Smitten with Mittens

Firstly, a ballgown update: I’m just about to join in the fourth ball of yarn, and it does appear to be growing, albeit very slowly, rather than just chewing up my yarn and giving  me nothing in return. Progress!

One of the upsides of knitting just enough of the damn thing each day to make progress is that I have time and space for totally different knitting that can border on the obsessive. Today, I want to tell you about one of those projects.

Last year we went to Riga for a few days as part of a wider Baltic odyssey. Naturally, I looked up woolly places to visit, and discovered the wonders of Hobbywool. By sheer bad luck, the two days we were in Latvia fell on the summer solstice, which is the basis for a massive summer party/celebration of national pride – in many Eastern European countries, this is particularly important, given the repression of national identity during the Soviet era. Also, most of these countries are the same age as me in their present incarnations, which is pretty mind-blowing. Long story short, this meant that everywhere was shut because both days were national holidays, so all I could do was look mournfully in their window as I went past. On the plus side, all public transport was free for the duration of the festivities, which is something I can get behind. As I sat in the shade with an iced tea, I told myself that it was far too warm to do anything (40C, or 104F in old money), least of all play with warm, sticky wool.

But I was still disappointed, especially when watching the evening celebrations, which featured men wearing suits printed with popular mitten motifs (mittens are a HUGE deal in Latvia).

In a stroke of good fortune, I happened across the Hobbywool stand at Yarndale (of which more here) and picked up a mitten kit. I went for Autumn Leaves Number Four, but could quite happily knit any and all of them.

Now, maybe I’m just a bit simple-minded, or maybe it’s just that I’ve not done colourwork for ages (possibly both), but I’m utterly enchanted. I’ve been smoothing my work out every row to admire the magic tumbling from my needles. The needles in question are 2.25mm DPNs, for the record. The pattern recommends 1.5mm, but I found this came out absurdly tiny and ripped back.

I even learnt how to do lateral braids to make the mittens extra fancy, and I’m delighted that just purling and twisting the yarns in the front of the work can make something that looks so clever. Although note to self, this mitten has a RIGHT-LEANING braid, must replicate this on the other hand.


Needs a block, but it’s so pretty!

I think I may be in love. This definitely isn’t travel or TV knitting (carrying three colours in one row is making my head hurt), but there’s something so hypnotic about watching the charts slowly unfold that they’re working up quickly. The instructions for the afterthought thumb placement took a bit of puzzling out, as the pattern has been translated from Latvian, and it sometimes shows, but I managed it in the end, Now I’m flying. And I may have ordered a book of Latvian mitten charts.

NOTE: A great deal has been written about the incredible tradition of Latvian mittens by people who know far more than me. If you want to learn more, the authoritative books seem to be Latvian Mittens by Lisbeth Upitis and Mittens of Latvia by Maruta Grasmane. Have fun falling down *that* rabbit hole.


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