Thursday, April 5, 2012

Random Spring Mitts pattern


My inspiration for Random Spring Mitts comes from a number of sources. First and foremost is Catherine G. Hall’s Random Lace “pattern-recipe.” Her instructions are easy to follow, even for someone as lace-challenged as I am. (Feather and Fan is about the limit of my patterned lace-knitting skills.) I like being able to choose any stitches I want, but appreciate keeping the same (small) number of stitches per row, for simplicity’s sake.

The first time I made the Random Spring Mitts was the result of a perfect storm of leftover Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool yarn from one friend’s project, another friend suffering through a lingering winter with cold hands, and my desire to knit her something warming. I also wanted something that would be delicate enough to anticipate the coming spring season. I experimented and came up with a pair of mitts that she loved and wore almost every day for months. (Though I conceived of them as “Spring” mitts, she told me that were among the first pieces of knitting she began to wear when the season turned cool the next autumn.)

The organic flow of the lace’s random increases and decreases makes me think of flora in seasonal transition: early spring, when bare branches and vines begin to take on new shapes with buds and leaves, and autumn, when the architecture of those same vines and branches is revealed as leaves begin to fall. These transitional mitts are an attempt to recreate those shapes using random stitches. I love the rustic yet refined look of Silky Wool, and I think that its tweedy blend of fibers in both muted and saturated colors makes it an excellent yarn for multiple seasons.
These short mitts are an excellent project to practice the random lace technique and to make a multi-season accessory, whether for cool fall weather, chilly interiors in winter, or when waiting for spring to arrive! Almost everyone who tries them on says, “Oh, they feel good.”

S/M and M/L
Width: 3 inches[3.5 inches] 
Length: 6 inches[6.5 inches]
Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool [45% Wool, 35% Silk, 20% Nylon; 192yd/176m per 50g skein]; color: 83 green
Size US 3/3.25mm double-point needles.
Important note on needle size and type (double points or circulars.): I am a very loose knitter. My test knitter got gauge with size 4 needles.

Also, I think that it is much easier to deal with the stitches 12 or 14 at a time on double point needles.  If you use the magic loop method or two circulars, I would suggest using stitch markers every 12 [14] stitches so as to easily keep count of your stitches.

Safety pin or split ring marker(s)
Tapestry needle
24 sts = 4 inches in stockinette stitch
To make random lace, you can use whatever increase and decrease stitches you like, as long as you keep the number of stitches the same (or approximately the same) per round.  The mitts will not match each other exactly, but each will have a unique, organic look.  You work the lace by balancing the number of increases and decreases on any given row. The stitches I used most often were Knit (K), Yarn Over (YO), Knit two together (K2tog), and Slip, slip, knit (SSK).  You may also use other increases or decreases.

Make One (M1) increases can be used in place of yarnovers, which, as they do not create a lace “hole”, make for a slightly denser look to the lace. 

The more stitch variation you have, the more interesting your knitting will look, and all without having to keep track of a pattern!  Though the original random lace technique calls for a rest (knit) row between rounds of lace, I worked lace every round.  Also, I preferred my fabric not to have purl bumps on the right side, so with the exception of the thumb opening “wrong side” rows, I used no purl stitches.

I see these mitts as a starting place for the Random Lace technique. The cuff and top edge of the mitt could be worked in rib for a closer fit, and beads could be added (randomly, of course!).

If you accidentally drop stitches, picking them up is easy, as you do not need to follow a pattern. Just bring the stitch up through the previous rows, following the path of least resistance.

Random lace technique
Each round for the S/M size is 36 stitches. So, using 12 stitches per needle, the first round could be as follows:

Needle 1: Knit 3, Yarn Over, Knit 2, Slip, slip, Knit, Yarn Over, Knit 4 (12 stitches)
Needle 2: K2tog, K1, YO, K4, YO, SSK, K3 (12 stitches)
Needle 3: K1, YO,  K2tog, SSK, YO, K5, K2tog, K1 (12 stitches)

Round 2 and all following rounds:  Increase and decrease as you please, keeping 36 stitches per round.
Loosely cast on 36[42] stitches on size 3 needles, and join for knitting in the round. Place a stitch marker at the beginning of the round.  Arrange the stitches so that there are 12 per needle.

Knit one row
Purl one row
Knit one row
Purl one row

Begin working random lace, keeping approximately 12 [14] stitches per needle, or a total of 36[42] stitches per round. I was fairly compulsive about keeping the same number of stitches per needle, but it doesn’t really matter if you have rows that have 10 [12] stitches on needle one, 14 [16]stitches on needle two and 12 [14] stitches on needle three, as long as you keep 36 [42] stitches per round.

Continue working random lace until your knitting measures 3.5 [4] inches from cast on edge.

Thumb opening:
This 8-row[10-row] section will be worked back and forth, not in the round, which means that you turn the work after completing each row. This means that your right side rows will be knit, and your wrong side rows will be purled. I found that my purl rows were less complex than my knit rows, with the stitches consisting mostly of ”purl”, “yarn back”, and “purl two together” stitches.  Slipping the first stitch of every row of these 8[10] rows makes a neater edge for the thumb opening.

Row 1: Knit random lace for 36[42] stitches. Turn work.
Row 2:  [ex.] Needle 1: Purl 4, purl 2 together, yarn back, purl 3, purl 2 together, purl 2.  (12 stitches)  Needle 2 and needle 3, purl, increasing and decreasing as desired. (12 stitches per needle.) Turn work.
Rows 3, 5, and 7: Knit random lace
Rows 4, 6, and 8: Purl random lace.
[size M/L only: row 9, knit random lace; row 10, purl random lace.]

After the 8[10] rows, rejoin to work in the round.

Top of mitt:
Continue random lace for 10[12] more rounds.

To finish:
Knit one row.
Purl one row.
Knit one row.
Purl one row.

Bind off loosely in pattern.  Weave in ends and block gently.
After being shown how to knit twice, once as a child, and once in her twenties, Laura Mayer finally learned how to knit in 2004. She has hardly put down the needles since. She lives on the beautiful Oregon coast with her partner, cat, and dog.
Copyright 2012 Laura Mayer

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall Socks in Spring Colors

It must be Fall.  The winter socks have arrived!

I just finished making these for me, and attempted to incorporate all my special needs:
Thick, as I wear a lot of Birkenstocks
Big,  for my size 11 (women's) feet
VERY loose and short ribbing section on the leg
Long (or is it deep?) heel flap
Narrow toe  

The extra-girly colorway I used for these may not have been physically necessary, but it was a psychological balm to compensate for years of winter socks in neutral, "manly" colors.

And yes, I love knitting books, and having access lots of information!  I used four resources to find out what I needed to knit these simple socks.

1. Sally Melville's The Knitting Experience: The Purl Stitch
2. The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook by Lynn Vogel
3. Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd;
4. Mary in South Beach Oregon's Easy Worsted Socks pattern

I'm glad I finished these, but I feel that I am still trying to find my sock knitting groove.  This is actually my second pair of socks, but I have not yet been bitten by the sock-making bug.  I have tried every way of making them: magic loop; two circulars; extra-short circulars with flexible cables; doublepoints.  Even in worsted weight with size three needles I think the sock-making process may be just be too fiddly for me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Buddha's Sorta Fedora

Or, "[Handknitting] means never having to say you're [finished.]"

This is a hat I knitted for a friend a couple of years ago.  It was the first time I had worked with the now-discontinued Auraucania "Loa."  It was also the first time I had knitted a hat for this friend, whose head is considerably smaller than mine.

The super bulky Loa didn't have much give, and I did not incorporate any ribbing into the hat.  And, after having looked a lifetime for hats big enough for my head, I err on the big side when making hats, "just in case."  In case of what, I don't know.  Sudden head size mushrooming?

So anyway, after a couple of years, though it still looked fine, K.'s hat had stretched and become much too big to wear comfortably, despite the adjustable "hat belt" I had knitted to go with the hat, complete with mother-of-pearl buckle.  I finally convinced K. recently that she should return it to me for adjustments.

In a move that was half-hat chiropractor, half-hat plastic surgeon, I tightened its sagging midsection with the judicious application of elastic thread.  It worked great, and brought the hat circumference almost to a Scarlett O'Hara-like 17 inches.  I believe that the operation succeeded, the hat lived, and will fit much better now.  Elastic thread is my new favorite knitting toy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oregon's Fabulous Fiber Festival! (OFFF)


Okay, so it's actually called the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (OFFF), and this photo of a llama was not taken there, but rather at a farm-ette outside Corvallis, en route to OFFF. 

Nevertheless, we did get there, and it was all the fabulous, fibery fun I've come to expect.  First of all, the Clackamas County Fairgrounds setting is wonderful.  There are freshly-planted flowers by the entrance, big trees, and several pleasant, people-friendly buildings where most of the vendors are.

However, the overwhelming impression I came away with was vendors, booths, fibers, and eager fiber consumers, everywhere you looked.

Sometimes, it felt like being in a kaleidoscope, (or maybe just staring at the top of a hat made from previous years' rovings purchases spun into yarn!)

And then, every few feet:  another big pile o' pretty, calling your name.

A nice break from the explosion of color and people were "the animals...who made it possible."  This is a sweet "Blue-Faced Leicester" ewe.  The animals' faces only get "blue," when they are ready to breed.  I will make no comment on the fact that I was told that the boys were currently ready for love, and rarin' to go, but the girls wouldn't be ready for another month or so!

And, finally, a post-festival visual of our modest haul.
Go to OFFF next year, if you can.  If you can't, go to another fiber festival near you.  If you like fiber, you'll like a fiber festival!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival!

Or:  Canby, Oregon, here I come!

This is the weekend of the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (OFFF) the Clackamas County Fairgrounds.  When I have attended in past years,  the weather has cooperated nicely for the festival, about half of which takes place outside.  The animals---many varieties of sheep, goats, and alpacas, primarily--- are fascinating, the fiber and yarns are beautiful to look at, and soft to the touch.  The many vendors are generally friendly and helpful.   I especially enjoy the fibery goodness of Dicentra Designs.  Her colors are amazing, and her booth is beyond beautiful. Here's a link to her Etsy shop, in case you can't get to Canby this weekend.

Last year my big splurge was a pair of glass needles from Sheila and Michael Ernst.  In order to make the purchase as "practical" (yeah, right) as possible, I got a pair of size 8 16" circular needles in Amber.

 These are the needles reposing in a skein of handspun.
One of the needles, in sunset light.  You really should come to OFFF to see Sheila and Michael's display, too, but here's their website, in case you are otherwise engaged this weekend. 

Finally, here's a hat I knit, partly out of yarn spun (by Jane) from Lisa of Dicentra Design's hand dyed roving.  Lisa calls the multicolor yarn colorway "Pelennor."  I call it "yummy."

Pattern:  Elizabeth Zimmerman's Tam, from her book, Knitting Without Tears.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Signs of the Autumn Equinox

Some things I've been aware of recently:

Chanterelle mushrooms, fresh from the forest

An autumn leaf, fresh from the tree

Dog hair, fresh from the dog