At first, his grandmother, Baba, did
not want to knit white mittens.
"If you drop one in the snow," she warned, "you'll never find it."
But Nicki wanted snow-white mittens, and finally Baba made them.
- Jan Brett, The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale
Somewhere in that great black hole of the wooly lost is a
pair of charcoal gray and black Norwegian mittens I knit
for my husband. They were last seen near Kowalski's
grocery store on Grand Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota, during
the winter of 2005. By now, they may be friends with some
of your projects, a crocheted lacy shawl, a loom-knit
slipper, or a hand-knit sock.
Each of us has our own tally card of losses that could
break a yarn crafter's heart. Take, for example, the
mittens my friend Suzanne made last year for her daughter
Lily, then a freshman at the University of Iowa.
A sweet hat was knit first and inspired Suzanne to match
it with mittens. There wasn't much left of the hat's
hand-dyed yarn. An internet searched turned up two skeins,
neither an exact match. So Suzanne added a stripe to
deceive the casual eye from discerning the variations.
|Knit Nordic Mittens
The mittens were designed with a flip top, so that Lily could
reach for her keys, or even text a message without exposing her
whole hand to the bitter Iowa cold. Suzanne's voice still cracks
when she describes the silvery pearl button she chose to anchor
the top to the mitten.
Lily loved her mittens. For one week, one glorious week, she
wore them everywhere -- to her classes, her job, and to visit
Suzanne at her office. And then, poof, one mitten went AWOL. A
search began. After thorough retracing of recently visited spots,
Lily trekked to the University's central Lost and Found.
"Just one mitten?" asked the man in charge.
Lily nodded yes.
"Oh, we never save singles. We throw those away."
Lily's mitten rests among the lost and tossed. Unless you found
it, and struck by its handmade beauty, took it home. Maybe right
now, you are deconstructing the pattern. If you do have it,
contact me. We'll right the situation. Even though it's been over
a year, Suzanne hasn't had the heart to knit a replacement.
A few lost knits are occasionally found and, like a stray, they
attract new owners who love and appreciate them. I know this for
fact. Although the keeping does present an ethical dilemma, even
the most virtuous might make a mental calculation on the
probability of a found item ever being claimed, knowing how often
lost and found boxes remain stuffed until they are dumped at the
end of the season.
In recent years, I have tried to focus less on the tragedy of
the mittens my husband lost. Not to mention all the hats, socks,
and scarves I knit for my children that never returned from school
or a sled ride in the park. I have made a wobbly peace with the
life cycle of my hand work, accepting what's lost and what's
After all, when crafted treasures disappear, we still have our
stories about them, about making them with our labor and love. And
in these stories, our handwork can now be perfect. The dropped
stich, the reversed cables, the mismatched seams are forever gone,
too. As we swap our tales of what's no longer with us, we click
hopefully away on the new. Perhaps this year, the Lost and Found
will save singles.
Flip-Top Mittens Pattern:
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