The Lower Peninsula of Michigan is in the shape of a mitten, and that’s the reason Michigan is referred to as “the Mitten State.” I live in the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula (near the tip of the pinkie finger). Winters are long here; it can start snowing in October, with snowfall sometimes continuing throughout April. Handspun mittens, therefore, are essential winter wear.
Handspun mittens need to be warm, and they need to hold up to long and hard use. For the warmth requirement, I chose a slipstitch pattern to create a thick fabric. For the hardiness requirement, I chose to spin and knit with Montadale wool and to knit at a fairly tight gauge. This wool is not soft, but it is sturdy. In addition, it’s very elastic, so even tightly knitted fabric from this wool tends to “hug” the wearer, a nice characteristic for mittens. I also take some regional pride in knowing that the Montadale breed was developed in the Midwest.
Montadale wool is elastic; it stretches quite a bit when you pull on it, and it springs back when you let go. To achieve my goal of an elastic yarn, I wanted to avoid putting too much twist into the singles and the plied yarn. Overtwisting will make for a stiffer yarn.
Because all the colors in this dyed top were compatible with one another, I randomly split the combed top into bits and randomly spun these bits, allowing the colors to combine willy-nilly. I spun the singles with Z-twist on a double-drive upright wheel, using a medium-slow 6:1 drive ratio and an openhanded short draw. I plied the yarn with S-twist on a bobbin-lead wheel, using a medium-fast 10.5:1 drive ratio to produce a balanced two-ply.
Amy Tyler has lifelong ties to northern Michigan, and she values every day of this region’s winter wonderland. She is grateful to spin and knit in this beautiful place. You can find out more about her fiber work and teaching on her website, www.stonesockfibers.com.
To make Amy Tyler’s handspun mittens pick up a copy of Spin Off’s Winter 2018 or the eBook Delightful Mittens to Spin Year-Round: 8 Knitted Patterns from Spin Off.
Posted November 29, 2017; updated January 23, 2020