November 5th, 2008
This is a guest post from Jackie, our senior technical editor:
Visitors to my little Design Department cubicle sometimes ask about the wee, tattered baby mitts pinned to my bulletin board. The mitts are a talisman, the magic Smyth baby mitts.
My grandmother knit the mitts during her emigration from Ireland to the US in 1920. Shortly after she and my grandfather settled in Brooklyn, NY, she gave birth to my dad and the mitts were put to good use. In the following years, the mitts were hardly put away before they were needed for another new baby. My grandmother gave birth to another boy and then 6 (!) girls. All the tiny hands found handmade warmth in the little blue mitts. Sadly, my grandmother passed away when my dad was just 20 years old. In sorting through her things, it was decided that, as the eldest, my dad should be the keeper of the mitts.
So meaningful were these tiny mitts that my dad carried them with him when he enlisted in the Army. He felt the mitts were a charm, and entertained family and friends with stories of how they had kept him safe during the war. The mitts, a bit worn but still imbued with magic, were brought out again when I and then my sister were born, and years later for my own children.
What dreams and wishes must the little mitts hold after so many years and so many babies!
In honor of those who’d been so much a part of me, I’d kept my maiden name and am now the last family member to carry the Smyth name. And that’s how I came to be the keeper of the mitts. I’ve carried them with me through some difficult passages and they’ve not let me down yet.
As knitters and crocheters, we are all so lucky to be able to create future heirlooms for our families. Every handmade object is a treasure, carrying the warmth of family forward for generations. If you’d like to knit your own heirloom mitts, here’s a simple pattern that takes just one ball of Microspun.
With size 3 (3.25 mm) needles, cast on 30 stitches.
Work in knit 1, purl 1 rib for about 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm).
Change to size 4 (3.5 mm) needles and work in Stockinette st (knit one row, purl one row) for about 2 in. (5 cm), end with a wrong side (purl) row.
Next (decrease) Row: *Knit 4, knit 2 together, repeat from * across the row – 25 sts.
Purl one row.
Next (decrease) Row: *Knit 3, knit 2 together, repeat from * across the row – 20 sts.
Purl one row.
Next (decrease) Row: *Knit 2, knit 2 together, repeat from * across the row – 15 sts.
Purl one row.
On the next row, knit 2 together across the row, end by knitting the last st – 8 sts. Cut yarn, leaving a long end.
Thread yarn end through these remaining stitches, gather together securely, then use yarn end to sew the seam of Mitt.
Make a 3-st I-cord using size 3 (3.25 mm) double pointed needles; the cord on my mitts is about 22 in. (56 cm) long. Sew a mitt to each end of cord. (Click here for detailed I-cord directions.)
The pattern BK4K 0609004, on our website, includes a chart and directions for working an initial in duplicate stitch if you’d like to add this to your mitt.