Knitting on Four Needles, the Fourth

Last time we ended with knitting up to the top of the thumb.Now we are going to start decreasing our stitches in order to taper over the fingers.  First, count the number of stitches you have.In this case I had 34 stitches.  You will of course have more if you are making larger mittens, or less if you are making smaller mittens.  You will want to decrease your stitches at 5 different points in your row, as evenly spaced out as possible.  Thirty-four is not evenly divisible by five, so I fudged it a bit.  Here I knit two together at every 7th stitch, with the last going at the 6th.Now knit one row plain.In the next row, decrease again, knitting two together in the same places you did it last time.  Remember that you now have four less stitches, so adjust your count accordingly.  Keep going until you reach the top of your hand.So you have stitches here on 3 needles.We want all the stitches on 2 needles only now, divided evenly, so start sliding stitches from your middle needle onto the other two until it’s empty and stitches on both sides are equal.Like this:Now we start the grafting process. For this you will need a darning needle or blunt tapestry needle.I’m not sure I can explain this properly, so I’m not going to bother.  But here is a pretty clear explanation.  Essentially you use the needle as a knitting needle and alternately purl and knit your stitches off the needle, pulling off every second one.For my first try I didn’t do a very good job.  I think I forgot to stick the needle in knitways and purlways, only doing it purlways, and so my edge is not as good as it could be.Now turn the mitten inside out and stick your needle through.Finish it off with a few hidden stitches and tie a knot.In our final lesson we will learn how to finish off the thumb.  Stay tuned!

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Knitting with Four Needles, for the second time

So two weeks ago we learned how to cast on and create a ribbed cuff on four needles for a mitten.

Today we are going to learn how to increase our stitching in order to accommodate for the thumb.

When we cast on, we did ten stitches on the first needle, ten on the second, and then eight on the third.  The third is where this thumb will go.  The unique thing about these mittens is that the thumb doesn’t stick out the side — it comes in front, like it actually does with your hand.  So when you’re making the mitten for the other hand, you would want to reverse the order of your needles, and have it go eight, ten, ten, instead of what we’ve done here, which is ten, ten, eight.  Sorry, I know that’s confusing.  It makes sense later.

Try your cuff on to see if it’s long enough for your liking.

So in the next row, you want to start with the plain knit stitch.  Apparently I knit upside-down, according to my grandmother, so I have to do it in purl.  As you are knitting, you want to increase two stitches on each needle.  I can’t really illustrate this properly, so for good diagrams on increasing your stitches you can look here or here.

On your third needle, the one with the eight stitches, knit the first four stitches, and then purl one, knit two, and purl the last one.  The reason you do the purling here is to mark where the thumb is — it creates a line as it gets bigger and makes the thing easier to find.

So now that you’ve increased you want to knit an entire row (that’s going around the needles twice).  Make sure to keep purling those two stitches to keep the line going.

When  you get to the thumb marking, increase two more stitches inside the purl stitches, and purl the last one as usual.  Knit two rows plain again, remembering to keep up marking those purl stitches.   You can see here what my increased stitches look like.

Next row increase two more stitches in the thumb area and then knit two rows plain and so on until you have 8 stitches between your purl markings.

Continue knitting rows, keeping your purl markings, until you reach the place where the thumb meets the hand.

You can see our thumb line here (from the purling).

More next time!

Knitting with Four Needles

My grandmother makes the best mittens of all time.  There is no question.  And it was her maid when she was a girl who taught her.  Sounds pretty fancy, doesn’t it?  Well these mittens are anything but fancy.  They are comfortable and last for ages.  I still have a pair that belonged to my uncle when he was a child and they’ve held up remarkably well.  My grandmother is also the only person who can make mittens that will fit my tiny carnie hands.  Unfortunately, due to growing pain in her hands due to arthritis my grandmother is no longer knitting, and so my mother and I have taken it upon ourselves to learn all her secrets.

This post is part of the process of learning the magic mitten “recipe.”  First we had to learn how to knit with four double-ended needles.   Easier said than done.  Though she makes it look pretty easy.

You have to keep track of not two but FOUR slippery slide-y needles that will get in your way and cause a ruckus. If you think you can handle that, then we can move on.So you start first with two needles, and you want to cast on ten stitches.Then you want to start to cast on an eleventh stitch, but stop just before you get to the point where you put the stitch on the first needle.Just like that you’re on to the next needle.  Stick another needle through that one and start casting on again.Cast on another ten, and then an eleventh and start again on the next needle.On the third needle we’re just going to cast on eight stitches.This next step is very important.  You take the dangly bit of wool from the first knot you tied when you started casting on and you tie that firmly to the strand of wool you are working with.  What you will see in the below image is incorrect.  As you can see, the cast-on rows are all twisted and higgledy-piggledy, and the knot should be flush with the stitched rows so you have a tight triangle.Make sure the rows on all your needles are facing the same way before you tie a nice tight knot.
Now you can start your knitting, and, because your needles are all connected now you can start where you left off and end up in a circle.  Start knitting, knit two, purl two, switching from needle to needle as you go through, and you will see the cuff of your mitten emerging.It’s hard at first to adjust to the other two needles just sitting there and getting in your way while you work on the first one but you get used to it.  Keep going until the cuff is as long as you’d like it to be.And that, so far, is all I have learned.  Stay tuned!

Aeble-what?

I happen to own, because I am that awesome, an æbleskiver pan.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” you ask.

Æbleskiver.  It’s a Danish treat using apple slices (it’s Danish for ‘apple slices’).  They’re like small spherical pancakes/popovers with stuff in them.  It’s a food traditionally served with glogg during Advent.  You might be reminded of the commercial knock-off, Pancake Puffs, which have recently come on the market.  ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTIONS!

I have the pan because my mother gave it to me.  She found it at a second-hand store.  Hers came from a relative.  We use ours to make the family recipe for Molasses Gems (don’t worry, I’ll give you the how-to for those later).

Anyway, I figured I might as well experiment and see if I could put the pan to its intended use.

Peel two apples and chop them into 1/2″ pieces.  I found this made me end up with quite a bit of extra apple, but better to be safe than sorry and you can always serve it on the side.

Your æbleskiver pan is cast iron, and will take a little while to heat up thoroughly.  Put it on the burner at medium high heat and leave it while you do other stuff.  Just remember that the handle will also get very hot, so be careful.  We have these handy silicone sleeves we slip onto our metal handles.  You can pick them up pretty much anywhere.

In another pan, sauté the apples in two tablespoons butter until softened but still firm.  Sprinkle them with cinnamon and set aside.

In a clean bowl, whip two egg whites until soft peaks form and set aside.  The eggs will fluff up the best if you bring them to room temperature first.  To do this I put my eggs in a bowl of warm water before separating them.

In another bowl, whisk together your two egg yolks and one tablespoon sugar until creamy.

In yet another bowl, sift together two cups flour with one teaspoon baking powder.  Slowly add this, alternating with one and one-half cups buttermilk, to the yolk mixture.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Test your æbleskiver pan to see if it’s hot enough.  Butter should sizzle on its surface.  Reduce the heat to medium and drop about one-eighth of a teaspoon butter into each little well to grease.  Use a pastry brush to cover all the sides of the well.

Spoon enough batter into each well to fill it halfway.  Drop in an apple piece and press it down bit. Be careful not to burn yourself.

Fill the wells to the top.

Allow to cook until the edges of æbleskiver turn brown and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Run a metal or wooden knitting needle (traditional method), skewer, or fork around the edges to loosen the æbleskiver and flip it over inside the well. 

It takes a little bit of practice to do this without getting batter everywhere.  By the end of it, though, I had it down.  Allow to cook through until you can give it a poke and nothing comes out stuck to your skewer.

Remove the æbleskiver to a plate and sprinkle with (or roll in) icing sugar or dip in jam to serve.  Maybe try maple syrup.  Or home-made fruit sauce.  You can of course experiment as well with what goes in the æbleskiver – try other forms of fruit, like mango or strawberry or perhaps something savoury like a nice hard cheese.  Here we have it with whipped cream, lemon curd, strawberry jam, and leftover apples.

Make sure to repeat the buttering process each time you put batter into the wells of the pan.  You can keep the cooked æbleskiver warm on an oven-safe plate in the oven at 250°F while you’re making the other batches.

This recipe makes about 28 æbleskiver, which is four batches in my 7-well pan.