Mostly Mittens: Ethnic Knitting Designs from Russia
by Charlene Schurch
One problem with mitten books is that you think: how many mittens do I really need (unless you have grade-school kids in which case, you knit them in sets of three, pin them to jackets and hope for the best.) I like gloves, though they are harder to knit, but mittens are fun, a welcome gift and a small project that takes to beautiful colorwork.
Charlene Schurch revisits the patterns of the Komi people, a Russian ethnic group living in a very far north republic west of the Urals. They are related to Baltic-Finns and the Saami, and similarly, their knitting patterns resemble designs you find in Latvia, Estonia and Finland, notably a sort of toothed diamond motif, possibly a sun design and bands of herringbone, similar to "Laima's Broom", the symbol of the ancient Baltic deity Laima (related to Hindu Laxshmi.) The patterns are geometric, eye-pleasing and very fun to knit.
This book is essentially the same book as originally printed in 1998 and it's nice to have it back in print. A few new hats are added (one with flaps) and the mittens are beautiful. There are instructions for converting any mitten pattern to hat sections.
The charts are beautiful, showing the entire mitten including the decreases for the tops. These patterns lend themselves to startling color combinations or are equally stunning in simple shades of black, white and gray with a bit of red or cobalt blue for accent. The patterns make nice bands for sweaters, so this book is more than just mittens.
I made the Komi cap, a watch cap with a sectioned crown in shades of green, yellow and red and it's very pretty. My only problem with it is that the brim is not wide enough to be reversible, so it sits rather funny on my head. Next time I knit it, I'm going to add a rolled brim of extra ribbing, or make it into a "dubblemossa", the double Norwegian hat that is knit as a sort of capsule shape and then has the lining half pushed in to make a very warm hat indeed. Of course, you can also adapt these mittens to gloves by adding a thumb increase, stopping at the finger height and knitting in plain fingers across the top.
This is a very useful book and one that has charts that are quite useful. It has a place on the shelf of anyone who enjoys ethnic color knitting.
Reviewed by Joanna Daneman
Joanna's twitter page can be found at http://twitter.com/jayelldee where you can see what she's reading now.