Baltimore Quilt Fingerless Mittens by Karen Porter

Baltimore Quilt Fingerless Mittens

March 2014
Fingering (14 wpi) ?
32 stitches and 38 rows = 4 inches
in Stranded Stockinette in the round
US 2½ - 3.0 mm
200 - 250 yards (183 - 229 m)
Women's medium (7.5" palm circumference) - adjustable by gauge
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I have long been fascinated by the development of patchwork and applique quilting in America. Neither technique is unique to this country, yet it has evolved here in a distincly American way as one of our true indigenous art forms. It had its humble beginnings in Colonial times - early settlers could only bring a limited amount of clothing and household furnishings on their journey to the New World, and had to “make do and mend” during those hard first years. I can’t help but admire those spirited women who made a virtue of necessity and created something beautiful as they patched their old worn bedding.

The Baltimore album quilt first appeared around 1840 and immediately became popular among the newly prosperous ladies of the Eastern states. They could afford more fabric and had more leisure time than their predecessors, and the modular design made the album quilt a perfect medium for creative expression. A maker could combine her choice of popular motifs or design her own to create an item at once beautiful, useful, and truly personal. It’s no wonder that the Baltimore album quilt remains popular among quiltmakers today.

While I was searching for images of early quilts I came across the Mary Mannakee quilt and was immediately struck by its naïve charm and beautiful design. This quilt has an interesting history too – the original dates from around 1850 and was donated to the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1945 by a member who had purchased it at a thrift shop in 1916. Its folk-art charm, unique motifs and techniques, and fine workmanship made it popular among members and visitors to the DAR Museum where it is displayed, and in 1996 it was selected to be reproduced as a fundraiser for the museum. (The reproduction quilt was made by the Baltimore Applique Society and is currently displayed in the Smithsonian Institution.) A complete set of patterns to make the quilt was produced and many beautiful reproductions and variations have been made from them. Unfortunately the pattern set is not available at this time, but hopefully it will be reprinted.

I would love to make my own reproduction Mary Mannakee quilt someday, but in the meantime I decided instead to adapt some of the motifs and design elements for a pair of knitted mitts. I kept the colors true to the originals and used some handpainted yarns to suggest the many shades of red and green found in the quilt. The wrist design is inspired by the simplest variation of feather stitch, a popular traditional quilting pattern.

These mitts have ribbed edges and thumb gussets for a comfortable fit. This pattern includes written instructions and color charts for both hands, plus specific yarns and amounts used in the mitts shown. Small amounts of four colors are used - this is a great project for sock or fingering weight yarn leftovers. They are knit in the round - I used double points but they could also be done with magic loop or two circulars. Some experience with stranded knitting would be helpful.