This Week in Red Wool

Today we’ve been here for three months. But it feels longer, since we’ve gone from late summer to what is definitely early winter. It isn’t that cold yet, at least not all the time. On very mild days, like today (high of -6 C) I was downright hot walking to the library and back! But we’ve had a couple of cold weeks. Cold enough that I have to pull my amauti hood over M’s head, as little as she likes that. Cold enough that I worry about N’s extremities.

The sun setting behind clouds around 2 pm today. Perspective: where our bishop is visiting in Pond Inlet, they're down to 45 minutes of light.
The sun setting behind clouds around 2 pm today. Perspective: where our bishop is visiting in Pond Inlet, they’re down to 45 minutes of light. Good to remember when I curl up on the one corner of the couch that always gets the last bit of sunshine.

A couple weeks ago Jared took the girls to a different playground, up on the plateau, when it was approaching -30 with windchill. Let’s just say, N didn’t last long. Jared said she needed something more to protect her face, and her little fleece mittens just weren’t cutting it.

Well, said I, I can do something about that.

Few and obscure are the types of knitting that I have not attempted at all.* But one of them is a delightful technique called “thrumming.” It was invented on the East Coast of Canada. The idea is this: you take tufts of roving – unspun wool; fluff, basically – and you knit it into a fabric, with the tuft of fluff hanging out on the inside. Do this over a whole object, like a mitten, and you have a powerful natural insulation.

I’ve been wanting to try this for ages, but I have yet to live anywhere that thrummed mittens wouldn’t be too warm for. Here, I’m not sure they will be warm enough.** But it was time to try.

I let N pick a color; she decided on red, probably because she’s been reading Phoebe’s Sweater. (I fantasize about making two of those little sweaters next year!) I snagged a ball of Paton’s Classic Wool, my first yarn purchase at the delightful Baffin Electronics – a local store at which you can buy yarn, fabric, beading supplies, and all manner of hardware, but not really electronics.

N immediately thought it was her yarn, and said she was going to make mittens. As much as that flutters my little heart, I am holding fast to my line that I won’t teach her ’till she’s four. But I did let her hold my hands as we cast on a few stitches together. I managed not to melt visibly.

N was so excited about her new mittens that she even entertained M for thirty whole seconds for the express purpose of my being able to knit them. Of course, I spent the whole thirty seconds posting about this amazing occurrence on facebook, and so entirely missed the opportunity to actually knit. Me and my postmodern vices.

Observe thrumming.

Chopped up bits of 50/50 merino/yak. It's what I had on hand. This girl has no idea how spoiled she is.
Chopped up bits of 50/50 merino/yak. It’s what I had on hand. This girl has no idea how spoiled she is.
Thrumming in progress.
Thrumming in progress.
Mitten finished and inside-out. So much fluff!
Mitten finished and inside-out. So much fluff!
On the outside, all of the roving that shows is these little hearts of solitary knit stitches.
On the outside, all of the roving that shows is these little hearts of solitary knit stitches.

(The pattern is East Coast Mittens, which I recommend if you want to actually learn how to thrum; this post is not intended to be a tutorial. I adapted it down for toddler-sized hands. Mostly that just meant making the whole thing a little shorter; when I tried to make the mitten smaller, there was not room inside for both thrums and a hand of any size.)

This girl. I can’t even. Just can’t.

These happy lobster claws are effective as handwarmers, though they are still so long that they don’t work that well with her coat (which has weird little non-functional built-in mittens), and are so poofy that N pretty much has no grabbing power. Oh well. I’m not going to make more, and I remain optimistic that (a) she will grow out of this coat soon (it says it’s a 12 month size) and get another that will be more mitten-friendly, and (b) the insides will felt down a bit and they’ll break in enough to allow her the use of her opposible digits. Right now, on the playground, her boots are too slippery, so she keeps falling down, and her mitts are so stiff that she can’t hold onto the bars. The whole sad picture lasts the length of one trip down the slide, then she goes and spins around on the swings for a few minutes and wants to go home.


The leftover red was devoted to a face-tube cowl. I started with Tubular, but did my own gauge swatch, knitting this worsted down on 5s for a denser fabric.

This made for a happy little snack of mindless knitting, cranked out while reading The Chronicles of Narnia to N. What she really wants is for me to read her the instructions to her [stupid] Narnia-the-movie board game (pictured here with painted figurines), but I refuse to read them more than once a day. So we talked her into reading the real thing.

"Mom, why did you stop reading? MORE READING"
“Mom, why did you stop reading? MORE READING”
"I'll give you about seven more minutes before I start screaming."
“I’ll give you about, hm…. let’s say… seven more minutes before I start screaming.”


In other needle-borne news,


For anyone who’s curious, I haven’t given up on Evenstar. But I’ve really only been able to pull it out once every other week or so since we’ve moved here. These days, it turns out Jared and I want to spend most of our evenings just talking and drinking tea. This is lovely, but is not friendly to beading. Still, with an average of one border repeat a week, I’ve finally passed the 3/4 mark. There was one night last week when I managed to crank out three repeats in one night, and suddenly only had 13 left! Then the next night I had to myself, and did two more! With another snuck in last night, I’m down to 10! Now I’m super-motivated. Evenstar is all I have on the needles right now,*** and I am nourishing a real hope that I can finish it before I cast on anything else. Baby, baby, hold together…

That’s my last couple weeks in wool. We’re keeping warm so far. And yes, we’re down to about six hours of sunlight at this point, with more than a month to go before the solstice. But we get such glorious long sunrises and sunsets, which we never have to miss for sleeping, and the light we do have is so beautiful.


*This is patently untrue, but makes for a better paragraph. More accurate: I have tried most kinds of contemporary, mainstream styles of knitting. There are historical and international styles of knitting whose existence I am so ignorant of, I don’t even know how much I don’t know.

**The local way to keep your extremities warm is to make mittens out of seal skin. I do very much want to learn this, and I plan to in time. For now, though, I knew I could crank out a pair of thrummed mittens in a week.

***Well, all I have on the knitting needles. I don’t know whether to count this, but I have a little hand sewing project on the go right now. I know, sewing and me don’t get on that well, but it’s so important in Inuit culture, so I’m trying to suck it up. More on that another day.

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