Folk mittens are often a fun challenge for knitters. The gorgeous patterns and fine yarn can make them much more complex and time consuming than their small size might suggest.
Charlene Schurch provides a wealth of information and patterns for mittens from the Komi people of Russia and Eastern Europe in her book Mostly Mittens: Ethnic Knitting Designs from Russia
About the Mittens
The Komi people were originally from Central Asia, Schurch says, and there are about 22.5 million people of Komi ancestry alive today, mostly Hungarians, Finns and Estonians.
Schurch got interested in the people and their designs when she came across a couple of books on the knitting and ornamentation developed by these people, which she had translated so she could learn more about the patterns and the culture.
The mittens use deep, often colorful ribbing at the wrist and feature a range of motifs, from small repeating borders to large, complex, dominating motifs.
They use at least two colors but can use more. The thumb sometimes repeats the motif of the hand or a portion of it, and sometimes uses a different design. They are worked with the stranded knitting technique with a thumb that builds out from the side of the hand. Both left and right gloves are worked the same way.
Mostly Mittens has 35 traditional mitten patterns as well as four patterns for coordinating hats. Three of the hats are for experienced knitters (one is ranked intermediate), while 17 of the mitten patterns are for intermediate knitters and 18 for advanced stitchers.
The patterns are organized into general categories based on the types of design elements included:
- basic patterns
- septenary borders (worked in sets of seven rows)
- wide borders
- reticulations (allover repeating patterns)
- complex borders with complex reticulations
The skill level required generally increases as you go through the book; the entire last section is rated for experienced knitters, for example.
All of the patterns are intriguing and any would be fun to knit for a knitter who's up for the challenge.
The patterns don't have names, but some of the more interesting ones to me are mitten 2, a combination of diagonal ribbing and cross patterns; mitten 5, which uses a checkerboard pattern for most of the hand, along with crosses and a couple of interesting borders; mitten 8, which uses two large patterns on the hand and a coordinating pattern on the fingertip area and the cuff; mitten 25, which has a corrugated ribbing and a sort of lattice pattern on a background of stripes; and mitten 35, based on a contemporary pair of Komi mittens, it features crosses, diamonds and lattice designs.
The book includes basic information on ways to knit mittens, reading charts and working the patterns for different sizes (most patterns are for adults medium and large, while some are for kids medium and large)
If you're a fan of ethnic knitting -- particularly ethnic mittens -- you'll want a copy of Mostly Mittens. This book has many colorful, wonderful choices that would make lovely gifts, if you have friends who can appreciate the amount of work that goes into a pair of these lovelies (the gauge is often 10 stitches per inch).
If you knit some of these mittens for yourself, you'll be warmed by the feeling of accomplishment every time you put them on as much as you will the warmth of the double-layer mittens.
Publication date: 1998 (original edition), November 2009 (revised edition)