Fingerless Mitts – a contradiction in terms?

The jury inside my head is in turmoil.

It can see the point of leaving those sensitive fingertips available for fine movements like buttoning your coat, unzipping your fly, stirring sugar into your coffee (yuk).  But current thinking is that the most valuable aspect of fingerless mitts is the ability to raise two pink fingers at certain prominent people in world politics. But aren’t those the exact bits that get cold fastest, that need most protection from the ravages of the winter months? The extremities.

I don’t really know because we rarely get ravaged in the UK – not by winter anyway,  and it is rarely cold enough for an overcoat, let alone a pair of gloves. I realise that the above mentioned politicians doubt the existence of global warming, but the evidence appears to be right there in front of me. I wear gloves when cycling to the gym, which happens about 3 times a year in the winter months, and only when I want to drop into the pub on the way home. Otherwise I get into my car and drive. I know I’m a bad person.

This week I have worn my black leather gloves because there has been real frost on the ground. Yes – Leather. I’m vegetarian. It makes no sense. Except that I think the poor cows have been slaughtered and minced for food anyway so I might as well make use of their skins. I doubt the driving force for slaughter is leather gloves.

Anyway, woolly ones are slippy on the handlebars, and then it might me my skin they are using for gloves.

Last weekend I was at a gathering of friends. Residential. Not a reunion as such but an opportunity to reconnect with some important people. It was lovely. It was at a
“spiritual centre”, so obviously there was a line of hand-knitted gloves for sale, also lovely, alongside the muesli.

Someone there told me that he could never find any gloves to fit him as he had weird hands. Really? How so? “Well, I have quite long palms and very short fingers, so nothing ever works.” I checked, and he was right. Not weird exactly, but certainly unusual.

So, as I do, I offered to make him some. “Could I have some fingerless mitts? Some LONG ones?” Well, yes you could, and I would be delighted because knitting those wretched fingers is a pain whether you use DPN’s or Magic Loop, or whatever. Just not enough stitches to make it worthwhile turning the whole thing around multiple times.

There must be millions of patterns out there for fingerless mitts but those of you who know me will also know that I could not possibly resort to someone else’s idea of what they should look like, so I set about my own design.

First I decided to use DK weight yarn which of course involved finding a yarn store (in Cornwall – that’s a whole other story) because I have little else but sock weight in my stash.

And yes, I knitted a swatch, but still the first glove attempt had to be scrapped because it was simply too tight around the wrist. And because I was intent on doing some stranded colour work the swatch is only approximate because….well, I think fair isle knitting has a mind of its own.

Anyway, I was calm. I was sat in my home while the rest of humanity rushed about doing whatever it is they need to do to “make Christmas work”, and I was enjoying not knitting a sock for the first time in a while. I was loving the colour work. I was even loving the rapid growth of the garment on the larger needles with the heavier yarn. And then I did the thumb and worked up the hand and finished it off and realised that it would probably reach this man’s elbow, if not his armpit.

This is quite a small man. I tried very hard to hate him for his lack of middle-aged spread but the truth is he is too nice to hate and he just is rather slight. My mother would say, “Oooh, there’s nothing on him”.

Now, here’s the thing about making up your own stuff. You make mistakes. You get things wrong and you learn from them, the way people have learned about fingerless mitts for generations, but when you do it yourself you learn properly and remember.

So this attempt is wrong in many ways. I pride myself on being able to take a quick look at a person and think, “42 inch chest, 32 inch waist”. Or even “36 C bust with a slightly narrow back”. Almost always I am wrong. Not by much but, crucially, wrong.

My dear friend sent me some photos of his hand with a tape measure draped over it so I could see the exact dimensions I was aiming for.

Why, I wonder, when I was sitting at that table in the kitchen of the brown-rice-retreat-centre did I not think of grabbing his hand and measuring it? Because I looked, measured it against my own and thought, “Oh yes, I know what I have to do”.

No I didn’t. I was wrong again.

So, this one is too long in the arm department, too long in the palm, the thumb is too small, and it is altogether too lumpy. Just look at the hem around the wrist. I referred back to Elizabeth Zimmermann and realised that of course – OF COURSE – the facing has to be slightly smaller than the outside because otherwise the physics doesn’t work. So I re-made the hand hem 3 times on smaller needles and with fewer stitches until it became vaguely acceptable, but of course I can’t really do anything about the wrist (elbow/shoulder) hem because that’s where I started.

It was clear that the only course was to begin again, hoping that I have enough yarn to make 2 more mitts without pulling out the original one, which I hope to put in the LEARNING DRAWER.

So here’s the result:

I quite like them, but am I convinced?

The jury is still out, but there are more and more reasons for those 2 pink fingers.