Monday, April 30, 2012

Braided and Tasseled

The thumbs are done, winged largely without a pattern, and now it the final touches to make this truly Saami.

There is much debate over whether or not there is a Saami knitting tradition. Well, tradition as the Nordic countries see it, perhaps not. Saami are traditionally reindeer herding and nomadic. No sheep, no wool, no spinning. However, over the centuries, the Saami have developed into seven or eight branches, the largest being the Coastal Saami of Norway.

The costal Saami are not nomadic. They dwell on rivers and the Fjords, fishing and farming, occasionally hosting the reindeer Saami on their annual trek West. The coastal Saami do have sheep, handspin rather thick singlets, and incorporate the traditional colors of red, white, bright blue, green and yellow. So, these two things, using more than two colors in and using singles, distinguish the Saami knit goods from other Norwegian knit goods through the past 100 years. The Lovikka mittens are made with this bulky single and felted, with yarn decorations added after the felting.

Another distinguishing feature in mittens is a patterned back of the hand with an unpatterned palm. These mittens are knitted in intarsia or with a funky carrying of yarn up the front.  Don't know what it's called, but it is utilized in the Rovanmeni mitten.  Wild and wacky. The Rovanemi mitten is disputed in origin.  I have spoken with a Finnish knitter and scholar who said the knitter of it was living in the Saami region, but not Saami. This technique is used, however, in Kautokeino as well. Some Saami patterns also have a rune or initials knit on the thumb that is knit in the same technique.

These mittens are from a beautiful Norwegian book, Handplagg. The originals are in a museum in Norway and date from the early 1900s. They hail from the Kautokeino region of Norway, an important Saami town, often stopped in during migrations. They have an allover pattern, braid and tassels, the last differentiating feature. Braids and tassels allow a busy worker, reindeer herder or other, to them to tuck the mittens into a harness for a brief moment when the fingers are needed to work individually outside of a mitt!

So... back to my braids and tassels! To finish these beauties off, I have trimmed some rather long pieces of the red, white and blue yarns used in the mittens -- approximately 30 inches long. I pulled each strand through the non-thumb side of mitten cuff until the yarn was doubled, carefully making sure to pull each color through at a slightly different part of the trim; I don't want the braided cord to pull and make damage to the mitten!

Then, I braided the three couplets together, going a bit farther than I wanted.  I fashioned tassels by wrapping the red yarn around a 3.5" plastic case until it was to the desired thickness.  Then, I threaded the six braid ends through a yarn needle, pierced the top of the soon-to-be-tassel, and drew them within until the braid was the "right" length, whatever that is!  For me, it is around 10" long.

I finished off the top of the tassel by winding and binding.  

Here is the first one.  What a pretty tassel!

Then, Oh Horrors!  I went to get the second ball of red.  

No second ball of red.  I had some Rauma finnulgarn (wrong gauge), and some 2-ply Briggs and Little.  A teeny bit off in dye, and a little bit thicker than the Rauma, but I still used it.

Works, doesn't it?  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Picking the thumb

Last night I finally decided what to do with the Saami Nordic mittens' thumbs. I picked out the waste stitches...

Picked up the loose stitches...

Added a few others at the corners, and started knitting!

One down, and one to go!

Monday, April 23, 2012

One More For My Baby, and One More For the Road...

It has been a couple weeks since I posted, and those weeks have been consumed with life and death and baby knits. Friends' relatives have died -- brothers, mothers, and surrogate mothers -- there have been miscarriages, and two friends have given birth. Add to that, the three additional baby showers I have been to, and that's a whole lot of life transitions being commemorated!

Transitions mean stress, and as I complained to my friend, Jennie, about the resulting demands on my time, she said, "why don't you just pull a hand knit gift from your gift box?" haha! Well, her mom had such a thing. I guess I just have to be proud that I am not manic.

That did put me in the mind of baby knitting, though. I have to admit, I haven't done a lot. I knit one cardi before my first baby, and squeezed at least two of the three into it, but I'm pretty sure that was it for their baby hand knits.

Recently, however, I have knit my cousin's first baby an Elizabeth Zimmerman February Baby Sweater last year, and they loved it. As seen previously, I was knitting on a purple garter baby cardi on Good Friday. I was very pleasantly pleased with that knit. The yarn was a reclaimed Knit Picks Shine worsted. I had knit one other baby sweater out of shine before, and it was okay. But, I think the yarn responded much better to just a simple knit. I knit a hat and bootie set for another friend, and then another FBS, hat and booties for a good knitting friend.

That went so well (really enjoyed the Lucy Neatby Celestial Merino hand dyed yarn!), that I decided to knit a layette to enter in the fair for nobody in particular. Well! That must have even my clue to mess up. I knit it halfway in two different yarns, but each yarn, including the third one I finished it with, was so different from one another, and the row gauge was terribly varied. I was using an old pattern that had no final measurements, so that took lots of guesswork. Thankfully, babies come in lots if sizes and grow rapidly, do I know it still will be useful. I just don't know if I like it.

Finally, there was a baby shower two days ago for a dear friend's dayghter's firstborn. Jan died two years ago from ASL, and this would have been her first grandchild. I think I floored Katie by giving her a sweater her mom had knitted. Mark gave me Jan's knit bag, and this sweater was in pieces inside of it. There was no matching yarn, so it was a little tricky, but I think I pieced it well.

Welcome to the world, baby Micah!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Off to Chicago

It is Good Friday, and for the first time in 8 years, the kids have the day off of school. Since this comes on the heels of two, whole, looong weeks off of school, I decided to fulfill a fantasy and finally take the kids back to Chicago's Art Institute.

My honey prepared them yesterday for what this means: long rude to the train station; long ride in the train; computer games only in the train; walking around and probably being bored. I'm so excited!

I brought two projects with me. The first is a pair of Latvian mittens. The second is my perpetual baby project.

On my craft bulletin board I keep a list of all the pregnant friends and their due dates. There are nine listed there. Three were born this week, and another name has been added. Sigh. The requirement for gifts never lessens.

I thought I found a really cute baby sweater pattern when I visited Fort Wayne's Knitting off Broadway store two weeks ago. I inter library loaned the book, picked out a nice fingering weight yarn and started in.

While the pattern is fairly well written, all its directions were with row numbers, not measurements. The gauge mentioned was over the funny lace pattern, not with stockinette, and, since it's a baby sweater, it made more sense to just jump in and let the sweater itself be the gauge.

Unfortunately, my row gauge was much longer than the pattern stated. This sweater was to be knit cuff to cuff, and as a result, the arms and body were much longer than, well, a babies. I also was going to run out of yarn, so into the frog pile it goes!

Now we are on the train. I am winding purple yarn and casting on a baby garter sweater. Here's hoping thus time it works!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

I spotted a sale this weekend!

So glad they were marked down, 'cause I hate buying my Garaes full price.