Christmas Bells

The pattern for "I Heard the Bells Mittens" is available on Ravelry.  

Several weeks ago, a friend-of-a-friend, arrived at my Tuesday night knitting group at Cottage Yarn with a stack of handmade mittens in tow and a promise to get a book of folk mitten patterns to me, as she’d heard about my interest in Fair Isle knitting.  I’d never met this pleasant woman, named Pauline, but I’d heard about her whimsical miniature mice, felted fairy houses, and other creations that she knits and sells at area craft fairs.  The mittens she brought were exquisite—some worked in intricate Fair Isle designs and one delicate white pair constructed with Austrian cables and embroidered with flowers. 

        When the mittens were passed around, one of the Tuesday-night knitters held the white pair in her hands, choked up, and started to cry.  Through her tears, she stated that the mittens reminded her of her late grandmother.  I admired that beautiful pair, but, when my eyes lighted on a pair of white, blue, and yellow Fair Isle mittens with the first stanza of Longfellow’s “I Heard the Bells” worked into them, I was intrigued. 

        I later engaged in a little research and found myself deeply touched, actually a bit choked up myself.  The poet wrote this work, which later was set to music, on Christmas Day during the American Civil War, at a time when he was grieving the death of his wife—after her dress caught on fire and he was unable to extinguish the blaze—and coping with the fact that his son, who had enlisted in the army, had received a life-threatening wound in a skirmish.

I ordered Cascade 220 Fingering Yarn from Webs to make these mittens.  

Longfellow’s contrast of the pealing bells’ “chant sublime/Of “peace on earth” with the noise of canons that “drowns the sound” seems timely and appropriate, when one considers the current woes in the world, as does his choice of the word “forlorn” to describe households torn apart by war.  The poem also resonates with me this year, when I think of struggles that have made facing too many days in 2015 more akin to going into battle than to merely going through a mundane, but familiar routine.    

         After reading the background to this poem, naturally, I had to make these mittens.  As I knit them, I found that the activity took me away from reminiscing about Christmases, people, and places of the past—a melancholy activity in which I tend to indulge this time of the year.  Working the mittens with their simple poem also offered a respite from this season’s overabundance of advertisements, hours and hours of holiday music and movies dripping with sentimental portraits of a life I’d speculate that most of us have never known, and the general frenzy of activity that always makes me long to escape to a quiet cabin in the woods for Christmas. 

         Focusing on manipulating two colors, using one hand to work each, aiming toward a deadline to give these mittens as a gift, and thinking about the poem itself, with a last stanza where the bells “more loud and deep” overcome despair and where Longfellow asserts, “The wrong shall fail/the right prevail,” was the perfect soothing tonic for this hectic, and sometimes difficult, time of year. 

This month, I also made these Tulle mittens for a gift.  They are from Interweave Knits Winter 2016.  I used some Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino that I'd been given a few years ago.  This  yarn made soft mittens that hug the hand beautifully.  

In November, I  finished this Wrapped in  Leaves shawl using Berroco Folio yarn.  The green color is perfect for holiday wear.   (I'm keeping this for myself.) 

These holiday mittens didn't get finished in time!  I love the Milla-Mia Swedish yarn I'm using.  

I had to share a picture of another project that has kept me occupied in recent weeks.  I  used a package of fat quarters that I had bought in London at John Lewis to make these bunnies.  (I improvised and made my own template.)  The fabric looks like a Liberty Print but it's by "Sew Easy."  These bunnies are stuffed with fiber-fill, but I also ordered a large bag of lavender from and made numerous sachets with the same fabric for presents for friends and co-workers.  

I was also able to make this bird pincushion and still have fabric left over.  The pattern is available for free from Janome.  Here is a PDF of instructions.  A video tutorial and more pictures are available at thediydish.

Christmas Bells

    I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
        A voice, a chime,
        A chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."


  1. My favorite Christmas Carol is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." I love the story behind the writing of the poem.


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