February 20, 2005


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Beth Brown-Reinsel, guru of ganseys.

Day 2 of gansey class, while we were discussing the finer points of designing ganseys and the gauge thereof, I had the opportunity to ask about re-sizing the River Grass Gansey that I want to make. You'll recall that I made this swatch for that sweater, but then felt stymied by the gigantic leaps between the sizes (jumping from a 36 to a 48 to a 52" chest measurement):

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I showed Beth the swatch and the pattern, and she understood at once the problem. She suggested that I adjust the main cable to get to the size I'd need. In other words, knit the medium-sized sweater, but substitute a cable that would be fewer stitches wide, to make a smaller sweater. Or, knit the smallest size, but substitute a cable that would be several stitches larger, to make a larger sweater. So, Dear Reader, watch for some more swatching in my future. (Beth emphasized throughout the class that, when designing a gansey, one would need to swatch the yarn in simple stockinette, as well as swatch each and every cable.)

Kelli, who was pictured with Margarite and Mt Rainier in my last blog entry, was the only one in gansey class to actually finish the mini sweater during class time. I finished sleeve #1 and most of sleeve #2, but found myself easily distracted during Day #2 of gansey class, which was the third day of the retreat. (I had some Two Swans errands, as well as meeting up with other knitters who'd come to the retreat.)

The most challenging thing for me to learn in gansey class was making the shoulder strap that joins each front shoulder to its corresponding back shoulder. I've never made a sweater that has this construction technique before. What one does is to cast on for the cable (or whatever stitch pattern would comprise the strap), and then use it to bridge together the front and back shoulders. The bridging is done by working short rows, and the connections are made with decreases. Knitting this was an act of faith. I'll confess I didn't quite have the vision for what I was doing, and my first attempt was to join the right front armhole edge with the right front neck edge. Duh. After that, I paid closer attention to the directions. The straps (one on each shoulder) came out beautifully.

Today was Maine Mittens class:
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You'll recognize here one of my absolutely favorite colors, chartreuse, being used in a stranded colorwork mitten. Remember how I vowed in my last entry to pay especial attention to my color choices, to broaden my horizons beyond black and red, beyond purple and red? Ooh, I am sooo tempted to claim credit for this chartreuse-and-blue mitten. Here's the woman who actually knitted this mitten, and who claimed that this color was tiring to her eyes:

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Yes, it's Mary B, a fellow Feral knitter!

The knitter in this class who finished one mitten before lunch break, was:
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Feral Knitter Andrea! (Notice the Fair Isle vest she's wearing?)

I didn't even know, when I signed up for this class last November, what a Maine mitten was or that I would want to knit one. But Maine mittens are a traditional knitting form, and so of course appealed to me with my traditional knitting bent. You can find out more about Maine mittens from the book by Robin Hansen, Fox and Geese and Fences (among other sources).

But, having in the past few days revisited the subject of Fair Isle and stranded colorwork gloves and mittens, my consciousness about knitting these items has been awakened. Beth B-R taught us all about thumb gussets, and I'm ready to tackle more Maine Mittens as well as Fair Isle gloves. Also, because the mittens are double-stranded wool, they are ultra warm -- a perfect item for knitting and donating to the Mongolian childen who live in an extremely cold climate and who are the beneficiaries of the Dulaan Project.

That chartreuse-and-blue beauty of Mary's was sized to fit a child. She was using a thicker wool and larger needles than I. I used Kid Classic and one size smaller needles, but exactly the same stitch count and pattern. Here's the result, wristband ribbing still in progress:


The coin at the left of the mitten is a quarter, and meant to show scale. My mitten might fit a toddler. Notice that I used navy blue and light blue, highly contrasting colors, and broke out of my purple-red-black habit? (Yes, it is true that the minute I saw Mary's skeins of chartreuse and blue, I wished that those were the colors I had.... Still, I'm happy with my choice. This two-color stitch pattern for this mitten, called "Spruce," makes just about every choice of two highly contrasting colors look good.) Again, a fair day's worth of knitting, wouldn't you say?

Everyone in class agreed that these mittens were extremely fun to knit. The stranded colorwork has a four-stitch repeat, and Beth explained up front how to read our knitting and follow the colorwork so as not to get lost. The decreases to shape the top of the mitten follow the colorwork, too -- as do the thumb shaping and tip-of-thumb decreases. Beth's handout for this class was self-explanatory and easy-to-follow (as were her handouts for the classes on Fair Isle tams and on ganseys). I'm willing to forge ahead with not only mitten #2, but even another pair or two of these, they were such a fun knitting project.

Posted by Karen at February 20, 2005 09:01 PM

Hi Karen: Mary B here to say wow--it was great fun to see the picture of my mitten on the blog! I knit like a fiend yesterday (a day off from work!) to finish the second one. I too, enjoyed Beth B-R's class--she is a very good teacher--knowlegeable, friendly and inviting all at the same time.

The story of the green yarn is this: I only brought some to the Maine Mitten class because I'm trying to use it up, having bought an entire BAG of it to make my sister a felted bag and felted slippers (she absolutely adores this color). Combined with the blue it really does look good, doesn't it? It was a very happy color accident for me!

Mary B

Posted by: Mary B at February 22, 2005 08:00 PM

Mary -- a whole BAG of chartreuse yarn?! I understood that you bought it for making your sister's felted bag, but I didn't realize you bought a whole bag's worth! Aiyaiyai, that might be a little much. How much have you used up on the felting projects?

Posted by: Karen at February 23, 2005 03:19 AM

I was fascinated by your Maine Mittens & requested the Fox, Geese etc book at the library. It arrived in 2 days !! so Fair Isle gloves are on hold 'cos I just HAD to try them.
Womanfully managed the Maine cast on 'cos it wasn't supposed to roll, moved into 2 coloured 2/2 rib then onto Salt & Pepper as it was the easiest for a 1st attempt.. Well the edge rolled & how, as much as a stockingette edge, any ideas?
I noticed that your pic of the lt/dk blue mitten you seem to be ending with the cuff, how come?
Hope you are enjoying your R&R, Bunjie.

Posted by: Bonnie/Bunjie at March 3, 2005 05:43 PM

Hi, Bunjie: The reason my photo shows me knitting the ribbing last is this: The class was 6 hours long. We needed to cover all of the essentials for knitting these mittens within that time period, and Beth B-R had no way of knowing ahead of time how experienced her students were going to be. (Essential things to cover in the class included things like thumb gussets, and making those beautiful decreases along the top of the mittens.) So Beth had us start with a provisional cast-on, knit one round, then move immediately into the thumb gusset. If anyone finished the mitten within class time, then that student had the option of starting a second mitten, or taking out the provisional cast-on and knitting the ribbing downward.

In real life, one would, of course, begin the mitten with the ribbing, because one wouldn't be up against that 6-hour window.

I own the Fox, Geese, Fences book, but haven't ever attempted to knit anything about it, so can't speak to the cast on that is used there. Perhaps someone else can comment on this?

Posted by: Karen at March 4, 2005 02:00 AM