I spent this past Friday holed up in large uncomfortable rooms performing my civic responsibility: I was at jury duty! Lucky me, I did not get chosen for a jury, but the day was not a total waste—I used it to make not one, but two, pairs of fingerless mitts!
The night before, I raced around the apartment gathering things to occupy me during the day. I have this intense fear of being bored—it’s why I always overpack my carry-on when I’m on long flights—so I was in a bit of a panic trying to decide what to bring along.
I had half-hoped that my friend would decide on her wedding shawl so that I could start that, but she didn’t reply to my email. Then I decided I’d grab some sock yarn and just do a stockinette sock, but I didn’t have any sock yarn already wound up and didn’t feel like getting out the swift. Plus I didn’t know where my appropriately sized needles were. Then I got it in my head that, oh, it’ll be easier to just photocopy the page out of The Opinionated Knitter and get started on a Baby Surprise Jacket for a friend. And for some reason winding the yarn for that was a totally logical option (nevermind that this was not an option for a sock), but—because clearly this was the next logical step—I’d wind it up by hand, because, you know, getting the swift and ball winder out is such a pain. I got Jason into position to hold the skein, started winding—and the yarn broke. I shrugged and spit-felted it back together. Then it broke again. I started to sweat. The yarn got weirdly tangled up on itself. Jason gave me a long look and told me this was not going to happen—just bring a book and be done.
So I found an extra book—because the 300-pager I had obviously wasn’t enough—and I headed to bed. And on the floor next to my side I saw the fingerless mitts I’d started a few weeks ago. They’re the Cabled Mitts from the soon-to-be-on-newsstands November/December issue of Crochet Today, and the pattern is really simple but also really elegant (photos to go up on Ravelry this week). And here I had my answer. So the next morning I tucked hook, pattern, and two balls of yarn into my bag. (Along with the two books and, uh, three food magazines.)
It was a good thing I did, too, because jury duty? STRESSFUL. It was grand jury duty, too, so it was a lot more scary. You sit in that room with all the other people and listen to them call out names—the process is slow and boring but you have to pay attention in case your name is called, because that’s it, there’s no going back, you’re in it and deep if you get called (the minimum length of service was 10 days. days!! and we were lucky, cause sometimes they call for 3-MONTH or 6-MONTH grand juries). So you can’t concentrate enough to read. You can’t listen to an ipod, since you need to hear what’s being said. You can’t knit anything complicated, like lace, because you will definitely screw it up. You need something simple, mindless, and basic. Something you can get mildly lost in but not forget where you are (although how could you?!). You need these mitts.
The pattern is so deceptively simple. It’s just rows of ribbing, really, with a two-row decorative lace panel made up of trebles and double trebles up the back. You slip stitch the first and last rows together at the end, leaving you with just two ends to weave in. When you use the yarn I used (Debbie Stoller’s Full o’ Sheep), you can easily get both mitts out of a single skein.
And your fellow jurors sitting nearby will exclaim when they see them, sparking conversation in an otherwise dull room. Sadly, Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is sitting behind you, won’t notice what you’re doing, leaving you with no opening to ask if she’s going to Rhinebeck this year (she’s a knitter, and has been to NYS&W in the past—or so I hear). But still! You end up with more than one finished mitt at the end of the day. (In truth, you will chat with Ms. Gyllenhaal while being led from the grand jury holding room (from which you’ve been released!) to the civil court jury duty (from which you will later be released too!), but you won’t be able to think of a way to nonchalantly mention knitting, so instead you’ll just talk about jury duty itself.)
So in the end, I came out of jury duty with 4 mitts, a good celebrity sighting, and the promise that I will not have to serve again for 8 years. Not a bad deal.