Saturday, December 10, 2011

Of mittens and gussets...

Behold! You see before you my first forays into the art of mittenry (is that even a word? If not, it should be). I'd made mittens and gloves before, with varying levels of success. Ysolda Teague's Snapdragon flip top mittens nearly broke me, I found the combination of cabling, working in the round and adding the thumb in so hard. In the event I finished one on about my fifth attempt, then had to wait a whole, cold fingered year before I could face tackling the second one. I had a few other pairs of simpler gloves and mittens under my belt but had never thought about designing them.
When I did come to making up my own mitten patterns the main psychological block was the 'thumb gusset'. Just the sound of it, with its undertones of old-fashioned, no-nonsense technical efficiency filled my self-taught heart with fear. I am in no way a technician, either when it comes to knitting or design, and was sure I'd make a mess of it.
A bit of research into other patterns though and I got a handle on it- apologies if you know all this already, but here's what I learned: Essentially a thumb gusset is a few stitches you reserve between the front and the back of the mitten, from which you 'grow' your thumb. The front of the mitten needs to be slightly narrower than the back in order that your thumb gusset sits slightly forward on the mitten for a better fit. At the appropriate point you increase stitches at the start and end of your thumb gusset so that the mitten gets wider to accomodate where the lower knuckle of the thumb sticks out. When you reach the base of the thumb you separate off your gusset, knit it up to thumb length, sew it up, rejoin the front and back and carry on up the mitten, sighing with relief that you have tackled the gusset.
Anyway, once I'd done it the first time- including managing to make the ribbing on the cuff flow smoothly into the main part of the hand- I could see how much potential there was for the fun-sized spaces of the front and back of mittens, and another pair found its way onto the sketchpad.
Great Oaks From Little Acorns Grow,shown above, and Treacle Toffee, below, are sneak previews of patterns I'm hoping to tell you more about soon. The green yarn is from Blacker Yarns. It's their Pure Dyed British Wool, which was out of stock on the site last time I checked, but they have other, very similar options. I think I've mentioned the orange yarn before: Maya DK from Eden Cottage Yarns. This one was in stock last time I looked, but beware, once you visit you'll find it very hard to resist the sweetshop of heavenly colours that Vikki creates!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pattern Development

The thing about knitting is that there are so many avenues to explore. I have only had the briefest of brushes with spinning, for example, dabbled a little with machine and wet felting but never tried dyeing. I've experimented with a number of different techniques and things to knit, but still have an extensive list of 'must try' possibilities.
The danger, with only so many hours in the day and the reality of having life and family beyond the sticks and string, is that new avenues of investigation distract you from actually knitting. This has certainly been the case for me since I caught the designing bug. I'm knitting or doing knitterly things for at least a few hours every day, but since most of the time this involves sketching, swatching, writing up submission proposals and patterns or making samples I end up with little that I can show here. In addition, I have cold feet and am perfectly capable of making the felted slippers I've been wanting for ages, but never seem to find the time for making them.
I'm not really complaining though, as having yarn support (free yarn! Even if you do have to knit it up then send it away again) dropping through the door will surely always be a joy and I love puzzling away at new ideas to fit mood boards put out by potential publishers. It's even paying off in slightly less conventional ways, as the colourwork idea here is one I'm developing for a friend in exchange for help with what will hopefully be improvements to my online presence- watch this space.
All this said, I hope to have more projects to show here soon and in the meantime I'm going to put on an extra pair of socks and enjoy the buzz of creativity.