Trekking the Globe in Stitches: Antarctica

Needlework from the Seven Continents

This week we’d like to introduce a new seven-part series, “Trekking the Globe in Stitches: Needlework from the Seven Continents.” Inspired by last Thursday’s From the Vault, when we shared an excerpt from Angharad Thomas’s “Knitwear for Polar Explorers,” from the PieceWork special issue Knitting Traditions Spring 2015, we’ll start our trek in Antarctica.


Angharad Thomas’s “Leading Stoker Edward McKenzie’s Mittens” may be worn over gloves, ideal for outside work or walking with poles. Left and right mittens are the same, meaning that putting on is simplified and one can even out the wear.

The knitwear worn by the polar explorers to the South Pole provide the muse for our first project, Angharad Thomas’s “Leading Stoker Edward McKenzie’s Mittens,” the companion project to her article. Although the originals worn by the crewmen on the British Antarctic Terra Nova Expedition, 1910 to 1913, led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868–1912) were machine knit, these straightforward mitts knit up quickly in an Aran weight-wool yarn.

Angharad explains:

  • “Edward McKenzie’s machine-knitted mitts were industrially produced by a well-known British firm, Wolsey, still in production today. They would have been part of his Navy clothing issue. The mitts in this pattern, although handknitted, have the same construction, knitted from the top down. The tubular cast-on is the same one that an industrial knitting machine would have produced. The thumb joins the hand to give the width needed, without a gusset. The shaped wrist and arm are like McKenzie’s. The tubular bind-off re¬flects the cast-on, but neither the tubular cast-on nor bind-off is essential, so more familiar techniques may be substituted as long as they have stretch.”

This is the rescue party, which recovered the remains of Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868–1912) and companions who died returning from the South Pole. T. W. Nelson, T. S. Williamson, T. Crean, and T. Grau, members of the Western party are shown. The picture was taken before the tent in which they placed the remains of their comrades before burying them. Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images. The fingerless mitts worn by the men in the photo resemble a pair that belonged to Leading Stoker Edward McKenzie (1888–1973), a member of the crew on the British Antarctic Terra Nova Expedition, 1910 to 1913, led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868–1912).

Designed to be interchangeable between the left and right hands, which makes them wear more evenly, these practical mittens are a perfect gift for yourself or the adventurous person in your life. To embark on your own South Pole knitting adventure find the pattern for the “Leading Stoker Edward McKenzie’s Mittens” in the PieceWork special issue Knitting Traditions Spring 2015 or as an individual pattern download. Worn alone in the fall or over gloves, for extra protection during those extra chilly days of winter, you won’t want to leave home without them.

Safe travels!

Embark on your own knitting adventure with PieceWork!


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