Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Those Fingerless Mitts I Mentioned...
Those were truly a fun project - and one from which I learned a lot (again) about spinning for a specific purpose! But let's start at the beginning of the story. Picture me climbing into the passenger seat of a very high full-size van en route to do something undefined at that strange place where I earn the money I put into necessities like fiber and yarn.
My partner in staving off tedium threw a red blob in my general direction. "Hey, you knit, right? Can you make these? I go through about five pairs a winter cleaning out the barn."
Well, that's a challenge! What are these necessities for the horsey...good grief - these are just fingerless mitts!
"Why on earth do you go through so many?" I questioned.
"Because hay and pitchforks are tough on dime-store mitts," he replied. "These are crap!"
I took a closer look. While probably not literally dime-store mitts (anybody got a dime-store around these days?), they weren't what I would expect to see as working wear. Loosely-spun and -plied acrylic yarn, knit at a gauge that, while perfect for a sweater, isn't too good for something you're planning to wear while actually working. The palms were abraded by the pitchfork handle, the ribbing at wrist and fingers too short and also abraded, and the backs of the hands picked almost to pieces by the hay.
I cogitated for a couple of weeks. It is summer, so I had plenty of time. Every once in a while, my brain would throw out a question for my partner in the effort. "Does color matter?" "Put your hand down on this piece of paper and let me draw around it." I threw a couple of swatches (knit in the round from various handspun samples) in the right general direction and asked, "Is this OK, or is it too prickly?" We both withstood the teasing that came our way from our co-workers.
The result of this was a two-ply sport-weight yarn worsted-spun from about 2 ounces of gray Corriedale top purchased from somewhere or other several years ago that's been marinating in my stash. Bradford count on this was low for Corriedale - about 52 - so it was a good, sturdy yarn. I did try three-plying, by the way, but the mitts were more like armor (too stiff and too heavy for East Tennessee), so I dropped back to two-ply. Firmly spun and firmly plied. Final yarn is 16 wpi. Then I started swatching again, wanting a firm fabric that wasn't so stiff it wouldn't move with the hands. A final gauge of 6 sts and 8.5 rows per inch on size 2 needles worked out quite well.
These are simple, fingerless mitts. Patterns abound, and I won't post another one here. I did "modify" them to fit the needs of the wearer with longer cuffs (3.5 inches to slide under a barn jacket) and tighter fit (negative ease of about an inch) to keep them from sliding around on the pitchfork. The gauge was firm enough to keep hay from scratching through the mitts. I kept it simple despite an impulse to make a button-back mitten over the fingers.
I tossed them on my buddy's desk last week. He was totally delighted! But he's a Minnesota boy who appreciates warm, well-made knitwear. Otherwise, despite the intriguing nature of the challenge, I wouldn't have bothered. Just goes to show that a challenge (and appreciation) can come from the most unlikely places...