Traditional, Simple, and Warm
Robin Hansen's Lithuanian Ribby Knit mittens are the perfect cure for the Maine cold.
Excerpted from Ultimate Mittens by Robin Hansen.(Down East Books, Camden, Maine; hardcover; 222 pages; $35)
Photographed by Heather Perry
Lithuanian Ribby mittens are traditional, simple, and precise, as well as warm. And they’re fun to knit.
When I looked more closely at this pair from Cape Breton, I noticed the cuff was cast on with an odd technique that produced two stitches at a time, making a slightly sloppy edge. I chose, instead, to use my standard Maine cast on, which gives a strong, springy, and even edge.
The pattern has enough visual punch that it carries the eye beyond such trivialities. Only having too few or too many stitches in a vertical or horizontal rib could mar the sweet, organic look of this mitten. But you would see that instantly and fix it, right?
These waffle-stitch mittens have ribs going both ways, providing thickness for warmth, a good outside gripping surface, and a smooth inside surface. I found them at a museum shop on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and was told that they were made by a local Lithuanian woman. One might expect Lithuanian mittens to be heavily patterned like the two-colored knitting in surrounding Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. There may be such mittens, but this is the only mitten I’ve personally encountered from Lithuania.
My Danish mother-in-law, a worldwide traveler, immediately recognized these mittens as Lithuanian and told me they always have the same elliptical shape and the same textured pattern, and they are always sold with the thumb placed dead center on the palm.
Please don’t despair at the small needle size. Garter st and ribbing need a smaller needle than stockinette to get the same tension. The tension here is about the same as many other mittens in this book knitted with larger needles.
This handsome mitten is comfortable in moderate cold.
Waffle stitch pattern: 3 sts x 3 rnds, the pattern continues the 3 st rib of the cuff, interrupted every 3rd rnd by a purl rnd, creating a garter st-like effect on the outside while leaving the inside relatively smooth.
Rnds 1 and 2: K 2, p 1. Rnd 3: purl around. Repeat this forever. Maintain the purl ribs from the cuff to make yourself look wonderfully skilled.
Thumb gore pattern: Rnds 1, 2: Knit (no ribbing). Rnd 3: purl.
Note: Abbreviations are explained in the directions.
1. Cuff: On 3 US No. 1 double-pointed needles, cast on 60 sts, distributing them 21, 21, 18. (Each needle starts a k rib.) K 2, p 1 in MC 8 rnds. In the last 6 sts of the 8th rnd, join CC yarn. Rib 2 rnds CC, 2 rnds MC, 2 rnds CC, 2 rnds MC, 2 rnds CC, then 6 rnds MC.
Start pattern with p rnd.
2. Hand and thumb gore: In the next rnd, inc in the first k rib of the rnd, k 1, Make 1, k 1 = 3 sts. While continuing ribby pattern on the rest of the hand, inc on the outside edges of this rib every 3rd rnd (the first k rnd after each p rnd): k 1, m1, k all but last st of thumb gore, make 1, k 1. The incs are hidden by the p rnd and by the lack of ribbing on the thumb gore.
Repeat this inc every 3rd rnd until there are 9 sts above the first k rib. Don’t count the two p sts. Continue even in patterns until thumb gore is 2.75 in. long, measured along its middle. End with p rnd.
3. Take off thumb. Put 11 sts (including p sts on both sides) on a holder. Cast on 10 sts over the gap. (If using Green Mountain Green shaded yarn, k 4 rnds in pattern above thumb hole, then break yarn and knit thumb, so that it will match the shading of the hand. After knitting thumb, Pull out 3 rnds of hand sts, and alternate rnds of raveled out yarn and fresh yarn to blend the shading.) K even in pattern until mitten is 4.25 ins, or 13 p ridges, above thumb hole. Stop after p rnd and redistribute sts on needles: 7/7/8 ribs, each needle ending with a p st.
4. Dec in the next rnd (first k 2, p 1 rnd): Beginning of needle: SSK 2 tog (leans to left). End of needle, k 1, k 2 tog (leans to right), p 1, thus not affecting the last st of any needle. Dec this way every 3rd rnd, always the rnd after the p rnd, while continuing pattern, until about 21 sts remain (= total 19 to 20 p ridges). After p rnd, change to stockinette and (k 2 tog, k 2) around. K 1 rnd even. (K 2 together, k 1) around. K 1 rnd even. Break yarn with a 6-inch tail and draw up remaining sts.
5. Thumb. On 3 needles, pick up 10 sts at top of thumb hole, 11 sts from holder, and 2 sts in each corner = 23 sts. K even in stockinette until thumb is 2.25 ins long or to the tip of the thumbnail, then dec sharply: K 2 together, k 2 around. K 1 rnd even, then (k 2 together, k 1) around until 7-8 sts remain. K 1 rnd even.
Check length and width with those given on the chart for finished measurements. If you are satisfied, break yarn with a 6-inch tail, and, using a yarn needle, close the tip by pulling up the remaining sts on the tail firmly.
Make another identical mitten. This mitten can be worn on either hand. Finish both mittens. Lay each out with the thumb at center of palm. Tada! Lithuanian mitten, made in America (or wherever you live).
Abbreviations. beg, beginning; CC, contrast color; dec, decrease; in, inch(es); inc(s), increases; k, knit; MC, main color; p, purl; rnd(s), round(s); SSK, slip, slip, knit; st(s), stitches; tog, together (K 2 together).
Tension: 7sts and 10 rnds= 1in. Equipment: 4 US No.1 double-pointed knitting needles. Large eyed yarn needle. Short length of waste yarn for st holder. Yarn: 240 yds MC/12 yds CC DK or light worsted weight (2/6) wool yarn. The sample was knitted in a medium weight wool yarn from Green Mountain Spinnery. Each mitten used an entire 120 yd. skein. Hand size: 8 in, 8.5 in around hand w/thumb tip. Mitten sizes: above cuff 8.25 in, thumb length 2.75 in, mitten width 4.25 in. Time to knit 1 pair: 10 hrs.