Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Second Mitten

The second mitten is done! Just in time for the beginning of summer and a long-range forecast of temperatures in the 90s.

Hand knit colorwork wool mittens overlapping each other on a light wood background.

I had been hoping that the second mitten would knit up smoothly after the trouble I encountered with the first mitten. It seemed as if it had, until I blocked it and set the mittens next to each other. Notice anything?

Hand knit colorwork wool mittens set side by side on a light wood background to highlight the size difference.

The right-hand mitten, on the left, is larger than the left-hand mitten on the right. It’s a great example of how the gauge of a knitted piece is determined by more than the size of the yarn and the needles. The most difficult variable to control is the tension of the knitting.

Most people have a default knitting tension, but that can change based on the mood of the knitter. For example, some people tighten their stitches while learning a new technique, then loosen up as they get more comfortable with the process. Others cannot watch an intense movie while knitting a project that requires a certain gauge; their stitches become extra-tight as the plot unfolds.

I’m usually a pretty consistent knitter. Stranded colorwork, however, is a different animal entirely. As the name implies, with stranded colorwork the yarn that is not being worked is carried behind the yarn that is being worked, leaving strands of yarn on the backside of the piece called floats. Here’s a look at the inside of one of the mittens:

Hand knit colorwork wool mitten turned inside out on a light wood background.

If the floats are too tight, they will pull the fabric tight and make it pucker. If the floats are too loose, they can catch on fingers or buttons more easily and potentially break. The goal is to knit the stitches at a normal tension, but keep the floats loose enough to allow for some give if the item is stretched.

I knit the left mitten with a good amount of tension, but clearly I loosened up a lot while knitting the right mitten! I’ve been soaking the large mitten in hot water and agitating it in hopes of shrinking and felting it — the advantage, and disadvantage, of working with wool. I don’t want to put it in a hot dryer because the thumb seems fine as it is. I tried spot-heating it with a hair dryer; I haven’t decided yet if it helped or if that’s wishful thinking.

The good news is: I’m right-handed so that hand is a little bigger anyway! Ha! And with such gorgeous colors, once I’m wearing the mittens I don’t think anybody is going to notice their relative sizes.

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