Knitting History: What are Buff Mittens?

Good question. What are buff mittens? I’ve never heard of them before, but today, Knitting Daily e-newsletter featured an article from PieceWork magazine that was published in Fall 2011. The following is quoted from that article, “Annis Holmes’s Buff Knitting: Preserving and Updating a North Country Tradition.” The North Country cited includes  New England, which increased my interest, being a lifelong native of the region.

According to author Joanna Johnson,  “In winter during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, warm, windproof, and waterproof mittens, deemed ‘buff mittens,’ were a mainstay for loggers and others laboring in the woods of the Adirondack region of New York, New England, and neighboring Canada….The term ‘buff’ may refer to the felted pile or to the undyed yarn that typically was used to make the mittens.”

Curious about the term “buff”, I checked it out in several dictionaries, but none of the definitions I found relate to mittens or even to knitting. Instead, a soft, thick leather with a napped surface, often made from buffalo skin, was known as buff. Then there were the more common meanings, such as a brownish yellow color, a polishing process, bare skin, a devotee of some particular subject or activity, or the slang for physically fit. Interestingly, American colonists in the 17th century wore a short, thick coat made of buffalo leather, called a buffcoat.

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But back to the mittens. For PieceWork’s 10th annual Historical Knitting Issue, available now, Joanna designed the child’s buff mittens seen in the photo. If you want to know how that soft fuzzy surface is made, you can order a kit, or read about it in the magazine. Basically, it involves knitting the fabric with loops on the surface, then cutting, trimming, and fulling the finished product. Sounds like the embroidery technique of Turkey work, aka Ghiordes Knot, for which there are numerous tutorials online.

More info about this project, including where to get the mitten kit, is available right over  here .

(Wonder how these mittens hold up after multiple washings and wearings. They recall to mind some dusting mitts my mother used to have.)

Fall Knits: Apple and Pumpkin Hats for Kids

First day of Autumn’s coming, time for more cute baby hats. These patterns are all over the web, but I couldn’t resist posting mine. Also including a shot of the asters in our CT garden, abuzz with bees this warm, sunny afternoon. There’s said to be a sharp decline in honey bee numbers this summer, but we sure have plenty of bumble bees!

The Bumble Bee is the common name for any of a group of large, hairy, usually black-and- yellow, social bees. They are found primarily in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, often ranging farther north and higher in altitude than other bees. Fifty species of bumble bees are known in North America alone! Bumble bees are similar to their close relatives, the honey bees, in that their colonies are headed by a queen, who is the main egg-layer, and many workers, who are the daughters of the queen, and in that drones (males) are produced during the mating

season. However, the colonies of bumble bees, unlike those of honey bees, only survive during the warm season; new queens hibernate alone to begin another colony the following spring. In addition, there are usually fewer individuals in a bumble-bee colony than in a honey-bee colony, and bumble bees do not use a dance to communicate the location of food to other members of the colony, as honey bees do. Also, although bumble bees collect nectar and store it as honey, they do not hoard large amounts of it, as do honey bees. Bumble bees are sensitive to habitat disturbance. In England, several species are thought to have become extinct in past decades due to land clearing and agricultural practices.

Bee info from http://www.insectstings.co.uk/

Patterns:
apple hat

pumpkin hat

Radiant Sweater

I love knitting sweaters all in one piece, and Petite Purls has just posted a lovely little girls’ cardigan that fits the bill. It’s also worked from side to side.  Using short rows, Kitchener stitch, and provisional cast on, this project requires size 9 (US) needles and worsted weight yarns. It’s perfect for my little granddaughters, who are both as sweet as the little girl in this photo.
pattern