New mittens

Hello, crafters. How are your projects going? Christmas has come early for me – my Sydänmaa mittens are done and have been getting lots of wear.

Sydanmaa FOs

In my previous post, I was expressing some anxiety at having to work what I often feel is the least fun part of mittens: picking up stitches around thumbs. For a while, the unfinished mitts languished on my WIP pile, the gaping unworked thumbs staring back at me like conduits to an endless void. I’m learning that things like this constitute the veritable black-holes of crafting: procrastinating provides momentary relief, but unfinished business has a tendency to hijack new projects. In the end, necessity won (it’s cold here!). I unpacked my DPNs and made a very modest beginning. Continue reading “New mittens”

Sydänmaa Mittens and my Achilles’ Thumb

I feel so close (but still so far away!) from finishing my pair of Sydänmaa mittens, by Hanna Leväniemi.

Mittens have a very special place in my heart. When I first learned to knit, I decided mittens would be a great project to tackle. After experiencing the delight of making my very first pair for myself (one blue mitt with a red stripe and one red mitt with a blue stripe), I made similar “mismatched” mitts for all of my high school friends in a kind of mitten-making trance. Mittens were my introduction to knitting garments for others (and to knitting en masse).

syndanmaa mittens.jpg
Thumbless and pre-blocked.

I love that this pattern has helped me to improve my cable game; after working row after row of cables, I finally have a sense of what it does to hold stitches in the back or front of the work. I also followed the sage advice of the ever helpful and knitting-savvy Helen of Crawcrafts Beasties, and reproduced my cable ‘mistake’ on the second mitt. Running with mistakes, I’m learning, is OK! (though, running with scissors is not).

As you can see, however, I’ve worked the entire pair except the thumbs. In fact, I have a clear Achilles Thumb, when it comes to mitten-making: picking up stitches. In past projects, my stitch pick-up work (especially around thumbs) has always left stitch-counts that diverge from the pattern, and the ‘collateral damage’ of gaping holes that need mending. To me, picking up stitches (like seaming) is still the murkier and more ambiguous side of knitting — the skill that requires a more intimate knowledge of the architecture of hand-knit-fabric. I’m welcoming working those thumbs this week as a learning opportunity. For this reason, I’ve saved the hardest task for last. Wish me luck!

I have been so dazzled, by the way, by all of your holiday projects, productivity, and prolific making, crafters! Bravo, and Keep going!

What are you working on this week?

Back in the blogosphere

Hello, friends. It’s been a month-long, inadvertent hiatus from WordPress. It’s good to be back in the blogopshere! I admire those of you who can blog on the go. This seems not to have been my forte this year: October was spent in Toronto on much-needed (on my end) visits to friends, family, and in a general state of distracted flurry. Being away from my needles and stash was also trying. Crafters think in, through and with their materials; being away from the bulk of my materials, strangely, left me a little bereft of the bulk of my words as well.

BUT. I managed to get some good winter-knitting into the mix during my stay. Toronto temperatures stayed unseasonably well above the 20s (70s in the US) up until the end of the month, but Canadians know that the arrival of winter is inevitable (it will always come down hard at some point, even if a little late). I started a pair of Sydänmaa cable mittens in mid-October and found them an excellent TV-knitting project (though, I managed to flub the cable on the hand decreases while watching Ghostbusters).

sydanmaa back-front.jpg
Sydänmaa mitts: can you spot the mistake in the cable?

With temperatures steadily falling, I’ve yet to complete the thumb (whose stitches are sitting tight on scrap yarn for now) and the full left mitt. Maybe, though, there’s a logic for the ‘thumbless mitt,’ close cousin of the fingerless mitt? Maybe I won’t need to do those thumbs after all?). Well, I’ll see how much I can tackle in the coming week. Chicago is cold, and new mittens would be nice.

And, in other very happy crafty news…!

I have been a huge fan and follower of blogger, crafter, and quilter extraordinaire, Tierney Hogan, of Tierney Creates: A Fusion of Textiles & Smiles. Tierney’s awesome blog has been on my steady blog-reading list for nearly a year; her beautiful quilts, blocks and sewing projects, her great eye for interior design and workspace organizing, her intriguing library hauls, and her inspired (and inspiring) writing on the crafter’s life have kept me coming back to her blog time and time again. Last month, she hosted a giveaway in celebration of her 4th Blogiversary (yay!). It turns out that luck was with me on Blogiversary drawing day: a little while ago, I received a lovely, handmade ‘little wallet’ from Tierney in the mail, along with a custom greeting, made from recycled business cards, revealing her great gift for card-craft!


This wonderful purple wallet is part of a series of little wallets Tierney has made from scraps (see more of these handmade beauties and read about their making herehere, and here. Aren’t they scraptastic?!). The last time I checked, she had made over 58 of these beautiful purses. I am so impressed by her prolific sewing and incredible productivity and her eye for textiles — each wallet is a unique combination of colour- and pattern-coordinated fabrics. Each wallet creates a “feel” and a coherent theme with colour and design. At the same time, the wallets are playful and improvisational with the colours and patterns, combining them in fun, unusual, and unexpected ways.  These wallets are works of art, and they are so awesome!

The detail and handiwork that went into making the wallet I received (and its lovely inside pockets!) is also amazing. In a previous life, I owned a working sewing machine and was trying to learn how to make my own clothes. My dreams of fashion-designerdom were thwarted, however, by my chronic inability to get the machine to make straight lines of stitching. A year or two — and several awkwardly worn garments later — my Singer and I decided on a moratorium that has yet to be lifted. When it comes to good sewing, then, there is definitely more than meets the eye. This wallet is exquisitely made, and I am marveling at the world of skill and mastery Tierney put into making it!

If you haven’t yet, do visit her excellent blog for more quilting and crafting fun (and Tierney, thank you so much, again, for this splendid little wallet. I love it!)

Happy Crafting! (now, where were those DPNs I never unpacked?…)


Scrap yarn: Garter stitch fingerless mittens

Because sometimes you need something midway between mitten and no-mitten

These mitts were my very first knit since picking up my needles again last month.

The yarn above is scrap yarn that I had mysteriously been saving since high school. Through multiple transnational/local re-locations (9 moves over the past 8 years), this yarn seemed always to find its way into my new home despite moving sales, giveaways, and my sometimes drastic attempts to clear the clutter and get organized. Stranger still, the yarn persistently followed despite the fact that I was not actively knitting at all during those years.

When I finally used the yarn for these mittens a little while ago, I began to reflect on its story: I remembered that it is the leftover of a scarf that I made in 10th grade for a beloved art teacher who took notice of my knitting hobby and encouraged an awkward teen to keep at it: a knitter herself, she gave me my very first set of double-pointed needles, a mitten pattern, and 3 skeins of beautiful wool. It was an unexpected, incredible, incredible gift (thank you, Mrs. Valerio!). I knit her a scarf shortly after, and was so thrilled to see Mrs. V wearing it at school.

I’m sure this is why the skein traveled with me all those stitch-less years. It was the other half of that knitting memory, waiting to find a touch-point again – a memory that knitting helped me to recollect (or should I say, unravel?). I hope these mittens have given it a new and proper home.