Oh knitting, you fickle, fickle art. Some projects positively fly off the needles (and I'm not just talking about those projects on bulky yarn and size 12 needles!) while others make me run and hide. I had been doing so well on my Christmas knitting and then I got completely stymied by the last pair of mittens.
There were mittens I made this year where I tried completely new techniques, and made up the patterns as I went (see above and below, the ones below are flip top mittens with an attached i-cord for the button loop, hello improvisation!) yet this last one is currently entering its fourth attempt. The first attempt was a new pattern I'm designing, I did the color chart on a hat and liked it, then I started adapting it for mittens, that's when I encountered problems.
I have become a thumb snob on my mittens, when I started knitting, the afterthought thumb was sufficient (it has no gusset or gore which means no shaping, it is the easiest to add to a pattern as the name suggests). Now though I have come to prefer something with a better shape. I'm a big fan of the thumb gusset on the Give a Hoot Mittens which I posted on here. I incorporated it in the mittens above easily enough, but here's the thing about that gusset technique; it does not play nice with stranded colorwork! I figured a side seam gore would do the trick (thumb comes out of side of mitten and you do increases and then transfer the extra stitches to some waste yarn) but was having a hard time getting the colorwork pattern to line up with the increases. Add in the fact that this was going to be done on fingering weight yarn, size 0 needles, and I thought there was no way it would be done for Christmas.
So I moved on to the second iteration of Plantress' Christmas mittens: a folk mitten pattern titled "Mittens from Halland." They were all lovely and good, except that it was worsted weight yarn, on size 2 needles, and I was silly enough to use acrylic yarn. The knitting was at such a tight gauge, that with a yarn that doesn't have any natural give to it, I felt like I was fighting e v e r y single stitch. OUCH! My hands and wrists started hurting and I was making such slow progress that I just stopped by the Franklin Mill Store on my way home from work and bought two skeins of lovely Berocco Ultra Alpaca. Worsted weight, natural fiber yarn on size five needles? I did a mitten in a day! Then, disaster. This mitten was a little snug to begin with (7.5" diameter, and I tend to think 8" or 8.5" is nicer) and it had ... [dramatic pause] ... an afterthought thumb! GASP, the horror! I tried the mitten on and it was too snug, pulling in an unsightly manner around the thumb, and I just couldn't do it. Going with the mindset of "anything worth doing is worth doing right" this mitten is getting frogged. I cringed thinking about someone opening up their Christmas present only to try it on, be understandably disappointed, and then feel like they had to tell me how great they are.
So tonight I start anew. Same pattern, same yarn, but I will add four extra stitches on each side and do some extra stitches before the thumb, and before the decreases to achieve a better fit. Hopefully I can bust through these mittens this weekend. Then I just have to sew buttons onto my mom's mittens and block them, lengthen the arms on my mom's sweater and block it, and Christmasknittingpalooza 2010 will be done!