Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fifteen Years Later...

Because I have nothing else to do today, such as get dressed, finish packing, help daughter do same, and drive to Atlanta, I'm going to talk a bit about my new knitting project.

Cathedral Mittens

I've wanted to do Lizbeth Upitis's Cathedral Mittens for fifteen years. I've been making projects out of the book Homespun Handknit for at least that long, and the Cathedral Mittens were one of the ones that had to wait a while. Thanks to Maggie Righetti's Dumb Baby Bonnet, Stupid Baby Sweater, and Baby Booties, I did have a good basic skill set, but the Cathedral Mittens were completely out of my league. Furthermore, I didn't even have access to needles small enough to knit at twelve stitches to the inch, and if I had I didn't have access to good enough yarn, either. So the mittens waited.

As the years passed, I got better at knitting, and from time to time I'd look at the Cathedral Mittens and think, "Yeah, I could probably do those now." But there was always something else to do before tackling such a finely knitted project that would be only for myself. I had, apparently, a lot of selfless knitting to get through first. And I still hadn't found any yarn that said, "Hey, remember the Cathedral Mittens? Use me!" For one thing, I really wanted to do the mittens in the actual colors from the original pattern--which I rarely do--and finding a fine yarn in just the right shades of gold, purple, blue, orange, and red that also came in black proved harder than it might seem.

A few months ago, though, events converged. I'd added 000 and 0 size needles to my tools some time ago, and had knitted a couple of projects at twelve and ten stitches to the inch, so I knew I had the dogged bloody-mindedness required. Not to mention the insanity of the 160-fish fish blanket. Then I spotted some Garnstudio Drops Alpaca black, gold, and other cathedral-esque colors, and my brain finally dredged up "Cathedral Mittens!"

The picture above is my gauge swatch, knitted first on 000 needles, then 0s. The 000s gave me a gauge of about fourteen to the inch, so I switched to 0s. The gauge was a little closer, thirteen stitches per inch, and the "windows" opened up a lot more. 0s it was. I didn't want to go any bigger on the needle size because I wanted the stitches to remain fairly dense, and the Drops Alpaca isn't as tight, I suspect, as the original yarn.

According to the math of the original pattern, the gloves are about seven inches around. I need about eight and a quarter inches. The gauge is calculated based on the stitch pattern for the hand, which calls for slip stitches that compress the work a lot more than normal stranding. The cuff is worked with stranded knitting, and there's a big, big difference in the gauge. The mittens will be the correct size around the palm--well, theoretically--but the cuffs are huge. Seriously, they're going to be something like ten-plus inches

Now, it's possible that these mittens are supposed to have huge, gauntlet-esque cuffs, but it's difficult to tell from the pictures. The cuffs do look bigger, but I'm not sure they're that much bigger. Or that I want them that much bigger, even if that's how they're supposed to be. It's also possible that I'm the loosest stranded knitter on the planet and most normal humans wouldn't have such a huge difference in gauges. I've considered dropping down a couple of needle sizes for the cuffs, but I'll probably have to knit the whole cuff and some of the hand before I know for sure if I want to rip it all out and go with smaller needles.

I'm also waiting to make a decision about the thumb. The pattern uses a gore-less thumb, which is understandable given the colorwork, but I'm not horribly fond of them. To change it would require a lot of work, and I'm not sure it would turn out looking anything but a mess. But, as I said, I've got some knitting to go before I get there.

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