I’ve been excited about colorwork mittens for a while now – and the design of the Flora Mittens stood out miles from other colorwork mittens I’ve seen. This pattern is available in a bundle – five patterns in all (for about $25). The designer recommends that new-to-colorwork knitters start with the first pattern in the bundle and work their way to pattern number 5. Flora is third pattern, not the easiest but also not the most technical. I would consider myself a colorwork newbie, but I decided to jump straight to the pattern that stood out the most. I’m happy to report that it turned out just fine.
I have been knitting for six years and these are my first proper pair of mittens. Sure, I made the obligatory newby mitten trial pair with acrylic yarn and poorly shaped thumb gusset (that was also back when I was unaware about weaving in ends… I tied everything in knots). I spent two of my winters in St Louis – which has a mild winter according to my Minnesotan climate gauge – in bulky scrappy mittens made from acrylic scraps found in a dumpster. Last Christmas I made my mom a pair of double layer mittens for her winter walks to work. It was this pair of insulated northern style mitten that made me realize I was lacking proper mittens.
Of all the knit items, I think mittens are the best way to show off knitting skill – yes, that’s right, mittens. While sweaters, scarves, and hats are amazing, a beautiful pair of mittens will add color to the dullest of dark winter days. Waving hello to someone with a stunning mitten shocks them out of their winter hibernation coma.
For these mittens I chose to purchase yarn. In my stash of thrifted sweaters waiting for unravelling I have yet to pick up some good wooly options. Trying to find two sweaters in the same weight yarn with colors that would work together was a challenge I was unwilling to take on at the moment. However, after completing these mittens I can say this challenge seems less overwhelming. My curiosity for rustic wools has been growing – and I wanted to see for myself how knitting with and wearing wool compares with my usual knitting projects (which are dominated by merino and alternative fibers).
The yarn I ultimately chose (though it’s lacking in true rustic-ness but the colors are on point) is Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok in October Sky (blue) and Quartz Crystal (pink). The wool is sourced from Peru. I was glad to find that the yarn company has documented the source of their wool in a blog post (you can read it here). The yarn is sold in 50 gram skeins which is the perfect amount for one pair of mittens for about $8. One pair of mittens for $16? I can justify that as a luxury project. Would I use this yarn again? Perhaps, I appreciate that the source of the wool is documented, but it does have to travel quite a distance to reach me. I’d like to explore the colorwork potential of American produced wools in my next pair of mittens. For my usual knitting projects (sweaters and larger items) locally produced ethical yarn are usually out of my budget – but a small project like 100 gram colorwork mittens might be the perfect way to support local yarn producers without breaking the bank.
I’ve done colorwork before – but the last major colorwork project was this cardigan back in 2015. So deciding to jump into an intermediate colorwork pattern was definitely a risk. On my first mitten I had a couple of blunders – there’s some misplaced stitches that I chose to keep rather than rip back and replace. The second mitten, however, I would describe as perfect. I was expecting this pattern to be difficult and overwhelming, but I was pleasantly surprised how fun it was to knit these mittens. Deciphering the colorwork chart was like solving a scavenger hunt – following clues which create a magical result.
Colorwork involves the new and added difficulty of holding two strands of yarn but only knitting one at a time. I’ve experimented with different techniques including holding one strand in my left hand and the other in my right, wrapping one over my first finger and one over my second, and dropping the strand of yarn I wasn’t using. I finally settled on the Norwegian style of tensioning colorwork – holding both strands on the same finger. As a continental knitter, this method requires more dexterity in my right hand as I pick the correct strand of yarn – but I found it created the most even tension of the four methods.
I now recognize my new love for mittens. These also only took me three days to make. I have four other patterns in the Selbu Mitten Club bundle – and you can bet I will be making more colorwork mittens this year.