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?  


Karin said...

Beautiful mittens ! Wonderful to read all your research !

vanessa said...

Gorgeous mittens!

vanessa said...
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