Friday, 19 December 2014

Knitting Fair Isle Mittens

Four of these skeins were used to try out dyes with meadowsweet and comfrey on iron and copper mordants.  The pale one in the middle was dyed with mahonia berries on an alum mordant. Though disappointing at the time, that beige does harmonise well. Retrieved from the darkest depths of the basket, daylight enhanced all five colours and I found myself loving them up considerably.  
"You know, it really is true that natural dyes cannot be equalled for depth and subtlety."  
I addressed my prodigal companion, Elinor Gotland, the lost sheep of the family, who has returned to take full advantage of the festive season.  Three cups of tea with sloe gin had not softened her up much.  She eyed my skeins dubiously.
"So unique, you never get the same shade twice, Beaut.  That lot will have to work together, or never get used at all."
"Well, I was thinking of making something with a Fair Isle pattern.  Where you carry different colour strands across the back of the work. Ever tried that at all?"
"Born and bred to it, you daft English muppet. Remember Gotlands come from Sweden? I've been visiting cousins who can knit in the round, two colours per row, five balls dangling and never drop a stitchCommon traditions among the Nordic knitters and the Northern Isles of Scotland. "
"Is that where you went off to?  Sweden?  Why the sudden departure?"
"Carpe diem, lovely girl.  Got a heads up about auditions for parts in a Scandi detective thriller. The Girl with the Sheep Tattoo.  It'll be on telly soon."

I've seen black and white film clips of women in the Shetland Islands knitting furiously while walking along, heaven knows how they managed that.  It has taken me a fortnight to complete a pair of mittens.  I didn't check a tension gauge, no point, because no way could I modify the pattern.  It was my first time following a chart and I failed to cotton on that the squares with the dots on them should have been purl stitches, so the cuffs are looser than they should have been.  Very clever the way the thumbs go in on a line of removable extra stitches, though picking up the top set is a challenge.  I really like the way the thumb pattern matches up to the body, cunningly done.  Sewing in all the spare ends was time consuming on the first mitten, second time round I just carried the colours up vertically and it seemed to work ok.

"Christmas present are they?  For someone with hands like shovels?"
"They are for Steve, to keep his hands from freezing to the handlebars of his bike."

"If I were you, Beaut, I'd tell him they are oven gloves."
After a machine wash at 40 degrees cotton cycle, the mittens had shrunk to just the right size! Fantastic luck and a proper dense felted warmth, to boot.  
The pattern is called Vera Marguerite, by Pamela Wynne, though perhaps I shan't mention the name to the man himself.  

Elinor nearly found herself taking a ride in the hot wash, only I didn't want to spoil her elf hat.  It is intended for wear on an Alice band, as a festive fascinator.  Brilliant idea, designed by Thomasina Cummings and now available as a free crochet pattern


  1. These mitts are lovely! I feel much too amateur in my knitting to even consider attempting Fair Isle yet, but that doesn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying your obvious talent. Thank you for sharing your adventures in wool & dyes! I'm quite pleased to have found your blog!