The Mitt-A-Long Saga

I just wanted one knitting success before I started working on Angelique again.

Just. One. Success. 

I finished the mitts weeks ago – with time to spare for the official Spinoff Mitt-a-long – and have utterly lacked the motivation to write about them.  But when I started the project, I promised updates. So I owe you at least one!

Thing is, I have been plagued by these mitts ever since I started working on them.

Problem 1: I chose the wrong spinning and plying methods for this particular fiber. Ah, here I was trying to plan better, and I still planned wrong. I thought chunks of color would match up when I plyed the singles into a yarn. In fact, having three separate singles from a braid separated lengthwise resulted in heathered yarn, which isn’t bad per se. Just not what I like in a yarn. Unfortunately, I did realize this until I started plying.

One of three singles yarns for my mitts project
One of three singles yarns for my mitts project

The other problem with my singles yarn can be seen in this photo. I’ve always overspun my singles, because I felt I lost too much twist while plying. But this particular fiber kinked up on itself in many locations, which just made the plying the singles even worse.

Problem 2: Plying was even more laborious than usual. I dislike plying at the best of times, and this was extra complicated because I had no good way to ply three ounces of fiber into one continuous yarn. I normally ply on drop spindles, but they can’t hold three ounces at one time. Plus they behave differently as the weight increases. Sure, I could ply an ounce or so at a time with the drop spindle, but then I’d have to join the three resulting yarns, either using the Russian join method or just overlapping the ends while knitting. Neither option sounded as appealing. While a spinning wheel is an obvious solution to this predicament, I haven’t owned a wheel in years, since I never could coordinate my feet, my hands, and the wheel’s uptake. I eventually ended up plying supported, and managed to squish all three ounces onto my pu yok spindle.

My pu yok supported spindle packed with three ounces of yarn
My pu yok supported spindle packed with three ounces of yarn

One minor miracle occurred in the midst of all these problems: even though the singles weighed slightly different amounts, they somehow all ended up close to the same yardage. I couldn’t have actually planned it better – if they had been the same weight, in fact, some of them would have been way too long!

Miraculously, all three singles were almost the exact same length
Miraculously, all three singles were almost the exact same length

Problem 3: I hated the yarn. As mentioned above, I don’t care for heathered yarns, heathered sweaters, or really heathered anything. I didn’t realize that was what I would get. Alas. In addition, I haven’t studied color theory enough. Apparently the browns and blues I loved in this fiber are complementary — on opposite sides of the color wheel — which tends to produce muddy results when paired side by side. For instance in a yarn where the singles didn’t line up like you were expecting. 

At this stage, it was early enough in the Mitt-A-Long that I could have started over spinning. I was ridiculously slow spinning and plying on supported spindles, but I’d worked on it consistently the whole time, so yes I could have started over. But then I’d just have another skein of yarn laying around the house like decoration. I persevered.

I selected Fable Mitts for the pattern. It gave me the chance to try two at a time knitting. My previous attempt at knitting fingerless mittens proved disastrous because despite my row counter, I lost track on the second mitten and the pair ended up ENTIRELY different lengths. Because these mitts were knitted flat and then seamed (another new technique for me!) I could knit them both on a very long cable needle, so there was NO doubt that I was on the same row for each mitt.  … okay, occasionally there was doubt, but I figured it out each time!

One circular knitting needle, two mittens the same size!
One circular knitting needle, two mittens the same size!

At long last, the mitts were knitted and ready to seam. Excited, I sewed up one and… wait… did you see the step I missed in this whole process?

That’s right. I failed to knit a gauge swatch.

Problem 4: The mitts. Were. Huge.

I didn’t think I would have enough yarn for the mitts and a swatch, so I skipped the swatch. Bad move. I would have seen that my gauge was too large for the pattern, and either knitted the smaller size or tried smaller knitting needles. Now I really faced a conundrum. Do I frog the mitts and start knitting over? 

So close, and yet so far: the mitts don't fit!
So close, and yet so far: the mitts don’t fit!

I did what anyone would do – turned to social media to lament my cursed knitting. And in addition to sympathy and moral support, I received some advice: felting the mitts to shrink them to the correct size.

Technically, dipping the mitts in hot soapy water and applying agitation and friction to shrink them up is “fulling”, not “felting.” But whatever term you use, it seemed like the best way to move forward with the mitts. Luckily I still had felting supplies from many years ago (yes, I cycle through hobbies every few years), and even vaguely remembered the technique. To work I went, and no I don’t have any photos of this stage because my hands were covered in hot soapy water! 

The fulling did indeed shrink the mitts, but unfortunately, not as much as I needed. I made the seams a little wider to take out some additional knitted fabric … and unfortunately this resulted in a very large lump up the back side of each hand. And unfortunately, they are still too loose to fit anyone but Mike. 

At long last, the finished mitts
At long last, the finished mitts

I tried wearing them out of sheer spite. They are warm and cozy; the fulling definitely enhanced that particular aspect of the mittens. But they interfered with my fingers on the keyboard, so back off they came. 

Having a deadline was key to eventually finishing this particular project, because at many stages along the way I would have abandoned the mitts but for the due date looming in the future. I am happy to say these mittens are done. Done is good. The project helped use up stash which is also a plus. And I learned new techniques (two at a time knitting, fulling), in addition to having old ones painfully reinforced (always knit a gauge swatch).

But a knitting “success”? Not so much.

2 comments

  1. Your predicament is exactly why I won’t ever join an “……..a long” thing again!! To much pressure and angst!! I’m too happy just muddling along, doing my best and that’s it!!

    Liked by 1 person

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