On Friday I had a full-day class with Lene Alve, Finnish knitter extraordinaire. It was a 6-hour class, and at the end of it I was so full of new information my brain stopped functioning. Seriously. I asked Himself to get me my phone from the "couch", where couch is spelled a-i-r-m-a-t-t-r-e-s-s. I could not make sentences.
Ok, so first there were samples. Lots and lots of samples, both mittens and non-mittens. Lene very kindly allowed me to take some photos of her samples, as well as letting all of us try them on! Then we had a wee chat about yarn (sticky wool is good) and gauge (the tighter the better). After the chat, she had us cast on for a sample. The sample was painful - I have never tried to knit heavy worsted on 2.5mm needles. For comparison, that's the needle size I normally use for Monkey socks, and they are considered tight. I ended up borrowing some 3mm needles from my charming seatmate so that I could finish the sample without cramps in my fingers.
I should have sucked it up and stuck with the smaller needles. The gauge on this is way too loose, which is why the colourwork is so sloppy. Still, it'll do perfectly as a coffee cozy - my wrists are so small that it'd never do as wrist warmers.
In the afternoon Lene judged us all reasonably competent at the technique and set us off on the wristlets while she talked about modifications to the technique and applications. Here's the beginning of my wristlets - this is fingering-weight yarn on 1.5mm needles. No, that's not a typo. Fortunately I had needles small enough in my collection!
So, a little bit about the technique. It's a bizarre and freakish amalgam of stranded colourwork and intarsia. There are 11 bobbins of colour on this mitt, one for each column of colour in the pattern. They are mounted on the long straight needle in such a way that they are centre-pull butterflies. Mounting them means that it's impossible to tangle them if you are knitting the mitts correctly. A tangle is actually really useful for spotting problems. The technique is based on decreasing and increasing simultaneously in the same stitch. It's marvellously simple once you've seen it a couple of times, but I can't really explain it without knitting in my hands. The oddest part is retraining oneself not to weave in the floats as you go along, because the technique does it for you. If you try, you'll get a tangle.
For once my unique method of manipulating my working yarn came in handy. Part of what you do involves dropping the working yarn every single time you change colours. The knitters who are used to stranding with both hands had a hard time with this, but I already drop the yarn when changing colours.
I'm looking forward to finishing my mitts (hopefully in time for Christmas) and seeing what else I can do with these patterns. I'm envisioning some fabulous sock shaping, for a start. It'll be great!