August 10, 2014

Whovian Mittens: A Lesson in Size, Gauge and Blocking (plus a little tutorial)

The thin, white lines on the edge were lost a
bit in my first pair. These look much better.
Hello, all! In our previous episode, there were Whovian Mittens on my needles. Well, now they are on the hands of a very surprised (and happy) recipient.

My friend's nephew was delighted and surprised to get them--he "didn't know they were going to be so cool." And I ask you, what hand-knitted original design (or semi-original) is NOT cool? Made just for you?! C'mon!

When my friend asked me to knit a copy my own pair, I saw an opportunity to play with the pattern, and see if I could make it better/different/more functional, etc. I also wanted to try the stranded colorwork again and see if I fix some of the too-tight tension problems I was having before. My recipient also had much bigger hands than me. 

I needed to make some changes.

I began by switching needles. My original gauge on my first pair was 10 sts/inch but simply switching from a US1/2.25mm to a US2/2.75 (only .5mm!) made a huge difference. The new tension was only 8 stitches to the inch. This, in turn, created a large change in the scale for the chart. I had to make the "bigger" sized chart "smaller" to make it work and fit--pattern and person. So I removed columns and rounds here and there and cleaned it up.

In addition to these changes, I needed to further improve my knitting tension. I needed more help than just loosening my "grip," so to speak with the new gauge. With my first pair, I had problems with some of the stitches around the needle transitions being way too tight and thus hiding
Using the "star toe" concept from sock knitting,
I added a "vortex" thumb just for fun.
some of the narrower colors in the finished fabric.

Through some reading for my Master Knitters research, I serendipitously found this very helpful tip in the Big Book of Knitting by Katarina Buss:

To keep your tension even when knitting in the round, knit the last few stitches leading up to the next needle a bit loosely. Knit the first few stitches of the next needle a bit more snugly. (paraphrased by me)

This worked like a charm. 

I also decided to make a learning experience out of this for my blocking studies. To stretch colorwork, I noticed that I had great blocking success with my Rassilon knitted Tam (a free pattern on Ravelry) when I put the huge called-for dinner plate inside. It was scary as it was my first time, but wow did it even out the strands! My solution for blocking my mittens was to cut out large, mitten shaped cardboard forms and wrap them in plastic. is a picture tutorial of my ideas for stranded mitten blocking:

Trace your mittens but cut widely around the edges a bit to stretch your fabric.

I just used an old Amazon Box. I have like 2,000 of them.

I recorded my details in my River Song journal.

Wrap your forms in plastic so they don't get wet. That would definitely
put a damper on your blocking :)

Upon trying them in, I realized that the thumbs were okay without the forms
and they didn't really fit anyway. I cut off the thumb parts and it worked just

I am in the process of refining the pattern for these, to be made available to all Whovian friends (and to those who know and love one of us and also happen to knit). They will be a free pattern in my Ravelry shop, probably by early September. 

Happy Knitting, everyone, and remember to get your cozy on, in spite of the summer heat. Cozy is always a state of mind.