Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Needle bound driving mittens

Here comes the last pair, and the jewel in the crown, of my series of mittens based on Heidi Fossnes' book "Håndplagg til bunad og folkedrakter". The original pair of mittens was found in Sauherad in Telemark. The original pair came to the museum in 1892, but they do not know exactly how old they are. They do, however, have a similar pair at the museum, which they know is from 1811, because it is embroidered on the back of the mittens. Thus, it is reasonable to believe that this pair is from the first half of the nineteenth century.

These mittens are made by an ancient technique called "nålbinding" (Norwegian) or needle binding (English). They have found garments made by this technique all the way back to the viking area, and even earlier. Needle binding is great fun and quite easy to do, when you get the hang of it. Basically, you are winding the yarn around your thumb, while you are anchoring it in the loop under and besides. This is an excellent technique to use on mittens, as it does not run. This makes the mittens easy to repair. On the other hand, it makes it extremely difficult to correct an error, as it is virtually impossible to unravel the work. The last point was a problem for me, as I had never tried needle binding before. On one occasion, I had to cut of an entire thumb to fix a problem.

Heidi Fossnes does not describe how to needle bind in her book, so I had to look it up on the Internet. It turned out not to be a problem, as there are several good instruction videos out there. You only have to search for "naalbinding" or "needle binding", and several alternatives pops up. I preferred this video. It is in German, but if you know some German (as I do) it is a very good instruction. For this project I used "der Oslo stitch", since it looked like this was the stitch applied in the original pair of mittens.

The mittens are made in PT 3, which is a thick wool yarn which is easy to felt. The mittens are relatively large when they are made (43 cm), but they shrink dramatically during the felting and is just over 30 cm when finished. The embroideries are made in a combination of cotton thread by DCM and a fine wool thread by Appelton, which I doubled in order for it to fill out the embroidery properly.

I could not use a fabric pen to draw the pattern on the mittens prior to the embroidery, since the felting made the drawings unclear. Thus, I needed to sew these mitten by free hand. Thus, I waited a while, to get some practise on the other mittens I made in this series of mittens (which was probably wise), before finishing the embroideries on these mittens.
In the book, there were almost no instructions on how to make the actual mittens, only a down scaled drawing of the outline of the mitten. Thus, I did not know how many stitches to cast on or how to increase or decrease to give the mittens its shape. This was a bit problematic, since needle binding is like knitting and crocheting: it tightens up after a couple of rounds. Thus, it took me several attempts to get it right (in particular considering the difficulties I had undoing what was already made). I have written down the pattern for the mittens I made, in order to make it easier the second time around.  You can download the pattern free of charge here. Unfortunately, the pattern is in Norwegian, but with the help of Google translator, I hope it will be possible to understand for non-Norwegians as well. Together with the book and an instruction video of how to do the needle binding, it should be possible to make these mittens. The embroideries are pretty hard to do, but the needle binding is easy when you get the hang of it. And the result is tremendously rewarding. Good luck!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Fingerless mittens with rose seam II

Here comes my favourite pair in this series of mittens based on Heidi Fossnes' book "Håndplagg til bunad og folkedrakter". Originally, this embroidery was sewn onto a pair of grey mottled gloves found on Vaalund farm in Tinn in Telemark. They do not know how old the gloves are, but they believe they are from the turn of the last century.

As I was making fingerless mittens for my film project, I used a pair of white mittens based on a pattern from Ål in Hallingdal as a background for this embroidery. My mittens are knitted using a thin yarn called Dale Baby Ull on needles number 1,5 mm. The embroideries are made in a fine wool thread from Appleton. In comparison with the other pair of fingerless mittens with rose seam, this thread worked very well on these mittens, because the area to fill in the embroideries was much smaller.

In the beginning, I did not notice this pattern in the book, because the embroidery kind of despaired in the mottled background. But when I saw the drawings, I figured that maybe they weren't so dumb after all. I had already finished the number of mittens that I had promised to make, but I had a skein of baby wool lying around, so I thought it might be worth while to give it a try. And I have not regretted this decision for a moment.
This is definitely my favourite pair. In particular, I love the straws curving slightly up towards the index finger. I am also pleased with the colour balance in the embroidery, and the little circle on the thumb, which I attached to give it some colour on the back of the mitten. And I also love the pictures my husband made for me.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Fingerless mittens from Valle in Setesdal

Here comes yet another pair of fingerless mittens in my series of mittens based on Heidi Fossnes' book "Håndplagg til bunad og folkedrakter". The original pair was found on Løyland farm in Valle in Setesdal. They do not know how old these mittens are. You can find a picture of a reproduction of the original pair of mittens here.

These fingerless mittens are knitted in a yarn called Falk from Dale on 2 mm needles. The embroidery is done with a fine wool thread from Appelton. I doubled the thread to give the pattern more fullness.

I knitted two pair of mittens; one white pair and one black pair (like the original). The white pair was the first one I made, and the black pair was the last mittens I made in this series of mittens.

These were by no comparison the most difficult pair to make, despite that they looked strait forward. However, the angle of the stitches and the coarse knitted fabric made it virtually impossible to get the edges of the hart pretty and even.
Furthermore, on the black pair, I was not able to transfer the motif by tulle and fabric pen, as I was able to on the white pair. Thus, I needed to sew the pattern on the black pair by freehand.

These are not the pair that you start on the first time you try to make such mittens. They are far to difficult to make. But if you have some practice, and you get the angles right, they become really beautifull.