Thursday, January 21, 2016

K'done: Mawata Mittens

Another done-a-long-time-ago-but-not-blogged-till-now-because-no-pictures-till-now kind of deal.

Pattern: I used the numbers from Valais Blacknose Sheep Mittens to set up the cuffs, and followed the pattern's directions for the thumbs and thumb gussets, but otherwise it was pretty freestyle.
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Mawata, in True Blood Red
Needles: 4 mm / US 6

I freestyled a pair of mawata mittens for my sister back in 2011, and at the time I picked up some mawata to make some for myself too, but somehow never got around to it until this year. Maybe it's because generally I don't like having my fingers covered, even if that's the sensible thing to do in winter in Canada - I fumble with my keys and other hand-held things enough when I can feel them, when there's a layer of fabric intervening things get downright comical. In any event, as Halloween 2015 approached it occurred to me that new full cover mittens might be a useful thing to have in my collection, since the only other pair I currently have are sort of too big.

Working with mawata is a fun but sometimes frustrating sort of endeavour. You start with these squares of silk fibre, and you have to turn them into lengths of a sort of silk roving, I guess? I followed the instructions up on Knitty for drafting: separate one layer of fibre from the pile, poke a hole in the middle, then widen that hole so that the layer of fibre becomes a loop of fibre, then continue pulling as needed to draft the fibre into the desired thickness. Once that's been achieved, pick a spot in the loop and pull the fibres apart to turn your loop into a length, then go to town knitting. This is all great fun, but there's definitely a learning curve, with a whole lot of taking leaps of faith that what you're doing is appropriate. I'm pretty sure the first layer of fibre I worked with was actually two layers, judging by how much thicker the roving was for my cast on on that first mitten, despite the fact that my loops were pretty consistent in size. You do eventually develop a sense of how big you can make your loops for the roving thickness you want, but this takes some practice too - I find it terribly difficult to judge the weight of drafted mawata. Maybe this is because I don't spin, meaning I pretty much never work with fibre that hasn't been professionally prepared for me. The other frustrating thing I found has to do with the fibre itself - it's pretty sticky. I could feel it catching a bit on my hands if they were on the dry side, the fibre would stick to my clothes as I worked with it, and there were a couple of times when a wayward individual strand of silk would escape from its peers and float around in the air for a bit, only to end up in my eye or in my mouth. (I completely grossed out my sister one evening when I complained that my eye felt funny, and then proceeded to extract a strand of silk several inches long from my eye socket.)

When I made my sister's mittens, I worked them on smaller needles, thinking that would add density and hence warmth to the fabric, but I think I actually overshot the mark, because she felt that the mitts were not as warm as they should have been. She ended up slipping them inside another pair of mitts to use as liners, and she seemed happy enough with that solution, but for my mittens this time around, I wondered if working a slightly bigger gauge and drafting the mawata a bit thinner still would give the fibres room to fluff up and trap as much insulating air as possible.

So that's what I tried to do. The resulting mitts feel rather lightweight - almost flimsy, really. I haven't weighed them, but I started with 40 g of mawata, and I definitely used more than 20, but I've got a fair bit of the second bundle left over. When I tried them on in the house, I could feel my hands warming in their little bundles really quickly, and I was really happy, but worried a bit that I might have swung too far in the other direction, and that the fabric was now not dense enough to shield my hands and fingers from the wind.

How's that working out, you ask? Well, I honestly don't know, because I haven't really worn them that much. Right now, they seem so precious and fragile, since they're made out of pure unspun silk, that I don't want to wreck them, and I wouldn't be overly concerned about that if I hadn't gotten one caught in the handle of the car door the first morning I wore them outside. The mitten was fine, but the incident made me think twice about wearing them when needing to handle things with that sort of snagging catching potential, and that puts a pretty severe limit on me being able to wear them. At some point, I'll get over it enough to wear them more regularly, I'm sure - I've got them tucked into my handbag now, so they're handy any time I feel hand coverings are necessary. Which isn't as often as you might think, because, again, I prefer fingerless mitts, so that I can still feel any objects I need to handle.


Tech specs: Chinese Waitress CO, I followed the pattern (minus the colourwork) up until the decrease portion, at which point I reasoned that trying to do Kitchener Stitch with mawata was like asking for a flogging, so I changed the decreases, spreading them out evenly around the circumference of the mittens, and working the decreases every other round until I had few enough stitches to draw the working yarn tail through them to cinch the mitten shut. I must have done something a little bit differently for the second one compared to the first one, since it seems a bit pointier, but I didn't care enough to try and fix it.

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