise, I’ll console myself with remembering that the pattern is just four repeats. Four repeats, three balls of yarn, and it’s done. I’ll have a cute cowl that goes with a lot of items in my wardrobe, and a nice keepsake from our UK trip. This project will be all about the product, and I’ll have to live with the process.

With this project knitting up so quickly, I decided I’d take a second project to avoid being underyarned, which leads me to:

Project 2: The Mohair Smoke Ring

Recently, I purchased some mohair from Cloth Roads — handspun in Tajikistan. The laceweight wouldn’t take up much space in my luggage, so why not cast on a smoke ring? The pattern would be simple, and I’d get a neat conversation piece for my efforts.

Mohair Smoke Ring started


The only gremlin here was in the cast-on. I’m super-glad that I decided to cast this on ahead of time, rather than wait until I finished Rosebury. The pattern called for using a lace cast-on. Fine, I thought. Mohair has zero elasticity, so I had to have some sort of stretchy cast-on, because no way, no how could I count on blocking to get me a larger neck opening if I undershot the size I needed. For some reason, I just couldn’t make the lace cast-on look right, so I opted to try Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast-On (her companion to her bind-off method that works so well).

The cast-on method is indeed stretchy, but geez, is it fiddly. It took me a good part of an afternoon to get the stitches cast on in a manner I was happy with. And the first row of knitting? Another fiddly pain as I laboriously knit into each cast-on slipknot.

Gremlins Banished:

The good news was that once I had that first foundation row of knitting done, the pattern itself was an enjoyable breeze. The yarn is a glowy unbrushed mohair which is working well with my dark green wooden needles. I’ll be excited to get Rosebury finished so that I can concentrate on this smoke ring.

I’ve got both projects ready for the luggage, and I earnestly hope that no other gremlins are lurking in there.


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Spring Denial

They started coming, way too early. My spring knitting magazines began showing up in my mailbox a few days after Christmas. Yes, Christmas. Barely after the Winter Solstice, at a time when I would flick on the Christmas lights around 4:00 p.m., as the sun was setting behind the mountains. At a time when I’d just finished the Christmas rush of knitting and could settle down for a nice, cozy, proper knit after the guests, the gifts, and the leftovers had all been sorted.

spring magazines

One by one, they arrived, like too-early party guests who show up before I’m dressed, eager to offer help that I don’t need just yet. I let them pile up on the side table next to my knitting chair, unopened.

About this time of year, there’s an ever-increasing chorus wishing for, waiting for spring. With every March snowstorm or Arctic blast, there’s a twitter of tweets: “Oh, no! When will spring be here!” Or, “I’m so sick of this, I can’t wait for spring.”  Well, not me. This is my backyard view:

backyard winterscape

That view won’t change a whole lot between now and Mother’s Day, and that’s perfectly fine by me. Winter is my favorite season. I love my dark, long evenings sitting and knitting while the garden sleeps. Soon enough, I’ll be spending the longer daylight hours turning up soil and planting in my garden, then blanching and freezing greens from our CSA. Necessary tasks if one wants to eat well, but they take me away from my knitting.

About this time of year, I find myself in denial of spring. The daylight steadily grows. Home magazines will have tutorials on how to make wreaths from forsythia and pussy willows. And me? Well, I enjoy watching the snow fall as I settle into my knitting chair with my heavy wool projects.  If it stays cold and snowy until May, so much the better.

But now that it’s March, I’ll have to start shaking off that denial and do some longer-range planning. I need to open the gardening catalogs that arrived at about the same time as the knitting magazines. I will have to consider what should be planted, when it’s safe to plant in mid to late May. For my knitting, I’ll want to contemplate what projects will be compatible once the summer’s heat sets in. It’s time to start reading those magazines, all the while enjoying what’s left of my favorite season.

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