Introduction: Knitted Big and Small Mittens

About: I like to make all kinds of things. I especially enjoy knitting colorwork mittens.

Knit an adorable stranded colorwork mini-mitten as a winter decoration. Knit the exact same instructions with bigger needles and thicker yarn to make adult-sized mittens to keep your hands warm.

Stranded colorwork is made with only knit stitches and is much easier than it looks.

The steps will cover everything you need to know to make these, except the very basics of knitting, like how to cast on, how to knit, and how to purl. Colorwork mittens are knitted in the round, and I will explain how to do that. (I use less needles for this than most people, because mittens are small and I don't like needle ends poking out everywhere).

Materials: For mini mittens, use fingering (sock) weight yarn in two contrasting colors. Wool yarn works best for colorwork, but any fiber will do. I used yarn that I found locally, but Knitpicks Palette yarn would work well. For an adult sized mitten, use an aran weight yarn. One ball of each color is plenty.

Double pointed knitting needles in size US 1 (2.25mm) for the mini mittens or US 9 (5.5mm) needles for the adult size. You may need a different size of needles, depending on how tightly you knit. (I'll cover that in step 2). You can get these online at,, or, or at your local Walmart or craft store. Tapestry needle, for running in yarn ends. I got mine at Walmart. A few pieces of scrap yarn for holding stitches. You can use stitch holders if you have them, but I just use yarn. Measuring tape.

Step 1: Size and Gauge

To figure out how big your mittens will be, you need to know how many stitches there are per inch of your knitting. This is called gauge, and it will be different for everyone. If you are following a pattern, it will list the gauge that you should try to get for the pattern. In order to figure out your gauge, knit a small amount of the colorwork in the pattern and then measure how many stitches per inch you are getting. This is called a swatch. If you are getting too many stitches per inch, then change to larger needles and measure again, if too few stitches per inch, then change to smaller needles. Knitting at the same gauge as the pattern will make sure that your mittens come out to same size as those in the pattern.

I don't like to swatch, so I usually just begin with the needle size recommended in the pattern and hope for the best. Once I have a bit of the colorwork done, then I measure my gauge. If it is close enough, then I've already got some of my mitten done and can continue. If it's too far off, then I consider what I've knitted so far to be a swatch and try again on different sized needles. The gauge for the mini mittens is 8 stitches and 8.5 rounds per inch. If you wanted them even smaller, you would knit so that you had more stitches per inch. My large size, to fit a medium-sized adult hand, has a gauge of 4 stitches and 4.75 rounds per inch. If you want this mitten bigger, then use a larger needle or larger yarn to knit less stitches per inch.

Step 2: Cast on in the Round

Cast on a total of 30 stitches in the lighter color. I cast on 16 on the first needle, then slipped the last one that I made onto the second double pointed needle. (this helps make sure there are no gaps between the stitches on the needles). Continue casting on 14 more stitches after this one, on the second needle. Now there should be 15 on each needle. The two needles will be connected to each other by the cast on stitches. Bring together the two ends that are not connected. Make sure that the ridge that the stitches make on one side of the needle is straight along both needles, because you are about to join the stitches into a circle, and if they are twisted, then there will be trouble later. Use a third double pointed needle to knit, beginning where you started your cast-on. The work will now be joined on both sides.

When you get to the end of the first needle, use the now empty needle in
your hand to knit the stitches on the second needle. (Make sure to pull the yarn fairly tight after knitting the first stitch on a new needle, so that there's not a gap in the knitting where the needles join.)After casting on, knit 2 rounds.

Here is a video demonstrating how to join in the round.

Step 3: Latvian Braid

To begin the braid, knit one stitch in white. Then join the red yarn. To join the red, you simply begin knitting with it, leaving a bit of a tail that will hang down on the inside of the mitten. To set up for the first Latvian braid, we will knit every other stitch in a different color. Knit the first stitch in white, then 1 in red, then 1 in white, 1 red, etc, all the way around. The color that is not in use stays behind your needles and when you knit with it again, you may notice a small strand of it on the inside of the mitten. This is called a float and is where the yarn you are not using goes while you are knitting with the other color. This is the same way that you will change colors when knitting the chart later in this project.

Here is a video showing me joining the red yarn.

Next, bring both colors of the yarn to the front, because we will be purling the next two rounds, to create the braid.
You may notice that the yarns will twist around each other on the first round of the braid. Don't worry about this, because they will untwist again as you do the second round of the braid. On the first purl round, purl white into the white stitches, and red into the red stitches, and make sure that on every stitch, the yarn that you are using for that stitch passes under the other color, as shown in this video.

On the second round, purl each stitch in the same color as before, but make sure that the yarn you are using passes over the other color. Here is another video to demonstrate. (in different colored yarn)

If you want the braid on your second mitten to point in the opposite
direction, then go over on the first round and under on the second round. This will reverse the braid. After completing the braid rounds, knit 2 rounds in navy. Just leave the light blue yarn hanging where you left it at the end of the braid. You will be using it again soon.

Step 4: Knit the Cuff

Knit 1 round in red. Then begin knitting the colorwork chart for the cuff, which you can download at the end of this step.
Colorwork charts are read from right to left and bottom to top. Knit each stitch in the first row of the chart in the color indicated. You will notice that when you do not use a color for several stitches in a row, when you use it again, there will be a strand of yarn on the inside of the mitten, where you carried the yarn across the stitches of the other color this is called a float. This is normal. Try not to pull your stitches too tight, because this can cause the fabric to pucker. If there are more than 5 consecutive stitches of a single color, then it's a good idea to twist the two yarn strands around each other so that there's not a really long float on the inside of the mitten that can get caught on your fingers. Try not to twist the yarns in the same place on adjacent rounds, because this can cause little dots of one color to show up in sections that should be solidly in the opposite color. You can tell where you twisted it on a previous round by looking between the stitches. If you twisted the yarn between those stitches on the previous round, you will be able to see both yarn colors between the stitches. If you didn't twist it there, then you should only be able to see the one color that you had used to knit the next stitch.

Here is a video showing how to twist the yarns. (In different colored yarn)

I like to print the chart and mark each row off as I complete it, so I don't lose my place. The two yarns may become twisted around each other as you work. If they're very twisted together, then it can become difficult to knit. When this happens, I hold the mitten up by the yarn, holding 1 strand of the working yarn in each hand, and then gently pull them apart. The mitten spins around as the yarns untwist. Once they're untwisted, you can keep knitting with no difficulty. After completing the cuff colorwork, knit 1 round in red. Complete a second braid by working the set up round and then the two purl rounds, the same as for the first braid.

Here is the file with all the charts for these mittens:

Step 5: Increase Stitches for the Hand

Knit 1 round in white.
On the next round we will be increasing to 36 stitches to widen the mitten for the hand. To do this, knit 2, inc 1, then repeat (knit 5, increase 1), until there are only 3 stitches left. Knit the 3 stitches. If we increase evenly on this round, then it will interfere with the thumb increases that we will make on the next round. That's why I didn't do Knit 5, increase 1, from the start of the round.

Video on how to increase:

Knit the Hand chart from the same file as the cuff chart, working from right to left and bottom to top. The upside down triangle of stitches contains increases to widen the hand at one side for the thumb. You may notice that stitch 1 of the hand chart disappears on the second round. This stitch is now the center stitch of the triangle and increases are made on each side of it.

Knit the first 10 rounds of the hand chart.

Step 6: Separate Thumb Stitches

Before knitting round 11 of the chart, slip the first 11 stitches (the upside down triangle), onto scrap yarn, as shown in this video.

After all 11 stitches on are scrap yarn, you can tie the ends of the yarn in a knot so that the stitches don't slip off.

Next, increase 1 stitch in red. This is to replace stitch #1 on the hand chart, that was lost to the triangle of thumb stitches and is shown as an "m" on the chart. Now, continue knitting the hand chart up to round 26.

Step 7: Decreases at the Top of the Hand

Two types of decreases are used at the top of the hand. The Ssk decrease (slip, slip, knit), shown on the chart as \ and the k2tog decrease (knit 2 together), shown on the chart as /.

Here is a video showing ssk from a different instructable that I made.

And here is K2tog:

Knit all the way to the top of the hand chart, working the decreases as shown on the chart.

Step 8: Close the Top of the Mitten

Cut the white yarn with a short tail and put the tail inside the mitten so that it's out of the way. Cut the red yarn, leaving a long tail that you will use to graft the top of the mitten. The reason for using the red yarn is so that the red line up the side of the mittens continues along the top.

I used kitchener stitch to close the top of my mittens. I used the instructions in this video on closing a sock toe, by Roxanne Richardson. The knitting instructions start at 1:59. I was learning this technique as I made my mitten, so I didn't make my own video for it.

Once you've got the top closed up, move on to the next step.

Step 9: Knit the Thumb

Transfer the 11 stitches from the scrap yarn onto 2 double pointed needles. Pick up 1 stitch onto one of the needles from where the thumb meets the hand, (where you increased after putting thumb stitches onto scrap yarn). You should now have 12 stitches on two needles. Join in the round and knit 10 rounds in white. On the next round, decrease by doing a k2tog on every stitch, all the way around. Do this again, for a second round, so that only 3 stitches remain. Cut the yarn, leaving a tail. Thread the yarn through the remaining stitches and pull tight to close the top of the thumb.

Step 10: Weave in the Ends and Wash

This is the last step.

Using the tapestry needle, pull any yarn ends that are on the outside of the mitten to the inside. Then run the yarn ends under the yarn floats on the inside of the mitten, as shown in this video. If there are any small holes where the thumb joins the hand, use this opportunity to sew them up with yarn. Using the darker color for this, you can connect the lines on either side of the thumb, with the line up the side of the mitten so that it has a nice finished look.

Once all the ends are in, soak your mitten in a bowl of cold water for an hour or so. Remove it from the water and lay it on top of a towel. Fold the towel over the mitten and press on it, or put it on the floor and jump up and down on it, to force as much water as possible out of the mitten and into the towel. Take the mitten and stretch out any sections that look lumpy or uneven, then lay it flat in the shape that you want it to dry into. Let it dry. Now your mitten is done. Make a second one, if you want a pair.

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