Where there is a will there is a way

Friday, November 23, 2012

How to knit striped alpaca baby mittens and hat in the round

  (4 - 10 months, baby stage after newborn)


The alpaca wool that I used was 8-ply.  I bought it from Silverhill Alpacas.  Alpaca wool isn't scratchy, like sheep wool, so it's a great choice for babies.  One 50gm ball of royal blue, one of red.

Sustainable living struggles:  It is best to find and support a local supplier if possible.  The alpaca blue and red I used here was sold by a local alpaca farm, but they imported their bright colours as they are breeding for the natural colours (not usually white).  But they do sell white undyed fleece - maybe I could talk to her about it and learn how to dye my wool brightly in future...and get it spun by locals?  Or just buy from someone else who does dye it locally. 

To make the mittens

Cast on 24 stitches onto 3 double-pointed needles, 8 on each needle, of the blue wool.  These needles are 4 mm.  Knit 2K 2P, and repeat for 7 rows, which will create two stitch wide rib.

Because the number stitches is even, each needle will always start out with 2K and end with 2P.  Because you are knitting in the round, there will be no need to invert the pattern after each round, it will happen automatically.

Change to the second colour, and K one round, stopping before the last stitch.  Create an extra stitch from this one (I use the KFB method).  Repeat for 5 more rows.  Switch colours every 2 rows (the stripes are two rows in length), taking care that the colour string you are leaving is up over the work.

Above photo:  see how the blue string I have just finished with is over the work, not below so I won't create a hole.

Now take a large needle such as a tapestry needle and push it through the 6 extra stitches you have made, pulling a piece of wool through them to place them on hold.

Knit on as usual, excluding the 6 stitches on the outside of the circle.  (Later the thumb will be knitted onto these stitches.)  4 rows later, decrease by K2together on the last stitch of the row, then shift the stitches on the 3 needles to allow for all the decreasing you will be doing at the left and right sides of mittens only as it makes a better shape.  So every round, K2together at the sides of the mittens.  Repeat until you have 4-6 stitches left.  Take a large needle and pull your remaining wool through (cut it), then bind it off with a few knots, camoflauging the wool ending somewhere, gliding it inside the wool.  


More on the decreasing:  I shifted more stitches onto the needles where I knew I was decreasing.  For example, I wanted the mitten back to be a little wider than the front so it curved around a bit, so I shifted stitches so there was a total of 14 on two needles for the back (9 stitches on one and 5 on the other), and 10 on the other needle.  I always decreased at the beginning of the needle with 10 stitches on it, and at the start of the next needle with 9 on it, so that the decreasing was only at the sides of the mittens.

To knit the thumbs

Take up those stitches, onto 3 needles, and knit away for several rows, then start decreasing - I just ended them by eye as long as I thought a thumb should be.  If you don't like feeling your way around, 7-8 rows in total?  I had the cool idea of not trying to end the thumb rounded, but in a point.  A pointy thumb wouldn't bother the baby, and like a pointy hat, would be cute.  

Finishing them:  A very important last step is to weave one string of the wool using a tapestry needle in and out around the wrists of the mittens to act as a drawstring (see photo above).  Babies are active things; they will otherwise throw them off and lose them.  (I was originally going to fasten a string between them, as you do with older childrens' mittens so they don't get lost - but with babies that could be a hazard.)  

To knit the hat

The baby hat (or toque, as they say in Canada) was just knitted in the round, and ended with a point.  I just looked up the common diameter of a baby's head - like this:

0 to 3 months - 29.2 to 33 cm
3 to 6 months - 35.6 to 40.6 cm
6 to 12 months - 40.6 - 45.7 cm  

And of course, I finished it off in a point!  (Because elves are cool.)