18th Century Mittens

We had a living history event coming up at Fort Dobbs in North Carolina. Typically, it's not too cold there, but for a change there was some December cold weather the weekend of the event. I rushed to make some mittens in time for the event. I used the pattern from The Packet III by Mark Tully (https://www.trackofthewolf.com/Categories/PartDetail.aspx/306/1/BOOK-TP-3). Tully writes that this pattern is based on a surviving original from an American Revolution campsite.

I really struggled with this pattern. I checked my gauge, and it was perfect, but then I couldn't believe how large the mittens were turning out to be. I started over a few times, testing different needle sizes and yarn weights. I got pretty far knitting a version out of sport weight yarn on size 2 needles, but they were really thin and seemed like they wouldn't be warm. Finally I bit the bullet and knitted with worsted weight, as the pattern dictates. I used size U.S. 2 needles, smaller than the pattern recommends.

The finished mittens were huge! I decided to shrink them, although this isn't part of the pattern instructions. They shrank just about right, and while they're still big, I think they're ideal to accommodate gloves underneath or space for air insulation. They cover very far down the wrists, which is nice for tucking under or over sleeves to prevent a gap.

Prior to shrinking, about 11.5 inches long

The pattern calls for four oz. of yarn. I had a 4 oz. skein of vintage Coats and Clarks wool from a thrift store, but I was so worried that it wasn't enough. In the end, I had only a yard or two left! It might be a good idea to have extra. I knitted both of the thumbs last, prepared to use a different color for those and over-dye the mittens, but thankfully I didn't have to resort to such measures.

This is all the yarn I had left!

There is a mistake in the pattern which I didn't realize until I was almost done. The instructions for the left hand say, "Knit 24 stitches, slip eight back and proceed as for right hand." It should actually be, "Knit 40 stitches..." so that the decreases are on the sides of the mitten. Because of this error, the right hand of my version has its decreases on the sides, but the left hand has its decreases in the middle on the front and back. No big deal, just don't look too closely.

About 9.5 inches in circumference prior to shrinking

I am really pleased with the thumbs on the pattern. Typically, I look for mitten patterns with a triangular gusset at the base of the thumb instead of just a cylinder stuck on at a random location to accommodate the thumb. That style tends to place too much stress on the join between the thumb and the hand, which makes it rip or stretch and form a hole. Tully's pattern does not have the gusset, but it worked up really well. I think it's because the instructions call for knitting in a piece of waste yarn instead of placing markers. That seemed to help prevent stress on the thumb opening during the knitting process. Furthermore, I joined the thumb very meticulously to try to avoid stretching out any one stitch at the join. It's holding up excellently so far.

These mittens are extremely simple, but I'm so proud of them! Every time I knit, I notice an improvement. I'm glad that I'm getting better at this with practice. Something new I tried was to knit the ends in as I worked instead of waiting until I finished knitting and then weaving in the ends. I don't know why I never thought of this before. It looks like my new method is far more durable and neat, as well as saving me time.

The finished mittens before washed and dried

I know these basic utilitarian mittens are not for a special occasion, but I would like to enter them in the Historical Sew Monthly  http://thedreamstress.com/the-historical-sew-monthly-2016/ December category because I made them specifically for a special event.

The Challenge: Special Occasion: make something for a special event or a specific occasion, or that would have been worn to special event or specific occasion historically.
Material: 100% wool worsted yarn
Pattern: by Mark Tully in "The Packet III"
Year: 18th century
Notions: none
How historically accurate is it? What do you think, 9 out of 10?
Hours to complete: Maybe 6
First worn: December 9
Total cost: Probably about 50 cents U.S. I bought the yarn at a thrift store :)


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