Intro: Thinsulate Sweater Mittens With a HotHands Pocket!
Warm mittens are actually worth their weight in gold, at least here in Wisconsin. Gloves are easier to get and we have gloves in my house, but my 12 year old son told me recently that his hands were always cold when he went outside. This concerned me. Partly because I am his mother and partly because 2 years ago he played outside in the snow (wearing gloves) and had mild frostbite on the tips of his fingers of BOTH hands. Since that time, and his fingers took a few weeks to heal, we have had a dickens of a time making sure his fingers and hands stay warm. When he goes out to play, his fingertips will start to hurt and he will come in from outside after just a short while. Hence, the idea of this Instructable. He has mostly gloves because mittens for kids his age are hard to find. He requested mittens because his fingers stay warmer. I know how to knit, but wanted to make sweater mittens mostly for the experience and because they would be faster to make.
These mittens are made from a heavy grey sweater and Thinsulate taken from the lining of a leather coat. I added the inside pocket on the back of the mitten for the HotHands (oxygen hand warmers that hunters use) for this particular son (I have 2 sons) because he has always had a harder time staying warm. We had to swaddle him until he was almost 2 years old just to keep the chills off! So, I thought that a secondary heat source in the mittens would be a good thing-especially when he played outside or went sledding. As an extra bonus, I reinforced the fingertips with a second layer of Thinsulate. Our fingers tend to get the coldest and his get extra cold faster and the second layer will give him more protection. Good thinking-right?
The sweater was purchased at a thrift store for $3.48 and the leather coat at a garage sale for $5.00. I used the leather from the coat in a previous Instructable. The fact that the coat was lined with Thinsulate was an added bonus. Since making these beauties, my other son and husband have requested pairs as well. The best part is that there is enough sweater and lining for 2 more pairs! The original sweater and lining are shown above in the photo on the right. So, that comes out be about $3.00 per pair of mittens and that's not even figuring in the other items I made from the leather of the coat.
Step 1: Cast of Characters...let's Meet Them!
- This project took me approximately 3 1/2 hours to make. Maybe a little more with adjusting and tweaking at the end.
- 1 heavyweight sweater (for the size mittens I am making I will get 3 pair mittens-what a bargain!)
- Some sort of lining for the mittens. I lucked out with the Thinsulate, but polar fleece is also a good alternate. If fleece is used, then 1/3 yard. (approximate)
- Thread to match both the sweater and lining
- sewing machine
- hand sewing needle
- fabric scissors
- measuring tape
- steam iron or steamer for clothes
- HotHands for each mitten (optional)
- pattern for back of mitten (above)
- patterns for top and bottom front of mitten (above). I do not take credit for designing these pieces. They were taken from an old pair of mittens that I had that wore out. I took the mittens apart and used those pieces. For my son's mittens, I sized down. When I make my husband's and other son's mittens, I will actually add a tiny bit for a seam allowance. NOTE: When pinning and sewing, I found it easier to sew up the outside edge (the pinky side) of the hand and then stop to sew across the palm to get over the thumb and over to the other side. This way the seam for the thumb side was more stable. You may find it easier to sew all the way around or to do the palm seam first. Try things out to see what works for you. However, keep the material pinned while sewing. Pinning makes for nicer seams and a neater mitten in the end.
Step 2: Cutting the Sweater and the Lining for the Mitten.
In these photos, are the pattern pieces that I used and that are attached to my Instructable in the previous step. I try to be as economical as possible when I sew and lay patterns out. That way I can use material better and was how this sweater and lining ended up making 3 pairs of lined mittens.
Anyway, back to work! After trying out different ways, laying out the back of the mitten on 1 sleeve seemed to work best. In this way, the cuff of the sleeve could be the cuff of the mitten and the sleeve is the width of the mitten. Just be sure to lay it out so that the cuff is accounted for. This is the 1st photo on the left. I was going to cut the other parts of the mitten from the main body of the sweater until I had a brilliant idea...in the middle photo one of the mitten backs is cut out. Usually, both backs are cut together, and the other pieces are cut in two's as well. I decided to take 2 pieces cut as the back, in 2 layers, but (still with me?) with the top layer cut a thumb/front out of it. This is shown in the left and 3rd from left photos. This was clever (at least to me) because the cuff was in 1 piece rather than 2 pieces and therefore less bulky. This also allowed part of the hand of the mitten from the thumb down to be hooked together from being in sweater form. One of the mittens was from the sleeve and the other was taken from a side seam. The mitten that was cut from the body of the sweater with the side seam will have the cuff already sewn on 1 side. This is the 2nd and 3rd photo from the left. The top of the hand I just cut from the sweater and in 2 separate pieces. Sewing time was also decreased. The only trick was to flip the bottom front over so I wouldn't end up with 2 right or 2 left mittens.
The lining was cut without measuring for the cuff. The lining only has to be as long as the hand and is sewn onto to the top of the cuff of the mitten on the inside so it doesn't take as much lining as sweater. The lining is in the 2nd photo from the right. At this time, you will notice the reinforced layer that I mentioned in the introduction. The lining has extra coverage to the fingertips of the mittens by reinforcing the lining with a 2nd "cap" of lining. That is the half circle of lining in the 4th photo to the right.
With the right sides of the mittens together, pin the pieces for sewing. 1st and 2nd photos from right. Putting the bottom and top front pieces were awkward at first because of how the thumb relates to the hand in this mitten and there is a seam around the thumb. It's vital that you have the correct top and bottoms together or you will either curse or cry after sewing and you discover your mistake. I can't stress it enough- Make sure that the sides are correct, because once knit is sewn-stitches are difficult to rip out. (Can you tell that I have made this mistake a few times?) For the lining, pin with right sides together (wrong sides out) 3rd photo from right. The lining isn't going to be turned once sewn. The mittens will be turned and blocked but the lining will be trimmed and simply inserted into the mitten and tacked into place.
Step 3: Sewing the Mitten Pieces and the Lining Pieces Together.
Once I had the 3 pieces pinned, I was ready to tackle the sewing machine. Use smaller seams between 3/8" and 1/4". Before I sewed, I double checked to ensure that I had the pieces pinned correctly. The stitch I used was a plain mid sized straight stitch. My machine also has a stretch stitch for knits but this stitch tends to stretch the knit as it sews and the purpose of that stitch is to provide give for the project. These mittens don't particularly need a tremendous amount of give. There is actually a good bit of room in the finished mitten, with or without the lining. See the last photo. Anyway, I used a straight stitch so blocking would be easier later on and the finished product flatter.
I played around with the sewing and began the seams with the outside edge going up. Since the cuffs are already connected half of the work is done for you! I sewed halfway up then stopped and sewed the seam going across the palm. This made sense to me because I found that sewing part of the side seam and then the palm seam adds stability to the overall mitten and makes finishing the thumb side of the mitten edge easier. Go around the seams and trim corners and any bits that are sloppy. Turn the mitten right side out in preparation for blocking and finishing. At this point, try the mitten on whoever is going to wear it and adjust the cuff accordingly. I had to take it in a little bit.
Tackle the lining in much the same manner. Remember that there is no cuff and that the pieces are separate. The lining that I used was slippery inside so I had to take care that the seams stayed even as I sewed. I did it in the same order, outside seam to top middle then palm seam then outside thumb edge. Second to last, take the caps to reinforce the tips of the lining (top right 4 photos) and pin onto sewed lining. Match edges and sew around the top edge of the lining only. The extra layers won't turn once the lining is in the mitten so I didn't tack them down. Sewing them around the top edge should be enough to secure them. Lastly, fold over the back bottom of the lining and sew wrong sides in a small hem. This will be to finish for the pocket for the HotHands between the lining and the mittens after finishing. See top row, 2nd photo from right.
The last 2 photos on the bottom are of the finished mitten without the lining and before blocking. Looks pretty nice, doesn't it?
Step 4: Don't Forget to Block the Mitten! This Is Important.
This is one of my favorite parts of knitting and working with knits. Even though the sweater was already knit, the mittens still needed blocking because of the sewing. The seams had stretched and misshaped the knit. Block these beauties by using a steamer or a steam iron (you won't actually press the iron down) .
Grab your iron and ironing board or a towel on a table, counter etc. and the mitten. Fill the iron with water and set to the cotton setting on steam setting. When it's hot, hold it over the mitten and push the steam button several times to heat up the knit and moisten it. You don't have to actually press the mitten, I didn't. After the steam penetrates the mitten, pick it up and finger press it and work out the wrinkles and smooth out any bumps...just make it smoother and flatter. If you look at the picture on the far left, the top mitten has been blocked and the bottom mitten hasn't. The difference is that the blocked mitten is smoother, the seams are flatter and it's ready for the lining. The photos on the right are of the thumb. The far right has been blocked and the 2nd from right is the same thumb before blocking. So as is evident, blocking truly does make a difference. I only spent about 10 minutes doing both minutes and the mittens looked much better afterwards.
These mittens could be machine washed, but I don't intend on putting them in the dryer. I will stretch and smooth them out by hand and let them airdry. I won't steam block them again, the above time was enough.
Step 5: Putting the Two Pieces Together.
The 2 photos on the left show the mitten and the lining being tried on separately before being put together. The mitten is right side out and the lining is wrong side out. I started with the left mitten (whichever you prefer) because I am right handed. Then I slipped the mitten over the lining and wriggled things to the place I wanted. 5th and 6th photos from the left. Pin these pieces into place being careful to keep the lining edge at the edge of the cuff. At the time of putting the lining in, I folded the front edge of the lining over 1/4" so it would be between the mitten and lining and would be finished off. I knew that the lining wouldn't fray, but folding it over a bit made it look more professional and smoother. NOTE: remember that we are making a pocket in the back for HotHands. I pinned the front and a centered opening in the back leaving 2 1/2" open. (The HotHands warmers measure 3 1/2" x 2 1/4". They also fold, but I wanted room to just stick them in easily.)
This seam I did not machine stitch. I wanted it invisible from the front plus machine stitches going around really would have NO give and this seam around the wrist would need some give for the hand. I used smaller whip stitches to close it up. 7th photo from the left. You can't see the stitches from the outside and there is give to put the mitten on. In the 8th and 9th photos the pocket is visible. I chose the back for the pocket as the front would be too bulky for the warmer. We tried it out after I finished and there is plenty of room and the mitten is quite comfortable.
I wanted to anchor the lining because I hate it when mittens are washed and the lining comes loose and is hard to get back into place again. Starting in the 6th photo from the right, I tacked down the thumb, the top of the mitten and then I put a few stitches down the sides of either of the back of the mitten. The stitches down the sides aren't to anchor the lining but are to keep the HotHands warmer from slipping to the front of the mitten. I used thread that matched the sweater and used small stitches that aren't evident unless you really search for them. I did this for both hands. I just put the right mitten on my left hand and turned it over so I could sew with my right hand. This worked just fine.
Step 6: Finished and Ready for a Wisconsin Winter.
The finished mitten turned out roomy and warm. The sweater was heavy and the way that the pieces were cut decreased the bulkiness. The Thinsulate lining warms up the mitten wonderfully especially with the reinforced fingertips. My son can't wait to go sledding just so he can try them out with some hand warmers in the pockets. The 2nd photo from the right shows how the mittens look with a mitten and the lining partially turned. The pocket doesn't get in the way at all when you put it on and the cuffs are tight enough that the warmers won't slip out or slip around in the mitten.
Overall, I am very pleased with how quick these went together and with how happy my son was with them. They should last several years.