Friday, November 14, 2008

Things I Have Learned from my Briscoe Mittens

So in this episode of "Emily blathers self-indulgently in her blog," we return to our regularly scheduled knitting program. Today I am busy lamenting the fact that I like about a zillion patterns in the new Twist Collective, which requires you to purchase each pattern separately, whereas I'm not crazy about anything in the forthcoming Interweave Knits, which only requires you to shell out once for the whole magazine full of patterns. I am really fond of Twist Collective's Postwar Mittens and Vivian Cardigan, but I'm not sure that I can justify spending $6-7 on a pattern at this stage of my life. I might throw caution to the wind and go ahead and buy the mitten pattern, even though I should be saving that money for things like rent.

It has come to my attention, by the way, that my mitten-knitting fixation is actually part of a larger mitten trend. I'm not sure how I became trendy without realizing it. I think that this is an extension of the sock knitting trend: people are getting a little bored of socks, and mittens are a similarly small project. Personally, I never really got into socks, and I vastly prefer knitting mittens. Mostly, I love stranded colorwork, and I'm not up to doing stranded socks. Stranded knitting has no give at all, so stranded socks would have to fit perfectly in order not to fall down or be too tight. I knit for fun, not to torture myself, so that's not going to happen.

So anyway, my Briscoe Mittens are progressing. Here's where they are right now.


Looking at those pretty, pretty Postwar mittens has reminded me why people generally knit things from actual commercial patterns, rather than making patterns up themselves. Let's just say that my improvised stranded pattern cannot hold a candle to such loveliness. However, knitting these mittens has been educational. Here are some things I've learned from my Briscoe Mittens.

1. If I'm going to knit two-color mittens, I should pick one dark color and one light one. I decided that I would do two contrasting, but equally dark colors, so I've got a medium green and a medium orange. This is driving me nuts. I don't feel like there's enough contrast, and I think the pattern gets lost. I can do monochromatic mittens, like these still-unfinished purple ones:

(Those were the first mittens I ever tried to knit, before I knew anything about mitten construction. I think they've been abandoned. Maybe I'll frog the yarn and knit a real pair of mittens.) Or I can do ones that have a bright or dark color and use white or cream for the contrast color. No more of this orange and green silliness. If I'm going to spend twenty hours producing a pretty pattern, I want people to be able to see it.

2. Stranded knitting is a lot more fun when you have a straight-forward repeating geometrical pattern. My mitten has two parts: a nice, geometrical palm and a fancy, evil Star of David on the back. The palm is really fun and easy: each row has a standard repeat. For instance, my next row will be knit three stitches orange, knit three stitches green, repeat all the way across the row. Easy! The Star of David motif isn't standardized or easy in any way. The only way to know what to do is to look at the chart for each stitch as you're knitting. This is getting really tiresome. In the future, I will not try to draw fancy yarn pictures with my stranded knitting and will instead stick with repeating and geometrical.