Monday, April 09, 2007

I think I'm in love

Spinning is fun. Playing with fiber is delightful. Working with fine yarns is exquisite. Creating designs with two colors is enchanting. Learning new things can be energizing.

So ... if you take fine handspun yarn (fine in the traditional sense, not in the cobweb sense) in two colors and play with it while learning new things ... it's a recipe for a great project. And if that project happens to be a mitten (or pair of mittens) destined to replace the mishmash of unmatched or severely mended mittens ... words fail me.

Twined knitting, or two-end knitting, did get selected as "The Use For My First Handspun in Over 10 Years". But a two-color design called to me, and I decided that some of my old handspun was decent enough to use. Two-end knitting can be tough on the wrists - there is a LOT of twisting to do - so I figured I'd be a week or two on each mitten. But love intervened.
This is what I had on the needles Saturday. I tried to blog about it, but my printer loved the photo so much it wouldn't allow the computer to access the chip, and so I went back to knitting rather than wrestle with electronics. There's half a mitten, and my yarn source.

Twisted knitting is typically worked from one ball of yarn, using one strand from the inside of the ball, and one strand from the outside of the ball. First one works a stitch with one strand, then the other. Unlike Fair Isle, the yarn is *always* twisted between the stitches. For my project, I took the 'back' strand over the strand I just knitted with. Always, always, always. The yarn gets twisted beyond recognition every half row or so. The typical advice is to wrap the yarn around the ball and let it dangle to untwist.

I had an idea. What, I thought, would happen if I had wound the yarn on my spinning wheel bobbin? I could use a Very Large whorl and slowly treadle while spinning, and thus keep the yarn untwisted. I would also lose any and all portability. I mean, you just don't see people carrying spinning wheels around as a yarn source for their knitting, do you? And I like to knit in the car. It just wouldn't work.

Then I noticed the spindle next to me. I impaled the ball of yarn on the spindle, set it on the floor, gave it a healthy twist ... and was pleased.

I exhibited some care for my wrists and fingers - harp solos on Easter Sunday do require the use of both, and I really didn't want to wake up Sunday with incredible pain in both hands - so I managed to pull myself away from the mitten and work on the Tofutsie sock. One sock down, one to go.
Sunday, after church, I was free to knit. I did, and I did, and I did. And before bedtime, I was finished with Mitten #1. It fits, and it is delightful.

If it wasn't for the soreness I get from knitting this way, I think I could see a whole year of experimenting. My son would like black and orange Bengals mittens. My mom is hoping these mittens are hers instead of mine. My daughter would like some mittens (probably in pink and purple). And the book has some gorgeous hats with mosaic patterns. For that matter, I've got Barbara Walker's Mosaic Knitting book, and ANY Mosaic pattern can be converted to a twisted knitting pattern. Amazing. Knitting with two colors per row AND twisting the yarn AND knitting mosaic patterns. Does life get any better?

Here's the back side (non-palm) of the mitten. It's got a thumb-side gusset, and fits like a dream, despite the fact that the pattern said "Cast on 72 stitches". No recommended yarn, no gauge, no sizing. The author does say gauge swatches are essential, but they're not much help if the pattern says "Cast on 72 stitches" and one doesn't know either the finished size of the mitten OR the gauge to aim for.

Still, it worked.

My cardigan? The cardigan which I finished last week, despite numerous setbacks, and have been wearing ever since to offet the chill in the air? I singed it on the stove Saturday. This cardigan is not happy with life.


Pensguys said...

Oooo! LOVE the mittens!!! VERY neat technique!

Holly said...

Oooo-aren't you smart?!? They look great!