Obsessive Compulsive Mitten Disorder

On Friday, when we last saw our faithful harlot, she was chugging merrily along on the insane Latvian Socks and feeling pretty good about it. Her Thumb Anxiety© had abated due to a brilliant rescue by Laura at Fibertraditions. Thus armed she was ready to sink into the foxhole of mitten knitting and rise triumphant this morning, having straightforwardly knit the rest of the mitten.
Friday night, while lying in bed I got to thinking about the mitten. I got to thinking about the way the pattern suggested that you knit to the point of decrease, then adjust the length for whomsoever the mitten is for, and then decrease. Seemed smart enough. Except for, (and this is what was keeping me up) if you did that, it seemed to me that you would have a mitten top that could end anywhere in the pattern. I didn’t want that, I wanted it to end with the pointy part of the pattern landing at the pointy decrease. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. I couldn’t just lie there while my mitten might be decreasing in the wrong spot. Who could sleep with a misplaced pattern on a Latvian Mitten?
I got up and went downstairs. I looked at the mitten. I had altered the pattern by taking out a row of motifs that I didn’t care for, and had compensated (without bothering to see if I needed to compensate) by starting at a different point in the pattern. I looked at the pattern and I got a bad feeling. I started feeling like if I finished the mitten the way it was, then I wouldn’t be getting the pointy pattern in the right spot. It might be too long, or too short if I tried to do that. I got a glass of wine, a ruler and a good attitude, and sat down. I measured it.
I was right. There was no way. I looked at the mitten, I thought about ripping it back to the second braid and starting at a different point in the pattern so it would work out. I asked myself why I can’t seem to learn that row gauge is a mystic art. I asked myself what reasonable person overlooks row gauge over and over and over again. I asked myself if I could live with the mitten the way it was, or if it was worth the rip? I thought about ripping back half of a finished mitten, and the more that I thought about it, the more I thought that I should learn to love the mitten the way it is? I mean, why am I always forcing my knitting to be something it doesn’t want to be? Why can’t I just accept the Zen of the mitten?
I decide that I will accept my mitten and allow it to decrease at the point that feels right to it. I go back to bed.
Twenty minutes later I am up and ripping. There’s just no way. If I didn’t rip it back it would stare at me for the rest of my life. The mitten would call me things like “slacker” and “coward” and it would belittle me and my half-arsed skills for many years to come. Over the years the mitten and I would never really be able to re-capture the feeling of our salad days, back when I knit it’s braids. It would never really open up to me and I would grow to resent it. I would start to apologize for it’s non-pointed patterning at cocktail parties, and the mittens would say that it didn’t matter…but everyone would know that it wasn’t true. The distance would grow until one day in March when I was wearing the mittens on the subway, and the weather is a little bit un-mittenish, just at the point when you might not get frostbite without mittens, and I’d get off at my stop and walk down the street and suddenly realize that the mittens aren’t with me. That I’ve left them, or maybe they left me…it doesn’t matter, because it was doomed from the moment that I couldn’t commit, rip back and make it right between us.
I can’t live like that.
I went back, I did the math (row gauge is a pox on the earth) and figured out where to start if I wanted a pointy ending that was also the length of my hand.
The rest of the weekend was spent making up for lost time and feeling the possibility of my perfect future with the mittens all come together.
I finished this morning.
See what I mean? See how it would have never worked between us without the pointy goodness? See how I’m clearly not out of my mind staying up nights worrying about mittens? That would have kept anybody up. Except Joe, I tried to explain it to him when he asked why I was up ripping back mittens in the dead of night. He just gave me that look again.
Wanna see the palm and thumb?
Yeah baby. The thumb is almost enough satisfaction by itself. It is perfect in it’s striped thumby perfection. How could I have had this thumb on a substandard mitten?
This morning when I went to my mailbox, I could see that it was all coming together. If I hadn’t pulled back the mitten, then I wouldn’t have finished this morning, and If I hadn’t finished this morning then I wouldn’t have gotten this super cool scrabble tile ring from Carolyn just as I was finished.
It felt like a party. Thanks Carolyn!

52 thoughts on “Obsessive Compulsive Mitten Disorder

  1. Ooh… aaah… what a gorgeous mitten!
    I can completely sympathize with the frogging. Especially with something like the mitten, which will be there on your hand, right in front of your face, mocking you, unless it was fixed.
    Of course, now you have to do the same thing, in reverse. *evil cackle of a woman who thought inventing mittens with a separate finger would be a good idea and thus knows what kinds of trouble are possible*
    At least the braids will go easier! *grin*

  2. But, if you changed where the pointy end of the mitten was, wouldn’t that have, instead of ruining the mitten, made it a pattern alteration that you did? I mean, wouldn’t it have, instead of being an off-the-rack mitten, been a HARLOTY mitten, and wouldn’t that have made things oh so much better?
    Don’t you want to make the pattern your own, so you can have personalized latvian mittens?
    I’m full of crap, of course. That mitten is perfect. The thumb? That’s perfection. It’s amazing. I would LOVE to be able to knit like that.
    I’m off to finish my scarf, and turn green with envy.

  3. You are the Mitten Goddess. I bow to your superiority! All hail Stephanie, Goddess of the mmittens! (See, even your new ring says you’re #1)

  4. Great job on the mitten.
    love your blog,it is the first place that i go everyday now,
    i need a life lol.

  5. But enough of this praise (though having to knit the second mitten neutralizes a good deal of it, so praise on, possoms.) How was the thumb resolved? Thumb trick (where you knit in a thread and take it out later to release the thumb stitches?) Something we are not worthy to know? Spill!
    (And wait till you try that looped fringe — which can be done with the braids. The scalloped cuff isn’t quite as nice, but it’s awfully nice, too..)

  6. Beautiful!!! I totally understand the need to rip so the pattern falls where you want it to. Your tension looks perfect – do you carry both colors in one hand or one color in each hand?

  7. The mitten is beautiful. You’ve given me the courage to try a similar pair–braid and all. I just finished my Yarn Harlot Poncho. I made it out of a Lamb’s Pride Bulky in a discontinued, but delicious chocolate brown color. I’ve dubbed it my Hershey Harlot. It only took 3 skeins, because I am so short (4’11”)! Thanks for the great pattern!

  8. There are no words for the beauty that is the mitten (and the thumb).
    Hope the obsession lasts until Christmas. 😉

  9. I’m so glad I got over my nanosecond of quasi-Latvian mitten lust. Especially after viewing what perfection can be had with such skills as yours.
    I’m going back to knitting the evil DW scarf now. {I realize my DW project is retribution karma I’m paying. Possibly due in part to my fleeting Latvian mitten wearing fantasies.}

  10. Hey Steph? I don’t know if you did it just to see if we’re all paying attention or not (OBVIOUSLY some of us are NOT since I will be the first to mention it!) but you did it AGAIN! You know, that thing “latvian socks” instead of the intentioned “latvian mittens”. Right there in the FIRST paragraph no less. Is this a test? Just asking… You need less midnight ripping and more midnight sleeping. HINT HINT The mitten, nevertheless, is beautiful in its perfection. Cheers.

  11. And I thought I was the only gal whose knitting keeps her up at night? Love the mittens…. and maybe a helpful sleeping hint? I try to read a little bit of a (non-knitting) book before I turn off the lights – helps me clear out the knitting thoughts.

  12. We are having guests this week which is the reason I cleaned up my stash (the fact that it has been threatening to fall over and bury anyone nearby was not a good enough reason). I pointed out my marvelous cleanup to DH who looked at stash earnestly and said, uncertainly, Oh, yeah, uh yeah, I can tell, uh, it’s, uh, neater?
    However, not the point, the point is while on this major mission I found a sock pattern I did while back which had a braid trim at the top. I remembered thinking it was cool looking, but not incredibly frustrating. This seems very wrong, the Harlot is driven over the edge and I just stagger along like normal? But, you see, that’s it, I normally do things like drop stitches (and don’t notice for several rows)while doing stockinette, you, on the other hand, ascend to a higher plane (except for row gauge). For me, it was SNAFU, for you it was an anchor. They look great, pointy in all the right places.

  13. Beautiful ! Drop dead gorgeous ! What’s next – socks to match ? Inquiring minds need to know ! Love the Blog !
    Kim O

  14. Darn. That looks so perfect. Darn. Now I have to go rip out 32 rows x 400+ stitches on the bottom of my shawl that I was making up as I was going along, because the imperfections in how the pattern flowed from one section to the next have been keeping me up the last couple of nights, too, trying to figure out how I should have fudged it. Fudge nothing, it needs to go. Rrrrrriip. Darn. But looking at how perfect your mitten is now, I know I will be glad I did when it’s all done, and that we will never be friends till I do.

  15. Wow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. WOOT! You’ve done a beautiful job. Beeee-utiful! Too bad I can’t seem to lay my hands on the Lizbeth Upitis book you’re using. I’ll have to search harder!
    I am so intrigued with the patterns and shape of the Latvian mitts. Does the pattern on the back of the mitt stay on the back of your hand when you wear it? Seems to me that the thumb positioning on the palm would make the beautiful pattern sit all skew wiff. Then again, they’ve been doing it that way for years, so it *must* work! And even if it doesn’t (yeah, right) I think I would be happy just to place the pair on my coffee table and admire them, and encourage others to admire them along with me…:)

  16. I’m Smitten with your mitten! It’s perfect & I now understand why you needed to make your own, rather than just having all those extra wedding mitten shipped over here from over there. You realize, though, that you’ve got another one to make too, right?

  17. Um, Okay…..can I just say this? You are a brave, brave woman….that there mitten, in all its Latvian glory, puts you up in Knitting Goddess territory in my book. I could never have ripped. I just couldn’t have. I would have mumbled something about that Indian legend regarding leaving mistakes in your work so as not to offend the gods, finished the mitten, promptly hid it and would have forgotten the entire thing. I am humble before you…I am sooooooo not worthy.

  18. I have also lost sleep over knitted items. (Rather, when my eyes open at some ungodly hour, I can’t fall asleep again b/c I’m thinking about knitting projects.) My mother tells me I am damn lucky not to have anything more serious to worry about. Lucky we!

  19. Her needles they are a clickin’
    She’s working on her knittin’
    Such a beautiful Latvian mittin
    I wish it belonged to this kitten!

  20. From one Stephanie to another, WOW. But if you continue to have these unpleasant conversations with your work, we’ll have to start ‘Zac’ing your knitting.

  21. Let me add my own accolades to the heaps of praise already showered upon you. Hurrah for the mittens! Bravo, bravissimo! Their beauty is a siren’s song, drawing me in, closer, closer to the rocky shore… Alas, I remember the projects tapping their impatient feet at me–a very harlot poncho for a very pregnant friend, copy a baby sweater (pattern made up by me with who-knows-what yarn that I can never find again)for my 5-yr-old who MUST have it asap (and will not wear it because he never wears anything I knit but I try to respect his feelings anyway), bag of close-out yarn that I have to use up because I won’t allow myself to buy any more clothes until I do… I stuff my ears with leftover end bits of yarn (yes, I save them)and ignore the siren’s song. Mittens will have to wait.

  22. Whoa. That’s some spiffy mitten work, there. And I think there was a typo when you were talking about row gauge: it should be black art.

  23. Ay, yi! One serious mitten there! I don’t know how you do it and manage the rest of your life too (especially with that hefty dose of OCD)! It must be the special magic of the Harlot!

  24. Oh Mi GOD! You make me want to knit Latvian Mittens like yours. DO you know how hard it is to make me want to do Nordic Fair Isle work like that? This should be my knitting project if I am moving to Stockholm for the winter (which is a 60% possibility)!
    I am going to have to get that book at some point. Some point like the one where I figure out how to do the math to make the pointy bits line up and look perfect like your mitten.

  25. So … killing yourself instead of ripping back was never considered as a serious option ?
    It is indeed perfection – are you going to grow your middle fingernail to fit to that very perfect, pointed point ?? It would only seem fair to have hands that honour the mittens …

  26. Fricking beautiful.
    I don’t have a row gauge problem, but I have a gauge that grows by about four inches from swatch to finished garment. So I feel your pain. Yes. Yes, I do.

  27. That is one beautiful mitten. I have to get to the point where I can frog my work without wanting to just chuck the whole thing into the trash bin!

  28. Beautiful mitt, Stephanie! Perfection. It’s nice to see insanity rewarded.
    Me, I never rip. My knitting can mock me all it wants. Like a guest on Jerry Springer, I just say, “Shut up! I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”

  29. Oh, it would have kept me up, too. I agree that you did the right thing, and it turned out so perfectly! Wonderful work!
    I am jealous of your mitten-knitting prowess.

  30. Last night, I cast on what is to become my second attempt at a pair of socks (the first pair ended in unmitigated disaster).
    This morning, I swing past your blog and see a pair of mittens that are more a work of art than a vital piece of your winter wardrobe. Can I say that they are gorgeous and amazing, and I’m completely unworthy?

  31. Your finished mitten is so perfect, as radiant as a brown and beige knitted object can be. It just gives me goosebumps. On the second mitten, you should really hide one tiny little variation underneath the thumb–on purpose. Just a little secret between you and Gitchi Manitou! The only knitting advice I could ever give you. You make me proud to be a Canadian! (Blinks back tears.)

  32. When I started knitting, I quickly started to struggle with the whether to knit something to wear versus knitting something that advanced my skill and to practice the art of knitting. The mittens you are knitting really speak to the art and skill. Your work is beautiful. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  33. That is the Platonic ideal of mittens. And no, it would never have forgiven you for not making the pointy bit in the right place.

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