Sunday, February 17, 2008

handspun mittens plus

OK, I promised a real blog entry with fiber arts content, and here it is. (co-o-okie! co-o-okie! one more time! C is for ...)

Ahem. My friend Angela requested more info on the mittens, and others might be curious too. First, you start with this batt from Grafton Fibers. This is Corriedale wool and about 4 oz. In order to do a mitten or sock with this sort of color transition, you need to carefully unroll the circular batt. It will then look rectangular. (sorry, no photos of this step)

The batt must be divided equally into two, being extra careful to keep the color transitions equal in both halves. Then, divide each half into the number of plies you wish to spin. I usually do a 2 ply yarn, so each half got divided into two. At this point, there were 4 roughly equal "rovings" of about an ounce each.

In order to keep the colors transitioning at an equal pace, you have to spin a fairly even yarn. I started with the black, and worked towards the bright green. When I got to the end of that 1 ounce of roving, I then took the next "roving" and started with the bright green and worked out towards the black. I took the 2 oz and used a ball winder to create a center-pull ball. Then I plied that ball, matching the black outside yarn to the black inside yarn. This made the first skein, which would result in the first mitten. Since I wanted to keep everything relatively matching, I did the second skein right after the first one, exactly the same way.

My yarn was a two-ply worsted weight. I like thick, densely knit mittens and this worked out well for me. My mittens were knitted in a "Joanne makes it up as she goes along" design since I've knit so many, but I recommend Ann Budd's book The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns if you're looking for help finding a pattern. I have small hands and used #4(3mm) for the cuffs and 7 (4.5mm) dpns for the rest of the mitten, which used 32 stitches and probably was about 4.5 sts to the inch.

I made sure to roll the skeins into balls so that the black was on the outside (cuffs can get dirty) and I started with the cuffs. I noticed the second skein had more black than the other, so I saved some of that for the second thumb. This was a fun and satisfying short project, and since I got the batt in May, a reasonably fast "marinade" in my fiber and yarn stash. You'll note that I did not end up with much yarn left when I finished the mittens. Does this mean that a person with a medium or large sized woman's hand couldn't make this work? Absolutely not! Just spin finer yarn and use small needles. Your mittens will not be as thick but will cover more square inches.

I walked down to the opening night reception last weekend and imagine my surprise when I saw this. My cushions were right in the gallery window! I went back again to shoot a photo of my achievement (since my stuff isn't in galleries all the time or anything) and discovered this. The juried show had winners, and the first place winner was moved to hang right behind my cushions. Wow. I mean, they could have moved the zafus, right?

Several people have asked me how big these things are, and what I think they can be used for. The white and gray Icelandic one is about 16 inches across, and maybe 5-6 inches thick. I knit them with size 17 needles, and probably could have used even bigger needles if I'd owned any.

The green Cotswold and brown Romney one is about 12 inches across and maybe 4-5 inches thick. I stuffed them with wool; I think they would make lovely cushions to sit on, for meditation or just couch decoration. I also think they'd be just fine as "organic sculptural forms," which is what they called them in the gallery. (yeah, whatever...:) I loved making these and hope they sell!

Any thoughts about the mittens? Zafu cushions and gallery windows? Need to join me in the cookie monster song? Please drop me a line and let me know!


Blogger Nancy said...

Isn't it great fun to have your creations on display? I really enjoyed fairs and festivals for mine when I lived in Arizona. Yours are great for that gallery window.

February 17, 2008 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger Marmee said...

Congratulations on a job well done!! Your little zafus look perfect in the window.

February 17, 2008 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Sarah Jean said...

Wow, your zafus look great in the window!
I'm intrigued by the idea of spinning my own yarn. It sounds difficult, though. How did you learn?

February 17, 2008 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger cyndy said...

Yeay! Zafus in the shop window!!!

How very cool to have them "on display"!

February 18, 2008 at 6:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

hi Joanne,
the mittens are such pretty colors, and congrats on the gallery display!

You probably don't remember our meeting at Rhinebeck, marveling at the length of the line for the fleece sale, but I've been enjoying your blog since then. Hope the book is going well!

February 18, 2008 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

I love the zafus!

I have some gorgeous batts and when I am ready to spin them, I am going to come knocking on your virtual door for help and advice.

February 18, 2008 at 6:43 PM  

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