Check out what some of the participants in the first-ever Rovaniemi mitten class thought about it! Visit Denise's blog, Stephanie's blog, Teyani's blog, and Vanessa's blog.
My first introduction to these mittens came during the Nordic Knitting Symposium held in Vasa, Finland in the summer of 2003. At the time, I wasn’t sure I had understood the directions correctly – the resulting patterns were a bit bumpy, not quite symmetrical and the intarsia-in-the-round technique used was baffling. Because of this, I kept thinking about them, looking at other ways of doing intarsia-in-the-round and comparing it to the one I had learned in Finland.
Originally, the patterning on these mittens was done in bright blue, yellow, red, and green to mirror the colors used in traditional Sámi ress. They featured an unusual zigzag-like pattern that appeared only on the top part of the mitten while the palm-side was plain off-white. More recent examples have retained the use of bright colors for the patterning, as well as the saw-tooth like shapes while the main portion of the mitten now often is done in very bright colors as well. But it was when I saw my friend Leena's versions in subtle colors and a very fine gauge, that I became truly hooked. And because Leena was born in Rovaniemi, the city of the mittens, and still lives there, combining the traditional technique with her artistic adaptation in creating these mittens felt especially appropriate.
These beautiful mittens are not for the faint of heart. Done circularly on size 1.5 –1.75 mm (US size 000 - 00) needles, the intarsia-in-the-round patterning is done using 11 small skeins of the pattern colors. There is little written about the mittens and only the sketchiest information on how to execute this challenging intarsia technique (I think it may be because they couldn’t figure out a way to put it into words!). However, if you persist, you will be the owner of a pair of beautiful, intricate heirloom quality mittens.
If you are truly interested in mittens and cuffs, you should check out the Norwegian book HÅNDPLAGG (Hand Garments). This is a beautiful, coffee-table sized book with a wealth of mittens and wristlets from Norwegian museum collections. For each garment included, there are photos of both the museum piece and the re-created garment. The section on Sámi mittens contains two pairs of mittens that are similar to the mittens from Rovaniemi from a design point-of-view (i.e. patterned front and plain palm) but the way in which the technique is executed is not the same as what I learned in Finland in 2003.
The photography in this book is outstanding and while the text is written in Norwegian, you may be able to work from the photographs and numbers if you are a bit adventurous. The book is available in America from Nordic Fiber Arts.