A few months ago... at an extended family dinner... Uncle Bob asked me: "What kind of yarn makes the Best, Warmest Mittens?" Well... ask the obsessed wool lady a loaded question will ya? I know he was expecting me to talk his ear off, so away I went!
He was looking for a better hand warming solution. He had gone out and purchased fancy leather gloves, and other types of mittens only to be disappointed with hands that were still chilly and stiff after his 15 minute walk to work. He had thought that by buying a supposedly "nice" pair that he would have warm hands.
We live in Eastern Canada - translation: It snows here. A lot. There is often a wind chill factor drawing the "feels-like" temperature well below freezing.
I'm not surprised that leather gloves wouldn't do the job properly. Even with a lining, without the safety-in-numbers of the fingers to keep each other warm, leather just isn't a great insulator for warmth. It might keep the wind or moisture out, but not ideal for the chilliest of days. Maybe as driving gloves, when you're in your car?
So... enter the world of Wool. Warm, even when wet, and versatile - if you want warm mittens you probably want wool. After measuring Uncle Bob's hands, we went right to talking about what kind of wool would be best to keep his digits toasty. I suggested maybe a straightforward superwash wool outer shell, with a soft and fluffy layer inside for a lining to trap the warm air nice and close to the skin. We decided to go with Knit Picks yarns, because they have great reasonably priced products, in lots of appealing colors, and the quality is excellent value.
- Outer Shell: Knit Picks Swish Worsted - 100% Superwash Wool in Cobblestone Heather
- The Lining: Knit Picks Reverie - 80% Baby Alpaca/20% Acrylic in Wine.
The finished mittens will need to be hand-washed because of the baby alpaca lining, but overall should be easy to wear and simple to rinse and lie flat to dry if they get soiled.
- working from Uncle Bob's measurements, I set off to create the perfect pair of mittens! I've made (no joke) probably 50 pairs of mittens in various sizes over the years. I decided to just wing it and not bother looking for a pattern. Mittens are my thing...
- He wanted nice long cuffs to tuck into his jacket sleeves. I decided to do a bit of an offset alternating cabled rib, just to make them look unique. It's basically glorified 2x2 rib... comfortable, stretchy and resilient.
- The outer shell of the mitten was knit in plain stockinette - simple and smooth looking. I like to Kitchener the tops of my mittens closed to avoid the pointy look.
- The gauge of the lining yarn / needle combo was a bit different from the outer shell... resulting in the need to change stitch counts and rework the increases a bit. The result though, was a nice and lofty feeling lining that fits just perfectly inside the shell. I carefully sewed the lining in, using small invisible stitches. You'd never know from looking at the outside that it's in there!
- The final result is a delightful 2-layered approach to the Maritime winter season. The layers are thin enough to not feel clumsy or awkward, but you can feel that warm difference moments after you put your hands inside. That baby alpaca warms almost instantly, and the wool keeps that warmth inside. I'd bet even after a snowball fight, when the outer shell gets a little damp - these suckers will still be toasty warm and comfortable on the inside!
Uncle Bob's Reaction: "Do they come with a Mitten String? If I lose these, my wife is going to kill me!" (Aunt Christine was in the corner giggling!)