Friday, 17 July 2015

Aurora Borealis Mittens: A Review

In this post we're going to have a look at Aurora Borealis Mittens, written by Shannon Okey and published by Cooperative Press, the publishing company that Okey founded.

In the interests of full disclosure, before I get started on the review, I should probably say that Shannon Okey and I are both longtime members of, though I don't think we've ever had any more direct contact there than that of commenting on each other's posts. But as I informed myself a little more about Okey's work preparatory to writing this post, and found out that, besides heading up her own publishing company, she has a long string of craft books to her credit and was formerly a columnist for knit.1 as well as editor of the British knitting magazine Yarn Forward, it amused me to recall that the Metafilter community, at least in its early years, was sometimes considered by outsiders to be a bunch of slacker nerds typing away in their mother's basements with Cheeze Doodle-stained fingers. While we may have some members like that, we also have a lot of very accomplished members who, like Okey, are very productive high-achievers in real life with their own not inconsiderable online following. Not incidentally, the crafting community is well represented on Metafilter.

But to get to the review. Aurora Borealis Mittens offers some sound and even creative advice on technique, offering knitters a number of ways to customize its patterns. There are no fewer than seven cuff options detailed in the opening pages, along with mitten-specific advice on how to swatch and wet block, and a tip on how to economize on expensive hand-dyed yarns (by sharing a large skein with another knitter who is also making mittens).

Solveig Mittens. Pretty, and super warm, thrummed mittens. I like that an old rose was used for the thrummed stitches, as they look like little hearts.

Sigrún Mittens. These mittens are actually liners intended to be worn inside another pair of mittens. Very practical for those whose blood tends to run cold.

Fannar Mittens. These mittens are felted and can be embroidered after being felted. They're very plain. These are meant to be worn as an outer mitten (with or without a liner) so I'd want to either use the embroidery technique or go with a more interesting yarn.

Thora Mittens. From the pattern description in the book: "These mittens are named after a specific Thora: Þóra Borgarhjörtr, one of Ragnar Loðbrók’s three wives. Ragnar, who you may know from History Channel’s excellent series Vikings, was actually a historical figure, and married to one of my foremothers." Way to name drop that impressive little ancestral factoid into your mitten pattern book, Okey! Pretty pattern. I think I would want to make the cuff a little longer than they are on the samples. These are longer length mittens than is usual (Okey is making sure there's no bare wrist exposed between the wearer's sleeve and mitten cuffs, which I'm on board with), and the short cuff makes the proportions look a little off to me.

Nordic Stars Mittens. These are back of the hand and palm-side versions of this pattern, done in different colourways. It's a pleasingly intricate pattern.

Aud Mittens. Love the play of colour against the pale bluish-gray background here.

Halldora Mittens. The pattern in this one (and the zig zag stripes on the palm) shows to good effect in the white and teal used here.

Aslaug Mittens. Love the contrast from front to back and detailed cuff used here. Don't love the pointy mitten tips. I know that's a standard feature of mitten design, but it always looks so silly and awkward to me.

Eydis Mittens. The black devices are supposed to look like spears but look a little too much like spiders to me here. If they look that way to you too (and you're not into spiders), going with a different colourway should solve that problem.

Astrid Mittens. These have a striking, graphic appeal to them.

Iðunn's Garden Mittens. The colours used here are gorgeous and work really well with the floral pattern. They make Iðunn's garden sounds like a fabulously exotic and vivid place that I would want to visit.

Freydis Mittens. Very pretty and inventive interpretation of the snowflake pattern.

Sindri Mittens. Bold star pattern, and this colourway really makes it pop.

Dagmar Mittens. "Flowers reaching for the sky" on one side, and "a restrictive gate" on the other side. These seem like the perfect things to wear on a skating rink date with a beau one is feeling iffy about.

Gulla Mittens. Pretty pansy and striped pattern mittens.

Nordic Stars Tam. And finally we have a bonus hat pattern, to help you use up the yarn left over from your mittens, and that you did not want to have to share with another knitter. You could adapt this pattern to suit any motif from any of the patterns above.


  1. I only know of this website because of MetaFilter, so I love the link to Okey! I love, love, love your reviews.

  2. Metafilter! A blast from the past that's still going strong. Fancy mittens are on my list of things to make and these are quite pretty.