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New (and gorgeous!) Free Pattern: White Witch Mitts

Feb 5, 2008

TODAY'S POST IS BY LAURA RINTALA, managing editor of Interweave Knits, and designer of the White Witch Mitts: our new featured free pattern.

Laura's White Witch Mitts (free!)

I have to admit, when Eunny asked us to do some sort of movie-inspired knit for our spring staff project, my mind sort of went... whirrlllll ka-chunk. You see, I’m not a good movie-goer. It’s not that I don’t like movies. I just don’t ever seem to have the free time to take in a movie. You kill that whole afternoon—and what do you have to show for it? A little sore bum and twenty bucks out of your pocket. Yes, sadly enough, I equate time in a theater to time away from productive things like eating, knitting, shopping for groceries, knitting, paying the telephone bill, knitting, getting the brakes fixed before the rotors have to be replaced. You get the idea. So, I really did not have many movies in my repertoire to choose from. Let’s see, Blood Diamond (mmm, not a good movie for inspired knits), Hotel Rwanda (ditto)... The few movies that I did see did not inspire great knits in my mind’s eye.

But way back last year, oh, early in the year, my husband and I did rent the newest version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I have to admit to being a bit of a C.S. Lewis fan. I didn’t remember being dumbfounded by any knits in the movie, but I did have plenty of inspiration in that wicked, wicked white witch.

Hard, cold, and bloody heartless; shades of dingy white and gray. It all jelled pretty quickly, and I set to work on a pair of mittens that would be as soft and warm as I felt that white witch was cold and hard. I wanted mittens that would protect one from the cold, yet carry the definite imprint of the cold on the outside.

On Knitting Fuzzy Fair Isle in August

I started knitting the mittens in Iowa, in August. Have you ever been to Iowa in August? Trust me when I say, the white witch never put a finger on Iowa in August. Even Aslan might object to the general climate. Hundreds of yards of fuzzy alpaca yarn followed me around Iowa for several days as the mitts grew. And here are a few things I learned about alpaca Fair Isle mitts in Iowa … in August.

    • You really should not knit alpaca mittens in a very hot, moist climate. Wait until January or at least October. Alpaca may well be my favorite fiber to work with, except when it’s so hot that little fluffy bits of it stick to your nose unceasingly, and the more you try to wipe them off, the more bits get stuck fast.

    • I love Fair Isle work, and I strongly encourage every knitter in the world to try two-handed stranded knitting. It looks horribly complicated to those who don’t get it, and this means oodles of ahs and ohs from family and friends, which relates to general feelings of great self-worth for the knitter. Bonus: You get the most beautiful things to wear and share when you’re done. My sister, an artist, received these as a gift, and she still ladles on the compliments.

    • When working Fair Isle patterns in the round on dpns, pull hard and stretch out the stitches on needles as you go (keep a bit of space between each stitch on the needle), to keep your work flat and even. You may even want to go up a needle size to keep your gauge and knit tightly. When you work on dpns, it’s easy to get loopy needle-end stitches unless you pull them tight, but you don’t want your floats between stitches to be too tight because the fabric will pucker.

    • I have small hands—not tiny, but petite—and these mitts fit my hands. If you do not have small hands, you may want to add a few extra stitches to this pattern to make bigger mitts.

    • If at all possible when knitting Fair Isle, weave in ends as you go. That’s tricky with mitts, but if I’d been making a sweater and waited until the end to weave in all my ends, I might never knit Fair Isle again. Do a little as you go and keep the mess of ends to a minimum, making the finishing faster. I wove in all the ends (except the thumb-hole scrap yarn) before I knit the thumbs, so I minimized the final sewing in of ends once the mitts were finished.

—by Laura Rintala, managing editor of Interweave Knits

On Friday:Sandi returns with the Gallery Poll results (there's still time to vote!) and the interesting things you all said about what you needed to become a Fearless Knitter.

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? The Gathered Pullover, and sleeves of the Secret Project. I finished the body yesterday!

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AnnA@32 wrote
on Jun 26, 2009 6:01 PM

I would like the WHOLE Instructions in ENGLISH.  I printed the White Witch Mitts by Laura Rintala from the Spring 2008 Interweave Knits and only the First page was all English.  The rest of the pages are MIXED.  Under photos in English, BUT REST in SOME OTHER LANGUAGE!  NEED Transposed to ENGLISH.

AnnA@32 wrote
on Jun 26, 2009 5:55 PM

I printed the instructions and pattern.  But it is NOT in ENGLISH.  I have No Idea What LANGUAGE this is!  For the White Witch Mitts by Laura Rintala for INSTRUCTIONS.

ONLY the Pattern Library page was all English.    Page 2 on is in Another Language for 2-end.

PattiP wrote
on Feb 13, 2008 2:22 PM
Just downloaded the mitten pattern...It is beautiful. I was wondering if your computer wizards could run some pic's in different colourways (coordinating and contrasting), or is there a program that does this somewhere in the cyberverse.
Patti P Vancouver BC
PattiP wrote
on Feb 13, 2008 2:22 PM
Just downloaded the mitten pattern...It is beautiful. I was wondering if your computer wizards could run some pic's in different colourways (coordinating and contrasting), or is there a program that does this somewhere in the cyberverse.
Patti P Vancouver BC
loulew wrote
on Feb 11, 2008 6:30 PM
If you want to see a film where knitting is almost a feature, see 'La Vie en Rose', a film about the life of Edith Piaf, a singer in the 1920s, 30s, 40s. She is also a knitter and it factors into the movie a lot. It was a great movie to watch but is subtitled, so was not a good movie at which to knit. Be prepared to become involved with the film though; it is a tremendous movie.
on Feb 8, 2008 12:33 PM
I love these mittens. The colorways are beautiful too.

I learned to do two-handed Fair Isle from the website:

It really explained the technique and helped me to knit fair-isle projects in a much better way.

Thank you for giving me another project that I can use to practice this knitting technique and make a beautiful, warm pair mittens too!
KarenWalter wrote
on Feb 8, 2008 9:53 AM
I am getting the error message when I try to download the pattern as well... I did update my copy of Adobe reader just to be sure, but it's still not working.
Any thoughts?
RobinT@2 wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 12:14 PM
These are absolutely beautiful...can't wait to get started!
Thank you.
TracyG wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 11:47 AM
Has anyone else had trouble downloading this pattern? I get a message that the file may be corrupt. Any ideas for help? Thanks very much.
HeatherT wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 11:42 AM
Our family recently saw The Water Horse - an excellent movie for knitwear inspiration!
Mimu wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 11:06 AM
Beautiful mittens! Thank you Laura!
TerryW wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 10:43 AM
The story is cute. I never get to the movies. Being handicapped is hard for me to sit with my leg up in a theater. However, I just about always knit with a movie on TV. I never really watch TV, I listen. Especially that I watch some movies over & over again. These mittens look fun to knit and it will be a good project for some of the ladies in my group to try their first try of Fair Isle. Fire Island Lady
MistyY wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 10:34 AM
I lovve the pattern (and as a CS Lewis fan myself, I also enjoy the inspiriation) but I'm puzzled as to why the pattern itslef shows 3 identical pictures of the palm side of the gloves and no photo of the back of the hand? It would be helpful to have photos of both sides.
on Feb 7, 2008 10:23 AM
Ooo, very pretty!

Fwiw, I often crochet in the movie theater. Or at home while watching a movie. I tried knitting in a theater. Once. I dropped stitches, and even once dropped a needle. So I returned to the hook. (:
KimD@2 wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 10:04 AM
Sandi, I downloaded the White Witch pattern and looking at the chart I have a question. There appear to be a couple of rows with some really long floats, i.e., row 1, & rows 10, 20, 30 & 40 on the palm side. Are there any suggestion to eliminate problems with these floats? (I can imagine that 1st row float catching on my rings every time I put them on.) Thanks
DreaK wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 9:50 AM
What a gorgeous pattern! Thousand thanks for sharing it with us. Can't wait to give it a try next fall or so. Thanks, Drea
TerriP wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 9:17 AM
I am glad to know that I am not the only two-handed stranded knitter. I find it a lot easier to do than trying to manage two strands with one hand. I am a self taught crochet and knitter so I can knit with the yarn in either hand.
I have knitted mittens for my 4 year old daughter and can't wait to try and make these for myself.
JoAnnG wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 8:01 AM
Can't wait to start this project! However, what exactly do you mean by waste yarn in the thumb area. Are you rolling your eyes at this question. A fearless knitter! JoNana
LaurieR wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 7:46 AM
I love the mittens! I'm working through The Sweater Workshop book and I'm just starting the two-color work section. Because of the crazy way I knit, I ended up holding both yarns in my left hand for the initial change color for every other stitch round. I'm planning on experimenting a bit more with the more complex two color pattern when I get the chance to knit again... hopefully in less than two weeks when my dance costume is finished. I am really missing my knitting!
JulesG wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 6:40 AM
Elizabeth M, I also like the stuff Lyra wore in the film "The Golden Compass" - and strangely I pay a lot of attention to what kind of knit garments people wear in films.
One thing I've tried to copy was the orange knit cardigan Julia Roberts wore in "The Mexican" - my DH thought I was crazy, just watching the film over and over again for more details of the garment.
Cheers, Julia in Germany
bsteph wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 2:57 AM
Knitting at the movies? How can you see?
Eharper wrote
on Feb 7, 2008 1:30 AM
I love the look of fair isle, but I'm terrified of trying color work. I'm fairly accomplished as a knitter, but figuring out patterns and juggling two or more balls of yarn at once. -- yikes! Do you think I should try to find a class or are there good books out there? Help! -- So much for the fearless knitter, huh?
Erin - AZ
SandyS@7 wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 11:51 PM
Such courage! Your mitts are gorgeous, and having recently attended the Iowa State Fair--in August--I truly am in awe of your accomplishment. Congrats. Now that's what I call a dedicated knitter! Sandy S.
AnnaM wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 11:35 PM
Movie knits! I was entranced a few years ago by a sweater worn on an English sit-com aired on PBS. It appeared in several episodes on the character, and I'd sit on the floor right up to the TV to get as many details as I could. I sketched it, badly, and did what I could, and OF COURSE bought some yarn to knit it. I spent much energy admiring English knitwear designers for their clever and appealing stuff. Then, looking through and old Vogue Knitting mag (can I mention that on this IK blog?), I saw THE SWEATER! It was in a 1994 edition, and was designed by our marvelous american Deborah Newton! Yay!
JoA wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 11:24 PM
I LIVE in Iowa, and the only knitting that can be done in August is INDOORS in the AIR CONDITIONING!!! Great mittens, and much needed in Iowa in winter, especially THIS year! I only wear mittens I knit. I will have to try these although I have never done two color knitting, since I am looking for a new pattern for warm mittens. Thanks!!
AnniessaM wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 10:18 PM
To add to the questions re two-handed Fair Isle ... could you incorporate the Old Norwegian purl and continentla to run both ends of yarn in your left hand?

Would there be a reason not to? i.e if two-haded creates a twist that keeps it all together?
MonicaL@2 wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 9:59 PM
Knitting is perfect to keep your hands warm and busy in over air-conditioned or under heated movie theaters. My knitting has also gone to college classes, campfires, family picnics, and a few boring parties. Love me, love my knitting.
ElaineL@2 wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 8:14 PM
I must disagree with your point about movies... I love going to the movies because you get entertained while knitting!! I can't be the only person who takes my knitting to the movies. It's a great time to work on socks, finishing the foot or a simple 2x2 rib pattern. I also love taking patterns that will be felted...any split stitches, minor errors will magically vanish. Always knit at the movies!
ClassicC wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 7:43 PM
Thank you so much for sharing this pattern! They are so beautiful! I've wanted to make these since the first time I saw them.
JenniferH wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 7:40 PM
OOOH YUMMY! I want them, I want them. They will be on my list of Christmas Knitting, upon which I've embarked, already! That's because I'm running late from '07!
Meanwhile, I have some nice boot socks on the needles & finally figured out what they were talking about w/ 2 needles - either that, or I've unvented a new technique, unlikely.
As for movies, I never get there. Always wait for the dvd, sometimes actually get to see one.
LauraS@4 wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 7:19 PM
I am surprised to see you say that going to a movie takes you away from your knitting. I have real clear memories of knitting my first fisherman's sweater (about 40 years ago)in while watching movies. I still have the sweater and wore it just a few weeks ago.
PeggyS wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 7:17 PM
I voted for #7, the Cable-down raglan, because I enjoyed making it. I tried out the method of using two circular needles (like making socks) on the sleeves, and it was fun. I'm short-waisted, and because it fits in the waist, I had to eliminate one of the diamonds. It turned out great!
Lynn G. wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 6:46 PM
Gorgeous! Saw that these were coming and couldn't wait. But I don't know the techniques needed at all and am wondering: if one has never knit in the round using dpns or two circulars or one long one for the two "magic loop" methods, is there an advantage to starting to learn with one of the magic methods because of all of the tension issues and awkwardness frequently mentioned for the dpns? I have chronic pain and don't know if I could "pull tight" at each needle end as instructed. Also, if one already knits continental-style, is there an advantage to learning one particular yarn-in-which-hand method for fair isle work? I purchased a "yarn guide" to fit on my left index finger, but I wondered if it would really be possible to keep each color in it's "slot" or whether I'd have to keep moving the colors depending upon the pattern.
MicheleB wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 6:38 PM
Two handed fair-isle knitting is cool. I taught myself to knit continental so I could do it. But then Anna Zilboorg (yes, THE AZ!) taught me how to carry both yarns in the same hand, with a slight turn of the wrist to put the right color in place. Back to one hand for me!

The mitts are beautiful.
on Feb 6, 2008 6:36 PM
The .pda file on the download page doesn't open. Maybe the webmaster/mistress could check. I really like the pattern and would like to have it. Thanks for all the resources and community. Happy Knitting.
Superk_4 wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 6:32 PM
you say that your sister is an artist.. but so are you, we,as knitters tend to look at our art as ordinary, or mundane. Even the little 9 year old I read with at the local schools looks that the socks that I knit and exclaims "you're an artist" in a loud voice... be proud of these mittens, they are perfect
CarolynS wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 4:39 PM
Okay, pardon my ignorance, but I've got to ask. What's "2-handed" fair isle knitting? While looking up info on fair isle I came across mentions of holding the different color yarns in different hands for "correct color domination". Is that what it is? Does fair isle knitting have to be done carrying yarn in both hands? I ask because I always carry the yarn in my left hand, and haven't had any luck trying it the other way.
Jeanne@2 wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 4:20 PM
I just heard about Iceland sweaters. Are they the same as Fair Isle or different? Plus what kind of yarn would you use? Jeanne
NinaT wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 3:57 PM
I learned 2-handed Fair Isle knitting last weekend. The teacher was great, it was quick to pick up, and I need to practice so I don't lose it. Thanks for a pattern that will motivate me to practice.
PattyM wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 2:36 PM
I loved the knits in Golden Compass! I remember noticing the sweaters in "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" too.
ElizabethM wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 2:04 PM
I see someone already mentioned "The Golden Compass", the little girl had some gorgeous stuff. I have never noticed knitted items before in a movie.

Later I asked my bf if he had noticed the beautiful stuff she was wearing that was knitted and he did not.

I looked online for some photos, but didn't find any.

I will make these mittens. I had made a hat in fair isle and was going to attempt it again. It became difficult when I switched to double points. I will use 2 circular for this instead.
JanL wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 1:01 PM
The White Witch Mittens are beautiful!! I wish it was colder here so I had a need for them. :/
CarolynS wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 12:07 PM
I'm so excited to make these mittens! Already have the yarn and everything. Though, having never made mittens before, and having never done any fair isle knitting, I'm a little nervous. But this is my fearless project for the year (since it might take me that long to finish them!).
YavannaR wrote
on Feb 6, 2008 11:50 AM
Cute story about the alpaca yarn in August--and so true! But if we want to get all of our Holiday gifts done in time, usually we're knitting in summer...

I think these mitts are great. And I think, if done in the right color combination, maybe in a monochromatic color scheme, and enlarged to fit a bigger hand, it could be a great present for a man as well. I think I might make a pair for my husband, actually. He'd look really cute in them.

As for movie inspired knits, did anyone see the lovely knits in the Golden Compass? Beautiful, jaw dropping, chunky knits. I may have to buy that movie just to try and figure out the patterns.