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Women Knitting

The road to nordic mittens is fraught with peril. But I’m getting there.

Phase One

Filled with excitement and anticipation, I  ran out the door at 9:55 am (yarn store opens at 10) with the exuberance of a 5-year-old. I had checked out the glorious selection of Malabrigo hand-painted yarn at Romini the day before and, in my mind, pictured Carl’s elegant mittens in verigated gold, russet and green over a black alpaca background. I dashed out and bought it <gulp>. Ooooh, gorgeous.

I tried to ignore it, tried to squash it down, but on the way home I had that dreaded ‘wrong-yarn’ feeling. I fought it like the blazes but still…there it was in the pit of my stomach. “Wrong yarn, Cheryl. Wrong yarn. Wrong, wrong yarn.” Over-riding my inner knit-fairy, I cast on and, fingers sticky with effort, struggled to make the five thumbs on my left hand carry the yarn. Over, under, over, under. Fixated, oblivious to the passage of time, the ringing of the phone, oven timer and door bell, I soldiered on through the magnificent edging and first chart of the pattern. 

Ghastly. Girly. Inappropriate. Wrong yarn. 

I went to bed in protest with a crushed spirit and a headache. But in my half-sleep as morning neared, I began to picture my hard-won stitches in thick, lofty loops forming a felt-like super warm web. I got up and swatched with some left-over Berrocco Ultra Alpaca from Carl’s Inishturk sweater. Magic! Add some Rowan Creative Focus for the contrast and…Wah Lah! The thick, lofty loops of my dreams! (Of course, I got the size wrong and had to rip it out and start over but we’re not going into THAT.)

Close up

So what did I learn? I won’t attempt Nordic mittens for a man with anything lighter than a worsted weight (actually, the Cascade 220 that I used for ‘Winter Berries’ would have been perfect…not to mention a whole lot cheaper) and nothing lighter than DK for a woman. Otherwise, the original intent of double-stranding for extra warmth and durability is lost. The difference in gauge is what makes for sizing, rather than adding or subtracting stitches, which makes sense when you consider the complexity of the charts.

Despite my propensity to poke fun at myself, I found it quite easy and enjoyable to work   the charts, carrying the non-working yarn with my left hand. Watching the colored pattern emerge is wonderfully satisfying and I can see myself making many, many more pairs of these in dozens of patterns and colors.

Zinnia Mittens by Mary Ann Stephens

As for the Malabrigo, I quote my ever annoying, objective and logical inner knit-fairy: “The yarn isn’t really wrong, it’s just wrong for this project. I’m sure it will make a perfectly lovely pair of socks.”

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