Knitting with Four Needles, for the Third Time

If you’ve been following along, you know that my grandmother is teaching my mother and I how to knit mittens on four needles.  Check back for part one and part two of the lesson.

Last time we knit up until we reached the thumb, or the spot where the thumb connects to the hand.For this next part you will need a large safety pin.  You can also use a stitch holder, which is basically a giant safety pin, but the safety pin is smaller and won’t get in your way here.Knit around to your first purl stitch (or if, like me, you apparently knit backwards, your first knit stitch).  Knit that one, then slide the next 8 stitches onto the safety pin (those are the ones between the two purled lines).  Knit the last stitch in the row.Now your thumb stitches are secured and will happily wait until you get back to them.So now you want to knit around the row again until you reach the point where your stitches are hanging out on the safety pin.  Cast on another 6 stitches right here.This is the part that fills in the hole left by the thumb.Now just keep knitting and knitting.  You see how there is now a gap for the thumb to go.Keep knitting away until your rows are even with the top of your thumb.  More on that next time.

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!

Felting Old Wool Sweaters

As you may know, I’m doing a DIY Christmas this year.

Many of the projects that have come to my attention recently have involved re-using and re-purposing old things you don’t want anymore.

Some of those particular projects involve making items like mittens and hats out of felted wool, which is easy to make and fun.  When natural fibres such as wool are washed and rubbed against each other, the fibres shrink and separate, tangling with other fibres, creating the thick, durable material we know as felt.

Take yourself some old sweaters.  Sweaters that are 100% wool (or merino, angora, cashmere, etc., all the natural animal fibre ones) work the best, but I experimented with two orange sweaters which were 90% wool and 10% nylon.  I picked up most of these at Value Village.Chuck them into your washing machine and wash them in HOT water.  Just make sure you turn all the knobs back when you’re done so the next person doesn’t accidentally shrink all their clothes in the next load!

I managed to produce a large ball of wet sweater babies when I cleaned out the washing machine.Pop them in the dryer when you’re done and when they’re dry they should be felted.  You may have to do this more than once if your sweaters are loosely knit, just to get all the fibres tangled up with each other. If you can cut into the sweater without it unraveling or fraying then you have successfully felted your wool.

You can see how much smaller the sweaters are now.  This used to be a medium-sized adult man’s sweater, and now it would maybe fit a two-year-old.

I removed all the stuck-on sweater babies with a fuzz comb.

Stay tuned for all the fun things I plan to make out of these!