State Fair Mittens ’15 – Planning

The Minnesota State Fair is only four and a half months away, time for me to start designing my mittens for this year’s entry. As some of you may know, in 2012 I took second place, but have not received a ribbon since. I’ve typically gotten high marks and good comments on my entries, but have been told it is a tough category. Last year, I entered my Newgrange Mittens  and have to say I was a little surprised and disappointed to not get at least one of the five ribbons (1st through 5th place) in the colorwork category.

So this year, before designing my entry, I wanted to look at what the judges have picked in the past. Let’s take a look at the mittens that have won first place over the last four years. (You’ll see some of these mittens have more than one ribbon. They all won first place in the category, but may have also won other prizes.)

2011 – This pair literally took my breath away. The tiniest perfect stitches, the pattern match on the thumb, they are just perfection. I found the listing for these on Ravelry and they are knit and 19.5 stitches per inch! Wow! I typically knit at 10 and people think that is tiny. As you can see, they won more than just first place in the colorwork mitten category, they took best knit item at the fair as well was ribbons from the Knitting Guild and a local knitting store. The design strikes me as very Latvian, more than Scandinavian. I love the touches of red and orange. I did not enter that year.

Minnesota State Fair 2012
2012 – These mittens won best in the colorwork mittens category and best in all mittens at the fair. Like the winner before, it has a peasant thumb. I wish I could have seen the pattern on the palm side. Stitches are once again tiny and neat. This pattern strikes me as very Scandinavian, especially the people at the cuff. The strip along the edges is something you’ll see again in the next two years’ winners. Here are my second place Flying Pig Mittens.

2013 – Once again a very traditional Scandinavian looking design. The shape is similar too with the peasant thumb and pointed hand. Also notice the edging around the sides. 2013’s winner did not seem to be knit as tiny as the past two. This is the year I entered my Retro Goldy Gopher Mittens. I made an error with the thumb, so I wasn’t shocked not to get a ribbon.

2014 – For last year’s winner we see same shape again and the side detailing. The design itself is whimsical with the scotty dog, but the rest of the design is very traditional Scandinavian. These actually remind me a bit of my flying pig mittens that did win in 2012. All of the runners-up that year, except for one also had similar styling.

So, what have I learned from this research?

  • The judges do seem to have a bias towards traditional Scandinavian/Latvian design.
  • They also seem to typically pick winners with a peasant thumb and a edge design that goes to the top of a pointed hand.
  • Use of more than two colors seems a lot less important than I expected, though I think I will end up using three or four.
  • Of course, neat, small stitch work is also paramount.
  • And no mistakes!

Ok, now it is time for me to start designing. I’m actually thinking of working in lace weight this year! I’ll keep you guys up-to-date with the process and hopefully pull out a win this year.

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