Fingerless Mitts – a contradiction in terms?

The jury inside my head is in turmoil.

It can see the point of leaving those sensitive fingertips available for fine movements like buttoning your coat, unzipping your fly, stirring sugar into your coffee (yuk).  But current thinking is that the most valuable aspect of fingerless mitts is the ability to raise two pink fingers at certain prominent people in world politics. But aren’t those the exact bits that get cold fastest, that need most protection from the ravages of the winter months? The extremities.

I don’t really know because we rarely get ravaged in the UK – not by winter anyway,  and it is rarely cold enough for an overcoat, let alone a pair of gloves. I realise that the above mentioned politicians doubt the existence of global warming, but the evidence appears to be right there in front of me. I wear gloves when cycling to the gym, which happens about 3 times a year in the winter months, and only when I want to drop into the pub on the way home. Otherwise I get into my car and drive. I know I’m a bad person.

This week I have worn my black leather gloves because there has been real frost on the ground. Yes – Leather. I’m vegetarian. It makes no sense. Except that I think the poor cows have been slaughtered and minced for food anyway so I might as well make use of their skins. I doubt the driving force for slaughter is leather gloves.

Anyway, woolly ones are slippy on the handlebars, and then it might me my skin they are using for gloves.

Last weekend I was at a gathering of friends. Residential. Not a reunion as such but an opportunity to reconnect with some important people. It was lovely. It was at a
“spiritual centre”, so obviously there was a line of hand-knitted gloves for sale, also lovely, alongside the muesli.

Someone there told me that he could never find any gloves to fit him as he had weird hands. Really? How so? “Well, I have quite long palms and very short fingers, so nothing ever works.” I checked, and he was right. Not weird exactly, but certainly unusual.

So, as I do, I offered to make him some. “Could I have some fingerless mitts? Some LONG ones?” Well, yes you could, and I would be delighted because knitting those wretched fingers is a pain whether you use DPN’s or Magic Loop, or whatever. Just not enough stitches to make it worthwhile turning the whole thing around multiple times.

There must be millions of patterns out there for fingerless mitts but those of you who know me will also know that I could not possibly resort to someone else’s idea of what they should look like, so I set about my own design.

First I decided to use DK weight yarn which of course involved finding a yarn store (in Cornwall – that’s a whole other story) because I have little else but sock weight in my stash.

And yes, I knitted a swatch, but still the first glove attempt had to be scrapped because it was simply too tight around the wrist. And because I was intent on doing some stranded colour work the swatch is only approximate because….well, I think fair isle knitting has a mind of its own.

Anyway, I was calm. I was sat in my home while the rest of humanity rushed about doing whatever it is they need to do to “make Christmas work”, and I was enjoying not knitting a sock for the first time in a while. I was loving the colour work. I was even loving the rapid growth of the garment on the larger needles with the heavier yarn. And then I did the thumb and worked up the hand and finished it off and realised that it would probably reach this man’s elbow, if not his armpit.

This is quite a small man. I tried very hard to hate him for his lack of middle-aged spread but the truth is he is too nice to hate and he just is rather slight. My mother would say, “Oooh, there’s nothing on him”.

Now, here’s the thing about making up your own stuff. You make mistakes. You get things wrong and you learn from them, the way people have learned about fingerless mitts for generations, but when you do it yourself you learn properly and remember.

So this attempt is wrong in many ways. I pride myself on being able to take a quick look at a person and think, “42 inch chest, 32 inch waist”. Or even “36 C bust with a slightly narrow back”. Almost always I am wrong. Not by much but, crucially, wrong.

My dear friend sent me some photos of his hand with a tape measure draped over it so I could see the exact dimensions I was aiming for.

Why, I wonder, when I was sitting at that table in the kitchen of the brown-rice-retreat-centre did I not think of grabbing his hand and measuring it? Because I looked, measured it against my own and thought, “Oh yes, I know what I have to do”.

No I didn’t. I was wrong again.

So, this one is too long in the arm department, too long in the palm, the thumb is too small, and it is altogether too lumpy. Just look at the hem around the wrist. I referred back to Elizabeth Zimmermann and realised that of course – OF COURSE – the facing has to be slightly smaller than the outside because otherwise the physics doesn’t work. So I re-made the hand hem 3 times on smaller needles and with fewer stitches until it became vaguely acceptable, but of course I can’t really do anything about the wrist (elbow/shoulder) hem because that’s where I started.

It was clear that the only course was to begin again, hoping that I have enough yarn to make 2 more mitts without pulling out the original one, which I hope to put in the LEARNING DRAWER.

So here’s the result:

I quite like them, but am I convinced?

The jury is still out, but there are more and more reasons for those 2 pink fingers.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken

This is my first blogpost for over 3 years.  There are reasons, but I won’t bore you.

I have lived with my partner for 17+ years, the majority of which time has been harmonious.  We don’t shout, we muddle along through thick and thin and we have grown accustomed to the other’s little eccentricities, of which I undoubtedly possess more than he.

One of the things he can’t help but point out to me is that I find it difficult to follow a new recipe in the kitchen without changing it.  Decades of catering for a moderately large family and an interest in many creative arts including culinary ones have given me a certain amount of knowledge and insight which I like to think I can put to good use.  And so when I try a new recipe I will sometimes….often…ok, usually if not always…..make alterations as I go along because something sounds as if it would be better if….

“Why don’t you just follow the recipe once, the first time, and then change it if you need to?”  He has a point.  Why don’t I?  Because, clearly, I think I know better.  The adult children never stop delighting in reminding me of the disaster of 1990 now known as “Cardboard Pie”.  I may simply be conceited, or it may be that I do know better, but we will never know because if I don’t change the recipe as I go along I start to twitch.

I don’t like being told what to do.  I recently knitted a pair of socks using Regia’s “Pairfect “ sock yarn.  This, for those who have yet to come across it, is a 100g ball of yarn that has a leader at the beginning and half way through the ball to tell you when you should start the second sock so as to achieve a matching pair.

I bought this yarn for one reason though – it produced 1.5cm-ish stripes in 2 colours and satisfied my desire for simple geometry.  I didn’t need the leaders.  The first thing I did was ignore the advice to cut off the leader and decided to use it as a design feature.  You will notice that the yellow leaders are not the same length in both socks, a thing I have decided to ignore since the ribbing will be somewhere up inside a man’s trouser leg and invisible to all but the most intimate of friends.

I certainly didn’t need, nor predict, that the stripe pattern would change when the ball of yarn decided it was time for me to turn the heel.  This I did not like, because I knit my socks quite long in the leg.  I just do.  I have a thing about ankle socks that are too short.  I like a good length of 2×2 rib around the cuff – about 8 cm – and then I like to turn the heel when the need grabs me, or the colours in the yarn dictate.

Anyway, I finished this pair of socks successfully, and actually I like them even though the leg is slightly shorter than I would prefer.  Good result.  But it made me a little bad tempered.

It’s a control thing.

Which brings me, finally, to the point of this blogpost.  Many moons ago – certainly more than 5 years – I attended the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate, UK, and while I was there purchased some yarn that excited me at the time.  It was Noro Sock Silk Garden, and I bought enough of it in 2 different colour ways to make 2 sleeveless cardigans for myself.  Yup.  Not socks at all, because I knew better.

And the point of THAT is that I am one of those irritating men who gets very hot all the time.  Put me in a sweater made of wool with sleeves and you risk me stripping naked to cool down after 10 short minutes.  Not a pretty sight at my age, I can tell you.

So this yarn seemed perfect.  Interesting colours, a percentage of silk to replace the sweat-inducing wool, self-striping for added interest without effort.

It was a major error.  MAJOR.  I made the first jacket 3 times before giving up and putting it in the “useless” drawer.  I didn’t like the look of it before I put it on my back, but once there it added at least 20 years to my true age.  Which meant I should really be on the other side.

See what I mean?

I tried the second colour way:

Perhaps worse;  certainly no better.  Reminds me of a sad camel.  Into the drawer it went and there it has stayed for 2 house-moves.  I couldn’t bring myself to unravel it because I simply couldn’t think what to do with any of it.  And it wasn’t cheap.

Until yesterday.  It’s nearly Christmas and when I looked in my finished-object drawer full of socks I discovered to my horror that not one of them would fit my father, who has very small feet.  Actually smaller than they were 20 years ago.  Hmmm.  Note to self.

I have 3 (rather busy) days to find a gift for a man who needs nothing, wants nothing, but is repeatedly delighted with a pair of hand knitted socks from his middle son, even if said son is a bit camp.  My partner, bless him, suggested that I made my father a pair of socks slightly thicker than usual.  This is what Winnie-the-Pooh would call a VERY GOOD IDEA.  They would grow faster, the chances are my father, lacking a certain amount of vision and manual dexterity, would be able to get them on better and his feet would be warmer.  He used to get hot too.

Off to my stash.  Not a single ball of sock yarn heavier than…..well, sock weight.  Nowhere.  10,000 balls of yarn and not a single one.

But then, in the middle of the night I thought of the useless drawer.  There were many balls of useless Noro yarn, knitted up and un-knitted, that would be perfect.  Out came the 3.25mm needles.  On went 48 stitches instead of the usual 60-64, and within 24 hours a sock was almost born.

And the best/worst/most horrible realisation about all of this is…….I like it.  I absolutely like the sock that has been made from the Noro yarn intended for socks.  I like the way the colours merge, I like the density of the fabric, I like the feeling of the silk in the yarn;  still not sure about the uneven texture produced by the spin, but even that I can forgive.  I’ve never been one for the rustic feel.

And the lessons learned today?  two of them:

  1. I must write my blog.  I enjoy it, even if nobody reads it
  2. Don’t try to fix something before you know it doesn’t work.

Now, I have a drawer full of Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn – I suspect a lot of people are getting socks for Christmas.