fbpx
×
×

Yes, we are here!

At CAPPER'S FARMER and MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we have been educating folks about the benefits of self-reliance for 50 years. That includes researching and sourcing the best books and products to help individuals master the skills they need in times like these and beyond. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-800-678-4883 or by email. Stay safe!

Newfoundland Trigger Mitten Pattern

Author Photo
By Christine Legrow And Shirley A. Scott | Dec 31, 2019

Photo by Christine LeGrow

In the world of hand knitting, Newfoundland mittens are special. Isolation of every type haunted us Newfoundlanders in the past, and it certainly wasn’t seen as a benefit, but to the historian, the linguist, and the folklorist, isolation can be seen as a gift. Cultural traditions have stayed intact on this island.

From the early days of colonization, there were civic, military, supply, kinship, and trade links with Britain and Europe. During the Age of Sail, Newfoundlanders skimmed the waves of the seven seas. However, the great wealth of Newfoundland didn’t trickle down much, the domestic economy remained small, and the material culture was thin. The self-sufficient lifestyles of old continued. Lives depended on it.

The quickest glance at a pair of Newfoundland mittens proclaims their origin. The striped wrist, the dark-and-light diamond or wave pattern, the salt-and-pepper top and palm, and the handy trigger finger shout out their birthplace. In other parts of Atlantic Canada and New England, you may find near relatives of our mittens. The same striking two-colored patterns and double construction announce a shared tradition.

Go as far as Britain, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and the Baltic countries, and you will reach the cradle of our mitten-knitting heritage. In each of these places are stitch patterns like ours, and versions of our salt-and-pepper pattern show up regularly, too. Clearly, these ocean-going mittens share some DNA, although European mittens are often knit in finer wool. Breeding sheep and spinning were highly developed arts in Europe. Newfoundlanders made do with spinning wheels and a handful of rugged sheep reared for survival, not for soft wool.

We picture the Newfoundland knitter, generations after all ties with home had disappeared, left with a handful of die-hard sheep and the memory of a few designs and techniques. The sophisticated mittens of Europe might have been exchanged for something completely different and much simpler to make, but, instead, the old knowledge was passed hand to hand through generations. From these tenuous beginnings, our knitting tradition flourished.

Blowin’ a Gale Trigger Mitten Pattern

More often than not, it’s blowin’ a gale on the island of Newfoundland. When a gale warning is issued to mariners, ships seek port, fisherfolk stay ashore, and laundry doesn’t get put out on the line. These trigger mittens remind us of choppy seas, spattered with ice or topped with whitecaps, and the sting of sea spray on your cheeks. The instructions make mittens 10 1/4 inches in circumference and 9-1/4 inches long from cuff to tip. You can adjust the size by working on larger or smaller needles.

Work charts from right to left, bottom to top. Always carry D on the left and L on the right to prevent streaks in the work.

The following Instructions are for both hands, except where indicated. Read all instructions carefully before casting on.

Tools & Materials

Worsted weight wool yarn, 215 yards each Dark (D) and Light (L)

Size 3 (3.25 mm) double-pointed needles (4)

Ring markers

Darning needle

Stitch holders

Gauge: 8 stitches x 18 rounds = 3 inches in S&P pattern.

Knitting Abbreviations

  • D: dark yarn
  • L: light yarn
  • K: knit
  • P: purl
  • SSK: slip, slip, knit
  • K2tog: knit 2 stitches together
  • S&P: Salt and Pepper pattern
  • RH: Right Hand chart
  • LH: Left Hand chart

Salt and Pepper (S&P) Stitch Pattern

Worked on an odd number of stitches.

Round 1: (K1D, K1L). Repeat to end of round.

Round 2: (K1L, K1D). Repeat to end of round.

Step 1: WRIST

Using D, cast on 48 stitches. Join in a round, being careful not to twist. Work 3 rounds (K2, P1) ribbing. Join L and work 17 rounds of ribbing, alternating rounds of L and D, and ending with a L round. With D, work 4 rounds ribbing, increasing 11 stitches evenly spaced on the last round (59 stitches).

Photo by Tanya Montini

Step 2: RIGHT MITTEN

Arrange stitches as follows:

Needle 1: 30 stitches (front of mitten)

Needle 2: 17 stitches

Needle 3: 12 stitches

Round 1: Work Round 1 of Blowin’ a Gale Right Hand (RH) chart 3 times on 30 front stitches. Place marker. Work Round 1 of Thumb Gusset chart. Place marker. Work Round 1 of S&P to end of round for palm.

Round 2: Work Round 2 of RH chart. Slip marker. Work Round 2 (increase round) of Thumb Gusset chart. Slip marker. Work Round 2 of S&P to end of round.

Rounds 3-21: Continue as established.

Round 22: Work Round 22 of RH chart. Remove marker. K1D over the D outline stitch. Slip 17 gusset stitches onto a stitch holder. Cast on 5 stitches in S&P color sequence to bridge the gap. K1 in S&P. Remove marker. Work S&P on palm. Thumb gusset is now complete (61 stitches).

Rounds 23-29: Continue as established.

Right Index Finger

Setup round: Work final round of RH chart on 30 stitches of Needle 1. Slip the last 9 stitches worked onto a needle for the front of the index finger. Slip the first 9 stitches of Needle 2 onto another needle, and work these 9 stitches in S&P for the back of the index finger. Slip all remaining palm and front stitches onto stitch holders. Cast on 5 stitches in S&P color sequence (23 stitches). Divide evenly on 3 needles and work in S&P for 17 rounds, or to desired length.

Decrease round 1: (K1 in S&P. K2tog with next color in sequence. K1 in S&P). Repeat to end of round, knitting any leftover stitches in S&P.

Decrease round 2: (K1, K2tog) in S&P to end of round, working any remaining stitches in S&P.

Break yarns: Break yarns. Thread through remaining stitches. Draw up and fasten securely.

Right Mitten Top

Slip remaining palm stitches onto the needles as follows:

Needle 1: 21 stitches

Needles 2 & 3: divide remaining stitches

With palm facing, rejoin yarns and work in correct S&P sequence to the index finger. Pick up and knit 4 stitches at the base of the finger in S&P color sequence to complete the round (47 stitches). Work S&P for 12 rounds more, or to the tip of the little finger.

Top shaping setup: Slip 2 stitches from the end of Needle 1 (front of mitten) onto the beginning of Needle 2. Arrange stitches as follows:

Needle 1: 23 stitches

Needle 2: 12 stitches

Needle 3: 12 stitches

Proceed to “Shape Top,” below.

Photo by Tanya Montini

Step 3: LEFT MITTEN

Arrange stitches as follows:

Needle 1: 30 stitches (front of mitten)

Needle 2: 12 stitches

Needle 3: 17 stitches

Round 1: Work Round 1 of Blowin’ a Gale Left Hand (LH) chart 3 times on 30 front stitches. Work Round 1 of S&P on next 24 stitches for palm. Place marker. Work Round 1 of Thumb Gusset chart. Place marker.

Rounds 2-21: Continue as established.

Round 22: Work Round 22 of LH chart. Work S&P to marker. Remove marker. K1L over the D outline stitch. Slip 17 gusset stitches onto a stitch holder. Cast on 5 stitches in S&P color sequence to bridge the gap. K1L over the remaining D outline stitch. Remove marker. Thumb gusset is now complete (61 stitches).

Rounds 23-29: Continue as established.

Left Index Finger

Setup round: Work Round 30 of LH chart on Needle 1. Break yarns. Slip the first 9 stitches of Needle 1 onto another needle. Slip the remaining stitches of Needle 1 (front of mitten) and all but the last 9 stitches of the palm onto a stitch holder. With palm facing, rejoin yarns, and, keeping S&P correct, knit the 9 stitches remaining on Needle 3 and the 9 stitches on Needle 1. With another needle, cast on 5 stitches in S&P color sequence (23 stitches). Divide evenly on 3 needles and work in S&P for 17 rounds, or to desired length.

Decrease round 1: (K1 in S&P. K2tog with next color in sequence. K1 in S&P). Repeat to end of round, knitting any leftover stitches in S&P.

Decrease round 2: (K1, K2tog) in S&P to end of round, working any remaining stitches in S&P.

Break yarns: Break yarns. Thread through remaining stitches. Draw up and fasten securely.

Left Mitten Top

With palm facing, rejoin yarns. Pick up and knit 4 stitches in S&P color sequence at the base of the index finger. Complete the round in S&P. Work 11 rounds more of S&P.

Top shaping setup: Work in S&P until 2 stitches remain. Slip these 2 stitches to the end of the first needle. Arrange stitches as follows:

Needle 1: 23 stitches

Needle 2: 12 stitches

Needle 3: 12 stitches

Proceed to “Shape Top,” below.

Shape Top

On odd-numbered rounds, decreasing will create 2 adjacent stitches of the same color. On the following even-numbered decrease rounds, these stitches will be worked together, restoring the correct color sequence. Decreases are made one stitch in from the edge at four points in the round. 

Shaping round 1: On Needle 1 in S&P color sequence, K1, SSK, resume pattern on the next stitch (having made 2 adjacent stitches of the same color). Work S&P until 3 stitches remain before the end of the needle. K2tog in the same color as the stitch just made, K1 in correct color. On Needle 2, K1, SSK with next color in the sequence, work in pattern to the end of the needle. On Needle 3, work in pattern until 3 stitches remain before the end of the needle. K2tog in the same color as the stitch just made, K1 in correct color.

Shaping round 2: Work SSK and K2tog decreases in S&P at the same points as the previous round. Correct color sequence will be restored.

Repeat these 2 shaping rounds until 15 stitches remain. Break yarns, leaving a D tail approximately 12 inches long to complete the bind off, and a short L tail sufficient for darning. Cast off, using 3-needle bind off.

3-Needle Bind Off

Place stitches from the front of the mitten on a length of waste yarn. Place the stitches from the palm on another length of waste yarn. Turn the mitten inside out to work the bind off on the wrong side. Return the stitches from the waste yarn to 2 thinner double-pointed needles for convenience. Hold these needles parallel to one another, with the needle holding the greater number of stitches nearest you.

With a third needle, and using the long tail of D, knit 1 stitch from the holding needle nearest you. Then knit 1 stitch from the front needle together with 1 stitch of the opposite color from the back needle. You now have 2 stitches on the working needle. Pass first stitch on the working needle over the second stitch to cast it off. One stitch remains on the working needle.

Continue to knit together 1 stitch from the front and back needles and slip the first stitch over the second stitch on the working needle to cast off. Repeat until 1 stitch remains. Thread tail through remaining stitch, draw up, and fasten securely.

Photo by Tanya Montini

Thumb

Slip 17 thumb gusset stitches onto 2 needles. With Needle 3, pick up and knit 8 stitches at the base of the thumb in S&P color sequence (25 stitches). Continue for 15 rounds, or to desired length. Work Finger Decrease Rounds 1 and 2.

Finishing

Carefully darn all ends and trim neatly. Press under a damp cloth, omitting ribbing.

Photo by Christine LeGrow

Newfoundland Heritage Sheep

European sheep were brought to Newfoundland in the 16th century. Isolated in Newfoundland’s rural communities, distinctive breeds developed. Once abundant, but now endangered, these hardy, medium-sized sheep can live on whatever vegetation the landscape provides.

St. Jacques sheep are one of these breeds. St. Jacques, a tiny coastal community in Fortune Bay on the south coast of Newfoundland, was accessible only by boat for much of its history. The sheep there have adapted to survive harsh weather conditions and a rough diet, which includes the summer beach peas that grow there.


Christine LeGrow of Spindrift Handknits and Shirley A. Scott (“Shirl the Purl”) have collected and studied mittens from across Newfoundland for 40 years. Recognizing the value of these artifacts, they’ve recreated more than 20 heritage patterns for today’s knitter. This project is excerpted with permission from their book Saltwater Mittens (Boulder Books).

Capper's Farmer - Your Hub for All Things Handmade

Get step-by-step instructions, DIY projects, upcycling tutorials, and more!