My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Mittens for Beginners

Warning! Digression ahead!

When typing the title for my blog post, I started thinking about Songs for Beginners, Graham Nash’s first solo album. It was released in 1971 two months before Who’s Next by, of course, The Who. Those two albums were the soundtrack for my summer that year when I was 14 years old. Whenever I hear a track from either of them (which is pretty often, given my iPod commuting playlist) I flash back to where I was and what I was doing as vividly as if it were yesterday. Sigh . . . memories . . .

Okay, digression over.

Carol S. asked in the comments:

I have always wanted to make a pair of those mittens! Is there a beginner pattern you would recommend or perhaps a book for beginners?

A good, easy, pattern to start with would be one in a heavier yarn, I think. My mittens are knit at a gauge of 9 stitches to the inch. Try a sportweight pattern, at about 6 stitches to the inch. A good place to start might be with the Pirate Mittens pattern, available free at Hello Yarn.

Another great resource at Hello Yarn for all you mitten-knitter-wannabees is the generic mitten chart, available in pdf format here. This is a blank template for a mitten knit with 48 stitches around. You can chart your own design on it.

Which segues nicely in to the next comment question . . .

Liz in IN asked:

Did you create this pattern, too, using…that software I’ve forgotten the name of? I think you must have, otherwise you would have linked the designer.

I did create this design. With Stitch and Motif Maker? Nope, I create my mitten and glove patterns using good ol’ trusty Excel.

Chart 012408

Chart 012408

There is an excellent tutorial for creating charts for knitting in Excel on here.

I created some mitten and glove templates in Excel and use them to start the design for a new mitten or glove, tweaking as needed. While I love the Stitch and Motif Maker software for small charts, I find Excel to be much faster and easier to use when I’m creating one huge chart for an entire mitten.

Belinda asked:

I’ve noticed that recently (since summer of socks, I think) you knit a lot of the same thing but with many different stitch patterns and colours – first the socks and then the mittens. Do you like to have many different (but equally lovely) handknitted goods to rotate through, or do you give away a lot of your stuff?

I tend to obsess, then move on. As I’ve mentioned before, I am first and foremost a process knitter and when I start on something (like socks) I tend to immerse myself fully in it until I’ve exhausted either myself or all possibilities I care to explore.

All those socks I knit during the Summer of Socks? I haven’t worn a single pair of them. I did give some of them away as holiday gifts, though.

I haven’t worn my handknit mittens or gloves either, but there’s another reason for that. When it is cold enough for me to wear gloves on my commute, I wear polar fleece gloves because they are easily machine washable in hot water. I take the subway to work, and change trains once, so there are three sets of stairs or escalators that I walk up or down twice a day. Because I am an old geezer and because the walking surface is often slick or wet, I grasp the handrail with my left hand as I walk these stairs and escalators. You should see what the palm of my left glove looks like after just one day’s commute. Huge streaks of black dirt. And no matter how vigorously I was the gloves, it doesn’t come out completely. I wouldn’t subject my handknit mittens and gloves to this daily grind of grime.

So why do I knit them? I’m a process knitter. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Mitten 012408

Mitten 012408

(It is really really hard to use your left hand only to hold a camera and press the shutter button which is on the right side of the camera so that you can photograph your right hand wearing your mitten-in-progress.)

Stoopid Internet . . .

I’ve noticed some email issues lately. An email I sent to the KOARC last night (telling him the date and time of Lucy’s annual check-up at the vet) took hours to get to him. An email he sent me about the same time about his new Tiger Woods Nintendo Wii golf game still hasn’t reached me.

As the KOARC so eloquently put it:

Internetz sez “I can has ur e-mails with cute widdle tiger kitty kat subject lines”

Please don’t tell Lucy she is going to the vet next month. I want it to be a surprise.

Lucy 012408

Lucy 012408

Tonight Lucy and I will be watching Camille on TCM. Starring the greatest actress of all time: Greta Garbo.


  1. Lucy looks like she’s in another of her Interpretive Dance poses!

    I haven’t knit mittens before, but seeing the ones you’ve knit over the past few days has made me want to give them a try. I have some good wool lying around that I’m sure I can use, and it’s not like there’s a lack of patterns available for them! Thanks for the links, too, I’ll be sure to check them out later when I get right down to the mitten knittin’.

  2. Ty for the links! I also have some good but fairly cheap wool that I think i may use to try mitten knitting b4 I junp headlong into my Son’s fingerless gloves he so desperately wants. I Definitally wont tell Lucy about the trip coming up, I know all to well how my cats react to the V-word ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I remember songs for beginners- that was a good album- I think I still have it on a cassette somewhere.

  4. I too am watching Camille; however, I had to forgo Good Eats.
    Also, you have so many good resources; my goodness, how do you find the time??

  5. I am so excited…….my cable company just replaced WE network with TCM. HUGE improvement!!!

  6. I have a silly question. I think I understand what a process knitter is but I am hoping you can explain it. Are there other types of knitters? I learn a lot from reading your blog and visit daily even if I don’t comment much.

  7. I will not tell Lucy of the date with the vet, but it will make no difference. They are mind readers on this subject, and she will know and hide.

  8. Yes, my cat really looks forward to those annual excursions too. It’s practically the highlight of her year.

  9. Ah, 1971! I was just 17 and like you, flash back occasionally. For me it was (and still is) Gordon Lightfoot, “If You Could Read My Mind”.

    Love the mittens, socks, gloves, etc. !!!!!!!!!!!!! Wonderful designs and colorways!

    I too will be watching the lovely Greta. However, it is only 7:42 p.m. here in rainy, cold, (for Southern California), windy San Pedro. I’m about to snuggle in with a kat, book and maybe my latest crochet project – an afghan. Pretty straightforward and simple – the way I like’em!

    Have a wonderful weekend. luv2Lucy&Wendy.

  10. Barbara-Kay says:

    I always try to make the Meezers’ vet appointments for “universal kitty nap time”. They are just so much more available then (read easy to catch).

    Which reminds me, have you read the delightful book “All My Patients are Under the Bed”? It’s about a NYC vet that made house calls.

  11. anne marie in philly says:

    cue barbra streisand: “as camille I just feel, I’ve so much to offer.” (funny girl)

    my meredith’s favorite movie is “casablanca”. steven doesn’t like movies; he prefers to sleep through a screening.

    I think I will take barbara-kay’s advice for meredith – she is one squirmy kitty girl! except when she is passed out as she is now… ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Thanks so much Wendy. I printed off all the links you posted and I will try a pair of mittens myself. By the way, I just want to thank you for sharing so much with all of us. I don’t hardly ever write, but like a previous post, I read everyday and I have learned so much from you. Your the greatest!!!

  13. Poor Lucy.

    Excel can be a PITA to learn but I like it for charting big stuff too. Gmail has a great spreadsheet feature too if you wanted someplace you could do up a design and access if from other computers or share with that special knitting friend.

  14. Yeah, I know what you mean about the Metro escalators. Gross, eh?

    And Camille… What a great (albeit tragic) movie!

  15. Theresa in Italy says:

    I think it was Firesign Theater who used to refer to those flashbacks as “stabs from the past.” Those songs never fail to take me back, too. Sigh.

    Really enjoying watching the mittens come to life in your skilled hands!

    Just to show the difference between the species, the dog never has a clue we’re going to the vet’s until we pull up in front of the place. But then try getting him out of the car….

  16. Liz in IN says:

    Thanks for the explanation and Excel chart link–I believe even I can follow Ruth’s amazing instructions (despite my perpetual frustration with Excel).

    Summer o’ 1971! Oh, yes, a good year. The soundtrack of my life at that time mirrors MaryO’s: Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind is as haunting today as ever. But I was still listening to 1969’s CSN classic, fabulous, sepia-toned sitting-on-the-porch album. Oh, and Joni Mitchell’s Blue. ::sigh::

    2008? Knitting? Oh, right. KNITTING. >ahem

  17. Those are two great albums. Great commuting/train listening. cecilia

  18. Camille! Wonderful movie and great for pulling a tear or two.

    1971 was a very good year… (song playing in background) Hanging out at DuPont Circle, working at Myer Emco, protesting, discovering weed, freshly divorced from jerk #1. Those were the days my friend…(more music in background) Damn that was fun….sigh…

    Next project! I will be doing color work mittens! Thanks for posting those links…I need all the help I can get..heehee.

    You are right by keeping it a secret about the V*t. We can’t even spell the word around here, they know! Cats read minds ya know

  19. Michele from MN says:

    I am also an obsessive knitter or at least gatherer. When you showed your first pair of mittens, I searched the internet for any free pattern I could find in the fairIsle style. Then I gathered all the yarn in my stash that would work and set out to make mittens. I didn’t make the mittens I gathered the supplies for, I started a plain pair of felted mittens. This is how it works for me, I gather then I do something different. But someday I will start the fairisle mittens. I have everything ready. Thank you for getting me started.

  20. I admire your teen-age taste in music — I’m a year older than you, and didn’t discover people like Graham Nash and the Who until college….

    And thanks for the heads up on Camille!

  21. Perhaps oneday your socks and mittens will be in the Smithsonian … it could happen, you know.

    Blu wants to know what the secret is that we’re keeping from Lucy, but I won’t breathe a word to him. He might think she’s going to get neutered, and that is still an unmentionable subject with him.

    Best to you all,

  22. I just added Camille to my Netflix queue after realizing the it’s been on my mind to see it for years, but the only parts of Camille I’ve seen are the parts in the movie Annie. And in Annie, when Ms. Farrell starts bawling at the end, and Daddy Warbucks looks so distraught, I thought to my five-year-old-self, “Ooooo, that must be a good movie! I should see it!” So Camille and I have a long overdue date!

  23. They key to takeing pictures with your left hand is to turn the camera upsidown… thats what I do in similar situations.

  24. Thanks for the Excel pointer! Now I can look busy in meetings with my PC when I’d rather be knitting…And thanks for the flashback to 1971. Good tunes. Maybe I do need an IPod after all.

  25. Courtney MacKenzie from WI says:

    I agree with you about the Internet. itsh very stoopid. hehe.
    ๐Ÿ˜€ happy friday!

  26. It has been quite a while since I’ve visited but I remember the DC subway system as pretty immaculate as subways go…if your gloves are that grody from your commute I shudder to think what cooties lie in wait on the metrorail here!

    I love that pic of Lucy with her little foot all spread open. I love when cats do that ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Is there any chance you will make the Excel templates for sale anytime? Not the patterns, just the templates.

    Love the mittens!

  28. The first playlist I created for my iPod is titled “16 year old”: 10cc “I’m not in love” and Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic” totally encapsulate that summer (1975), with lots of the Who, the Stones and John Lennon added for good measure. How did we all manage public transportation without the luxury of our own soundtrack?
    The mittens look beautiful. Love the subtle colorway of the background wool.

  29. love your mittens
    and am sitting here laughing to myself about the fact that you were 14 in 1971… and I was in college… geee… little sister… those were good ol days, weren’t they (grin)

  30. I love TCM! Have it on now. Stoopid made me giggle, Have you read Love in a Cold Climate? Schtoopid….

  31. The mittens are (for me) called Dot, Dot Dot …Dash…. and smart looking too…..I enjoy seeing your latest produce & create so much in so little time.. Thank you for sharing ! Sydney

  32. Hi, Wendy, thanks for the mention! I moved over to Blogger, so the is pretty much just archival now. Here’s the chart I mention at the bottom of that page…

    I have pictures of that sweater at, sorry most of the links are broken unless you change the domain to from … what can I say, the passwords to that server died three computers ago.

    (and just to record the fact for posterity- the domain was nabbed by a usurper — that’s NOT me asking for money!! gaaahh!)