The cold weather is here, and even in Florida temperatures have been freezing in my area. Knitting mittens and better yet, for me, knitting fingerless mitts, has become an obsession. I purchased the Oulu Mitts pattern as it was on sale in December. The pattern is from Caitlin Hunter of Boyland Knitworks.
I could see from photos that the cuff was a corrugated rib, which I am familiar with, and I can do colorwork. I had the right type of worsted yarn called for, so why not?
The yarn is Brooklyn Tweed “Shelter” in colors: “Caraway” – the tan for my Main Color, “Amaranth” red for the ribbing, and “Old World” navy blue. I had this yarn on hand so had to find three colors that would work. In the end, I like the look. Here is the left hand mitt drying, in size Medium.
Things to Know Before Knitting This Pattern
First thing to know about this pattern is that the directions are in chart form. The chart shows a k1 MC, P1 CC for the ribbing, which is actually a corrugated rib. The designer does not mention this and assumes the knitter will know how to do corrugated ribbing.
The pattern notes say that the instructions are “written for the Magic Loop method of working in the round” – but, that is not really important because the mitts can be knit with small circular needles (which I used) or DPNs. She only references Magic Loop for the cast-on and dividing stitches between needles. I don’t really see the point in mentioning this at all.
Each of the three sizes has a “right” and “left” mitt chart to follow – so 6 separate charts are included. I began with the left, medium size, and ran into trouble with the thumb colors. The color chart is off, and since it was my first mitt, I wondered if I was doing it wrong or if the pattern was supposed to be that way. Eventually, I had to do the alternating colors and ignore the thumb pattern. Because of this, my thumb colors are not all correct, but the yarn covers the mistakes well enough. This problem was not mentioned specifically by test knitters or previous knitters, but a few did mention having trouble in general.
Neither the right nor left hand chart made sense to me when it came to knitting the thumb. It could be me, or a problem with the pattern, I honestly don’t know. In general I can follow patterns, and I have knit mittens without any problem, but the Oulu pattern did not make sense.
I did not knit a swatch and used my first, washed and dried mitt to get my gauge. My gauge is way off for rows, which is why I needed to add an extra pattern repeat at the top. I got 24 rows in four inches, and she (the designer) has 31 rows!
While I was knitting the first mitt, I thought the mitt would end up too tight. In fact I added a couple extra stitches near the knuckles to widen it a bit. But the day after I finished knitting, I wore it outside while feeding the birds on a cold 32 degree morning, and the fit was good. Then I washed it and began mitt #2.
Changes, or Mods, I Made / Would Make to the Pattern
Needle size & Thumb stitches: Although the mitt seemed tight at first, it ended up fitting me very nicely. I knit the size Medium, on size 6 needles for the ribbing at the cuff and top. The rest of the mitt was knit using size 7 needles.
I did not use the smaller, size 6 needles for the thumb, as the pattern calls for. In fact I added stitches, by picking up 4-5 in place of the 1 stitch, and it’s perfect. Doing as the pattern suggested would have created a very tight thumb – for me. If you are also a tight knitter, you may want to do the same on the thumb.
Pattern repeats and bind off: I added one more repeat at the top of the hand to get the correct length for me – due to my smaller gauge. For the next pair I would make the cuff shorter and the hand longer. I will cut out a bottom section and do it at the top instead. I don’t believe that a very long cuff is necessary for a fingerless mitt. It’s my preference.
The pattern calls for a “stretchy bind-off” and I did a regular, rather loose bind-off which was fine. Some of the reviewers mentioned that doing a stretchy bind-off made the top flare. I can imagine that would happen. As it turned out the top ribbing could have been more narrow overall. I will plan to decrease a couple of stitches before doing the top ribbing next time.
Finished! I had trouble following the pattern for both the right and left mitt. Don’t know if it was just me, or the pattern, but I can’t recommend it. I had to figure too many things out for myself.
Don’t Test-knitters Find These Mistakes?
I have grown leery of published patterns recently. Even high profile knitwear designers can have patterns with errors, or patterns which are unclear – especially to any not-so-experienced knitter. Usually there will be an errata which is a link to the fixed issue. I’m no expert as I am not a knitwear designer, but most of them use what’s called “test knitters”.
Now, I am not totally sure of what a test knitter does, but my thought is that they would point out pattern problems, like the thumb chart issues with the Oulu Mitts. The mitts pattern review page certainly shows test knitters, and two of them knit the size Medium.
So, are the test knitters chosen so nice photos would show up on the pattern page to get people to buy? When a pattern, as simple as the mitts, is sold with color chart problems, who is to blame? Was the designer counting on the test knitter’s feedback, or is the designer at fault for not trying out her own pattern and finding the difficulty in the first place?
For these reasons I am leery of patterns. Once I begin to think that the designer doesn’t care enough to create a decent, easy to follow pattern, I’m hesitant to buy his / her other patterns. The Oxbow sweater that turned into a nightmare to knit is a good example for me.
It is why I write about my own knitting experiences on this blog. And I create a Ravelry project page for what I knit to share my true experience.