Work-In-Progress: Faux Fair Isle Mittens

Back of Hand Pattern

Back of Hand Pattern

The allure of stranded colorwork holds me tight in its grip and is not letting me go.  After finishing my first Fair Isle hat, I knit up another one in acrylic worsted-weight yarn (no pictures or blog post of that one — I didn’t really care for the end result).  Now I’m working on Faux Fair Isle Mittens, a pattern created by Marly Bird for her Craftsy class Mittens and Gloves Galore, and I’m loving it!

I decided to go stash shopping since my local yarn store didn’t have the yarn called for in the pattern in stock at the time I wanted to cast on for the project.  So instead of Crystal Palace Mini Mochi and Mini Solid, I chose to use Knit Picks Palette in Sweet Potato as the main color and Knit Picks Stroll Hand Painted Sock Yarn as the pattern color.  While the hand painted yarn doesn’t create the striping effect of the yarn called for in the pattern, the overall effect with the orange solid yarn is quite pleasing to me.

Palm Pattern and Thumb Gusset

Palm Pattern and Thumb Gusset

The palm pattern is a fairly simple peerie pattern, alternating one stitch of main color and one stitch of pattern color each row.  The thumb gusset uses the same peerie pattern, making for a pretty nice stretch of stranded colorwork knitting that doesn’t require too much thought.  Going between the hand chart and the thumb chart isn’t too difficult, although I do wish the thumb chart rows were numbered to the reflect the row number they belong to from the hand pattern.  A minor quibble, really.

One new technique I learned in this pattern is corrugated ribbing for the cuff.  I’d never used it before and I really rather like the visual effect (except for the curling at the bottom, but it’s not a deal breaker).  While the cuff isn’t as elastic as regular ribbing, it is still nice and snug when I’ve tried the mitten on.

Also, I’m not usually one for wearing mittens but I did choose to work this particular project as a mitten instead of a glove because I’ve had a devil of a time with gaps at the finger joins when I’ve knit gloves in the past.  I need more practice, really, and this pattern is turning out so nicely I didn’t want to mess up the aesthetic by knitting messy finger joins.  So mittens it is!

One last thing to note: My gauge is spot-on with the pattern using the size needles called for in the pattern.  My hand width is 8 inches across, which happens to be the finished width in the pattern, so huzzah!

I’ll post a picture of the finished pair when I make it that far!  Until then, dear reader, happy knitting!

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My First Fair Isle Hat

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I’ve flirted with Fair Isle, and other kinds of stranded colorwork knitting, for over a year now.  I’ve taken stranded colorwork classes through Craftsy.  I’ve swatched like a man obsessed.  I’ve drooled over colorwork charts.   I’ve held two strands in my left hand and also one strand in each hand as I’ve knit.  I’ve knit color work mittens with easy patterns and chunky yarn.

But I’ve never fully committed to a colorwork project quite the way I committed to the hat you see above.

The pattern comes from Mary Jane Mucklestone and is the basis of the Fair Isle vest pattern for her Craftsy class “The Fair Isle Vest: Stranded and Steeked.”  I bought the yarn — Cascade 220 Sport — last year but didn’t do anything with the fiber or the pattern until last week, when I decided to cast on for a swatch hat.

Using a size 3 16-inch circular needle, I cast-on 116 stitches in the gray and knit two inches of K1P1 ribbing.  The pattern is a 16-stitch repeat, so I increased 12 stitches evenly around the circumference on a size 5 16-inch circular needle until I had 128 stitches, enough for 8 repeats each round.

As I knit, I held the background color in my right hand and the pattern color in my left hand.  I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Continental knitter, but I found that knitting colorwork with both strands in my left hand involved too much twisting of the stitches and tangling of the yarn.  In another Craftsy class I took, Amy Detjen encourages students to knit stranded colorwork two-handed to keep things tidy and tangle-free, and I must admit she was right.  Even though it was very awkward for me to throw the yarn — and to figure out how to hold the yarn — with my right hand, I eventually learned what was right for my manner of knitting and I was soon throwing as quickly and efficiently as I was picking.

The pattern is 38 rows tall, which for the hat’s purposes involved only one full repeat before I started the crown shaping.  This put my hat at 7 inches (2 for the ribbing and 5 for the pattern repeat).  I really enjoyed how the black and the neon green yarn played off each other, so I did a simple peerie of alternating black and green stitches for the crown.

The biggest challenge for me with this hat was to keep my floats of yarn loose so the facing fabric didn’t pucker.  The two-handed yarn holding style really helped me with that, and in the picture below, you can see the floats inside the hat look nice and relaxed after washing and blocking.

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I also learned that a few of my color choices (I adapted the colors from Mary Jane’s pattern to fit my own tastes) were a bit too dark to show contrasts very well, especially the taupe and the blue, so parts of my hat lack the visual pop of other parts.  Part of the learning curve, that’s for sure!  I’ll know better for next time.  I am still very pleased with the end result, though.

And speaking of next time, I’d say it’s time to cast on another stranded colorwork hat and get even better at it.  Why don’t you pick up your needles and start (or continue working on) a project with me?

Happy knitting, dear reader!

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Seeded Stripes Scarf

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A few weeks ago, I went to my local yarn shop, Apple Valley Yarn Company in Midland, Michigan, looking for yarn to make a brioche cowl.  Sally was working and asked what I was shopping for.  I told her, and she directed me to many delicious options — all soft, squishy and utterly luxurious — yet nothing screamed “brioche cowl” to me.

Seeing my hesitation at her suggestions, she changed tactics and showed me a striped K1P1 scarf knitted up with Plymouth Gina yarn.  Before long, the scarf was around my neck and I promptly forgot all about the brioche cowl and wanted to make a scarf from the Gina yarn.  (Fickle, fickle, I know…)

Sally helped me choose four balls in different color ways and gave me the basic pattern formula for the scarf:  Choose two balls in contrasting color ways to begin, and knit two rows with Ball A and then two rows with Ball B.  Once those balls run out, repeat the process with the remaining two.

The ribbing pattern wasn’t singing to me — the stripes felt so defined and delineated — so I decided on seed stitch for a softer, more painterly effect.  The striping is still quite evident, but definitely more muted in seed stitch, an effect I really rather enjoy.  I’m glad I changed it up.

Seeded Stripes Scarf

Needles: Size 8

Cast-On: 32 stitches

Seed Stitch Pattern:

Row 1 – K1, P1 until end (ending with P1)

Row 2 – P1, K1 until end (ending with K1)

Repeat Rows 1 and 2, switching yarns after each completed row set, until the scarf is as long as you wish it to be (or until you run out of patience).  Bind off in pattern and weave in the ends.

Be sure that when changing colors for each row set that you bring the new yarn up from underneath the old yarn.  See the picture below for how that should look!

(Purple = old yarn and Red = new yarn)

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Top-Down Two-at-a-Time Socks

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My first pair of top-down two-at-a-time socks are finished. I used the pattern from VeryPink.com, and I found it quite easy to work, so my thanks to Staci for writing such clear instructions.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the final product. The only part of the sock I wasn’t pleased with was the heel. However, it’s not the pattern or instructions that were the problem; I just didn’t follow the instructions as closely as I should have at the edges and I had lots of gaps to close once I finished.

I highly recommend buying the pattern if you’ve been interested in trying this sock knitting technique.

In case you’re interested, I used Knit Picks Swish Worsted yarn in Amythest Heather, and Knitter’s Pride Nova 47-inch circular needles in size 4.

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Home Stretch

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Heading into the home stretch with my first successful pair of two-at-a-time socks. I’m using the Very Pink pattern for top-down two-at-a-time socks on Magic Loop.

A more complete post to come once I’m finished!

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First Foray Into Knit Pattern Writing

I’ve been looking for a particular kind of hat pattern (more about the specific pattern in a future post) that I simply can’t find easily on Ravelry. There are plenty of wonderful hat patterns, so my complaint isn’t a very huge one. I just can’t find the one I’m looking for in more of a beanie/toque style as opposed to a beret style.

So I wrote my first pattern, which was much easier than I thought it would be. Doing the math wasn’t complicated, and making the numbers line up is the hardest part, I think. So I’ll road test the pattern on a sample, and tweak as needed.

I’ll also share the results with you all with the actual pattern once its kinks are worked out.

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Workplace Landmines

The bad thing about arranging to take Family Medical Leave is that my co-workers had to know about why I wasn’t going to be around.  I didn’t have to say anything to everyone myself; a few people knew and the news spread.  I can’t be mad about that, and I’m not mad about it.  People were naturally excited and happy for us, and as far as we knew on Thursday, the placement was a definite go.

Now that it’s the first week of classes and we’re back to work, people are noticing I’m not gone.  People are asking why I’m here.  I just say, “I had a reason to take the leave, and then I didn’t.”  That is the truth.  I had a reason and then I didn’t.  Those words mask the heartache and heartbreak, though.  I just told a co-worker the reason why it didn’t happen – from out of left field, a family member of the child’s stepped up and was awarded the placement.  Saying those words to her almost made me lose my composure.  I felt my knees buckle like they did at the beach Sunday.  Only this time I wasn’t saying goodbye to Mariah.  I was mourning Mariah.

These workplace landmines are pocketknives stabbing me in the heart.  I want to turn my office lights off and lay on the floor in darkness.  I’m still marveling at how much love I felt for this child I didn’t know and hadn’t met.  She changed my life without ever having entered it physically.

I am not the same person I was a week ago.

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