Worry Less & Knit More: What to Knit for a College-Bound Kid

Determining what to knit for a college-bound kid can be layered in emotion. Worry takes the fore, as one witnesses a child-turned-adult vacate the nest in favor of more grown-up pursuits. Read on to find out which college knit project writer Mary Kaiser chose to get her through the send-off and beyond.


After a six-day car trek from Alabama to New York, my daughter was settled as a freshman at the college of her dreams. I was back home, grateful to have made the trip without a hitch, but befuddled by loneliness. I missed her lilting chuckle, her mimicry, even her cranky silences.

One evening in September, weeping into the onions on the chopping board, I realized I needed a distraction. I decided I would cheer myself up by knitting Anna a pair of mittens in time for the onset of cold weather. And keep on knitting until I felt better, even if it meant knitting a pair of mitts for every one of her 635 Facebook friends.

Looking for a challenge that would demand my full attention, I found a pattern bristling with charts for cables and bobbles, a garter-stitch saddle and a gusset thumb. My yarn was a brick-red singles wool I’d bought more than twenty years earlier when I was in graduate school. The skeins had traveled with me from my first teaching job to our first apartment to our first house and then to our second house. I was knitting with a thread of Anna’s history, one that began when she was just a twinkle in her dad’s eye.

The red mittens turned out perfectly, rich in color and texture, just the right size for Anna’s long, narrow hands. Although I was intrigued with the clever thumb gusset, I still wept over the marinara sauce. On the other hand, a few weeks into her fall semester, Anna was getting deeply involved in her courses in art history.

Vicarious Living, through Mittens

Mitten project, stage two. Looking for a vicarious connection to my faraway daughter, I checked out a book of Pre-Raphaelite paintings from the library. I cast on with a fingering-weight wool dyed in bright, paint-box colors and felt the bright hues gradually warming my heart.

By the time the colorwork mitts were finished, I was obsessed with mitten construction. Which would fit better, a flat thumb or a gusset thumb? What ideal width would hug the hand but not feel constricting? My third pair was my own design, using handspun yarns left over from a summer’s dyeing in horizontal stripes.

The Guillemet Mittens from Knit Mitts are a beautiful example of stranded mitts that can provide warmth and style.

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