It all started last year. My son was in first grade and a note got sent home that his class would be attending a one hour local theater production of Charlotte’s Web. A few things went through my mind… How were they going to condense this beloved book down to an hour? Were 6-year-olds equipped to understand Charlotte’s death? And finally, how quickly could I get a copy of this book so we could read it together before the play?
Each night we read a chapter or two (I only had to duck out once and sob quietly in the bathroom after Charlotte died) until eventually we finished. We talked about life and death, the changes that come with time passing, unconditional love, trust, faith, new beginnings, of the importance of reading. I sent my son off to the play confident that he understood the story to the best of his ability.
This event marked a big switch for my son and I. We went from reading story and picture books off his shelf to reading chapter books for bigger kids. Those old books were moved into his little sister’s room and right now we are working our way through the Indian in the Cupboard. Thanks to one of my students who is a juvenile librarian with many excellent recommendations, we have a whole stack of books to read together and I look forward to this ritual each evening before bedtime.
When you mention Charlotte’s Web, people tend to get nostalgic. It was the first ballet I was in when I was 4 years old! I think almost everyone has read or has had this book read to them. It reminds us of childhood and is one of those books that we carry with us always, like Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, or my favorite, The Secret Garden. I went online to find some Charlotte’s Web mittens and was astonished not to find any. So began my quest.
Introducing the Charlotte’s Web Mittens, a true labor of love. I wouldn’t say designing is easy, because it certainly isn’t, but some designs are easier to work up than others. These mittens were not one of those easy designs. For months I tweaked this design knowing I wanted certain elements - Charlotte and Wilbur of course, her babies, the barn, Templeton the rat, fencing, and a web. I would work on it while on the phone, over lunch, here and there, constantly moving, altering, deleting, and futzing. It just wasn’t right. I wanted to do this wonderful book justice and my design simply wasn’t cutting it. I would text back and forth with my BFF asking her what she thought - something I never do in regards to designing. When a design is done I just know that it’s done. It’s a feeling. My artist mom and I talk about this often - how do you know when to step away from a finished design and leave it be? How do you reign it in so you don’t overwork it, yet get it to a finished enough state so it doesn’t look incomplete? One day I opened my office curtains to find a huge web had be spun outside my window, complete with a giant spider in the middle. I opened the file, worked on it a bit and I just knew it was done.
My knit design career started back when I was very young in the form of mittens. I’ve written here about it before - everyone under the sun got a pair of hand knit mittens from me whether they wanted them or not. I’ve found myself back on this mitten kick lately and am embracing it fully. Handknit mittens are like cradling a treasure in your hands with endless opportunity with both a front and back to design, a cuff, and a thumb. Go crazy on the inside and plain on the outside, add texture with Latvian braids or picot hems - the work surface may be small but it’s surprising how much can be packed in there.
Made with 2 colors of Spirit Trail Fiberwork’s Birte (my favorite Spirit Trail yarn) in a squishy DK weight blend of superwash merino, cashmere, and silk, these beauties are knit on US 2.5 circulars. DPNs or magic loop can be substituted, but that is my preferred method of knitting in the round in a small circumference. Worked in the round from the bottom up, the thumbs are made in a gusset style with the remaining stitches kitchenered together at the top. DK weight is a great weight for mittens and the luxury blend feels like butter.
This past summer during our annual trek to New Hampshire on my favorite hike, we walked through the woods just past dawn. We do this particular hike every single year and I’ve been walking that path since I was a child. We walked quietly through, watching the world wake up. There were dozens and dozens of spider webs and the light hit them just right. What is it about spider webs? Maybe spiders are the closest thing nature has to a knitter. I hope you enjoy this design and hold this incredible book close to your heart and on your hands.
Download the Charlotte’s Web Mittens here.