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You know how it is, don’t you, when you lay eyes on pictures of a beautiful knitting (or any other craft) pattern and you know, deep in your bones, that you’ve simply got to make it, even if it’s the most completely impractical thing ever?
I think, honestly, it’s only happened to me once. Anne Blayney’s Chawton Mitts, published in Jane Austen Knits (2011) by the horrifyingly ubiquitous Interweave, just snatched my heart on sight. I decided to knit them for last year’s Perth Royal Show, and gave myself lots of time to do it.
It was a good thing I did. There were so many snags on the way. Don’t get me wrong – the pattern isn’t necessarily at fault. It runs big, particularly if you’re a loose knitter. I’m not – I knit quite a firm tension – and even I had to drop down a needle size – after I’d knit half a mitt. The twisted rib cuffs were a complete drag to knit, but they do look rather lovely. I dyed a skein of white baby yarn to a creamy off-white so the finished mitts didn’t look too stark, and when I had to knit the cuffs again, and again, and again, I was concerned the yarn would start to look a bit the worse for wear. But it turned out okay and I finally got to the interesting bit – the colourwork.
The tile design on the palm and the cameo surrounds was super quick to work and really easy to keep neat and nice. Honestly – I’d knit a pair of mittens in just this tile pattern. It’s just so pretty. And then, I got to the cameos and realised (clearly I didn’t think this through) that there are colourwork cables in these mitts. I nearly fainted.
They’re not that hard. Don’t let shit like that daunt you, that’s my motto. It’s just knitting, right? Onwards I forged. The cameo began to take form. Onwards I forged, ever upwards to the tip of the mitt. I finished it. I realised that the cameo, in plain stranded colourwork, looked flat and sad, even though I’d researched which yarn to hold above which (I can never keep it straight in my head and just go to my copy of Ann Kingstone’s Stranded Knits when I need that information) to make the design pop out.
So I came up with a strange hybrid of double-knit-intarsia-colourwork-in-the-round. Yeah, I did that. It came with difficulty but once I’d swatched and played with the technique and particularly at the edges of the cameo design, it became perfectly sensible and relatively easy to work…and just look at the contrast. Plain stranded colourwork on the left, DKIC on the right.

Stranding at left, new hybrid technique at right

The inside looks pretty spiffy, too:

I wove through those long floats, in case you were wondering.

I was still happy with the hand of the lady mitt, though, so rather than rip the whole lot out, I did this crazy thing:

Cutting your knitting. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

Then I picked up where I left off and re-knit the lady cameo using the new technique. These beautiful, totally not-me, completely impractical mittens were finally finished.

Finished. Look at those darling thumbs, will you?

They won first prize in their class at the show, and then I gave them to someone for Christmas, who subsequently turned out to be a thoroughly undeserving person. Oh well. It’s not like I’d have worn them.