Sunday, September 25, 2011

Katrilli Mittens

I grew up among these mittens.

When something is near to you, you get so used to seeing it that you don't see it anymore and this is what happened to me. I kept knitting for almost 40 years before I knit my very first pair.

I learnt to knit these mittens in Vaasa, in Nordic Knitting Symposium. Up till then I had not realized that my part of the world had a special mitten tradition. When home from Vaasa, I went to my library and there to the Lapland Collection to find any information of them. I came across few books that covered various mittens from the northern parts, but there was (is) very little written on these mittens. Later on while in the National Museum I read in the archives what was known of the origins of these mittens in their collections. The mitten that Mary Olki (1891-1974) called the Rovaniemi mitten was "found" in Tervola (village little bit to the south of Rovaniemi) and most likely in honor of my town, that once was called the gateway to Lapland, Mary Olki named these mittens Rovaniemi mittens. The Inari mitten is the more famous cousin, and it is the one that is referred to when someone here in Finland is talking about the Mittens from Lapland or the Northern Lights Mittens.

From the very beginning I knew I would make my mittens with small gauge. I had admired the intricate folk mittens from Estonia and Latvia and their small gauge and I had to see how the saw-tooth pattern would translate into small gauge. I knit few mittens, few fingerless mittens (Piecework article in Jan/Feb 2008) and that was it for a few years.

The technique is clever and unique, it is not intrasia, it is not stranded knitting, but a technique of its own producing patterning only on the top side of the mitten.  Every now and then I thought about the technique but it was so glued to the traditional pattern that I found it very hard to detach it from its original ground and could never see it outside that. The process has been long and it has truly been a love and a hate relationship. All along I knew that I was not done with the pattern, but I really did not know why the pattern kept pestering me and I am not sure just when I realized that I can uplift the technique from its traditional interpretation and do whatever I desired with it.  This is when the Katrilli mittens were born.

The technique in Katrilli mittens is almost the same as in the original and traditional mitten (I have tweaked it a bit to my liking), and where traditional Rovaniemi mitten has 11 small skeins plus the main color, Katrilli mittens have only two small skeins plus the main color. I decided to name these mittens Katrilli, as Katrilli is a Finnish word for Quadrille, a folk dance. There is a pattern available in my Ravelry store for these should you wish to knit them too. The pattern includes a pin cushion as a swatch and by knitting it you can try out the technique and check the gauge at the same time.

Ever since the symposium in Vaasa (2005?) I have talked a lot about the Rovaniemi mitten with my friend Susanna. She found the technical aspect very interesting and I of course, the traditional setting, after all, the workshop we both took in the same said symposium was named after my home town.  We have knitted samples wondering about the clever construction, comparing different ways to execute the pattern and she has developed an interesting work shop on this mitten.  If there wasn't her interest in the pattern, I most likely had dropped the subject altogether, but she has always believed that this technique is a treasure amongst the knitting heritage. My sincere thanks go to her way. Hugs.

I know, I am not done with this technique yet. I truly believe we have a future together even though its history seems to be hidden away. Somewhere, long time ago, possibly in humble surroundings, up in the north, lived a woman or a man with a very ingenious mind and a heart that yearned for beauty. Her/His legacy should live on.

The two pairs on the left: Blacker Designs BFL 4ply as main color,
and the pair on the right: Renaissance Dyeing Organic Poll Dorset
4ply as main color.

Wool with you,


  1. Thank You Thank You Thank You Lene! The mittens you show on your blog are always so beautiful and now I can learn the technique! You have done a good thing for the knitting community and for historical preservation by making this pattern - it is an important accomplishment and the future will thank you. Does your local library/historical society/archives have a paper copy of your pattern with your notes? (I am a librarian/archivist/historian so I am always thinking about leaving traces for the future and we do not know whether things like blogs and ravelry will be reliably preserved for the far future).

  2. beautiful! I just might try the pin cushion. You have a way with wool that just makes me swoon to see the pictures and how you present your ideas.

  3. Outstanding! (Wish I could think of something better to write!)

  4. Luisa22:24

    so beautiful! I can't wait to learn the technique. You did a good job!

  5. I have been waiting to learn this technique -- thank you!! Is the model one of your beautiful daughters?

  6. Kimmy00:50

    What beautiful mittens! So glad you shared the technique and are continuing to develop patterns to use it. :) I appreciate the pin cushion pattern as a swatch. Off to Ravelry....

  7. Hienot lapaset!
    Oletko muuten Ravelryssä siellä Suomalaisia perinteitä ryhmässä? Siellä myö ollaan puhuttu siitä, miten vanhija hienoja suomalaisia malleja voisi nykyaikaistaa (samaan tapaan kuin Virossa on tehty). Mie luulen, että siellä (siis Rav. ryhmässä) oltaisiin innostuneita siun lapasista.

  8. Anonymous12:29

    Thank you Lene, for the wonderful pattern. I just purchased a copy!
    Esther in Ottawa

  9. Oh, splendid! I'd been hoping you'd post a Rovaniemi mitten pattern at some point. Can't you see a cheerful row of diamonds marching up the fronts of a cardigan, too? I can...

  10. Kauniit lapaset ja hienosti vanha malli uudistettu. Ne ovat tosiaankin tuttuakin tutummat lapaset, joten sinun toteutuksesi on mielenkiintoinen. Kiitos päivityksestäsi.

  11. Living in a very hot place, I have very lottle need for mittens, but I covet that little pincushion.

  12. Stunning!! I love those mittens Lene!!

  13. absolutely beautiful. Love your mittens.

  14. very, very inspiring.