Monday, January 24, 2011

More Mitten Mania

A few years ago, when Lucy was in grade 1, I made some mittens on the knitting machines to donate to her class, for spare mittens. They seemed to be well used and appreciated. Recently, her grade 3 teacher mentioned in the newsletter to send extra mitts for your kid as they seem to get wet or disappear easily. I asked if some classroom mitts would be helpful, and the teacher thought that'd be great. So I got going and 'whipped' up three pairs on the LK150. I can't find where I put my notes, so I thought I'd make another mitten today, and take some pictures along the way.

(If you want to see my earlier machine knitted mitten attempts, and my issues with different techniques, click on the KnitSmart label to the right, or look up March/Feb 2009. I'm very picky about my mittens, after having handknit wonderful mitts for years from an old Patons pattern. But, I came to realize that kids, in particular, are not so glued to authenticity; they'd rather have some warm, colourful mittens that fit!).

I start off with waste yarn, then an open cast on. I prefer to use yarns with at least 50% wool, although in this mitt, I used a 100% wool (the light purple), and Patons Decor in dark purple, which is only 25% wool. I figure together, that equals 62.5% wool, LOL. For the numbers, I use my handknitting pattern: Mens 44sts, Ladies 40st, 12 year old 36st, 10 year old 32st, 8 year old 28 sts, 6 year old, 24 sts...for worsted weight yarns. If I'm doing bulky, I go down a 'size', if I'm doing DK, I go up a 'size'. For donations, it's more important that the gauge match the yarn than using a particular set of numbers. For this example, I used T7, but I think it's a bit loose (however, the light purple might bloom when washed, but I don't want to take the time). If you start with a similar waste yarn, you can check the tension by that...I don't measure it or anything, I just go by the feel of the carriage, and how the knitting looks if I take off the cast on comb.

I thought I was going to use a chunky yarn, so I cast on 21 sts...but found during the waste yarn that the LK150 couldn't handle it every needle....ooops...I had used my KnitSmart for chunky yarns before! LOL. So I switched to the worsted yarn, but didn't increase the these barely fit my (large) 5 year old's hand. They also ended up too long, so I'd take out 4 rows if I do them again.

For the tuck pattern, I knit one row, then put every other needle into D, and knit the row. Then, I switched colours and set the lever on the side leading to II so the D sts would knit. Then, I put the alternate needles from the first colour into hold and knit back. I don't tuck edge sts.
I did 44 rows, ending with the dark colour, and switched to the light, 100% wool colour for the tip (I wanted this crucial part to be warm and water resistant). I knit 6 rows in the light colour, then doubled up every other stitch, and at T5, knit 2 rows (I do like to move some of the needles inwards so there is fewer gaps, and I don't double up the edge stitches). Then I double up again, and knit one row. I cut the yarn with a long tail, and starting with the first st at the side opposite to the yarn tail, I go through all the sts, then once again. Going through twice fills up the loops better than just going through once.

Meg decided that the knit side should be the outside of the mitten. Either side looks great, I think.

The thumb always gets me muddled. I've knit my fair share of thumbs with the wrong side out! To do it right, find where the bottom of the thumb gusset is (about 6-10 rows from the bottom of the mitten). Hold the mitt with the tip pointing you, wrong side up. Take a transfer tool, and put the two loops from the edge st, onto a needle. Leave an empty needle, then two loops from the other edge. Manually knit this row, doing an e wrap on the middle stitch. Knit back a second row.
For the next row, pick up the two loops from the next row up. From where you picked up the first loop, there will be first a 'knot' and then a loop (or, loose stitch really). Use the loop. Some people pick up only one loop, I do both. Put it on the next needle to the outside of the three already on the bed...repeat on the other side of the thumb, so you now have 5 needles in work. To get the stitch with the working yarn to knit nicely, bring it a little forward, and make sure the yarn is under the needle:

If it goes over the needle, it won't knit. Knit two rows. Repeat this, adding a new stitch to each side of the thumb, joining to the mitten sides as you go up. For this mitten, I did this till I had 9 needles in work. Then, for the next two rows, instead of joining to the side of the mitt, I e wrapped a new st on each side (one stitch, the side the carriage is on, knit across, e wrap on that side, knit across). Then I knit another 6 rows, then doubled up the stitches, knit two rows, then doubled up and knit one row. At this point I discovered that I had knit the thumb on T5 as I forgot to adjust after dec. the top of the mitten!

Once I get both mittens done, I do the ribbing by hand, so that I have something portable, and because I like handknit ribbing better than on the machine, and also, I can knit both, at once, on one circular needle. This way, if I run out of yarn, I can still easily make both match, and it looks better than running out of yarn near the tip of the second mitten! To make the whole process even faster, don't do the decrease row at the top of the mitten. Leave a long tail (about 10x the width), and move on to a few rows of waste yarn. Start the whole process again, so you end up with two rectangles. Take it off the machine, and do the top decreases by hand knitting. Or, experiment with the cast on (like in the book, every other needle....) and see how you can draw it up by pulling the yarn can make this the top of the mitt instead.
These blue ones were the first pair I did this year, and I did the first one with the thumb the wrong side out. So I made the second one match, for a design 'feature'.
These are two of the three pairs I made for the class. The third pair was two tone purple in tuck, like in the manual. I made the first thumb right, but the second one wrong....but I left them that way. Kids don't mind---it's better than freezing hands when all your friends are making snowmen!
I'm sorry I don't have more exact numbers for you, but there are lots of mitten patterns out there, esp. if you search on Ravelry. Also, you can use a mitten pattern generator on line (see my post about the machine knit gloves), or "The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns" (I think it's called) has a LOT of info! Do give machine knit mittens a try. I have found that this pattern is the most 'acceptable' to me, LOL. I did find out that I had to make them a little longer than expected to account for the gathered top, but I like the thumb much better than sewing on a thumb, moving all the sts over to do an increased thumb gusset, or the worst...the type of thumb that comes out from the palm, with no gusset. More on those in the next mitten post!

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