Category Archives: Mittens

Substituting Yarn for the Turoa Mitts from Drop Dead Easy Knitting and a Giveaway.

In my ongoing attempt to knit all of the book’s projects, Turuoa Mitts, Abide Shawl and the Oxbo socks are hands-down the winners for frequency so far.

Turoa mitts gale

The Turoa mitts are simple to make, look complicated, take very little yarn, and people love them. One of my knitting students is on her fourth pair, plus an additional mate for the daughter who lost a mitt.

The book project used Fibre Company Road to China Light.  A lovely yarn, but not carried in my LYS. Azula Oasis, alas, is discontinued due to production issue.  A big part of the concept of Drop Dead Easy  is that you can find a yarn at your LYS that will work for every project.  The book has a list of substitute yarns in the back, and although I haven’t used any of the recommended subs for the mitts so far, I have used two yarns that I especially enjoyed using, West Yorkshire Spinners BFL DK, and Brooklyn Tweed Loft.

One of these yarns is listed as a DK, and one a sport. Can I use either one? Here’s my test for checking how that might work out when trying to sub yarn.  Warning – this a quick and dirty check.  You still need to make a gauge swatch!

Take a length of each yarn, and compare.  Then loop and twist together.  Run your fingers along the length of the twist.  Do they feel similar, or does one feel much heavier? The bulky vs. the super bulky test.  The bulky yarn looks thinner, but not by much.  When twisted, especially as you feel it, it is more obviously lighter.


The gauge for the Turoa Mitts is 24 sts over 4 inches.  The Loft for sure works to that gauge, and I made a pair with one skein.  I shortened the mitts by a couple of repeats, just to make sure I would have enough yarn.  They are still plenty long enough.

Turoa Loft

In fact, I had enough of the yarn left that I could use it as a pop of brightness in the Sidekick Hat I made in Loft.

Sidekick Small Loft copy

Here’s a side by side view of the Fleece BFL and Loft:


I can’t find (or didn’t take) a photo of the twist test, but they seemed fairly close, so I cast on and started.  When testing gauge on a small project like this, I just start.  There are few enough stitches to cast on that it makes sense to just move ahead with the mitt.  You get a true reading of the size, and if it isn’t right, you have no more to rip out than a generous gauge swatch.

Finished mitts in the BFL:

bfl mitts

You may notice that they are two different sizes.  I shall pretend that I did it on purpose, so that yarn shop visitors (these are currently at Double Ewe) can see what size works for them.  The reality is I forgot what size I was making, so one is a small and one is a medium.

Go see what your LYS has to offer, or shop your stash.  I’m eyeing a skein of Pediboo, now called Hikoo Sueño, for a January birthday.

Want a skein of Loft to try yourself?  Tell me what scares you about subbing yarn, or share tips on how you check when you start to think about subbing.  I’ll draw a name and send the Loft your way!


December Stitches

November is gone. All those folks out there swe-moing and wri-moing and nan-blo-po-moing were having fun and I got to read about it. I was wmao –ing, so not wanting to sit at the computer in the evening after a long day of computer sitting. I also had dental surgery and need to have more. Whine whine.

I experienced a lovely little December activity yesterday – I dug up the last of my leeks and potatoes. I had mulched them with hay about a month ago, waiting to see how they would hold up. They held up just fine, and the leek and potato soup is excellent. I expect I could mulch the potatoes heavily and still dig them up in January, but really, I just don’t think I could motivate to go dig when the temperature is hovering near zero, or the hay is under a foot of snow.

I have been knitting away, of course, and got some new designs done. Have you ever found a stitch pattern that just grabs you by the fingers and drags you along, so you finish a project you weren’t even planning to start? I recently found one of those. I am always looking for simple stitch patterns, suitable for socks, that are easily memorized and have several plain or almost plain rounds for resting and pretending to take notes during meetings. I started a pair of socks in some stash superwash DK in what I’m calling Tendrils Rib. (It’s Japanese, so it doesn’t have any name I can determine.)


As I worked on the socks, I thought that they were so cozy and snug feeling, that the pattern might work perfectly for mitts.


Yes, it does. (Pattern for these now at The Yarnery, soon to be up on Ravelry and in my shop.)

Well, what about more mitts? What about a hat?


I am thinking of mittens next.

I like twisted stitches, but not too many in one pattern, since my personal knitting technique causes me to twist my wrist a bit more than usual and I end up a little sore. These have only a few twists, just enough to make the ribbing snug and attractive, but not too many to be irritating.

There are lots of way to do left and right twists. Right twists are simple, knit two together, then knit the first stitch again and slip the stitches off the needle. Left twist can be more problematic. You can work it like a tiny cable, taking one stitch off, working the next, then putting the first stitch back on the needle. It looks good, but is way too much trouble to me. I have sampled several other techniques:

Left Twist (LT) Methods

  • Skip the first stitch and knit into the back of second stitch, knit the skipped stitch, then slip both stitches from needle.
  • Skip the first stitch and knit into the back of the second stitch, then knit the skipped stitch through the back of the loop and slide the entire unit off your needle.
  • Skip the first stitch and knit into the back of the second, then knit BOTH stitches together through the back of the loop and slide the entire unit off your needle

I used the first technique, because although the left leaning twist stitches don’t look as smooth as the right twist, it is easy to work, and doesn’t tighten up the left twist more than the right twist, at least the way I knit. There is one technique that has you purl into the back of the second stitch. Unless there is a really good reason to purl into the back of a stitch from the right side, I’m not going to do it. It’s so awkward. That reminds me of a student in my class the other night, learning how to increase by knitting into the front and back of a stitch. She is a very quick learner and I’m not sure why she was having so much trouble with this. So much trouble, in fact, that this pre-med student said she found cutting up cadavers simpler. Must smell worse, though.

Now I’m using the new Malabrigo Sock yarn for a lighter weight sock. The Malabrigo colors are gorgeous, and it is quite soft. The wear factor is yet to be determined. IT was hard to photograph, so I tried to scan it, but that didn’t work much better. If you can find the yarn in person, go look for yourself.


Anyone out there who would like to test knit the socks, or the mitts, or the hat, let me know. I’d love it.


Leftovers Mittens Part II

Please consider making a pair of these in any size and donating to someone who needs them. Contact me if you want places to donate. The receptionist in the courthouse where I work told me this morning that every week she gives away 6 or 7 pairs of mittens as well as hats. Kids often come in for family court wearing socks on their hands, or nothing at all. Today is has not gotten above zero.

The recipe continues in a wordy manner. For the Sgt. Friday approach, here’s the Executive Summary.

Ingredients: Yarn. My first two pairs were in worsted weight, but I also did a pair in machine washable DK weight especially for donating.

dk-mittens.jpgJust remember if you use DK to go down a needle size and take into account that they’ll be a bit smaller unless you add more stitches.

Amounts are a guesstimate, but these are leftovers, right? The Adult mittens in the Kureyon and Naturespun weighed 100 grams, 3.5 ounces. I’m figuring that since I switched main color and contrast color, that I used equal amounts of each. A 50 g ball of Kureyon is 109 yards/100 meters. I used the same almost full ball of Naturespun for all of these mittens and still have about 20 g/.70 oz left. If you have lots of little bits of colors, you could make stripes one or two repeats wide. This would look great in lots of bright colors. Note to self: dig out some of those bright scraps…

I started on the Kureyon mittens with US3 DPN’s, then switched to the deadly life threatening two circulars. You’ll put your eye out has new meaning for me. I was never allowed to use my brother’s BB gun anyway.

My gauge for the worsted weight is 6.25 per inch, for the DK wt, 7 per inch.

Choosing a color pattern

I’m including a chart for a traditional Scandinavian color pattern in the Executive Summary, but search out your own if you are so inclined. I wanted a simple, easy to memorize repeat. I did not want to be slave to a chart. Most traditional knitting patterns had to be easy to memorize, because no one could photocopy them to pass around to the neighbors, so I don’t think looking for an easy pattern reflects poorly on my motivation. There are many sources for small two-color patterns. Two favorites of mine are The Mitten Book, by Gottfridsson (OOP) and Scandinavian Knitting Designs by Pauline Chatterton, also OOP, but available at a reasonable price. What I like about both of these books is that the patterns are listed by repeat stitch count. So you can look for a six-stitch or twelve-stitch, or thirty-six stitch repeat, based on your gauge and chosen mitten diameter. I have included a chart of mitten measurements in the Executive Summary. I tried to figure out a percentage system for these mittens, but with no luck. Vibeke Lind, in Knitting in the Nordic Tradition, has an illustration with some percentages, but they didn’t really translate for me. (No pun intended.) Truly, I’m not trying to show off how many OOP books I have in my library, I’ve just been buying books and knitting for a long time. The current prices on some of these are quite loony in my opinion, and there are really good newer books. The lesson is to buy the books when they come out if you can. I was lamenting not buying Everyday Knitting , Treasures from a Ragpile, by Annemor Sundbø, when I saw you could still get it at Schoolhouse Press. Excuse me while I go place an order.

To make these mittens straightforward, I used a simple shape with no thumb gusset, and chose a 6 stitch/6 row repeat. This repeat adjusts easily for different sizes. For the cuff, there are many options. The adult mittens and the Kid-size mittens used an i-cord cast on, for the DK toddler size, a 2×2 rib.

To start the Kureyon mitts, I chose a bright color from the Noro stash bag, and worked a length of I-cord the same number of rounds as stitches needed for the first round of the mitten.


I took this idea from Elizabeth Zimmerman, of course. I have made large numbers of two-color Norwegian style mittens using her basic formula over the years. I have only one sad one left, its mate dropped in the snow outside of a yarn shop, never to be found again.


What kind of a fiend would find a single hand-knitted mitten near a yarn shop and not pop in with it, figuring the knitter would be back to claim it? Maybe there is a Flickr gallery of sad single mittens, or a meet your mate site of some kind. SWLHSM* seeks SWRHM color, yarn content irrelevant, for snowball making, snow shoveling and long walks in the cold.

Using two DPNs, work a length of i-cord the same number of rounds as stitches you will need to start your mitten. Err on the side of making it longer, you can always rip back when it’s time to weave or sew the two ends together. That’s much less frustrating that coming up a few rounds short when picking up your stitches.

For the first mitten main color (MC) , I used black. I always seem to have black worsted weight around. For these, dye lot and brand wouldn’t really matter, so dig into the stash. Using the MC, pick up one stitch for each round of i-cord. My Noro mitten was worked over 54 stitches. (Divisible by 6, even to me, the mathematically impaired.) Pick up 54 sts, join into a round, then purl one row, so you have a round of garter ridge. I did not do this on the first mitten, and regretted it. I used the same size needle for the i-cord that I used for the mitten itself. Since the two-color gauge is tighter, this caused the mitten to flare out a tiny bit at the cuff. You may or may not like this. I used a smaller needle for the green and black mittens, and it looks tidier to me. Knitter’s choice.

pick-up-cuff.jpgI worked six repeats of the stitch pattern. After the last all black round of the sixth repeat, I knit the first twelve stitches of the new round with a length of brightly contrasting yarn, then put these same stitches back on the left needle, continuing on with the pattern. This is called a peasant thumb or an afterthought thumb (EZ), described in great detail in many places, but here’s a couple of links:

Another method, which I like because you can try the mitten on, is to put these thumb sts
on a safety pin or length of yarn/ribbon, and then when you get back there, cast on 12 sts and keep knitting. Kind of like a button hole.

pin-thumb.jpgAgain, knitters choice.

I worked six more repeats, then began to decrease for the tip. The only percentage I found to be true was that the decrease took 20% of the total length. So if you want a mitten that is 11 inches long, start your decreasing at about 9 inches. I round up. If you don’t like that, start your decreasing when the mittens are 8.8 inches.

Place a marker after the first half. (50% of total stitches) Be sure to use a different color or type of marker from your beginning of round marker. It reduces the thinking required to figure out where you are as you decrease. Although I like to consider myself a thinking knitter, I don’t want to have to think too much while I’m knitting.

At the beginning of the round, SSK, knit to 3 sts before the 50% marker, K2tog, K1, slip marker, SSK. Work to 3 sts before the beginning of round marker, K2tog, K1. Repeat these decreases every round until you have about 8 sts left total. Towards the end, it can get a little awkward, so work the decrease rounds in the two-color pattern for as long as you can stand it, then break off the contrast color and finish up in the MC.

With the first mitten, I worked all the decrease sts in black. For the second, I worked the middle stitch of the decrease in the contrast color. See which you prefer.

For the second mitten, I used the Kureyon as the MC, and the black as the contrast color.

In order for you, dear reader, to see the color pattern more clearly, I used the same pattern and 6 fewer sts, for a mitten in two solid colors, Eucalyptus and Black. This is intended for a biggish child, whatever that means. A second grader? I’ll be donating these, so it doesn’t really matter, it will fit some kid somewhere. (Naturespun worsted, felted clog left-overs.) I used a berry color for the contrasting i-cord, worked on US 1 needles.

Unravel the thumb sts from their contrast yarn and pick up the bottom and top sts, or if you used the buttonhole technique, put the sts from the safety pin on the needle and pick up the same number of sts from your cast on sts. In both cases, pick up one stitch for each side of the thumbhole.


I worked a thumb two repeats wide in the Kuryeon mitt and one repeat wide in the Naturespun mitt, and worked the back of the thumb in stripes. I justified this by telling myself it made this part of the thumb sturdier, but the truth is it was just easier that way. If it is sturdier, which I believe it will be, that’s a bonus.

The decreasing for the tip of the thumb can match the pointy top of the mitten, or be rounded. I prefer the rounded. If you want pointy, use the directions for the top of the mitten, starting about 1⁄2 inch shy of desired length.

For the rounded tip, after working the thumb to a few rounds short of the desired length, I broke off the contrast color and using the main color, worked a decrease round of K1, K2tog, one round plain, then a round of K2tog. (If these decreases don’t work out evenly it doesn’t matter. Truly.)


*Slightly worn left handed black and white Scandinavian mitten

Leftovers Mittens – Part One

I have finished up all currently open large projects, and have several to start. Worse, I have several that are finished and written up in a raggedy way and need to be written up in a more coherent fashion. I struggle with this aspect of my knitting. I write up most of my patterns in a fairly traditional way, because that is what has been requested.

I do not knit from patterns like that, however. I use patterns, when I use them, in the same way I use a recipe. Hmmm, that looks like a good idea, what if I replaced the bacon with mushrooms and ham? What if I made something in that stitch pattern but in a smaller/larger gauge and used it for a hat/mittens/felted bag? You get the idea. This is, in fact, the way I learned to think about cooking. My mother always bought Family Circle and Woman’s Day when she went grocery shopping. Then, when there was a quiet minute, she’d sit at the formica table with a ‘cuppa joe’ and scan the recipes. “Listen to this one” she say, and read it to me, but as she read it, she’d replace ingredients based on frugality, (“You don’t need heavy cream, I could use evaporated milk.”) creativity, (“Maybe a little orange zest would be nice.”) or experience (“They’ll be soggy if you do it that way, but what if you….) My father would shake his head and ask her why she bothered reading the recipes, since she was just making up new ones anyway

To me, that was the beauty. What a gift to learn to think about cooking in that way. Discovering Elizabeth Zimmerman while I was rediscovering knitting in my early 20’s was like having my mother reading recipes to me. I even began a correspondence with EZ, but that is another story.

Sometime my mother’s culinary creativity came in the form of problem solving with leftovers. (Not that there were normally large amounts of leftovers in a family with seven children, all of whom were ‘good eaters’.) In that spirit, here’s my recipe for stash-buster mitts, using leftovers.

I started with my container of leftovers, a small bag of Noro Kureyon color #52 remnants.


I made a sweater using this color but decided I didn’t like the bright chartreuse (sorry Theresa) and every time I came across it, I broke it off and put it aside. I also chose to match sleeves and body, so there was a fair bit of breaking off of colors and winding the ball till I came to the color I needed. (Thank heavens for spit-splicing.) There was too much to throw away, but in a pile of tiny balls it was rather uninspiring, and has been sitting around for a while. I should have weighed this before starting, but didn’t. I think it was probably the equivalent of close to two balls.

I decided on mittens in part because this year I had few mittens to donate to the various mitten trees around town. It also seems that, in the way that interests in the world of knitting go, there is a currently a sort of mitten revival show happening. I thought I’d put together a stash-buster mitten tutorial in the hopes that those trying to reduce stash and those who want to knit mittens might make a pair or two for donation purposes.

I made a fraternal twins pair of two color mittens, one using the Kureyon as the contrast color, and one using it for the main color. The difference is subtle, but interesting. I think the mitten on the right looks more like fair isle colorwork, where the background and contrast colors shift. It also turned out to be a bit larger, because the Kureyon is slightly heavier than the Naturespun worsted that I used for the second color. Not enough to worry about, and certainly a ‘blocking will fix that’ problem.

I finished the two color mittens, and still had plenty of yarn left, so I made some mitered mittens (EZ Knitters Almanac) alternating the scooby doo green with the other colors in 3 round stripes.

Here’s what I have left. Still too much to toss?


Over the next week I plan to publish the rest of the details and prepare a chart and an Jack Webb Executive Summary for those whose eyes glaze over at too many words. Stay tuned and dig out those half balls of worsted or DK yarn.