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thinking about mittens

July 24th, 2010

Fletcher MittensNoro Woven Mitts

I’m up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, and already at the computer. The air conditioning is blasting, I’m still sweating nearly to death, and I’m thinking about MITTENS.

I had an idea last week about a small book I’d like to write. If you remember back to last winter, I took on the challenge of designing 6 mitten patterns for the amazing folks I work with. The process was fun, albeit last minute. But it reminded me how mittens are, in a way, the ideal canvas for a creative knitter.

  1. You need very little yarn. Most basic mitten patterns can be squeaked out in 100g of yarn or less. This makes them the ideal one-skein project.
  2. Fit is easy to customize. Nearly every pattern encourages you to “knit until your pinkie finger is just covered”… or they should, anyway. It’s a great way to avoid the too-long mitten syndrome!
  3. One good basic pattern can be turned into a masterpiece. Change the yarn. Add a stitch pattern or some colorwork. Unlike sweaters, that often require involved shaping, mittens are simple and straightforward; perfect for experimenting.
  4. They’re quick. Depending on the gauge of yarn and complexity of stitch pattern, of course, a single mitten can generally be knit over two or three evenings. Instant gratification! And great for gifts too!

In short, mittens rock.

So I’m thinking about this little book. I want it to be a comprehensive guide to mitten design and architecture. With lots of patterns and pattern pieces, and a whiz-bang perfect mitten recipe, similar to the Toe Up Sock Formula I developed for Knitty.

I’m working on the table of contents to see what it might end up like. Instead of keeping the content and the patterns separate, I think it makes sense to use patterns to punctuate the content. So, when I write about using cables in a mitten, I want to include a cabled-mitten pattern or two at that point in the book.

Here’s a preview of what I’ve got in mind:

Introduction: Why Mittens?


  1. Mitten Architecture: sizing and proportions, working a basic pattern from cuff up or top down
  2. Yarn for Mittens: thinking about gauge, texture, fiber content
  3. Creating texture: stitch patterns, cabling, thrums, linings
  4. Color: working with stripes, intarsia, and fair isle
  5. Variations: gloves and fingerless mitts


  1. Thumb variations
  2. Cuff variations
  3. Top shaping variations



The book, as I’m thinking of it, would have 10 or 11 patterns plus the mitten recipe and instructions for working the variations in Part Two, similar to a stitch guide.

What do you think? Is this something you’d like to see? Do you have mitten questions, or things you struggle with or would like to understand better?

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32 Responses to “thinking about mittens”

  1. ana Says:

    oh yes, definitely! mittens are such a satisfying little project, i’d love to see a book as you’ve outlined. i don’t really have any questions about mitts, i make my kids mitts every year (and take secret delight when a pair goes missing… throw new ones on the needles! 😉 ) but i’d love to see other ideas all in one place.

    mittens do rock.

    ~ ana

  2. Tall Kate Says:

    I for one would LOVE a mitten book like this. I’ve only knitted a few pairs of kids’ mittens, but they are FUN. I think the idea of a master pattern/recipe is great.

  3. Jaki Says:

    Because I love your patterns this is something I would love to have. I think your use of yarns is always inspiring,so a big section and real emphasis on the type of yarns to use (as you’ve said above) would be great.
    Also, most people I know like to wear gloves rather than mittens, to have the versatility. Any chance of details of converting patterns to gloves?

  4. David Demchuk Says:

    This sounds great, Amy! I’m a big fan of mittens but often end up with them being too large or oddly shaped–so a universal mitten recipe would be great 🙂 I think a lot of attention has been placed in the past on funky designs (NOT that there’s anything wrong with that) but not necessarily on a range of yarns or different approaches. Keep us posted!

  5. Donna Says:

    I would love to see something like this from you! Mittens are one of those things that always get pushed to the back of the knitting line, and I’m itching to start making my own collection of them. I think a book like this would give me great inspiration!

  6. Beth Says:

    I like it!

  7. Wooly Knits N Bits Says:

    Love the idea of your book. Reminds me of one of my favorites books on socks from Cat Bordhi.
    I would love to see different ways to incorparate the thumb in mittens and a pattern to go with each as well.

  8. stephanie Says:

    Love mittens, love the idea. I’ve been knitting a lot of mittens over the last couple of winters; they’re simple, quick, portable and make awesome gifts. Definitely mention use of variegated yarns — a sock yarn held double with a plain, using some of the long-run yarns like Kureyon, “self-striping” sock and other yarns, etc. I think even semi-experienced knitters sometimes don’t understand how to think about what colors will do in a particular application of gauge and pattern, and the possibilities are endless!

  9. mzundercover Says:

    I love the idea! Do keep us posted; it sounds like a must-have!

  10. mary jane Says:

    We all need this book! I always liked the old Nomis double-spread mitten recipe for everyone in the family. Something new and fresh like that, which is probably what your ultimate mitten recipe will be.

  11. Eli Says:

    I totally want this book! I would go buy it today if I could. I have been wanting to learn mittens (and to a lesser extent gloves) but I am not sure where to start. This sounds like the perfect place!

  12. Clara Says:

    Yes, yes, yes!!

  13. Emily H K Says:

    That sounds like a great outline for a mitten book! I’d love to see it in print. Good luck!

  14. Avimatic Says:

    This sounds like a great idea for a book! Currently when I fall in love with one skein of yarn it gets turned into a hat, instead I could make mittens! Having a universal pattern coupled with variations on thumbs and shaping as well as how to add texture, color work and how to pick the best elements for your yarn is perfect.

  15. Susan Says:

    I live in Tennessee and even I want this book!

  16. April Says:

    When I think about knitting that early in morning, socks are usually involved. All the same, I love this idea since I’ve never actually knit a mitten. The weather really doesn’t get cold enough where I live.

    Good luck with the book!

  17. Maryellen Says:

    I love mittens! The good thing about mittens is you need at least 3 pair/winter… new colors, new patterns, dressy mittens, work-horse mittens. And then there are mittens for friends….
    Yes! We need a mitten book! I’d like to see a couple of patterns for dressier mittens for occasions such as dinner out, church, etc.
    Can’t wait!

  18. EvelynU Says:

    Yes! I have been working mitten tops in the same manner as sock toes and I like that better than the “hat decrease” method.

  19. CatieP Says:

    I like the idea 🙂

    I’d like information about generic sizes – like baby, toddler, child… because I find myself knitting for people who don’t live nearby. And/or you could tell us what measurements people should provide if they live far away.

    You could start with a baby mitten – no thumb – as the easiest mitten – like give the directions for the cuff – and then use a thumb-less mitten as an example before talking about thumbs.

    How do you think you would publish this book?

  20. Norah Says:

    Mittens are great! Do you think you might include at least one crocheted mitten pattern?

  21. polly Says:

    DO IT!

  22. tina kennedy Says:

    This is great — a good way to use up some stash yarns. I am also thinking about making mittens as a charity project for the women’s/childrens shelter in our area. On a personal note, I LUVLUVLUV to wear mittens == nothing keeps your hands warmer.

  23. Jolene Says:

    Great idea. I would definitely buy a book like this. I’m all about books that help you with design. And since I just moved to England, I believe I see many many mittens on my needles in the future.

  24. jen Says:

    I would buy this. I would love to have something with the basic how-to for mittens AND the variations so that I could then come up with what works for me. (tiny hands, skinny skinny wrists)

  25. Miriam Says:

    I love mittens but have never knit myself a pair. I would love to have a go to patern that I could use for myself and gifts. Your books sounds like just the thing that would enable me to become a mitten knitter. Please keep us informed.

  26. Deirdre Says:

    I’ve only started knitting mittens recently (like, last year), and think a good, solid mitten recipe book would be a great idea!

  27. Mary Says:

    GREAT idea!

  28. Meredith Says:

    Do eeeeeet! I love mittens for all the reasons you’ve described above. I also don’t think I can think of any good mitten anatomy books out there, so jump on it. You’d definitely rock this one. Keep us posted. 😀

  29. Rosanna Says:

    As a spinner I often fall in love with braids from indie dyers that are 100g/4oz and so mittens are always at the top of my knitting list. I would love a book I could pick up and then mix and match the recipe with a stitch pattern to bring the best out of each yarn.

    I think It’s a brilliant idea and I await it keenly.

  30. Dana Says:

    YES!! Totally do it! I love making mittens and having a recipe to work with would be the bees knees!!

  31. kingshearte Says:

    I will buy this if you write it. Mittens, as you say, are a great way to get a nice project out of very little yarn, and the time commitment to making them is not huge, making them an excellent choice for anyone who hounds you about making them something, but that you’re not willing to commit to a major project for. Having an easy basic formula, plus advice on variations and customization would be awesome.

  32. Hayley Says:

    I have never knit a Mitten… Although I would definitely get the book!! I like knitting books on one pattern type!! I will have to keep my eye out when I am at Chapters…

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