Mitten naïveté

First, a quick thank you for stopping by and complimenting my Mother of Pearl scarf design! As I mentioned, it’s been fermenting in my brain for a long, long while, and I’m happy to hear that you agree that it was worthwhile to unearth ;).

And now, on to mitten happiness! Happiness because I have finally started knitting the Lillyfield-Anemoi hybrid in earnest, and I love, love, love it!

To be perfectly honest, it took me a long time to get to this point. I had so many false starts, it’s embarrassing. I think I had a whole week of just nonstop frustration! Sometimes it was simply moments of after-work dumbness. Other times I made poor choices. There was also the instance of totally misreading the directions. Plus training my right hand to purl took (almost) as long as training for a marathon. And let’s not forget constantly second-guessing the size.

The sizing issue might actually be a helpful discussion, so let’s talk about it a little more.


Basically, my helpful readers advised me that I might want to make my mittens bigger than the obvious “circumference of my hand.”

Through Margene’s post on mitten sizing I got a hold of Cathy-Cate (yeah, it’s complicated), who had the following words of wisdom to share with me (edited for length and formatting):

The difference between gloves and mittens, is that gloves need to fit like (yes, wait for it!) a GLOVE for comfort and usability, but not

so mittens. A mitten needs to be significantly bigger than your hand to fit ‘right,’ if knit at usual mitten gauge (sturdier, denser fabric). Also, try holding your hand in mitten position with fingers together. Then hold it that same way for 60 seconds. Starts to get uncomfortable! You need room to spread and bend your fingers.

Same idea for length, a bit more is better: a mitten I made recently looked fine, was 1/2 inch or so longer than my hand, but in wear, the

tip of my middle finger kept touching the end, and it drove me crazy. I ended up ripping

and re-knitting it almost an inch longer and now it’s great.

It’s warmer too when there’s a small shell of air around your hand to trap the heat (then that sturdy knitted layer to keep it in).

Cathy-Cate’s thoughts were reiterated by many others.

One more thing to add, pointed out by Christy: “I think some ease around the hand is good for unlined stranded mittens so that you don’t snag your nails or rings on the yarn.” I hadn’t even thought of that!

In summary, here are some reasons for knitting mittens with a bit of ease:

  1. A pocket of air around the hand will create a warmer mitten.
  2. Finger claustrophobia – not really as fun as it sounds.
  3. (Specific to stranded knitting) A little wiggle room prevents fingers, nails, and rings from getting caught in the yarn.
  4. (Specific to stranded knitting) Having ease prevents the colorwork from getting distorted.

What about my mittens? Had I incorporated enough ease? How much do I really need? When pressed, Cathy-Cate and Margene independently gave me the same answer – about ½ inch.

And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what I had charted in my latest version of the pattern – my 7.5″ hand, going into a mitten that’s 8″ wide. So, I’m staying with the 72 stitches I calculated earlier. Score!


For the length, I ended up deleting a few rounds, to be on the safe side. You see, I’m measuring my row gauge based on that teeny swatch – who knows if it’s even accurate! (I’m still opposed to the idea of knitting an entire mitten for the sole purpose of measuring gauge.) And if it is correct, my mitten would be more than one whole inch longer than my actual hand. Ease concerns aside, more than 1″ sounds like total overkill to me.

Plus, take a look at the Lillyfield pattern – the beauty is all up top, near the fingertips. I would hate to knit to the very top, and then have to squish that section in order to shorten the length! On the other hand (ha!) if I’m running short, it’s simple enough to add more rounds of the background motif. It’s actually a very clever solution that’s incorporated in the Anemoi design. That’s why all those swirls are close to the wrist, I now understand!

(the new lily is on the right)

I didn’t think that I needed to re-chart the lilies in order to shorten the length. Instead, I just took out 6 rounds from the bottom of the design. Simply cut them out, and to my eye, their absence didn’t change a thing. Onward!


We all agreed that incorporating a gusseted thumb was the best choice in this pattern merger. So, I didn’t think about the thumb until I had knit the cuff (see below) and reached the very stitch that required increases. At this point, I simply followed the Anemoi instructions for inserting the gusset (where to increase, the method of increasing, how quickly, until how wide) but used the patterning of the Lillyfield – 1-stitch stripes. So far, so good!


I did not forget those of you who strongly advised me to make a longer cuff! I’m with you – I hate short cuffs! Plus, I have several “bracelet-length” sweaters and one jacket which likes to ride up on my wrists: long mitten cuffs are a must when wearing those!


As you know, the Lillyfield design will be mirrored when time comes to knit the second mitten. Question: should the flowers face each other, or face away from each other? Sharon recommended, and I agree, to have the flowers face each other at the tip of the fingers. So the chart you keep seeing, and the mitten I’m knitting first, is the one for the right hand.

ETA: this is also the way Jennifer Coleman resolved left-right symmetry in the original Lillyfield design.


As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, enjoying knitting this pattern didn’t happen instantly. Here’s a rundown of some of my adventures, roughly in the order in which they occurred.

1. The tubular cast-on is an old friend, but I highly favor one particular way of doing it. I start with a provisional chain equivalent to ½ the total number of stitches, then k1, yo all the way around, and go from there (Periwinkle and Art Deco berets are both started this way).

The Anemoi mittens also begin with a tubular cast-on, but specifically the one where you twist the yarns around the needle (i.e., not my way). Plus you don’t join in the round right away, and there’s knitting through the back loop (oh, the horror!).

My brain could not compute the discrepancy between my usual way, and the pattern’s way. So it took me between 4 and 40 attempts to finally get it right.

2. “Repeat Round 2 17 times more” is not the same as, “Repeat Rounds 1 & 2 17 times more.” Misread and frogged at least 3 times.

3. For stranded knitting, I hold one color in my left hand and the other in my right. My left hand can do anything – knit, purl, yarn over, decrease, increase… My right hand can only do two things – knit, and drop stitches. In this pattern, we are asked to purl with both colors, which necessitates purling with my right hand. Gah! It’s more difficult than knitting laceweight with a banana!

4. Something didn’t exactly add up in the Anemoi chart. Correct me if I’m wrong, but only 66 out of the mitten’s 68 stitches are charted. Then there are some side stitches which are purled, which are perhaps not on the chart. Right? And that makes the stripes going along the sides of the mittens not symmetrical? I wish there was a better picture, or better yet, all the stitches were included in the chart!

I did a lot of reading, re-reading, counting, and charting to try to figure this out. End result – I’m still not sure what Eunny wanted us to do. Screw it, I’m just knitting three CC (red) stitches along each side of the mitten!

5. It was when I was knitting those yellow-blue arch-fitting knee highs that I discovered knitting colorwork on dpns was not comfortable for me. It’s one of the few occasions where I prefer using two circs for knitting in the round! And yet, there was a lot of frustrated head-banging-against-wall this week before I remembered this and switched to some simple Susan Bates circs. Much better!

Is that it? I’m sure there’s more, but I’ve selectively erased it from my memory ;). Here’s hoping that it’s smooth sailing from here!


48 thoughts on “Mitten naïveté

  1. Cathy-Cate

    Let’s see if the internet gods let me comment directly today….I think I’m on a different computer, so maybe!

    I’m so glad that Margene and I and you came up with the same number for ease. That number was somewhat empiric so it made me a bit nervous.

    The above is quite a tale of woe and persistence, but oh, my! It’s already looking stunning after 3 inches! Wow, good call on the chart mods; as you said, adding length is easy if desired, but not shortening it, and that gorgeous Lillyfield curve should not be squished. (I have a personal love for red and white, so I am loving watching you knit these, without having to personally go through all the angst! Vicarious mitten knitting!)

  2. alex

    I solved the mitten sizing issue by knitting tip down with a gusset. The idea is similar to a seamless raglan sweater. Here is a ravelry link to my pattern:

    The pattern is written for bulky weight handspun, but the idea works for any weight yarn. The thumb is knit first, with the same structure as a toe up sock. Then the hand is knit. The thumb and hand are joined at the widest part of the hand and decreased toward the wrist.

  3. Lynn

    Giving you a big thumbs-up on the red and white, and a big thank-you for sharing your thought processes, false starts, etc.

  4. CraftyCripple

    I feel that I learn very valuable lessons when knitting bloggers with years of experience explain exactly how they get to their fabulous looking finished items. It re-emphasises to me that if I want my knitting to look halfway as good, I need to pay attention to everything and keep trying until I get it right.

    The mittens look fabulous, I never thought I would like mittens as they remind me too much of the string through the sleeves, mittens of childhood. These ones are proper grown up mittens and now I want some.

  5. Trish

    I have many memories of watching video tutorials and simultaneously attempting the tubular cast-on you need for those mittens. I didn’t realize my husband was watching from the other room. He said it looked like I was trying to direct an orchestra. He laughed every time he looked at me for a whole weekend……

  6. Elinor

    Christ, Kathy. This is the most thorough post ever. You are amazing! I love seeing your methodology come out in this. I can’t wait to see how these turn out!

  7. Mary K. in Rockport

    Seconding Carole. I can’t believe I find the intricacies and setbacks of knitting fascinating, but I do.

  8. April

    Beautiful as always, and what a great tip about stranded being easier on two circulars. I haven’t learned that technique, but it might be just the thing to save my endpapers from the frog pond. They’ve just been sitting for a year+ because I love they way they look, but I hate working on them. Off to find some circs to give it go…

  9. Lara

    What an interesting post; I love when you write about your process.

    And I think you made a good decision with the sizing! Wasn’t it Elizabeth Zimmerman who said “There is nothing horrider than a tight mitten”?

  10. carla

    I can confirm, through sad experience, that you made the right choice with regard to cutting the length. With my Lillyfields I wasn’t exactly on gauge, but even still, I think they’d be too long no matter what.

  11. Camille

    This is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your process.

    Say, if pressed, could you recommend your top 5 sock knitting books? I’m a novice sock knitter and I love the way you think about knitting.

  12. Emily

    Those mittens are coming along beautifully! Your tension in colorwork is enviable.

    I am right with you on purling with the right hand. I’m working on sweater with a fair isle yoke right now and it’s all the focus I can muster to keep the darn yarn in my right hand. Sometimes I think I’d be faster to just drop the right-handed yarn and pick it up again for every single stitch. Ha.

    Anyway, wonderful post.

  13. Sylvia

    Excellent mods.

    Ease. I’ve found that many young people, especially kids with ADHD, need [at times desperately] to be able to make a fist inside a mitten. Most people appreciate a snug end of thumb with no extra bulk at the tip so gripping things is easier.

    Definitely enjoying the vicarious mitten knitting. Thanks for posting your thoughts and details and charts.

  14. Julia

    Lovely! your analysis as always is so illuminating. I have a question about your tubular cast-on method–I also use this method (or since I’ve only tried tubular cast-on a couple of times I should say “I have used this method”) but I found that when I pull out the provisional chain, the cast on edge flares badly. In my most recent project, I had to use a yarn about half the size of the main yarn, and needles about three sizes smaller than the actual needles, to knit the provisional rows to try to avoid this. But since no one else mentions this I wonder whether it’s something I’m doing wrong. I would be really interested in knowing more about your method and whether in your experience it is prone to this problem.

    Thanks as always for a wonderful blog! I learn so much…

  15. Laura B.

    I love the gusseted thumb. I think the colors, the pattern, and the overall fact that it is there makes the mitten even more beautiful. But I am a sucker for gussets with fair-isle.

    I know that it is a bit too late, but the ring/finger issue made me think of something my mom did for a pair of mittens with fair-isle at one time. She used an i-cord cast on and then knit the whole mitten with its color work. Then she picked up stitches and knit a lining with two strands of kidsilk haze. It made the mittens much more cozy and prevented anything from getting caught in the colorwork.

    But don’t take anything apart. That’s just for a future project idea!

  16. kelly

    I made a pair of mittens from scratch using a colorwork fair isle pattern last year. I ran into so many of those issues! The cuff is just a bit shorter than I’d like, and the colowork does pull in a bit more than I’d like. But I’m so happy to see that I’m not the only person to run into these issues!

  17. Katie W

    The mitten is looking great. I agree about the dpn issue with strands work; I start the post-war mittens (twist) on dpns and ended up switching to magic loop. I’m much happier now!

  18. Diane

    Your mittens look great so far! I’m also amazed that your preference for circs v. DPNs for knitting in the round is the exact opposite of mine. I just love knitting single color things on circs (socks, in particular) but have a terrible time maintaining tension when doing colorwork. When I am changing colors *away* from the change of needles, I find I often pull it too tight. DPNs resolved this for me completely. Good luck and I can’t wait to see the finished product.

  19. Erica

    Thanks for sharing your process on these mitts; it’s fun to see other people’s design process (and all the false starts that go into it!). I actually like the chart better with the bottom rows removed. It seems more balanced. The mitts are going to look great.

  20. Yvonne

    You’re right about the Anemoi chart. There are two columns of purl stitches that are not charted.

    This makes the symmetry wonky while you are knitting, but you fix it while blocking by putting the purl stitches on the left and right edges of the mittens, making a purl sandwich. You can sort of see how it works in a couple of my pictures here (see also my notes about finishing mid-way through the post).

    Eunny uses the side columns of purl stitches in the Endpaper Mitts too. It’s kind of a design signature of hers, but you’re not going to miss out on anything by skipping it.

  21. Jessica

    What a great entry! I sort of wish all knitbloggers had posts like this, including myself. Perhaps you have inspired me to be better. 🙂

  22. BarbOutsideBoston

    I’m interested in your dpn vs circs thoughts.

    I started my Anemoi on dpns and only one mitten is 1/2 done while the Selbuvotter pair on 2 circs fairly flew to completion!

    The one disadvantage I found with 2 circs is the strands tend to pull between the needles even more than with the dpns so I knit them inside-out. I was wondering how it’s going for you?

  23. yoel

    The mittens are looking fabulous so far! Thanks for going through the work of figuring out what makes a good mitten–basic sensible stuff that ends up making or breaking a project!

  24. Heather

    Love the way you’re doing the thumb especially–and now I am trying to figure out how to work the term ‘finger claustrophobia’ into my daily conversation!

  25. Sherri

    I made two pairs of fingerless gloves this winter and have loved wearing them – so much that I’m ready for mittens (and gloves). I really appreciate reading your conclusions on ease in mittens – this is something I simply wouldn’t have thought of until I suffered from Finger Claustrophobia. Or hooked my ring in the stranding. 🙁

    Why is knitting fair isle with dpns so difficult?

  26. Amy S.

    “More difficult than knitting lacework with a banana”. . .{snort}

    Wonderful post, gorgeous mittens. The tips on sizing may help me knit mittens my kids will actually wear.

  27. rachel

    The most bizarre thing I noticed about the Anemoi Mittens is that they are light colored mittens with a dark contrasting color, not dark mittens with a light contrasting color. I had finished the ribbing before I noticed that “CC” in the charts where the huge swaths of dots…the color that my mind automatically translated to the MC from looking at pictures of finished mittens.

  28. Margaret

    Ha! Your problem #2? Yeah, I did the exact same thing when I made my Anemoi mittens. And I actually thought the beaded effect was kind of cool, but I still ripped and reknit. Glad to hear I’m not the only one to misread the instructions that way.

  29. liz

    When I was working on figuring out double knitting I found that I could not handle a strand with my right hand, so I followed a tip I found on some blog somewhere (I apologize for not being able to credit the blogger): try wearing a ring with a raised setting on the pointer finger of your left hand (or whichever finger you pass your yarn over)you work both strands continental style, with the ring holding them apart. I found this much easier than re-training my right hand and for what I was doing I didn’t want to buy one of those specialized stranding rings. (As always, your mileage may vary.)

  30. Helen

    Thank you for sharing your mistakes as well as your success! A blog such as yours can be very intimidating to us lesser knitters, but it’s good to know that you are human! 4 – 40 attempts for the tubular cast-on sounds about right for me too. A relief! 🙂 Beautiful blog, thanks for sharing!

  31. Carla

    She’s absolutely beautiful. Yes, I know she’s not finished but… she’s beautiful. And please understand that I am not laughing at all your mistakes but comforted by them. It can take me many false starts and lots of mental sweat to finally get going on a project. It’s nice to know I am not alone and that even Grumperina sometimes has issues with her knitting.

  32. Carla

    She’s absolutely beautiful. Yes, I know she’s not finished but… she’s beautiful. And please understand that I am not laughing at all your mistakes but comforted by them. It can take me many false starts and lots of mental sweat to finally get going on a project. It’s nice to know I am not alone and that even Grumperina sometimes has issues with her knitting.

  33. Helen

    Gorgeous mitt…

    And thank you so very very much for sharing your stumbling blocks with us.

    This may actually mean that I skip some when I tackle a similar project, but will certainly mean that I’ll have a clue what to do when I encounter them, and will struggle for a shorter time. Bless you for that!

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