Wednesday, October 26, 2011

K'done: Mawata Mittens

Getting ready for Canadian Winter.

Pattern: None - I actually improvised these!
Yarn: Unspun mawata from Blue Moon Fiber Arts
Needles: 3.5 mm / US 4

Earlier this year, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee blogged about some mittens she'd made using handpainted unspun mawata. Since I stalk read her blog, I saw the post pretty promptly upon its publication, and I looked at her pictures of the mittens, and I felt a yearning. Though I do not live in her part of Canada, and this is a very big country, I do live in a part that experiences at least part of winter as a truly frigid time, when the cold just permeates everything and everyone is doing crazy things just to keep warm. So cold that you step outside and for a few horrifying seconds you just can't breathe at all, your body is so shocked by the drop in temperature that it wants to keep that coldness out at all costs. So cold that the snow gets that weird styrofoam-like texture and crunch to it, and won't stick to itself if you try to ball it up. So cold that the moisture in your breath freezes and settles on your scarf, in your hair. Cold.

So I'm reading this post, looking at these very cozy looking mittens, and she's describing them as hand ovens, and I am rather quickly sold on the concept. Yes. I want some. I showed the post to my sister as well, and she also put in a request. So I became one of the massive horde who flocked to BMFA looking for mawata, plunging their entire operations into all mawata, all the time. When my order was delivered, some time later - I think maybe three or four weeks? I admired it, then set it aside, knowing it would be turned into mittens. Later.

A few weeks ago, my sister starts dropping comments about how winter's coming, and boy it would be nice to have some lovely silk mittens in time for the cold. Gotcha. Pulled her mawata from the stash, figured out how to attenuate mawata, and I was off and running.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I found mawata to work with. I was worried. Yes, it is determinedly snaggy - it stuck to everything while I was working with it. The snag factor does get significantly diminished once they're knit up, though. Having to stop and attenuate more mawata once you're done with a layer's length also slows the whole process down considerably, but I didn't mind - I found it to be a fun break in the knitting to stop and have to make more yarn to knit with. I'm looking forward to doing it again, and I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea to have some mawata on hand in the stash, for replacement mittens or mittens for other people.

You may find me awful because I made my sister's pair first - I really put my learning curve into a finished object that was destined for another person, and yes, there was some learning. The first few layers of mawata I did not attenuate enough - I'm sure that there were sections in which I was working with something more closely resembling a bulky yarn, as opposed to the light worsted I was aiming for. To be perfectly fair, it's not reasonable to expect me to first knit up a test version of every item I want to make for another person, and to my credit, I did work out what the mitten template ought to be before starting with the mawata - knit up another pair of mittens earlier this year using some 100% merino I had kicking around, which in actuality is way too big, so I ended up rescaling my template when I started these. The first mitten used up all 20 g of mawata. The second didn't - I had 5 g leftover, which is in line with the weight estimates given by the Harlot herself. I learned how thin I should be pulling the stuff - about a third of the way into that first mitten, I realized that I could thin the mawata out quite a bit more than I had been, and stayed pretty consistent from that point forward. It's possible that there are a couple of places where I over-attenuated, but there are no lacy or holey bits to either of the mittens, so all in all I'm calling them a success.

As you can see from these photos, the two bundles of mawata were not dyed exactly identically - one has more of the darker blue than the other does. One of the hazards of working with handpainted fibre. It's not a terrible discrepancy, and my sister is okay with it. Then again, she doesn't exactly have much of a choice, does she?

So my sister has her hand ovens well in time for Canadian Winter. What about mine?

Well. They're in my mental queue, but there are a couple of other things I want to wrap up before I start in on them. I'll get there.

Hopefully in time to keep my hands toasty warm when true Canadian Winter hits.

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