Friday, January 13, 2012


In my knitting history (which is much, much longer than my sewing history), 2007 was the Year of the Sock (the toe-up sock, to be exact).  Well, 2011/12 is turning out to be the Year of the Mitten!

I hadn't been doing much knitting since I started sewing two years ago, but I did pick it up again for a little while last winter and then again over the past couple of months -- really enjoying small projects (mittens!!) worked on when we (have a chance to) watch TV.

I absolutely love doing stranded colourwork -- back when Chloe and Jackson were little I made a series of steeked colourwork projects from the book Small Sweaters by Lise Kolstad and Tone Takle, still one of my all-time favourite knitting books.  And I have made many, many pairs of Norwegian (patterned, two-colour) mittens over the years, mostly from this vintage reprint pamphlet which I have had for about 20 years.

The patterns from this book are all very tightly knit -- with the gauges ranging from 7 to 9 stitches per inch.  Like so many vintage patterns, the finished objects come out rather petite if you follow exactly, so I have never been very precise about gauge when making mittens, and don't quite follow the yarn and needle size recommendations in this book.  I have successfully used everything from DK to bulky weight yarn, all on much smaller double-pointed needles than usually recommended for those heavier weight yarns.  The result has been many years of densely knit, very warm mittens (especially warm because the all-over patterning of Norwegian mitts means the whole thing is double-stranded ...Norwegians understand winter weather).

This past October I noticed that I had worn a hole in the cuff of my own pair of mitts -- which were made from a lovely deep purple lopi wool with a white star, that classic Norwegian mitt pattern featured in the lower left-hand corner of the pamphlet, above.  So I made a new pair for myself, using wool from my yarn stash and following one of the few patterns in the pamphlet (Rose) I hadn't made before.

Energized by this make but also a bit weary of my well-worn pamphlet, last month I made an impulse buy on Amazon, ordering Annemor Sundbø's Norwegian Mittens and Gloves (Trafalgar Square Books, 2011).  It is a beautiful book, full of interesting patterns both classics and more unusual ones.

What really captures my imagination is Sundbø's back story.  She explains how in the early 80s she came to be the owner of one of the last sjoddi (recycled wool) mills in Norway -- and with it she inherited bags and bags (16 tons) of woolen goods that had not yet been recycled into stuffing for mattresses and so on. On the one hand, the sjoddi industry sounds brilliant!  Wool is entirely recyclable -- into future yearns, if the quality is good, and into stuffing, if not.  Why don't we do this???

But beyond that, it looks like Sundbø discovered a treasure trove of Norwegian knitted goods, including the worn-out mittens and gloves from which she charted patterns for this book.  I love the fact that each pattern is accompanied by a photo of newly-made mitts or gloves but also by a photo of the original item that inspired the pattern -- holes, frayed edges and all.

Ahhhhhhh.  Aren't these beautiful?!

The patterns in Sundbø's book are made from finer yarns than those I had been using, but I have a plentiful stash of fingering and double knitting weight yarns (apparently I am a craft-supply hoarder from way back), so I was able to put both Chloe and Greg's mitten requests in the queue right away.  Chloe spoke up first, so I am making her choice: "Olive Mittens" in a deep red and cream combination.  These are pure pleasure to make, so I'll let  the photos do the talking.

Next up will be Greg's choice, "Daddy Longlegs" gloves  -- so appropriate for my long-legged husband -- for which he has chosen shades of dark gray.  Can hardly wait...!


aksherry said...

Love these mittens!

Prof. S (the enchanted bobbin) said...

Thank you :)

Sheila said...

In awe of your knitting talent Jennifer. You might be interested in this -
It's an area South of where I live.

Prof. S (the enchanted bobbin) said...

What a wonderful collection, Sheila -- thank you so much for sharing that link. I hope my travels bring me back to Scotland some time in the not-too-distant future....

Hoola Tallulah said...

As a beginner to knitting I am completely in awe, these patterns and books look amazing and your knitting is incredible! Inspirational for sure, when I grow up I want to be an awesome knitter like you :)

quirky granola girl said...

i LOVE that mitten pattern book! i can't believe they photographed the well-loved and worn mittens and gloves along with the new ones. how absolutely clever!
i'm terrible at colorwork, but maybe i'll dream tonight that i have your knitting talent and i'll knit a pair of Olive mittens in my dreams...