Sweet Fern Mitts

In spite of having some sort of upper respiratory bug, and in spite of having to deal with the (mostly) all-consuming fleece hat project, a finished object happened:

Sweet Fern both

These are the Sweet Fern Mitts from Clara Parkes’s book, The Knitter’s Book of Wool. (Errata are available on Clara’s website.)

Regardless of what circumstances consipire to take me away from my knitting, I almost always manage to have some sort of easy, purse-sized project going.  This was my purse project for the past week or two, and has kept me company during a time when I really can’t devote much time to more complicated knitting due to having to sew about 40 fleece hats for our Scout troop.  It was an experiment on several different levels.

I’d ordered skeins of Quince & Co.’s Lark in Kumlien’s Gull and Kittywake to consider for the sweater I’m designing for my older son.

Quince Kumlien's Gull Quince Kittywake

When I’m knitting up small projects, I don’t feel too much need for lots of experimentation.  The projects themselves can be experiments.  But when I’m doing something big, say, a man-sized cabled sweater, well, that’s sort of a long-term relationship with the yarn.  I’ll be working with it near-daily for months, and it had better perform like I want it to.  Sweater yarn needs to be a joy to hold, or the knitting up becomes just that much more of a struggle, particularly when I hit the mid-project doldrums.  I’d never worked with Quince yarn, so some experimentation is in order before I make a final decision about what yarn to use.

So, what to do with two skeins of yarn?  I decided that the darker colorway, which is more likely to be the one I select for the sweater (if I decide to go with Quince), would be best suited to a series of swatches in cable patterns I’m considering for the sweater itself.  With the lighter colorway, I’d make a small project that I could either keep for myself or add to the gift pile, thus fulfilling the need to experiment and also knocking off a Christmas or birthday gift.

I decided on Sweet Fern Mitts from The Knitter’s Book of Wool, which I’d just gotten for Christmas, myself.  Making the mitts would reveal how the yarn would show off cables and ribbing, both of which I’ll be using in Chris’s sweater.  I’d see how it knit up, too.  Would I like working with it?  How would it do with cabling without a needle?

The yarn was pleasantly squishy and springy in the skein — a good sign.  I cast on and then parked the project in my purse, taking it out at odd times to do a few rounds here and there.

The great thing about mitts is that a few rounds here and there make real progress, so before I knew it, I had a pair of mitts all done.

Sweet Fern back Sweet Fern front

I was pleased that the Quince bloomed beautifully in the wash.  The yarn holds cables, but softly.  They’re not etched in strong relief, but are soft, as if they’d already been worn like a favorite for years.  It’s exactly the effect I’m looking for.  The yarn was just a bit splitty when I cabled it, but not terrible.  Once I swatch up the other skein, I’ll know for sure whether that characteristic is going to drive me insane knitting up a sweater.  But that’s the point of experimentation at this point.  By the time I cast on for a full-up sweater, I should have no surprises based on the yarn.

I’ll do some swatches in the other grey yarn, but not quite yet.  I’m almost done with the fleece hat project for the Scouts, after which I plan to crank on Steve’s sweater to have that off the needles before the weather warms up and I won’t want to have something so heavy on my lap.  Swatching is a great warm-weather activity, so it can wait until later this spring.

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