Tips to Survive a Polar Vortex

It seems as though the Midwest has been gripped in the icy jaws of a Polar Vortex all winter.  Even those of us who grew up in Wisconsin and spent all of our lives here have learned this new phrase.  Apparently a Polar Vortex is when the air is ripped from your lungs the second you walk outside because it is so cold.  People do not say hello to neighbors; they walk with their heads down leaning into the bitter wind.  Public schools will be holding classes well into June because we have cancelled school so many times this winter due to extreme cold.  There are even rumors that Hell has frozen over.  So here are some tips for surviving a Polar Vortex.

1.  Laugh when the weather man says we could break the record for the most consecutive days of low temps below zero.  (the record is 22 and we’re sitting at day 18).

2.  Wear all of your hand knits all at once.  It really doesn’t matter if your hat matches your scarf, mittens or wool socks.  Just wear them.

3.  Appreciate your stash.  After all, wool has insulation value and you are just doing your part to keep your home warm.

4.  Throw the children outside to play when it gets above zero.  They need to move and play and get some fresh air in their lungs.  For that matter, so do we so get outside and enjoy some of winter.  Go skiing, snowshoeing or just enjoy your back yard.  I visited http://www.bayfield.org/bayfield-activities/ice-caves/

5.  Knit like the wind.  After all, when you don’t want to be outside it’s a good way to fend off cabin fever.

It seems as though I am very hard on my handknit mittens.  I have three pairs of mittens and all have holes.  I fixed my flip top mittens but those are really best for spring and fall when it’s not so bitterly cold.  For the kind of weather we’ve been having you need mittens that can handle the cold and wind.  My lined Fiddlehead mittens fit the bill, but they’re definitely not rugged.  Plus, the inside is unravelling on me.  These have gotten serious wear and just wore out at the tips of the fingers.  I’ll fix them, just not today.

For serious Polar Vortex type winters, you need mittens that can handle ice, snow and wind.  Felted mittens fit that bill.

Felted mittens without the cuffs

 

Pattern:  Felted Mittens

 

Yarn:  Classic Elite Yarns Kumara (85%merino, 15% camel) for the mitten.  Knitting My Way Home handspun (merino/silk blend) for the cuff.

Modifications:  None.  I did a bit of research to make sure the Kumara would felt as camel does not felt.  The percentage of merino was high enough that these took 2 cycles through my friends top loading washing machine.  I love showing people the before and after photos of these  mittens.  Heck, I love everything about these mittens.  They keep my hands warm on even the coldest days and I don’t have any problems driving in them.

Photo bombed!

 

Some Thrum Thumbs with all Thumbs

Some Thrum Thumbs with all Thumbs

Some Thrum Thumbs for Chums

Chums Thrum Thumbs While They Hum

I may have been reading a bit too much Dr. Seuss lately.  It’s just too tempting to think of fun rhymes while you are knitting thrummed mittens.

While at Shepards Harvest last weekend, I picked up a pattern for thrummed mittens and thrummed slippers.  These beautiful mittens have bits of roving knitted into some of the stitches so that the ends of the roving hang out on the inside of the mitten.  It creates a very thick and warm mitten.  I admit, I bought the pattern because I knew Lily would be over the top about receiving fuzzy slippers/socks/mittens/hat/sweatshirt…. ok, you name it she likes it fuzzy.  I also had to fight the temptation at Shepard’s Harvest to buy a lot of fiber for spinning.  Since I already have a lot of fiber that I’m not currently spinning, I thought it might be a way to use up some of this beautiful fibery goodness.  I had no idea how addicted to knitting these mittens I would become.

The pattern is not the best so far, so I will not be linking to it.  I will however, tell you to RUN to your stash and pick out some fun fiber and contrasting yarn – probably worsted weight although I’m doing mine with dk weight since the pattern didn’t list gauge or yarn weight.  Then just troll Ravelry until you find a pattern you like.

I brought the mittens to lunch with me yesterday.  One of the perks of my job is that I can eat lunch with my kiddos any time I want.  I brought my lunch and my knitting down to the lunchroom and was able to stay with both kids for their lunch.  Each time I brought out the knitting, the kids swarmed me.  They asked me questions about knitting, they asked about the fluff I was playing with.  Then I got to ask them questions about how they thought the wool became such a bright red color.  Food coloring was the overwhelming answer.  Today, when I happened to walk through the lunchroom during the 2nd grade lunch I had one girl ask me how my mittens were coming along.  I suspect I might have to see about teaching some of these kids how to knit.

Check out this.  And this.  And this.  You can see that I’m not the only one that is addicted.  Then just Google Thrummed Mittens and click on images.  How can you not love that?!  Perfect for cold Wisconsin winters!

A Brilliant Idea

I love my mittens.  They are warm and cozy and beautiful.  They are Fiddlehead Mittens from Hello Yarn made with Manos Silky outside and Frog Tree Alpaca inside.  I’ve made two pairs of these mittens and I could probably make more.  I just love the play of color up these mittens.  Made with a tiny circular needle (9") the pattern just flies along. 

There’s only one problem.  I am very hard on mittens.  I tend to be a picker.  If there is a loose thread or a little bit of an inconsistency, I worry at it with my fingertips while I drive.  I pick and I rub and eventually there is a hole.  But I think I solved the problem brilliantly.  Or at least I thought I did until I shared my solution with a friend and she looked at me like I was nuts.

 

I took a little fluff of fiber – Cloudlover Merino/Bamboo – in the tips of the fingers and thumb.  This helps keep my fingers toasty warm and gives me something even softer to touch all day long.  It makes me want to spin some more.  It just makes me happy.  Now I’m quite sure that someone else has thought of this before me, has anyone else heard of this?

I showed this to a friend and she thought it was kind of yucky – like having kleenex stuck in the mitten.  So maybe it’s not for everyone.  But if you’re a texture person, give it a try. 

Instant Gratification

After working on a deadline, I always like to throw in a couple of projects that are instant gratification.  The Meathead hats from Knitalong can be done in a couple of hours.  STC Crafts is offering it as a free download right now.  Go, go get it and knit it.  This is the child size, but it fits me.  I made the pink one for Addie so she’d have a warm hat to wear to school.  She put it on yesterday morning and said, "Cool, a elf hat!"  I think that’s high praise from a 5 year old!  The hat was so cute on her that I made a second for Lily last night. 

Details:

Pattern:  Meathead Hat from Knitalong

Yarn:  4 Strands of Worsted weight 100% wool (I used a combination of Ella Rae, Cascade 220 and Lamb’s Pride)

Needles:  Size 15

Modifications:  None.  It’s knit flat and seamed together.  I may do another one in the round, just because I like it better, but I don’t have size 15 circular needles (Nor do I really want them) so I’d probably end up making it in a baby size. 

 

Another instant gratification project. 

Details: 

Pattern:  Cool Little Llama Silk Mittens from 101 Luxury One Skein Wonders

Yarn:  Debbie Bliss Cashmere – 2 skeins

Needles:  Size 8 US

Comments:  I received the yarn in a swap about a year ago and just didn’t know what to do with it.  It’s two 45 yard skeins, so it’s pretty short on yardage.  I finished the first mitt with probably a yard of yarn left over.  These are super soft and cushy though!