Boiled Wool Mittens


Boiled wool mittens

Boiled wool mittens

Boiled wool mittens may not be the most topical of projects in the summer, but I am just tidying up a few of my oldest articles with some new photos.

The most difficult part of making boiled wool mittens was finding a woollen jumper to boil.  I scoured the local charity shops finding many acrylic jumpers but very little pure wool.  In the end I settled for one that was wool with angora rabbit, but it is not the best to use.

Boiling the wool

Pure wool for the boiled wool mittens shrinks and felts with heat and motion and this can be achieved by putting it through the hot cycle on the washing machine.  In the interests of research, I thought that I would try and quite literally boil the wool in the old fashioned way.  I spent a happy half hour prodding the sweater with a wooden spoon and filling my kitchen with steam, but didn’t achieve anything more than my washing machine could have done.

The wool felted a little but not as much as pure wool would have done.  At any rate it was enough like fabric that it didn’t unravel when I cut it.  Apparently boiled wool used to be the poor man’s armour – it was solid enough to protect against arrows and swords.  I’ll bear that in mind next time I’m wearing my boiled wool mittens!

Draw around your hands for a boiled wool mitten pattern

Draw around your hands for a boiled wool mitten pattern

Cutting out the mittens

So, having boiled your wool, the next stage is to draw round your hands on the wool.  If possible, position your hands so that the bottom of the sweater will be the cuff at the wrist.  This gives a nice finish to the boiled wool mittens.

I should have drawn my thumbs sticking out to the side more, but then I wouldn’t have fitted them both on that particular sweater.  Cut round the shapes you have drawn.

Zigzag the two pieces together

Zigzag the two pieces together

With right sides together, zigzag all round the edge.  A zigzag stitch gives with the stretch of the wool better than a straight stitch.  Turn right side out and decorate.  I used a blanket stitch all round the edge to strengthen the seam as well as decorate.

My hands are now lovely and warm when I walk the dog!

If you wanted to make your own panels for boiled wool mittens, knit four panels in stocking stitch several times larger than you need and put through the hot wash cycle.  All wools vary so it is difficult to be precise, but wool can shrink to a quarter of its originals size.  That would make for very warm and durable boiled wool mittens.

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