Knitting mittens is a great next step after you’ve already learned how to knit in the round on a hat. Knitting mittens is an intermediate project that you can learn with the help of patterns on Ravelry or other free patterns online.
As far as choosing yarns for mittens goes, I recommend that you select a 100 percent wool yarn. This is going to be the easiest to knit with, and it’s also going to be the warmest. If your hands get sweaty while you’re riding your bike or doing other activities, they’re not going to be uncomfortable.
What you’ll want to do is measure your hand to make sure that your mittens are going to fit. You’ll want a loose cast-on or an even cast-on. Make sure that you do not cast on too tight because if you do the cast-on isn’t going to stretch, and you’re not going to be able to get your hand into the mitten when you’re all done. So cast-on loosely and then make sure that you work in ribbing for at least an inch. If it’s a thick yarn, you’re going to want to work in ribbing for even more.
Next, remember to check your gauge and make sure that it’s the same gauge that the pattern has. A small mistake in gauge could lead to a big mistake when sizing your mittens.
After you’ve casted on and done your ribbing, you’ll want to increase for the base of the hand. You’ll be increasing about two stitches every other round until you reach to the point where the top of your thumb meets you hand right in the crotch of your thumb.
Once you get there, you’ll want to remove a number of stitches and leave them on scrap yarn for the thumb to be completed later. You can do this by threading a tapestry needle with scrap yarn and putting the tapestry needle into the stitches and taking them off your knitting needles. Loosely tie the scrap yarn and set them aside for later.
You’ll want to try on your mittens at this point just to make sure that they fit really well.
Next, continue knitting in the round until you’re knitting reaches just to the tip of your pinky finger when you put the mittens on. Of course, it’s going to be a lot easier to try the mittens on if you’re using Magic Loop to knit in the round as opposed to double-pointed needles which don’t offer a lot of flexibility when trying on projects.
When the knitting reaches the tip of your pinky finger, you’ll want to do a decrease round, decreasing by one stitch on either side of either half of your mittens. Go ahead and knit another three to four rounds depending on the thickness of yarn that you use and then do another decrease round. If you’re not working from a pattern, you’ll want to try on the mittens after every round to make sure that they fit you perfectly.
Next, continue alternating decrease rounds and plain knitting rounds until you come to the top of your work. You’ll then cut your yarn leaving at least a 12-inch tail. Thread that tail onto the tapestry needle and use that tail to cinch tight the remaining stitches. You should only have about four to six stitches when you are ready to close the top of your mitten.
Next, take your same knitting needles, the circular needle from Magic Loop or the double-pointed needles and place the stitches from the thumb onto those needles. Join for working in the round and continue working in the round until the thumb comes almost to the tip of your thumb. Do one decrease round where you decrease just by a few stitches, and on the next round cut your yarn using the tapestry needle to weave the tail through the remaining live stitches on your needles. There should be at most about eight or nine, depending on the thickness of yarn that you use, and draw those closed. You can even pass the tapestry needle twice through the live stitches to really fill out the tip of the thumb.
Next, all that remains is to weave in your ends securely on the wrong side of the work and then, if you prefer, block your mittens so that they look absolutely perfect. If they’re going to be a gift, I recommend that you block them. Just put them in some warm water with a little bit of Woolite or Wool Wash, let them soak for 20 minutes, take them out, squeeze them, and lay them flat to dry. This will also disguise any knitting mistakes that you have made or any inconsistencies in the tension of your yarn that you may have had while you were knitting. So blocking is pretty much like magic.
If you’d like, you can customize your mittens even more by using a needle felting needle and a small piece of contrasting yarn to needle felt on a little sheep, a snowflake or another tiny design on one or both of the mittens making them extra unique.
Lastly, if you’re making the mittens for a child, or someone who is a child at heart, you can braid a long length of yarn; let’s say about one yard long. You can braid the yarn and attach it one end of the braid to each of the mitten cuffs. This way your child can pass the braided yarn through the sleeves of her jacket, and when she takes the mittens off there they’ll be, and they’ll never get lost ever again.
So go ahead and give mittens a try! They’re the perfect intermediate project to take your knitting to the next level.
Liat M. Gat is an expert video knitting instructor and founder of the website KNITFreedom.com and the most comprehesive video knitting course around: Become a Knitting Superstar. Learn to knit two-at-a-time mittens with the NEW video course at http://knitfreedom.com/mittens.