Norwegian Mittens

Norwegian MIttens 2
Pattern: Norwegian Mittens from Knitter's Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmermann Yarn: Knitpicks Telemark, Icicle (2 balls) and Aubergine (1 ball - just barely made it!) Needles: US 3 DPNs Recipient: ??

Notes: It's no secret, I have made a few pair of glittens, , gloves, and other handwarmy items in my short career as a knitter*. Handwear are perhaps the knitted item appreciated the most by the naturally cold of digit (moi), and as projects are relatively brief, interesting, and portable. Call them the sock's hipster cousin, if you will. I do. These have been my go-to project since I started working and have limited knitting time, mostly on a crowded B train. They still took quite a long time since they were frogged not infrequently. Oh, and there were those two separate days when fellow subway riders asked me to please put my knitting away for fear they would be injured by the DPNs. Seriously. I had no idea exactly how uptight this rush hour crowd was until then. No friggin' idea.

These mittens are classic Elizabeth Zimmermann - she describes the Norwegian mitten archetype, and gives a pattern, which you see here, but really the "recipe" is yours to use for whatever pattern you like. Next time, I'll create my own motif, now that I am confident in the general idea. This pair is too large for me, but I've a holiday recipient in mind who does not read Fig and Plum. As the person drives an automobile, I am contemplating tricking out these mitts with suede patches on the palms to provide some friction.

Norwegian Mittens 016

Mittens are a great refresher course for colorwork. I hadn't done any since my last project out of Norway. The tension was all over the place as this project progressed, partly because my stranded knitting was rusty, and partly because I kept misplacing DPNs from the Crystal Palace set I was using and eventually replaced them with a different brand's US 3 that was, I think, .25 or .5 mm larger somehow. Why can't we just size by the millimeters?

Also, the first time 'round I placed the thumbs too high on the palm - even my short fingers were hitting the tip of the mitt. I ended up frogging and re-knitting the mitt portion of both hands before they were acceptable.

The one disadvantage of these is the positioning of the thumb. From what I can tell, it's a structural quirk common to all Norwegian mitts that the thumb is placed aligned straight beneath the palm (think: sock puppet).

Norwegian Mittens 024

The human hand, of course, more frequently includes a thumb sticking out at about a 45 degree angle from the hand. While it may detract from the symmetry of the back of the mitt, I prefer my thumb to jut out proudly at its natural angle, rather than be forced into some kind of permanent-shadow-puppet stance.

Norwegian Mittens 021

Now: Telemark. In short: fantastic colors (keep this up, Knitpicks! It's a drastic improvement.), acceptable quality, and cheap as chips. It's not the softest - I think Elann's Peruvian Highland Collection is softer. I preferred working with Dalegarn Baby Ull, which is smoother and superwash, but I'm not complaining about $6 mittens that seem durable. There are about 10 more balls of this in various colors sitting in my stash, poised to become colorwork hats and handwear. Normally I feel guilty about unassigned yarn, but (a), this is generally devoted to small colorwork projects and (b), who feels guilty about a $2 ball of yarn sitting unused? I have bigger things to beat my breast about (like that 1.5lb cone of cashmere-merino from School Products).

In sum: Mittens = awesome. Norwegian mittens = the Norwegian word for "awesomer." I am en glad laks!! **

Additional Photos:

Norwegian Mittens 014 Norwegian Mittens 019 Norwegian Mittens

* I have just thought of a word for someone like me. How about "mitteneer"?
** "a happy salmon." If you are Norwegian and this really means "bat guano" or something, please kindly let me know!

Posted by jess at October 31, 2006 6:01 PM | TrackBack

awesomer. most definitely awesomer. ^_^ i need to come up with a reason to make those for me...

Posted by: joy at October 31, 2006 7:52 PM

Gorgeous! I love the color combination. I know what you mean about the way the thumbs are on Norwegian mittens...when I knit my most recent mitten, I decided to have the thumb gusset grow out the side of the mitten, placing it in the middle of that alternating pattern that runs up the sides of the mitten, so that my thumb can happily jut out at its natural angle.

Posted by: Whitney at October 31, 2006 8:06 PM

So cute! A real kick in the pants that winter is just around the corner...

Posted by: grumperina at October 31, 2006 8:07 PM

Those are some glor-ee-ous mittens! The color combo is great. I am already contemplating my own pair. Love 'em!

Posted by: megan at October 31, 2006 8:19 PM

Those look awesome! The colors go together well.

Posted by: jessic at October 31, 2006 8:27 PM

Oh so beautiful! Mitteneer indeed!

Posted by: meg at October 31, 2006 8:41 PM

i was thinking about knitting up some Norwegian mittens but, i think the sock puppet-ness of it all kinda makes me a wee more iffy about the idea. eh, we'll see.

your mittens are gorgeous. very nice work, indeed. and i'm gonna have to try out some of that telemark now.

you're one smitten mitteneer alright. :)

Posted by: Sandra at October 31, 2006 9:09 PM

I, too, like the thumbs on my mittens to be off to the side. But I still love how those turned out. I have some telemark coming my way for my own pair! Nice job - you colorwork looks great!

Posted by: Lisa at October 31, 2006 9:31 PM

Oooh, love 'em! It's the perfect time for mittens. I just finished a pair and want to chart my own motif next, too. Your thumb angle photo is hilarious, somehow though I feel like my thumb is most comfortable at a 10 degree angle? So Norwegian mittens feel great on me. Thanks for the Telemark report :)

Posted by: Jenna at October 31, 2006 9:32 PM

Rusty or not, you did an awesome job! I really like the colors you chose.

Posted by: Julia at October 31, 2006 9:56 PM

Bat guano, lol!

Very pretty mittens, Mitteneer! :)

Posted by: Debi at October 31, 2006 10:10 PM

That's so funny about the thumbs. They came out beautifully! Someone's going to be happy this holiday season!

Posted by: laura b at October 31, 2006 10:12 PM

Very pretty! I love the colors, and they look so warm. :)

Posted by: natalie at October 31, 2006 10:39 PM

Great job on the mittens! Gorgeous.

Posted by: Dorothy B at October 31, 2006 10:46 PM

they look great! and really? people asked you to put away your DPNs? that's so strange. i would be flabbergasted. i'm always tempted to tell people to stop clipping their nails or sucking on their teeth but i never say anything! how did you handle it?

Posted by: gleek at October 31, 2006 10:47 PM

Freakin' adorable! I love the color combo too. You've got me itching for a Norwegian knit- I've had the yarn to make Norwegian stockings forever, just haven't had a chance to really delve into it. I may just have to tackle it this weekend :)

Posted by: Kelly B. at October 31, 2006 11:25 PM

I believe the word you want is ærefryktinngytende. Don't ask me how to pronounce it! Those are beautiful mittens.

Posted by: Catherine at November 1, 2006 2:26 AM

They are absolutely stunning!

Posted by: julia at November 1, 2006 5:12 AM

Lovely photos, Jess. You're too cute!!! The mittens came out great! Awesomer, so wrong but so the right word sometimes. I think I might give these a go... I just bought myself a new black coat who need fun mittens to go with!

Posted by: Aimee at November 1, 2006 5:32 AM

Great mittens, great photos, and good point about the Norwegian thumb.

Posted by: jessie at November 1, 2006 5:53 AM

oh chica... those are beautiful. great photos too!
i love the idea of putting the suede on... very nice touch.

Posted by: amisha at November 1, 2006 8:11 AM

Gorgeous mittens! I feel myself posed at the brink of Mitteneer-hood (Mitteneer-ness?) Love the color choices, and thank you for the yarn review -- I've been eyeing it myself.

I hope that you didn't actually put the DPN's away at the request?!

Posted by: Faith at November 1, 2006 8:14 AM

Would you mind saying where you ended up placing the thumb on the palm? You've inspired me to try these. And I love your Fig + Plum banner...the colors!

Posted by: Hildie at November 1, 2006 8:57 AM

Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!

How am I going to keep knitting my sweater and not cast on for mittens immediately? I have much unassigned Telemark, too.

Posted by: Adrian at November 1, 2006 8:59 AM

Wow! Those are impressive. I love them.

Posted by: Gina at November 1, 2006 9:13 AM

I understand that the thumb placement is not anatomically correct, but if you moved it sideways, wouldn't it get in the way of the pattern? Hmmm, I wonder how you're going to solve this one!
And these mittens look so cute, I don't know if you really need to change anything...
(By the way, I've been asked to put away my knitting in a movie theater. But I refused! Ha!)

Posted by: Veronique at November 1, 2006 9:19 AM

Gorgeous mittens! Love those colors

Posted by: Mary at November 1, 2006 9:27 AM

wow... they are great... i love your color choices too! I think this is just what i needed to see to try my first fair isle project!! Mittens are the perfect canvas for that! Beautifully done!

Posted by: margaux at November 1, 2006 9:28 AM

Those are SO COOL! I love 'em. Thanks for the little review of the Telemark too, I was wondering how it was.

Posted by: Cheryl at November 1, 2006 9:46 AM

They are beautiful! I may need to make a pair in the same colors for myself!

Posted by: Meredith at November 1, 2006 10:04 AM

These are just gorgeous! Lovely work and wonderful color combo!

Posted by: wenders at November 1, 2006 10:42 AM

Those are fabulous! Beautiful job. Great colors, too. (And I love the word "mitteneer.")

Posted by: Maritza at November 1, 2006 11:19 AM

Rockin' mitts! And thanks for the clarification on thumb placement. I knew there was something bothering me about the Norweigan mittens phenom, but couldn't place my...finger....on it.

Posted by: JulieFrick at November 1, 2006 11:21 AM

I really like the color combo you chose. The suede patches are a great idea!

Posted by: Kaitie Tee at November 1, 2006 11:21 AM

They are fabulous Jess! You are making me feel guilty about my "second mitten syndrome" though.

Posted by: Kirsten at November 1, 2006 11:29 AM

Beautiful! Great color choices.

Posted by: ellie at November 1, 2006 12:07 PM

Wow- these mittens are absolutely gorgeous! Could I justify big ol' mittens in Southern California? I think maybe I can... :)

Posted by: Nonnahs at November 1, 2006 12:12 PM

Beautiful, beautiful!!! I love these mittens--yours were the inspiration to make mine. And I love your color choice as well--here's to Knitpicks' best choices yet!
So now is it time to thrum? :)

Posted by: Jessica at November 1, 2006 12:30 PM

Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. I really, really need to buy that book.

Posted by: Stephanie at November 1, 2006 12:56 PM

Those are cool! I love the color combination. Happy belated Birthday!!!

Posted by: Steph at November 1, 2006 1:06 PM

Hi - I'm visiting from your post in Craftster! I really like the book Knitting Marvelous Mittens: Ethnic Designs from Russia
by Charlene Schurch. She gives the basic mitten recipe, and there are a bunch of different designs to knit. I've made a few pairs for me and friends and family - they're great! And the thumbs come out the side. (:

Posted by: Jen at November 1, 2006 1:08 PM

Awesome mittens. You inspired me to buy the Knitter's Almanac.

Posted by: Gail at November 1, 2006 1:43 PM

Lovely mittens! I heart the color combo.

Posted by: kelp! at November 1, 2006 2:05 PM

seriously? two someones asked you to stop knitting on the subway? amazing. I should knit with dpns more often just for the hilarity factor.

and the mittens are gorgeous! I may have to knit those!

Posted by: gretchen at November 1, 2006 2:25 PM

These are great. Any suggestions on stranded knitting in the round on dpns? I get ugly lumps at each needle join...

Posted by: Sara at November 1, 2006 3:03 PM

Wow, those are inspiring! I'm inspired to finish my pair-in-progress (similar, but from Folk Mittens) and start a pair of these...I love the EZ book so much. I really like the long, long cuff on these.

Very nice!

Posted by: Jen at November 1, 2006 3:50 PM

I love the reverse s shapes on the cuff - it's classicly elegant and folksy like. Nice job!

Posted by: Nicole at November 1, 2006 5:45 PM

Ok, I know it's blurry, but I really like the "artistic shot" and I can't believe fellow commuters really asked you to put the dpns away! Wow. Were they at least nice about it or narky? That would really depress me about the state of the world if that happened to me.

Posted by: Carson at November 1, 2006 6:07 PM

Those beautiful mittens will surely be able to keep your hands warm this winter! I've never thought about the placement of the thumb before. But living in cold Sweden I've a lot of experience of wanting to have my hands warm. And am thinking ... perhaps the thumb is placed there to keep fingers more "gathered" in order to be able to warm the whole hand better???!?

Posted by: Elena at November 1, 2006 6:08 PM

Your mittens turned out super lovely! Are you going to try a different thumb placement next time? I can't believe 2 people were afraid of your dpns! Another example of people who fear what they don't know. Silly!

Posted by: Robin at November 1, 2006 6:20 PM

I love those colors! I have really been wanting to knit some mittens, but just haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe this winter...

Posted by: Jillian at November 1, 2006 6:44 PM

The mittens look great! I've been thinking of knitting those in a similar color combination, so it's nice to see how good it looks!

I'm with you on the thumb placement--it's one of the reasons I haven't started this pattern yet. There's gotta be a way to modify them. Hmmm . . . .

Posted by: femiknitter at November 1, 2006 9:13 PM

Those mittens are gorgeous. Gorgeous!

My aunt likes to refer to a precocious child as a "fart in a mitten" - think about it...have you ever tried to contain a fart in a mitten?

Anyhoo, lovely job...

Posted by: Moe at November 2, 2006 6:33 AM

A comment from the cold Denmark. I look into your site from time to time - you inspire me everytime to go home and try new things with all my yarn and fabric...

Posted by: Charlotte Larsen at November 2, 2006 7:24 AM

Really lovely! I've got a whole list of EZ books on my Christmas list! Regarding the subway--I guess I'm not surprised, I've half-expected someone to say that to me while knitting. But what gets me is how close people will get to someone (while I'm standing and knitting) brandishing pointed objects. You'd think they would just steer clear. Not wanting to be sued, I often end up putting my knitting away :-(

Posted by: Jennifer at November 2, 2006 10:25 AM

En glad laks! Hee!

Posted by: Theresa at November 2, 2006 11:06 AM

Lovely colors! Well done! :)

Posted by: alice at November 2, 2006 12:24 PM

The mittens are gorgeous. I've been fiending to knit mittens for awhile now. I should really start.

I take the B train to and from work too! I'm shocked that people asked you to put the knitting away. If someone asks you to do that again tell them it keeps your mind off the voices that tell you to kill. Maybe they'll move then!

As for the thumb thing, do you have access to Anna Zilboorg’s Magnificent Mittens? She has directions for an invisible thumb, gussetted thumb, and a "sore-thumb". A lovely book.

Posted by: The Queen of the Snow Cows at November 2, 2006 12:33 PM

Beautiful mittens and beautiful photos -- what a pleasure to visit your blog today. BTW, isn't EZ the best? I think of her as the original knit bloger :-)

Posted by: nona at November 2, 2006 1:47 PM

These are so beautiful. I've been hankering for some colorwork, have yet to make mittens and have some very cold hands the last few days. It may be time for a knitpicks order.

Posted by: Jodie at November 2, 2006 4:45 PM

Holy crap, you are the Mitteneer Extraordinaire! They're fantastic!

Posted by: jenna at November 2, 2006 5:07 PM

Your mittens are great. I also knit on the subway and have run into the overly cautious. I think they really just want to mess with someone and a knitter seems harmless. Once in the early eighties a woman standing five feet away from me and my circs complained. As there was obviously no threat I started following her around always at the five foot mark. She got off at the next stop.

I don't know if I would go that far again now that I'm in my forties, but it was very satisfying.

Posted by: Valerie at November 2, 2006 9:37 PM

great mittens, you mitteneer you! and what a bunch of sour pusses on the train in the morning! don't they know DPNs only look menacing?

Posted by: melissa at November 2, 2006 9:54 PM

These are some beautiful mittens! I decided to knit them, too. Great job!

Posted by: Ulrike at November 3, 2006 6:41 AM

Congratulations! The colors and patterns are beautiful.

Posted by: colleen at November 3, 2006 7:20 AM

Absolutely georgeous mittens! I especially like the thrift shop paintings in the background of one of the photos. I am a collector of paintings like that. You always have excellent photography (your Morocco pictures rendered me speechless -- those blues!) I think I am delurking, don't recall commenting before.

Posted by: Kim P at November 3, 2006 2:41 PM

Your mittens are lovely! If you check out this link,, you will find more Norwegian mittens, aka Selbustrikk ( Selbu knitting). I've knitted some of the mittens my self. And the tanslation are perfect!
Have a nice weekend.

Posted by: Hege at November 4, 2006 11:53 AM

You already know...Gooooorgeous!

Posted by: chica at November 4, 2006 8:25 PM

Jess, these came out great! How beautiful! I really like the photography as well. Great job!

Posted by: Skylar at November 5, 2006 4:46 PM

Those are gorgeous. I love the colors you chose - that's probably one of my favorite color combinations. I'm so impressed with the colorwork. I've never done any myself - I'm going to have to take the plunge at some point, since these mittens are great, and I loved your Norwegian stockings, too.

Posted by: Elizabeth at November 6, 2006 10:59 AM

Absolutely beautiful work! How on earth could you give those away? I hope the recipient really appreciates all that effort at least! Hope the job is going well!

Posted by: megan at November 7, 2006 8:40 PM

Absolutely beautiful work! How on earth could you give those away? I hope the recipient really appreciates all that effort at least! Hope the job is going well!

Posted by: megan at November 7, 2006 8:42 PM

Hi I love this color combination. I am going to make a yolk sweater that Wendy at Knit and Tonic designed. I would like to us the blue as a base and the wonderful aubergine, and I need three other colors ??? Any ideas?
There are photos of the sweater on her blog.

Posted by: gina L at November 8, 2006 1:39 AM

Those are just fantastic!

Posted by: Delica at November 9, 2006 8:21 PM

Jess, they are fabulous. Just fabulous!

Posted by: Lynne at November 10, 2006 12:51 PM

yay! they are done and very bu-ti-full

It's funny how knit picks is hit or miss, they definitely rocked on this yarn. Lovely colors, btw.

Posted by: Craptina at November 10, 2006 1:27 PM

I love those mittens; the colors you chose are absolutely stunning! (I'm so happy to see Knitpicks is improving their color selection!)

Posted by: Sophia at November 10, 2006 4:23 PM

Beautiful Mittens!!!!!

Posted by: Jenn at November 11, 2006 10:20 PM

I am also in the midst of a love affair with Norwegian mittens, yours are fantastic!

Posted by: Heather at November 12, 2006 8:10 AM

I ran across your site as I was looking for "Norwegian Mittens". Love the pics and the pattern and the whole ball of wax, you did a great job. I'm not a knitter, but I am part Norwegian, and I live in Minnesota! So these are inspiring and want me to learn how to knit! Can you tell me where I can find the pattern, exactly what book by Elizabeth Zimmermann? Thanks so much! Feel free to email me the info if you have time, would love to know about these mitts.
Stay warm...

Posted by: aimee at September 14, 2007 5:13 PM

Jess, your mittens are lovely!! Did you ever put leather on the palms? I have been playing around with incorporating a little gusset on the palm, above the thumb. Interested? E-mail me and I will forward you some pictures. Kathryn

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So are your mittens. I love these, but as you say, the thumb is quite uncomfortable :/ we norwegians must have had weird hands once upon a time.

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