I got the mitts done this evening, and learned a number of very valuable lessons.
Among them; when you're just learning a skill, try to avoid doing something that requires matching parts. The two mitts have the same number of stitches. Goodness knows, I counted them often enough that I know this to be a fact. However, for some reason, the cuff on the second one is much more cuff-like. The ribbing is tighter, and holds closer to the wrist, and because of that, the second mitt looks much more shaped, and much less like a simple tube.
Don't buy yarn unless you know what you're buying it for (at least roughly) so you can get enough. A corollary to this is; one skein isn't enough to make a pair of mitts. Not quite. When I went back to get the second skein, I found to my dismay that Jo-Ann had lots more yarn of the same color, but none in the same dyelot. We looked at every skein they had. None.
Not all yarn can be used for all patterns. The yarn that I chose, while soft, fuzzy, and beautiful, was completely unsuitable for this. I couldn't find anything on the package that said what weight it is. But, in retrospect, the fact that the guage swatch calls for size 11 (8mm) needles should have been a hint. The pattern used size 4. My beloved has large hands, so I used a size 6 (4 mm.) The main yarn looked about the same width as some Worsted weight I had. I just didn't realize the effect all the other fuzzy bits and threads that were wrapped around the main yarn would have. (I was using Sensations Angel Hair, from J0-Ann.)
What effect, you might ask? Well... it was rather like knitting something that was being felted as you went. It's very fuzzy, the cable is impossible to see, and the stitches are totally invisible. So I couldn't even check my work as I knitted. I think I was doing it right, but who will ever know?
Not so good for learning.
If you alter a pattern, write down what you changed. The mitts looked way too long, so I decided to skip some of the rows after the cable repeated three times. The pattern called for 10 more rounds at this point. I was sure that I had done three, instead. Positive I had. I held the two mittens together, one on needles, the other finished, and checked the size. It really, really looked like I'd only done three rounds. (I couldn't just count, because it was impossible to see any stitches at all. See the Lesson Learned above.) Now that they are both off the needles, I think I may have done five in the first one. It's noticably longer than the second one.
You can't tell how long something really is while it's still on the needles. See explanation above.
Don't make the first one ever for someone else; instead, count it as practice. If I hadn't been making the mitts for my partner, I would have changed yarns after the first few rows. But then, if I had, I wouldn't have learned all these valuable lessons. :D
If you realize something isn't going to work, don't show it to someone and ask if they want it this way anyhow. See lesson above. If I hadn't shown them to her, had just quietly changed yarn, and told her that I'd have to make something else for her out of the beautiful, fuzzy, purple one, I think we'd both have been a lot happier. (And the mitts would be better, too, because I could have seen what I was doing!)
If you're pretty sure that it's impossible for a mistake to have happened where it seems to have, and you can't see the stitches to be sure, don't correct for it. I did. Repeatedly. I won't enumerate, there were too many examples. Suffice it to say that I wound up totally frogging the right (second) mitten seven, count 'em, seven times because I was correcting for things that hadn't happened, and couldn't correct the corrections. At least I hadn't gotten very far. But I did make such a mess of some of the yarn that I had to just toss it, and start with fresher yarn that hadn't been knit and unknit quite so many times. (The fine wrapping thread, and the fuzzy bits, get very frazzled after a few times.) Hummm.. maybe that's what happened to the cuff...
And, finally, People who love you will insist that the pair of mitts you made them is really nice, even when they don't match, the cable is invisible, and one is shorter than the other one. So, if you're going to make all the mistakes above, make sure that you make them on something you're giving to someone who really loves you. :D
I also learned that knitting patterns aren't as hard to follow as they look like they will be. And that most of the things you'll need to know are on the internet, in video format, so it's possible to find out stuff that the pattern doesn't tell you. (For instance, it said to put the thumb gusset stitches on waste yarn, but not how. Turns out you use a needle to do that. It also said that you should start knitting the thumb, but, once again, no clue how you're supposed to do that, when you don't have a loose end of yarn. So I hunted, and found out that you can just hold a new piece of yarn where you need it, and start knitting, and it'll be okay.)
All in all, I really enjoyed most of this, and can't wait to start a new pair. I might do the same pattern, so I can see how it actually looks. Or I might try a different one, because I've just done this one twice. But, whatever I choose, the next pair are going to be for me.
I need the practice. :D