Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A Pair and A Spare ~ A Mitten Story

Hi, Knitters,
I started knitting a pair of mittens a couple of weeks ago for TC's swim sister for the high school swim season. Every year I have knit a pair of mittens for both of my daughters' swim sisters. I have done all sorts of mittens with different yarns ranging from a worsted weight to a bulky weight to a super bulky weight. This year I was digging around in my stash to see what I could find for a fun pair to give away to TC's sister. I stumbled upon some skeins of Noro Kureyon that had been sitting around for many, many years.

The pair I whipped up for the swim sister (in the photo above) were knit with two skeins of Noro Kureyon in the same colorway and just knit straight through without worrying about the color changes. They turned out so adorable and cheerful. The mittens are mismatched in a charming way. TC told me that her swim sister just loved the mittens so much. That made me feel good.

I used my Waiting for Winter mitten pattern. I have this pattern completely memorized, all three sizes in the pattern, and I love that I can just sit down with my worsted weight wool and knit a pair of mittens from memory in no time at all. I love this pattern that I have refined for years and years. It is so simple and quick. The Waiting for Winter mitten pattern is written for worsted weight yarn knit at a 5 stitches per inch gauge.

The pattern comes in three sizes to fit: large child/small woman's hand, medium woman's hand, and large woman's hand. The pattern is easily sized up or down by using different gauge yarn or by following the easy number trends in the pattern to expand the sizes to fit smaller children and men.

I knit the middle size, or the medium, in the pattern which fits an average-size woman's hand. Lengths can always be varied for the cuff, thumb and hand. 

One medium mitten (the middle size) with a: 

3-inch ribbed cuff 
1-inch of stockinette stitch worked before the thumb gusset starts
a 4-inch hand beyond the held stitches for thumb and before the decreases at the top of the mitten
1.75 inch thumb before decreases
30 grams of worsted weight wool 

The Noro Kureyon comes in 50 gram balls. So I know that I need 2 skeins to make a pair of mittens in Kureyon. 

If you knit the Kureyon straight through you will get mismatched mittens, which I love! They go together but don't match perfectly. I think this is super cute for woolly winter mittens.

Now the Knitting Pipeline Maine Retreat was hosting a mitten-along as a group charity donation to the Maine Mitten Project. Click here to find out more about the Maine Mitten Project! I can't remember how much I had completed on the first mitten or the second mitten before I got to the retreat but I finished the pair while at the retreat. This was a great retreat knitting project as it is fun, super simple and I have the pattern memorized. I would knit mittens again at a retreat.

This time I used the Noro Kureyon in a different way. I took two contrasting balls of the Kureyon and striped them. You can see this in the mittens (in the photo above) I donated along with the other attendees' mittens. The mittens definitely were a pair but they are mismatched in the cutest of ways.

The mitten donation was incredible at the retreat. I think there were about 50 attendees at the retreat. I think in the end there were around 70 pairs of mittens donated to the Maine Mitten Project. What a huge success.  The attendees took the donation very seriously. Paula, the host, had a mitten share time where everyone got to stand up and share the pair or pairs of mittens they made to donate. I loved this time of sharing. I had so much fun looking at all of the different styles and sizes and yarns. It was really inspiring. Sometimes the simplest plain pair of mittens can capture your heart. There is something sweet and good about a pair of wool handknit mittens. It brings you back to childhood somehow. 

Something funny happened while I was at the retreat. My son, who is in business school at the UW-Madison, called me asking for help with a class project he was assigned. The class is about entrepreneur small businesses and he was put in a group of students to come up with a clever idea. His group wanted to do something with winter-wear knit accessories. That's why he called me to see if I had any ideas. It was funny that I happened to be knitting mittens right at that time.

We started talking about various ideas about mittens. His group thought about a pocket to put a bus pass or ID card in on the top of the mitten hand but then I thought you couldn't bend your hand which would be annoying. I think this has been done before, too. Then my son and I started talking about how you always lose one mitten and then the mitten that's left is useless.

I started thinking about what if you had a pair of mismatched mittens, like the Kureyon mittens I had been working on, but then you continued adding a third mitten into the set so that if you lose one you have a spare. So we called it, A Pair and A Spare! The perfect set of mix and match mittens was born.

My son's group loved the idea. My son shared a photo of the stripey mittens to the group and several girls in his group said they would wear these mittens every day! The idea was met with huge approval. I quickly knit up a sample set for my son to bring and share with the group. I don't know how the story ends with the business class project but I know that I love this set of 3 mix and match mittens.

Aren't they squishy and inviting?

So here's how you make these stripey mittens and you don't have to make three mittens but you might want to after I tell you about them.

Remember that each of these medium-size mittens from the Waiting for Winter pattern weighs in at 30 grams. With contrasting colorways of Noro Kureyon and two balls, 50 grams each, you have 100 grams of worsted weight wool. You can get 3 mittens with 100 grams or 2 balls of Noro and you hardly have any leftover yarn at the end (about 10 grams). It is the perfect project and yarn use. Kureyon has long color changes that sort of fade into the next color as you go along. This makes the striping entertaining to knit and the outcome is stunningly beautiful.

For the mittens I followed the Waiting for Winter pattern to a tee. I did 2 round stripes with alternating balls of Kureyon.  So knit 2 rounds with one ball, and then 2 rounds with the other ball. I carried the yarn up on the inside of the mitten being careful not to pull too tight as I worked. 

When I started the decrease rounds at the top I only used one ball of yarn. Then when I went back to finish up the thumb I continued using the same ball I used at the top of the mitten for the decrease rounds. That's it! It is so easy and you end up with this set of 3 mittens that are mix and match plus you have a spare mitten. The mittens are so inviting and sweet looking. Noro Kureyon is one of the great yarns of all times in my opinion.

I think this is the best gift around. It is a fun and fast knit, the Kureyon is $8.95 a ball at WEBS, so your gift is under $20. You can have so much fun picking out contrasting colorways of the Kureyon and you really can't go wrong, the crazier the colors, the better for the mitten sets. After my son is done with the mittens for his class project I will definitely be gifting these for the upcoming holidays. 

Now if you think about it, if you have 4 balls of Noro Kureyon (200 grams) and did the stripey mittens like this you would end up with 6 mittens or 3 pairs of mittens that are mix and match. This is not a bad idea either. What a great way to use up Noro and have some quick gifts ready to go. I'm thinking about knitting these up for everyone on my list this coming holiday season.

Let me know if you try the A Pair and A Spare idea or if you just try the stripey Noro Kureyon mittens. Also, doesn't everyone have a few balls of Noro Kureyon in their stash just waiting to be used somehow? I know I do. I have 3 balls left that I plan to knit up into Waiting for Winter mittens in this stripey-style.

Fall is really getting going around here. The fall foliage is becoming breathtaking. I am soaking it all in as fall is truly my favorite season of the year.

xo ~ susan
p.s. The knitting project bag in the first photo is from LoveSockWool on Etsy!