I’ve knit ruffles. And bobbles. And worked picot edgings. But I’ve never really fallen in love with them. Until now.
Maybe it’s the yarn– leftover Drops Alpaca (the white) and Alpaca with a Twist Baby Twist (the orange). Both soft as butter with a subtle halo. Or it could be the weight and glint of the glass beads. Or the drape of the piece. Whatever it is I am completely enchanted by these cuffs. The pattern is Mrs. Beeton. I’ve known about this pattern since it first came out in, but never could find a person to knit them for. They seemed too fussy. Too impractical. Too purely decorative.
And then I found myself wracking my brain trying to find a gift for my good friend Lynn and I realized that these were perfect for her. Lynn is the kind of person that Dresses. If choosing between looking good and being comfortable, looking good wins each time. She comes from a generation that didn’t wear jeans. Women didn’t wear pants. She loves to dress well and she is a master at it. I knew she would like and appreciate these cuffs. I knew she would actually wear them. And I knew that I had the yarn for them in my stash.
As I set out to knit them I was worried that the pattern might be hopelessly fiddly. And it is fiddly. But in a completely worth it type of way. Not a fling the project across the room type of way.
Getting started was the hardest part. The pattern calls for size 11 seed beads on the bottom bell cuff to be threaded on fingering weight yarn. This was impossible. I could not find a beading needle that was small enough to pass through the head but with a large enough eye to thread the yarn through. After trying 4 or 5 different combinations and methods I gave up and threaded the size 8 beads on instead. Once worked the cast in and started on the ruffle I was surprised at how easy the pattern was. This pattern provides a lot of interest for a relatively small effort– it’s not hard, it doesn’t take very much yarn and the hardest part is getting started.
These were a last minute “I want to make something for Lori but what will I make her, oh yeah, I have that purple Cascade 128 and I could make mittens and, oh look! Those are pretty!” Type of project. I decided that I would make this gift easy by just knitting to the pattern and not worrying about sizing or modifying. I didn’t even knit a gauge swatch. I knit all the way through the first mitten.
Then I knit the second. And that’s where I ran into two problems: one, I ran out of yarn. I knew that I would probably run out so I had a plan in mind, and two, I had knit the two mittens differently. I had screwed up on one or both. When I scrutinized both mittens I can to the conclusion that I had knit them both wrong, in different way.
So I unraveled both down to the third row and reknit them. It was, at that point that I realized that I hadn’t originally knit the first mitten wrong. When I reknit both mittens I accidentally skipped the first 6 rounds of the cuff. But, by that time I did not have the heart to frog the mittens. In addition they were both now knit the same way and by making the cuffs shorter, my yarn went farther. So, I left them.
The rest of the knitting went pretty smoothly. The pattern is very well written. It’s clear and even gives you clear guidelines on where to place the embroidery. And they really are lovely.
Yarn: Cascade 128, Italian plum, about 70 yards that were leftover from my Bryan Mawr skirt (ravelry id: tiltedwhirled); about 120 yards of Cascade 220 Quattro that I have had in my stash for years
Needles: size 9 dpn’s
Pattern: Olla Mittens from knitty.com, medium
One last note: I am not sure if the designer intended for me to work each leaf motif separately or to use the same length of yarn for one whole cuff. If she intended the latter, then I used about 4 times as much yarn for the embroidery section as the pattern indicates. Either way, I found that I had much fewer ends to weave in by measuring out enough yarn for 2 embroidery sections at once, rather than working each section separately. When I tried to measure out enough yarn for 3 sections it was too long and too unwieldy to work with.
I am a maker of things. I have been so for most of my life. One of my earliest memories is of my mother, sitting on the couch in the dark living room of our trailer, embroidering tea towels. Her sewing basket piled full of DMC cotton thread sat beside her as she pulled the needle through the fabric, stitching over the faint blue lines of the pre-stamped pattern. I would have been 3 because my mom was pregnant with my sister. A few years later I remember my first attempt at sewing– picking pink thread even though my mom assured me that it didn’t matter what color thread I used. Pulling the needle, clumsily, slowly, through the fabric. Then in and out again with the needle.
Being a maker of things has also made me a giver of things. I have given away countless handknits, embroidery, books and jewelry over the years as well as decoupage boxes, handmade paper cards and hand sewn needle cases. The experience of giving away things is like giving away a little of myself each time. Each piece represents an idea that I had, and the time that I spent making it, the joy, and the frustration, of creating something that I believe will please someone that I care about. Each carries with it the work of my fingers and heart and mind. I care deeply about the objects that I create because within them is a piece of me. And if I’ve given you something it means that I care enough about you to share a small piece of myself with you.
In the act of giving away small pieces of myself I have also learned how to give freely. And by that I mean that when I give away something I have made I give it without expectation. I hope that it pleases the recipient because that is my intention but I have learned to accept that I do not have control over whether they like what I have given them or treat those items with respect. And that is what I mean when I say that give freely. I do it because the act of creating the object and giving it away gives me joy. I recognize that if the gift isn’t appreciated that I must let any hurt that I feel slide off my shoulders like rain running down a gutter. To do anything else would extinguish the happiness I derive from the process.