A Knitted Treasure with an Intriguing Story

Mary Lycan’s re-creation of the truly special mittens that were made for Clara B. Barrows about 1875. Photos by Joe Coca.

Mary Lycan’s re-creation of the truly special mittens that were made for Clara B. Barrows about 1875.
Photos by Joe Coca.

Among the objects in the magnificent collection of the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford are the mittens Mary Lycan wrote about in her article “The Roosters in the Gore: A Connecticut Mitten Mystery in Two Museums” for the November/December 2013 issue of PieceWork. Here’s an excerpt from Mary’s article, discussing one of the pairs of mittens: “Made about 1875, the mittens, worked in stockinette stitch, are covered with bands of delightful stylized apple trees, roosters, rosebuds, cats, birds, wreaths, and hearts—nothing like the small geometric motifs I had always associated with nineteenth-century American mittens. Most enticingly, the mittens contain their own documentation: the name of the recipient, Clara B Barrows, is knitted in just above the cuff.”

We fell in love with Clara’s mittens from the very start. Mary’s article provides fascinating details on those mittens as well as a similar pair made for Robert Mason now in the collection of Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Her research led her to the conclusion that Clara’s and Robert’s mittens probably were knitted in one household. The fascinating article is a perfect representation of PieceWork’s motto: “Needlework and History Hand in Hand.”

Clara B MittensMary also re-created Clara’s mittens as the companion project for her article. She provides detailed information on the ingenious construction of the mittens along with step-by-step instructions and charts for all of the motifs and the numbers. The bonus factor here is the upper- and lowercase alphabet charts. Not only can you knit these stellar mittens for a loved one, you can personalize them with that person’s name! And we have a kit that includes the Brown Sheep Nature Spun wool yarn needed to make the mittens and access to download the entire November/December 2013 issue of PieceWork with Mary’s article and the mitten project.

Clara’s mittens continue to make me smile. I adore the motifs and the intriguing story behind them. While the mittens fit a child eight to twelve years old, they certainly can be modified to fit younger children or adults. Hmmm—I can just see my own pair: Jeane M Hutchins will look quite swell right above the cuff. Sweet.

These really are special mittens that will be loved by the child or adult for whom they are made. Make someone’s day—order our Clara Barrows’s Mittens to Knit Kit and get started; winter weather will be here before we know it.

Happy Knitting!