Evolving a Better MItt

I love mitts. I have fat little hands with stubby fingers, and they get cold easily. Mitts are the perfect things for me to wear while reading in bed, working at the computer, working in a cold garage (where all the teacher stuff is stored), or driving in the car on cold days. I even pull them over my mittens when it is really nasty out and I have to shovel snow. They are fast to make, and because they are small I feel OK using some luxury type yarns on them like cashmere blends. They are a fun way to try out new yarns and colors to see how they will work out. I love hand-painted yarns, but sometimes they don’t look the way I think they will knitted up. Mitts are the perfect way to sample without making a big investment.

I found a mitt pattern that was simple but nice on Ravelry.  It was ribbed in K2, P2 ribbing with a single cable on the back of the hand. I grabbed my needles, cast on and knitted the mitt.

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Don”t these look cute? They just didn’t fit right!

Oops! The knitting seemed too loose. The cable twisted over too great a distance and wouldn’t stay on the back of my hand. The thumb gusset was too short, and my thumb didn’t have a comfortable range of motion without pulling on the mitt. The mitts were just too dang long on my arm. But I still liked the idea of the pattern.

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These mitts pulled on my thumb and the cable just wouldn’t stay on the top of my hand. Not what I wanted!

Obviously, there needed to be some changes. If you consider the original pattern to be the code (DNA) for the mitts, I was introducing mutations into the code with each change. I started knitting again with more stitches on smaller needles. I started the gusset lower on the mitt so that it would start exactly at my wrist and would be in the same place as the twist of the cable. I slowed down the rate of increases; instead of adding two stitches every other row I tried adding stitches every third row. The gusset was moved over so it would begin in the middle of a K2 rib, and after a couple of false starts I had something that looked good to me.

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I knitted the thumb gusset by making increases inside one of the K2 ribs.

I liked where I was going with the mitt, but I kept on mutating the pattern. I shortened up the ribbing sections at the bottom and top of the mitt so that the mitt would have more room for cable action. I moved the start of the thumb gusset over so that there would be more stitches on the top of the mitt and fewer on the palm; the tension of the stretched palm rib stitches held the cable in place on the other side of the mitt.

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The ribs on the palm are more stretched, creating tension to hold the mitt in place.

I made the cable twist every 10 rows so I could get three twists onto the cable. Now I had about 6 new pairs of mitts, but I had managed to create the pattern for a mitt that I just loved. Natural selection had evolved me a better mitt!

This is the basic design of the mitt that evolved over a number of weeks as I kept trying out new variations of the pattern.

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I love this mitt! Did I mention that I wear them while reading? I can also knit them while reading (but not quickly!) I’m now working on writing up the pattern (or the genetic code for this mitt…), which is harder than it looks. 🙂

Hello Stash!

“Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.” -Elizabeth Zimmerman

Almost two years ago today my life took a sudden, unplanned turn. I was a biology teacher, and there was almost nothing about my job that I didn’t love. The opportunities for creativity were endless. The kids were amazing. The expansion of knowledge and understandings within the field of biology are explosive and every year there was something new to learn about and teach. Technology made it possible for me to create unique and meaningful learning experiences for my students.  The hands-on activities and labs were endless. I loved, loved, loved my job. OK, grading papers was a little tough, the hours were endless, and teachers were taking a beating in the press, but I loved the job.  Actually, it wasn’t a job; for me it was a more like a calling.

The first day of fall break I received a phone call, rushed to an ER, and suddenly I was reminded that our lives are not entirely our own.

I retired.

Good-bye biology classroom. Hello yarn stash.

This is the yarn stash. All of the yarn in the drawers is sorted by type and color.
This is the yarn stash. All of the yarn in the drawers is sorted by type and color.
Yarn bins
Individual knitting projects are kitted up into these plastic bins.

It’s funny how things turn out. Crash landing into retirement is not for the faint of heart, but it can take you to the place where your heart is.  During the first few months of retirement I packed away the contents of my biology classroom and waded into the craft room of my house to clean out my stash. Let me tell you, this is a stash to be proud of. I had more yarn than some of the yarn shops I frequent. I’d been buying yarn for years and stashing it with plans for its use some day “when I retired”.  I also had acquired a spinning wheel, a loom (OK, I have three of those…), several quilt kits and some fleeces to spin from friends’ sheep. Then there were the books. Boy, do I have books. I love to read every day outside by the gardens. Yep, I have more than one garden bed, and they all have names.

loom in closet

Maybe I hadn’t planned for this turn in my life, but I was well prepared for the day when it arrived. While being consumed by the best job in the world I was stockpiling those other things that I love so that they would be there for me when I walked out of the classroom.

So this is me, evolving into a new life form. This blog will chronicle my adventures as I begin this new stage of my life with all of the fiber that I have stashed, the books that I already love and the ones that I will discover, and my struggles in the garden.  Hopefully the biology that I have loved for so long and taught to so many young people will also be a part of this new life.