PieceWork’s Traditional Knitted Mittens

Poetry Mittens to Knit by Jane Fournier and featuring a poem by Veronica Patterson. All photos by Joe Coca.

Poetry Mittens to Knit by Jane Fournier and featuring a poem by Veronica Patterson. All photos by Joe Coca.

Over the years, PieceWork has published many lovely patterns. All are either inspired by vintage patterns and heirloom needlework or based on historical techniques and traditions. Many are available as individual PDF downloads from the Needlework Traditions Shop at the Interweave Store. Some of my personal favorites are the traditional knitted mittens made using the two-color stranded-knitting method.

Colorwork mittens made with a two-color stranded-knitting technique are usually knit in the round using a fingering or sportweight yarn. Mittens knit this way are engineered to add extra warmth by trapping air between the stitches and the floating strands on the inside of the mittens. The yarns can be held one of three ways: two yarns in your right hand, two yarns in your left hand, or one yarn in each hand. It does take some practice to master knitting multiple strands of yarn at once while maintaining an even tension. However, usually this form of colorwork is knitted and not purled, which makes the knitting easier. The results are stunning—brightly colored mittens will brighten up any cold gray day.

Donna Druchunas’s knitted Lithuanian Baby Mittens.

Donna Druchunas’s knitted Lithuanian Baby Mittens.

As I mentioned, many of PieceWork’s projects are based on historical originals that the designers find in the course of their research. The fabulous Poetry Mittens, featured in the January/February 2008 issue, are a great example. These were inspired by a pair of mittens from the early nineteenth century now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. Our interpretation by Jane Fournier features the whimsical poem “Mitten Verse” by Veronica Patterson, PieceWork’s first editor. These mittens are a true conversation piece!

Other designers are informed by the wealth of rich ethnic historical needlework. Donna Druchunas’s Lithuanian Baby Mittens were conceived based on her research and passion for discovering her family’s roots in the Baltic country of Lithuania, where there is a long history of needlework. Handknit mittens and gloves, in particular, hold a special cultural meaning in this region. Color and design are joined in handknit mittens for every occasion to ward off the Baltic chill. These mittens truly are adorable—perfect for a special baby.

Now is the ideal time to stash a small mitten project in your bag as you are on the go this summer. The stranded knitting is rhythmic and pleasing. Come the cooler weather, nothing will delight more than a cheery pair of mittens to keep you or your loved ones warm.

Happy knitting!
Elizabeth