The postman came this week with the usual delivery of letters and parcels, most of them bank statements or odds and ends that I need for work. One package stood out though and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who it came from. Inside was a handwritten note and a soft pair of half-mittens in natural colours of reddish-brown with accents of blue and green. They were a gift from a woman I’d been speaking to online.
I was both delighted and taken by surprise. I love sharing how-to’s and have made it my business to share tips on how to live a life more handmade. I don’t expect to be thanked so I was touched by the note and loved the mittens immediately. They come with a story too, which I’ve invited Pia to share with you below.
As you can see, we rug up here in the Winter.
So I begin preparing for the season already in Summer or even earlier. They’re very useful because you have all your fingers free, whereas mittens are closed at the top and your fingers are impaired from working. Half-mittens allow you to work freely with your fingers and hands, yet still keeping them warm. That is, when you are outside. Or even if you need them on in the house because you freeze easily or your hands are affected by arthritis. Whatever the reason, they are also cool to wear. They’re in fashion here.
Knitting has had a come-back too. I learnt it from my dear Grandma, who was a bit of a knitting wiz. The only thing she didn’t teach me was to follow a pattern. We’d sit in each our chair in her rooms in the heart of Copenhagen, where she had lived for decades and where my Dad was born and where my sisters and I lived the first few years of our lives. Farmor and I would sit there and she’d tell what to do next with my piece of knitting. So I rarely follow a pattern.
I compose most of my patterns myself, often as I go along. Sometimes I can bring out the squared paper and draw a pattern when I have decided what I want to knit. I can consult web pages with pictures of knitware and even count the stitches in the photo and then compose my own version with size and colour, and alter it to suit me and my piece of work.
Recently I knitted a jumper for my 3 yr old grandchild with an elephant pattern which took a lot of sketching and filling out squares. I was so proud when it was finished. Of course he’s grown out of it already. Next jumper for him will be a few sizes too big.
6 years ago I knitted a sweater for myself. It’s worn out, so a few weeks ago, in the midst of moving house I completed a brand new one. It took me about 3 weeks to knit. I don’t know how I did it because I was so busy filling cases and boxes with all my possessions and arranging a removal van to move me and my 100+ yr old Ebony/ivory/mahogany piano 250 miles to the mainland. The piano is my pride and when I had unpacked my stuff and was more or less settled I polished the piano with one of Tanya’s brilliant DIY wood Polish recipes.
Knitting… if I didn’t have my knitting I would not feel brave or very much alive. It brings me calm and is quite therapeutic. I try to stick to pure wool but for socks I prefer a touch of nylon to strengthen. I also often knit smaller items with left-over wool, like the half-mittens. Even a pullover last Spring was knitted with left-overs. And my shoulder bags. . Which I lined with a piece of material.
The mittens are pure, hand dyed, plant coloured wool. I’d like to try my hand at plant dyes. It’s not complicated and the colours are amazing. This wool I have purchased.
These particular mittens that I sent Tanya, are pure wool , except for a small part of pattern for which I used left-over sock wool. The orange is dyed with a mushroom called Red-Gilled Webcap or Cortinarius semisanguineus. You use chemicals when plant dyeing but in very small quantities. Some colours and plants need 2 different chemicals while most dyes only need a few grams of one chemical, Alum and a rare few plants need no chemicals.
The chemical Alum, has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years when dying wool and clothing material. Madder makes a wonderful red colour. Horse chestnut bark gives a lovely green which is the green used in these pictured half-mittens. Apple bark gives a warm mustard yellow.. this colour is in my jumper.
For half-mittens you need less than 50g, less than 2oz of double threaded pure wool (Please consult conversion charts), 5 doubled pointed wooden or bamboo knitting needles size 8, 9 or 10 ( British sizes)-the thicker the wool the thicker needles. Tanya’s mittens are knitted with two threaded wool & 5 dblp needles size 8. Some sock wool can be 2 or 3 threaded and its much thinner than the 2 threded pure wool I use… I’m not sure how they measure their thread size. I think it depends on the quality of wool and which animal has shed its coat for us, how it is spun etc. Please don’t wash pure wool in a washing machine!
These mittens are quite easy to knit. There are masses of how-to-knit tutorials both as YouTube videos and as print-friendly guides on the Internet. . Even the little bit for the thumb is no big problem, once you get the hang of it. You need to be slightly nimble fingered and not all thumbs!! If you need a proper pattern than these rough notes, send me an email and I’ll gladly give more detailed instructions.