a girl and her boy

. daily life : wool obsession : bibliomania : living on purpose .

February is for Finishing

Yes, I know. I know. The rules for February is for Finishing included having a list up by February 1. Well, I did have a list. A mental one. That list has just one thing on it.

I am *going* to finish this cross-stitch piece this month even if it kills me, which it won’t. It just might keep me sleep deprived, that’s all.

Since this photo was taken in January 2010, I’ve picked it up and worked on the wing and ribbons at the bottom of the piece and they’re now up and around the sleeve just under the earth. It’s pretty much a matter of finishing the ribbons, fixing the hair and wing gap, filling in the earth, and attending to the flowers. I can do that.

I couldn’t find the original photo that came with my pattern and this is the best image I could find for the finished piece online:

When I’m done with it, I have a plan for what to do with it. After I finish and attend to some details, I’ll fill you in. It involves preparing it as a gift for someone who has done a lot for me.

I began this cross-stitch piece in high school, freshman year I think. My best friend’s mom pulled the thread out of her own collection, gave me a hoop and needle, and put the first stitch in for me. I’ve thought of her every time I work on it and thank her for the wonderful person she is and example she was to me as I wandered blind in high school. Emmy, your mom is awesome, but you knew that already.

Emmy’s mom, Susie, is mother to everyone that walked through the doors of her home. Nearly every time I was over, there were a few extra kids in the house visiting Phil, Em’s brother, or just hanging out. People loved being there. I loved being there. I felt loved and welcome. I felt accepted. Em’s mom had a way of making every person feel special and capable of doing extraordinary things with their lives. She showed this love by word and deed:  she made every one of her “kids” a graduation quilt with a special message handwritten and sewn on. I have mine tucked away in a special storage bag in the closet waiting on a home where I can get a quilt rack to display it honorably. And she knew how to enjoy life and laugh. God. I don’t think I laughed as much or as hard anywhere else. Susie Estabrook, you are one of my greatest inspirations. Thank you for everything!

After I’m done with the cross-stitch piece, I have two sweaters, two cropped cardigans, and pair of socks to finish knitting. Hopefully I can keep the voices in the stash silent while I get this stuff done so I don’t add to the UFO list. Speaking of the stash, I have the goal of, other than specific items requested by people and funded, I am knitting and cross-stitching out of the stash strictly this year. As soon as I gather my courage to sort through the basket and two buckets of yarn, I’ll post photos of the stashed goods and post pictures and intended projects. Keep me honest and knitting!

Barrel Magazine

My friend Amy had one of her posts featured at Barrel Magazine (Issue 4). Check out page 44. Congrats, Amy! 🙂

 

Super What?

Millions of football fans tuned in to the Super Bowl yesterday to watch two teams compete for the championship. Years of hard work on an individual level and a year of hard work on a team level came to fruition yesterday. For a few, their dreams of ultimate success came true.

I didn’t watch. I don’t watch. It doesn’t make sense to me on any level.

Back in high school, I loved sports. I played field hockey and knew how huge it was to have fans and neighbors come out to support the team as we represented our hometown. In turn, I went to the soccer games, football games, cross country matches, basketball games, etc. to support my friends and classmates in their representation of our town. I was proud to be from Skowhegan, home of the field hockey state champions several years in a row and home of the basketball team; home of the drama and speech team; home of my friends and family and neighbors.

I also coached. I coached kindergarten basketball, helped with flag football, track and field, softball, soccer, etc. I had my hands in local sports every season as a fan, a coach, an assistant, as a player. Sports are an incredible resource for developing a person’s character and way of handling the world.

In college, I went to the hockey games and was a proud “Main-iac” with a blue and white painted face. I even went to a few football and basketball games and one cross-country match. Even though the athletes were often recruited and given hefty scholarships to come to Maine to play, they ultimately chose to play for Maine and represent the Black Bears.

Pro sports just don’t have what it takes to keep my interest like high school and college sports. The players are traded and lured with big contracts. Taxpayers foot much of cost of building and maintaining the stadiums in hopes of increasing revenue and tourism for games. The players get themselves into trouble and become questionable role models for youth. I just don’t care about pro sports.

But I could, if things were different. I often wonder what pro sports would be like if they were run the way I think they should be. I wonder what pro sports would be like if the players were actually from the regions they represent.

If the players for Boston sports teams were from the greater Boston and New England area. I wonder what would happen if a player had to live and pay taxes in a region he wanted to transfer to and play for before being an active member of the team, say one or two years, and during that time, be an active member of the community.

I wonder what would happen if instead of taxpayers hefting the cost of stadiums (just one of many related articles – take a look!), if a percentage (10%?) of the profit from ticket sales, merchandise, and endorsements went to supporting local schools.

I wonder what would happen if the players, as part of their contracts, donated time to their communities: coaching youth sports, engaging in literacy and writing programs, engaged in community revitalization projects and home building projects.

I wonder what would happen if a player that gets in trouble with the law is suspended from playing for a season or two for minor offenses and are banned from playing for major ones. I wonder what would happen if communities began owning their teams on a much deeper level than happens now by sending their youth to play for their region’s team. How would it change a region’s identity?

I really wonder what would happen if any one of these things happened. I know that I would have a far greater interest in pro sports if the players for my region’s team were actually from my region. I’m curious. I want to know how the teams would look if the current players out there were actually playing for the team they “came from.” I’m going to work on a project to match players with their home region and see what the teams would look like. Could be interesting.

If you could change pro sports, what would you change? Why?

Anywho. I hope you have a fantastic week. Make today great!

It’s a Snow Day. Who’da thunk it?

It’s been a few days since the last post. Those days were spent fighting with my Internet source, battling this cold that keeps hanging on (it’s turned into sore ears, a burning throat, and coughing, but it’s still just a cold according to the doc this morning), meeting with new professional contacts, house and pet sitting, and taking care of life stuff.

As I sit here clicking away at the keyboard, I check over my shoulder every now and then at the progress of the road crews cleaning up this latest storm to hit the Boston area. The snow began early morning and the storm warning stays in effect until Thursday morning. I believe at the last update we’re supposed to get 10-15 inches of snow in this storm, and another is coming in on Saturday. Considering the last few winters were mild, I really shouldn’t complain about the inches we’re getting this year. It goes in cycles.

The snow this winter has given me ample opportunity to think about some of the differences between living in rural Maine and living in urban Massachusetts. When I comment on the weather, people ask where I’m from. I respond that I’m from Maine to which they say, “so, shouldn’t you be used to this?” Well, yes, to some extent.

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Gabe climbing out of the car and over the bank when we ate at the S&S in Cambridge last week.

 

There are quite a few differences in dealing with the snow and cold in Maine and dealing with it here on the coast in Boston. For one, most places I needed to go in Maine were too far away to make walking reasonable; so I drove everywhere. I never dealt much with slushy, snowy sidewalks in central Maine, nor did I have to try parallel parking on a narrow street lined with cars and snow banks taller than my car. As far as I know, there also are not many places that have the wind tunnel effect in Maine in the places I lived, other than when I was on campus at UMaine. That was tough. I’d have to say, though, that the Back Bay of Boston is colder and windier than I remember UMaine being. Anyone else have experience being on campus at UMaine in the winter to chime in on this?

snowbank

A few cars on a side street in Cambridge. I snapped the shot to illustrate how lucky I am to not have to try parking in an area like this!

 

In addition to the differences between Maine and Mass, this winter has given me a chance to contrast the living environments I’ve thought I wanted and the one I’m in now. When Gabe and I first started looking for a place in Boston, I wanted a nice apartment with charm and character in a well-established neighborhood. Instead, we’re on the frontier of the city surrounded by new construction and parking lots. If I had it my way, I probably would have been parking on a street like the one shown above. Instead, we’re living in a newer apartment building in the city and the car is in a parking garage two blocks down. Thank you, Gabe, for finding this place and talking me into it’s merits! After this winter, I’m so grateful to not have to shovel out my parking space, the walk, and clean off my car once a week! To those that do, I commend your efforts this challenging winter!

* * *

Gabe and I spent the majority of the weekend in Marblehead house and pet sitting. I used the distraction-free environment to chip away at filling out online job applications and updating my materials at various job databases, as well as make some progress on my novel. Gabe caught up on Modern Warfare:  Black Ops. We both have our priorities, you know. His avatar’s rapid footsteps and gunfire was competition with my typing. It’s hard to say who won.

From Marblehead, we went to Belmont for a gaming party with some friends. The gaming parties are always a blast. There were a variety of games in play, but I sat at the Small World table twice and then played all of the expansions of Playtest (We Didn’t Playtest This at All, We Didn’t Playtest This Either, Blue Cards, Dice, and Chaos)  and then Bang! The Bullet. Great games. I want to buy them all for my own collection. We also played Once Upon a Time with the Dark Tales expansion at the end of the night.

What was interesting about that night in particular is that for most of it, Gabe and I sat at different tables gaming (there were probably 20 or so people there). A few years ago, I don’t know that it would have happened. I used to be closed off and unable to interact with people without a shield. I was very proud to realize how much I’ve grown, and it’s good to know that past decisions in relationships are showing their value.

I just checked:  Yup, it’s still snowing. Thought it may have stopped by some miracle. I hope you have a good and safe day this snowy Tuesday. I’m off to make some ginger and thyme tea to chase away this cold!

A thought for Wednesday.

words-speaking-blue

“A tree is known by it’s fruits; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindkess gathers love.” Saint Basil

Happy Wednesday!

Mittens and UFOs. Oh, my!

I’ve been working on making mittens for Gabe and his folks lately (1 of 3 so far!) and as I wrote about earlier, I made a huge leap in my mitten making. I won’t go into it again in this post, but you can read about it here. Instead of trying to explain what I did, let me refer to you the indispensable Knitting Help article with videos on Knitting Increases. I used the third method down on the chart, M1R and M1L. Why I didn’t think of using this method for increasing on thumb gussets before? Anyhow, I’m using them now and that’s all that matters.

I was unable to get some good pictures to share for a few days as the lighting in the apartment hasn’t been the best, and it’s been too cold to go outside and get pictures in my favorite local park. I have some now, though! Here they are:

Classic Mitten for Gabe

Mitten one and mitten two on the needles.

 

Classic Mitten for Gabe

See what I mean about holes? When I stopped correcting the twist, I stopped making holes.

***

In response to my attempt at making her recipe, Chocolate-Covered Katie wrote in the comments:

Oh you are TOO sweet!! :) :) :)
Seeing this post just made my day. Your blog is adorable!

Well, thank you, Katie! I love your blog, too! I hope I can do your recipe justice soon!

***

On the original mitten post, Mittens:  A Knitter’s JourneyTK wrote in the comments:

I love making mittens. My favorite part is the thumb gusset–I always use the M1 or lifted increase, unless I’m following a pattern with a different style of thumb. For some reason my ease is always off and my mittens are very snug. Except the thumb, which is nearly always perfect.

I see what you mean, TK! This is such an efficient and beautiful way of making increases.

***

In an email to me, Jennifer R. wrote:

Thanks for updating me!  I hadn’t read your blog before and just read your latest post on mittens.  I don’t normally read text posts all the way through, but this was a very heartwarming story. 🙂  You’ve just given me such a great idea of knitting hats for charity – I just learned how to make hats and it seems like the perfect useful gift for someone!

Thank you, Jennifer R., for your kind words! It means a lot that you had such a great experience reading the post. It reminded me, as well, that I haven’t done as much charity knitting as I used to and would like to. You’ve inspired me to make that a greater part of my day!

After finishing Robert’s Scott Pilgrim hat, I had a skein of blue and brown wool left. I woke up Saturday morning and had a burst of inspiration for charity knitting! I’ll be posting a colorwork chart for baby and kid hats soon! Stay tuned!

***

FebisforFinisingroseandblack

Did you know that February is for Finishing? As stated in the rules, I must have a complete list of UFOs (unfinished objects) by February 1. I know what I’ll be doing this afternoon. (March is for making mates for all those mittens and socks!)

***

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Tea-for-one pot, bone china cup, and citrus to fight off a cold with beauty and VitC

I’m nursing the cold I wrote about yesterday with ginger, thyme, lemon, and honey tea. Little things, like pretty tea-for-one pots and pretty bone china cups, make cold season more tolerable.

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Pretty tea pot!

 

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Gabe gave me a set of four for my birthday. He's a keeper, for sure!

***

Stay warm! Enjoy your Tuesday!

Real quick…

So, I made my “big” post of the day this morning, but I wanted to share a few experiences and thoughts from the day.

career thoughts

I’ve been working steadily on updating my teaching portfolio and resume for the coming school year. I’m really excited to step back into a classroom! While I’m hoping and praying for a teaching position this fall, I’m also looking at the Boston Teacher Residency program, a part of the Urban Teacher Residency national program. Gabe loves living in a city, and I don’t mind it, so I think going into a program that specializes in urban education, and provides dual licensure in SPED or ESL is on deck. Plus, in this economy, it would be foolish to put all my hopes on a regular classroom position. I’m looking into alternative routes to restarting my career. The program is a 3-year commitment. Through this program, I would earn the following:

  • Master’s degree from UMass Boston (MA #2 on deck?)
  • MA Initial Teacher License and dual licensure in SPED or ESL (this would be sweet!)
  • $11,800 stipend for living expenses (currently earning $0)
  • AmeriCorps Education Award for those eligible (need to figure out what this is)

I already have a MA degree, but getting a stipend, a dual licensure, networking in the Boston schools, and forgiveness of one-third of the program for each year I work in the system after would be well worth the time. I’m going to attend an information session at the beginning of February to learn more.

Alternately, I’m thinking about the Teach for America program. I know some people who have completed that program with great success following.

What do you think?


health thoughts

Stupid cold germs! Gabe was sick all last week with a cold and today it caught up with me. I didn’t notice it until about an hour ago when I woke up from an impromptu nap with a congested chest and nose. The last time I got viral/germ sick, I had to take a z-pack and get chest x-rays. Got to love asthma and allergies during cold season; every cold could be a knock-down drag out fight for health.

Further, I fell off the grain-free path today. I had a handful of gluten-free grain chips. Boy am I feeling it! My abdomen hates me right now. What better motivation to stay on the straight-and-narrow is there?

Other than the cold and abdominal discomfort, all is well. I’m going back to tweaking resumes and online teaching positions database profiles. I use School Spring and Teachers-Teachers, in addition to scouring Craigslist, Monster, and individual district/school websites. Do you teach? Are you applying for positions? What national or local databases do you use?

Food Love: Pumpkin Chip Pizzert and Kale Crisps.

I love food related blogs/posts. They inspire me to get creative in the kitchen and to explore new ways of providing nourishment for Gabe and me. Here is my recent inspiration from the blogosphere.

THE PIZZERT. MY VERSION:  PUMPKIN CHIP PIZZERT

I came across a drool-worthy post Sunday afternoon by my long-time favorite writer on her blog Berlin’s Whimsy. I devoured the photos of her baked creation through the laptop screen then followed the link over to  Chocolate-Covered Katie where I found the baseline recipe for the Pizzert and encouragement to experiment.

Copyright Berlin Whimsy. BW's beautiful pizzert.

I didn’t wait to try my hand at modifying.

Copyright Chocolate-Covered Katie. CCK's pizzert.

As a modification, as I’m learning grain-free baking and cooking since figuring out my body can’t digest grains, I decided to try using almond flour instead of the wheat flour called for in the original recipe. Except I didn’t have almond flour. I had a 3 lbs. bag of almonds. Without delay, I pulled the Cuisinart Mini-Prep food processor out from under the counter and poured a handful of almonds in the bowl. As the blades began whirring, I hoped that I wasn’t about to kill the poor little electronic device! It made such an awful racket and seemed to struggle at first.

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Go, Mini-Prep, go!

 

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Ehh, it might work...

 

The results looked more like paste than flour, but I went with it. I added almond milk for the liquid, a few swirls of agave (though I am beginning to have my doubts about using this sweetener), pumpkin puree, and chocolate chips to round it out. I poured the batter into my newest and favorite pie plate and set it in the oven at 350 degrees to bake alongside the kale crisps I was making at the time of reading the post.

DSCN8132

I love this pie plate! Who'da'thunk it came from Christmas Tree Shop!

I crouched in front of the oven with fingers crossed. When the edges began rising much like those of a traditional brownie or cake batter, I squealed in delight. It was working, thus far!

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Woo-hoo! It's rising! Never thought I'd be so excited about a simple thing. =D

It looked fantastic while in the oven. It tasted fantastic when I dipped into it. Two problems though:  1) I forgot to butter the pie plate so it stuck; 2) the almond paste was a little heavy and the pizzert was only about a quarter-inch thick at best. Next time, I’ll either use almond flour from a mill that I buy at the store, or I’ll talk with Gabe’s mom before grinding the nuts. I know she grinds her own macadamia nuts for pie crust; she must have suggestions for grinding almonds and other nuts.

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Here is my pumpkin chip pizzert, flaws and all.

 

At least it tasted good! I’ll work on it and make the next one even better.

KALE CRISPS

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Yuuuuum! Did I mention how much I ❤ kale crisps?

 

I love kale. I love kale crisps. I love nourishing my body with this super-food leafy green. The process of making kale crisps is quite easy but can be a bit of an oily mess if you’re anything like me in the kitchen.

Today, when I made the kale crisps, I used a bunch of kale, olive oil in a mister, and a little salt to sprinkle on top. In the future, however, I’d use a fat source that is stable under high heat like butter or coconut oil and sprinkle the crisps with garlic powder instead of salt.

Kale crisp making basics:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Chop and rinse the kale. Place the kale on a baking sheet and mist with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Place in the oven. I honestly don’t know how long to put them in the oven because I’ve never timed it. I leave them in there until the edges start turning a dark reddish brown color and they are crispy to the touch. Maybe 10-15 minutes?

I always buy two bunches when I make kale crisps because I know that the first batch will only result in half of the amount available because as I put it away it’s “one for me, one for the bowl.” 🙂

One of the significant reasons I so heartily appreciate this preparation is that it provides that flavorful crispiness while providing a lot of nutrients. They are as satisfying as a potato chip while packing a body-loving punch! The Gluten-Free Girl wrote about kale crisps as well as Organic Thrifty, as well. I loved their posts and they’ve inspired me to make significant changes in the way I make the next batch.

Happy Monday, all!

Sunday mornings are the best.

Ahhh. Sunday morning. I love Sunday mornings. It’s the one day a week I allow myself to sleep in a smidge, and then read in bed first thing in the morning. It’s lovely.

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I ❤ breakfast now!

 

Once I got myself up and out, I turned my attention to breakfast. In days past, I would reach up over the refrigerator and pull down one of many boxes of cereal and shake some out into a bowl, plop on some blueberries or craisins, or both, and pour on some almond or coconut milk (my dairy milk days have long been over). Since the news from the doctor and personal discovery through trial-and-error that my body cannot process grains, I’ve had to change things up quite a bit.

I’ve been fully grain-free for a little under a week and I’ve realized just how common grains are in my, and most people’s, diet. Changing it up has been a creative challenge.

This morning I was prepared. Gabe and I sat down yesterday afternoon and planned out meals and snacks for the week and went grocery shopping. Pulling from those resources, I started the day with scrambled eggs, made with almond milk, and chopped red pepper, nitrate-free apple-wood smoked bacon, and green and red grapes. A breakfast like this far surpasses the ol’ cereal and almond milk of the past. Today is Sunday, however, and quite relaxed. What to do on the weekday mornings?

Luckily, as I’m presently not working, I have the chance to experiment. Ideas include chopping and prepping veggies on Sunday, or the evening before, for morning meals including sweet potatoes for home fries, peppers and other such veggies for omelets and frittatas, and making nut flour muffins. Do you have ideas for grain-free breakfast items? I’m creating a list of them to prevent frustration and backsliding. Further, do you have ideas for other grain-free meals? I am presently working on modifying traditional meat-based recipes (stews, for instance thickened with almond or coconut flour instead of wheat flour), but am looking for a variety of vegetable recipes that are tried and true. What are your favorites?

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Last night's delicious dinner: roasted chicken and carrots, mashed cauliflower, sweet potato and carrot soup.

 

Lunches and dinners are a little easier. Those meals are more traditionally based on healthy fats and proteins and lots of veggies. For instance, last night I roasted up a free-range organic chicken and served it with mashed cauliflower, roasted carrots, and my long-time favorite sweet potato and carrot soup. The chicken bones and bits are set aside to make chicken soup later today.

I really enjoyed the mashed cauliflower, by the way. I have the idea to make shepherd’s pie using it to replace mashed potatoes on top. The thought of this dish is making me hungry all over again!

veggies

All ready for the week!

 

Now that breakfast is out of the way, and veggies are peeled and chopped for the week, I can turn my attention to knitting the afternoon away.

I hope you have a fabulous Sunday spent the way you like them.

Mittens: A Knitter’s Journey.

Image from the pattern of my favorite mitten "recipe."

 

I grew up with two grandmothers whom loved knitting. I was lucky to have them as mentors. Nonnie, my mother’s mother, sent boxes of mittens to us every winter in every color and size imaginable. Some of them were knit in acrylic, some in wool. I didn’t know the difference in material then, but I did know the difference in quality. The mittens Nonnie made lasted longer, so long as they didn’t get lost, than gloves or mittens purchased from a store.

Nana, my father’s mother and the knitter I thank for teaching me, as far as I remember anyway, knit sweaters mostly. She was working on a brown and pink cardigan for me in her final days of a losing battle with lung cancer; she never finished it. My aunt, Kelly, finished it. She, too, knits and would send us boxes of mittens each winter as well.

When the mittens arrived, I would study them carefully and wonder that anyone could make such things! I had no idea how one would go from cuff to thumb to fingertips. All I could manage at the time was miles and miles of flat garter stitch on my powder blue size 6 Susan Bates needles Nana gave me.

I began knitting at Nana Sirois’s knee in Byron on those size 6 needles when I was about the same age as the needle size. Wrapping the yarn around my finger, then transferring it to the needle opened a doorway to a world of creation and meditation that I hope never closes. Those beginning days of learning the knit stitch are still with me:  up through the window, around the back, down through the window, and off jumps Jack. With brows furrowed in concentration, I murmured those words as I taught my fingers to coordinate the needles and yarn.

My second year of college I grew weary of garter stitch pot-holders, dish clothes, and scarves and yearned for something more challenging; I had been knitting nothing but garter stitch for about fourteen years at that point. The resident assistant on my floor in my dorm knit and proudly showed off her hats to admirers. I asked her to teach me.

Then I knit boxes full of hats and shipped them off to shelters and other need-based organizations accepting donations.

I soon grew restless again. It was time to learn to make mittens.

Scouring the web, I found patterns but none that gave me the support I thought I needed to learn how to make this particular garment. Then I came across Katharina Buss and her book on knitting. This book is where I learned how to knit by gauge, how to adapt patterns for various sizes, and how to knit colorwork. And yes, she taught me how to knit mittens.

That first pair though. Oy! It pains me to think back on that pair now.

By this time, I was in graduate school. I cracked open Buss’s book and set out to make my first pair of mittens. I had a lovely lavender wool to work with and I was off to the races.

The cuff knit up just fine in a basic knit two, purl two rib. But when I got to the thumb gusset, that’s when I made my first error. I misread the pattern. It told me to increase by one stitch on both sides of the first thumb gusset stitch. No problem. But then, I continued to increase by two on both sides of the gusset, not the one stitch on each side as the pattern meant. By the time I had knit up the rows in the pattern, I had something like 50 stitches for the thumb, instead of the 15-17 that is typical! And I didn’t know the difference somehow. I continued knitting along and thought everything was fine. I made the second mitten for the set to match. Ay-yai-yai! The thumbs on that pair of mittens would have been appropriate for someone who’d just smashed their thumb with a hammer.

Luckily, the next pair was better and I learned. I’ve been cranking out the mittens since.

My most recent breakthrough with this garment, and the inspiration behind sharing this history of mitten-making, is learning a more effective and aesthetically pleasing way of making the thumb gusset increases.

I just finished the first mitten of a set for Gabe and when I came to the thumb gusset increases, instead of wrapping the yarn around the needle to make a new stitch like I would have in the past, I decided to try another form of increasing:  I picked up the back side of the stitch on the row previous that was between the stitches where I wanted the increase. I used this method through three rounds of increases. On the fourth, instead of correcting the twist from picking up that stitch, I left it twisted. This created a hole-less and smooth increase. It looks great!

For those embarking on the journey of mitten knitting, I’d like to share the mitten recipe that will help you make mittens for everyone you know! Classic Mittens from Free Vintage Knitting. If you have questions about mitten knitting, or knitting in general, please feel free to contact me via the new contact form on the “About The Girl” tab.

It’s Saturday! Enjoy your day! I’ll be knitting. 🙂