We have loads of superb mitten books, the best of which tend to focus on a specific cultural tradition.
My personal favorites are Lizbeth Upitis’ Latvian Mittens, Annemor Sundbø’s Norwegian Mittens and Gloves, and Robin Hansen’s Favorite Mittens, which captures patterns and techniques from the Canadian Maritimes and Scandinavia. (Cold climates are knitting’s best friend.) Those are just three examples of a genre that fills a long shelf in my personal library.
Mittens are excellent little knitting exercises, like crossword puzzles for our hands. They offer all the intrigue of bigger projects, the increases and decreases and nuanced shaping, but on a small and oh-so-portable scale.
What makes Jorid Linvik’s Big Book of Knitted Mittens stand out? I’ll be honest, part of the fun is that it’s the newest, shiniest toy in the chest. And in that regard, Trafalgar Square did a beautiful job of producing a solidly built hard-bound book with abundant full-color photographs, easy-to-copy charts, and ample margins for note-taking.
But it’s what the photographs and charts depict that make this book a must-have.
These aren’t your typical traditional, geometric-patterned Scandinavian mittens. Yes, they have roots in the genre, but Linvik’s world is charmingly figurative in a way that’s clearly contemporary. Almost all of the 45 patterns in this book feature animals, including squirrels, penguins, cats, sheep, and cows. But there’s more. The animals don’t just sit there, copied from a generic chart. Most of them actually strike mirror poses so that when you hold up the mittens, the animals interact. In some cases, such as the cow (long my favorite and for sale separately on Ravelry), the pattern only reveals itself when you hold the two hands together.
In terms of difficulty level, these patterns will require confidence in working with two colors. While there’s some basic instruction at the beginning, it’s hardly enough to teach you from the ground up. But she does walk you through all the steps of a sample mitten pattern, explaining how to read all the markings on the charts, work the increases and decreases, gussets and thumbs.
Some patterns are a little more complex than others in their motif. While the penguin and owl-themed mittens each include a miniature penguin and owl motif on the thumbs, plenty of patterns keep the background motifs simple and rhythmic. All feature one pattern on the front side, and a complementary pattern on the back side.
Linvik didn’t just appear out of nowhere. For years she has blogged (in Norwegian) and maintained an online pattern shop as well as an active presence on Ravelry. In that regard, it’s worth noting that two of the book’s patterns (“A Bird in the Hand” and “Jorid’s Christmas Heart”) are available from her site as free downloads. The rest of the book’s patterns are either new or ones that she sells on her site for $6 to $6.50 apiece.
Also worth mentioning: If you fall in love with one of the book’s mitten patterns and wish you could make a matching hat, she may very well have the pattern for it in her shop.
An Open Book
Your creativity needn’t be limited to the 45 patterns that have been charted in the book, either. Tucked in the very back are empty charts that you can fill in with your own designs for adult or children. As long as you use a yarn that’ll knit a mitten-sized circumference with 60 stitches for adults, 48 for children, the world is in your hands.