My Formula for Fingerless Mitts – Lost Knitting & Math

*If my slightly OCD  formula for making fitted mitts is too much trouble,  you can always knit a ribbed cuff, then make an increase every few rows to add width, then taper back down to the original cuff width  and rib the last inch.
You’ll still have to do a thumb, but not nearly so much math.

A few days ago, I posted this image of my last mitts, and the next few lines of text in a Facebook status update — and somebody (Hi Trice!) asked for my mitts pattern.  So here it is!



My last 2 gloves/mitts.    The one on the left is commercially made by Solemate Socks, and the one on the right was my very first knitting project, made years ago.

 Long ago, I took lessons and learned to knit so I could make my own fingerless gloves. Over the years, I made several dozen pairs of gloves (and lots of other things like sweaters, wraps, etc) —
Then about 6 years ago, I had to stop knitting because the connective tissue in my thumb joints was shredding.
I gave away most of my yarn stash.
And most everything I made has long since worn out and gone the way of the rag pile.
But I still have (or had) about 10 pairs of mitts that I’ve worn and worn and worn…
And they were all in a little bag together.
And I think it got hauled to the garbage bin by accident.
And now my hands are cold (which makes my thumbs hurt worse) — and I have 2 mitts left, that don’t match. One is from a commercially made pair I got from Amazon, — and one of them is the first one I made and its about 1/2″ too small around and is too tight to wear for long at a time.

This is very frustrating.


so.  Instructions.

This page of instructions is for a nicely fitted glove.  My favorite kind.  My favorite knitting project — even more favorite than socks!

Hands are different.  Not just little kids’ hands vs mens’ hands vs womens’ hands.  But other hands, too.  As different as shoe sizes.  And gloves are no more one-size-fits-all than shoes (or socks) are.  Commercial companies pick the middle of the range, or the most common size — but that leaves a lot of people with gloves that are too short, too narrow, too wide — you get the idea.


Photo of the wondeful artist/sculptor Louise Bourgeois — photographed by Annie Leibovitz


This is less true in mittens or fingerless mitts, but it’s still true.

So here’s the formula for fingerless mitts that fit, plus notes on where to make changes to get a variety of styles.


  1. Natural fiber yarn.

    Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Yarn

    thinner yarn will make thinner gloves, but more stitches/time to make.  Thick yarns are faster to knit, but offer fewer opportunities for fancy stitches.  Thick yarns are better for really cold weather uses like skiing or hiking.   Single strand yarn, or a twist works better than a “furry” yarn like mohair.
    Wool and alpaca are stretchier than cotton or silk and so will give a little.  Washable wool won’t felt and shrink like natural and untreated wool, and can be washed in the washing machine — which with gloves (and socks) may be useful.  Wool, cashmere, and alpaca are warm.  Cotton, linen, and silk are cooler.
    [Don’t knit with synthetic yarns unless you want synthetic gloves.  They are never as warm, breathable, or comfortable.  If you want plastic gloves, go to Walmart.  Besides, if you’re going to go to all the effort and time to make something by hand — use the very best quality and most beautiful yarn you can afford]


  2. Addi brand 8″ circular needles.

    Circular needle — ADDI brand.  Others will do, but these have exceptionally flexible and strong shafts.  — Nearly impossible to break.

    When I was knitting my own mitts, I used a matched pair of Addi needles in tandem — so the gloves were more alike.  I would knit 2 or 3 rows on the L-glove, then switch and do the same 2 or 3 rows on the R-glove.  Back and forth until both finished at about the same time  Otherwise, you forget little tweaks you make to the first by the time you get to the second — and they come out with odd differences.

  3. 5x cable needles of the same (or near the same) size as your circular needle(s).
    These are basically very short double point needles designed to hold cable stitches when you’re making cable knits — but in this context, they are for circular knitting the thumb (or fingers if you’re making the rest of the fingers separately for fingerless gloves rather than fingerless mitts.)  Before circular needles, double points were the only choice for knitting in the round — this is just a smaller version.


    Cable needles (almost lifesize!)  Okay — maybe a little bigger.

    It is also possible to use round toothpicks for the thumbs if you’re using sock-weight yarn — but be sure to have extras on hand since they break easier.  And toothpicks are too small around to use with heavier yarn.
    If you ever knit clothes for dolls, these double-point cable needles will be useful in that context as well.
    It’s also possible to buy a dowel rod in the width you need, then cut your own cable needles and sharpen them.  And considerably cheaper.  😀



  1. Arm circumference, X” above the smallest part of the wrist, where X is where you want the glove to begin.  If you’re making longer gloves, you’ll need an extra #1 measurement (or more) to get a good tapered fit.
    IMG_2370 1

    My chubby peasant hand, with [#1] Arm, [#2] Wrist, [#4] Hand@Thumb, and [#6] Hand@the Flat labeled.

  2.  Wrist circumference, at the narrowest point, usually just before the hand starts to increase
  3.  Length of the mitt’s arm — the distance between #1 and #2.
  4. Hand@thumb — circumference at the widest point, usually where the thumb joins the hand.
  5.  Length of the hand-triangle — the distance between #2 and #4.
  6.  Hand@the flat — the circumference of the hand from the top of the thumb webbing to the base of the fingers.
  7. Length of the lower hand flat, from the base of the thumb at #4, to the thumb webbing.  If you are holding your thumb at a 90 degree angle to the fingers in an L shape, this is the distance from the bottom of the thumb joint to the top of the joint in the crook of the L.
  8. Length of the upper hand flat — from top of the thumb webbing in the crook of the L, to the base of the finger webbing

    'SKY SCRAPER' by

    “Sky Scraper” outdoor sculpture by artist Rogier Ruys

  9. Length to the middle-finger first knuckle from it’s webbing.  This is the usual length of a fingerless mitt or glove, since it allows for complete finger flexibility.  But you can make the mitts as long or as short as you want (just like the #3 measurement.)
  10. Length from the base of the thumb joint to the middle of the first thumb knuckle.
  11. Circumfrance of the thumb at the first knuckle.




You are going to knit from the arm toward the fingers.  Almost everything  about making these gloves is determined by calculating how many increased or decreased stitches you need to get from one circumference measuremnt to the next.  Therefore, you have to know what yarn you’re using first.  Then, knit a 3″ x 3″ sample using the Addi needles you’ll be using to knit.  This sample will give you A) how many stitches per inch of knitting, and B) how many rows of knitting per inch of fabric length.


Photo of the artist/sculptor Louise Bourgeois taken by Annie Leibovitz

If I were using Lorna’s Laces washable wool sock yarn, my sample might tell me: 11 knit stitches for A); and 7 rows of knitting for B).

If I were using worsted weight wool, my sample might tell me 5 1/2 stitches for A); and 4 rows of knitting for B).

If I were using a 3-ply twist polar weight yarn, my sample might tell me 3


Mountain Colors yarn

stitches for A); and 2.5 rows of knitting for B).

And if I knit when I’m really tense or watching a scary movie on TV, I would probably knit faster, tighter, and my calculations would fly out the window.

My own measurements for gloves are:

  1. 9.5″
  2. 8.5″
  3. 2″ This is one of the variable measurements based on preference.  I arbitrarily chose 2″ for the example.
  4. 10.5″
  5. 3.5″
  6. 9.25″
  7.  1.25″
  8. 2.75″
  9. 1.5″  Variable
  10. 1.5″  Variable
  11. 2.25″

(This will make a long glove that is a total of 10-10.5″ long from cuff to finger-opening.  A 3″ cuff, or even a 3/4″ cuff is just as acceptable.  I’ve made lace-up mitts that were 3/4-length — almost to the elbow, and others so short that they just started at the [#2] wrist and finished just at the end of the [#8] flat-hand.

So, using Lorna’s Laces washable wool sock yarn —  with a (#3) distance between arm [#1] and wrist [#2] of 2″:

You would cast on A)  X [#1] , or 9.5 X 11 = 105 stitches (rounded up).

You would have 2″ of knitting ( [#3] length of knitted fabric between ca59781-4outhe arm and the wrist,) to decrease by A) 11 stitches.  That would be B) X [#3]; or 7 X 2 = 14 rows.

Therefore, you have 14 rows of knitting to decrease your knitting from 105 stitches to 94.  It doesn’t divide evenly, so you just have to decrease by 1 stitch on each of 11 rows.  Spread the non-decreasing rows out so they’re not side-by-side.

And this increase/decrease method is the same for each section of the mitt.*



The big exception to round-and-round nature of knitting mitts is the thumbs.

So here’s what happens: (this is a lot like knitting a top-down crew-neck sweater on longer circular needles. –So, if you can do this — putting a thumb on a mitt — then you can put a sleeve on a sweater.  It’s the same process.)

  • using the example measurements above, by the time you’ve knit to the widest  part of the hand, at the bottom of the thumb joint, you will be knitting  [#4] of  116 stitches  (10.5″ around X 11 stitches)  Again, always round up.
  • [#6] in this example is 9.25″ x 11 stitches, –> so 102 stitches.
  • the difference between [#4] and [#6] is 116 – 102 = 14 stitches.
  • [#7] is 1.25″, so B) (7 rows of knitting per inch) X 1.25″ (always round up) would be 9 rows of knitting to create the thumb.


You will use your 5 cable needles to create the thumb — 4 to hold the stitches while you finish the body of the mitt, then all 5 to knit in the round and finish the thumb at the end.  If you’ve never knitted in the round using double point needles — go here to the ___ For Dummies website — it’s pretty clear and has lots of pretty pictures.  It might also be useful to look at one or more of the gazillion how-to’s on Youtube.  Most of these sites start by telling you how to cast on using DPNs, but you won’t be doing that since your stitches already exist in your [#4].

  • You have 14 surplus stitches (the difference between [#4] and [#6].  Put half that number (7 stitches) on one cable needle (DPN #1) and the other half (7 stitches) on a second DPN (now DPN #2.).
  • Your [#7] is 9 rows — and will be knit back and forth (as in non-circular knitting) with all the turn/reverseing stitches on each row being transferred to DPN #3 at one end, and  DPN #4 at the other end.
  • By the time you finish knitting [#7], you will have 7 stitches each on DPN #1 and DPN #2; 9 stitches each on DPN #3, and 8 stitches on DPN #4.


    My last 2 gloves/mitts.    The one on the left is commercially made by Solemate Socks, and the one on the right was my very first knitting project, made years ago.

  • This will give you a total of 31 stitches (almost 3″,) held circular, at the base of the thumb.
  • Once [#7] is complete, begin knitting in-the-round again on the body of the mitt.
  • After the body of the mitt is complete, come back to your 4 DPN/cable needles and calculate your knitting decreases that will get you to you [#11] circumfrance in the correct number of rows for your yarn.
    That would be 1 1/2″ — 11 rows of knitting — to decrease from 31 stitches down to 2.25″ circumference, or 25 stitches.  Decrease 6 stitches over 11 rows.**

**For my chubby hands and the now thickened joint at the base of my thumb, my thumb opening actually needs to be 3 full inches — so I would need to INCREASE by 2 stitches before I begin the thumb.  This can be done either by a normal increases somewhere in the first circle of thumb knitting, or by knitting back-and-forth for 1 additional row on the body of the mitt, before beginning the circular knitting of the hand-flat.

Swollen knuckles require a little futzing about with the formula….





  1. Cast on and off using stretchy casting methods.  There’s nothing worse than having the edges of gloves or socks with no give in them.  (you can find illustrations and youtube videos that demonstrate stretchy casting)
  2. For further stretchiness and comfort, knit 1/2″ to 1″ of  4k/4p rib at the beginning of the arm [#1] and at the end [#9].  While this isn’t absolutely necessary — it is comfy, and gives a slightly more form- fitted opening to keep warmth in.  You can also do this ribbing on the thumb.
  3. Add interesting knitting stitches or open lacework to the back of the hand for all the rows of [#8].  This will necessitate making one mitt the Left mitt, and the other the Right Mitt — so the design is only on the back of the hand.  Designs in the palm of the hand are less practical.
  4.  While I personally like a thumb-sleeve to keep my joints warm, it is also perfectly acceptable to just cast off the thumb-opeing stitches.  This will give you a “sleeveless” mitt.  (It will look better if you knit at least one full-circle row of the thumb opening — the stitches will be easier to cast off evenly and neatly.)DesignStar706_HilariYoungerStanleyPalmieri_hands
  5.  Any time you are increasing/decreasing, try and distribute the lost or added stitches over the number of rows so there is not a dramatic jump between one row and the next.
  6. Similar to Tip 5, put the increase/decrease stitches at different points in each increase or decrease row.  You not only don’t want dramatic row-length jumps from one row to the next, you also want to avoid having close increases or decreases vertically — directly above each other when looking row to row.
    So — not side by side on a row, or up and down from row to row.

Clear as mud, right?6544a

Or — there are lots of Youtube videos out there showing how to make gloves, mittens, fingerless gloves and fingerless mitts.

If my slightly OCD  formula for making fitted mitts is too much trouble,  you can always knit an 8″ ribbed cuff, then make a balloon of increases out to 10-11″, then taper back down to 8″ and rib the last inch and cast off.  You’ll still have to do a thumb, but not nearly so much math.

If you do an image search on Google for “fingerless mitts” — what you’ll see is that there are as many mitts as there are mitt-knitters, lol.  So — add a ruffle at the wrist,  a braided cast of at the fingers, neon horizontal stripes, a Celtic knot of cable up the back, a satin-ribbon corset lace-up from top to bottom, or a faire isle row of pine trees around the flat.  Pom-poms.  Fringe.  A crewel embroidery bouquet in the palm.   Make your mitts your own.

******Let me kow if parts of this are unclear, and I’ll try and clean it up or rewrite….******


Not your average door hand-le, huh?






Quality of Life? Pain and Inconvenience

Yesterday when I wrote, More Info About Hands, after having been to see the hand  specialist again, I was confused and stressed out.  Today, things came a bit clearer….

(for general reference purposes, here’s the Quality of Life Index used to compare countries — but it’s pretty easy to extrapolate for the individual….  OR — here’s a blog/reference site about Quality of Life and Power that’s pretty interesting….) [click the image]

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours after my visit to the ortho-doctor thinking out-loud in this blog about my options re: my hands and the mechanical problems I’ve been having with them.

It’s a not-so-obvious problem, made more difficult by the general tendency of orthopedic surgeons (and all other surgeons, I suspect) to believe that they can fix something if they can just cut into it.

After I wrote and published my adventures in the doctor’s office, one of my friends commented that she knew this hand-stuff was causing quality-of-life problems for me.  Which I guess is sort of true — I really used to like to knit in the evenings, and not being able to drive without hurting my hands is a real inconvenience.  I’d never really thought about Quality of Life before.

However —

In absolute terms — even with some tactical disadvantages, my quality of life now as opposed to when I was a single parent trying to raise a child by myself; or when I had to give up graduate school to be a head of household and support us; or when I had to spend all our savings because we didn’t have medical insurance….  I’ve had a lot of quality-of-life issues that were far more crippling than this hand stuff.

My quality of life right now is pretty damn good.  My son is healthy and taking care of himself, with a good job and a great group of friends — what more could a mom want?  My husband is healthy, loves his work, and learns something new every day — and we’re each other’s favorite people in the world.  Again, what’s the point, if not those things?

My quality of life was sliding when my art studio roof leaked after a big hail storm.  (Watercolors are not good at weathering storms.) –And then leaked again every time it rained for the worst rainy season in this town’s history.

My quality of life sucked big time when I had pneumonia for nearly 6 weeks the year after Jim and I got married.  That was scary.

I’m pretty happy these days.  I’m 55, fat, and my hands hurt — but I’ve got a great life.  I’m married to my best friend, and I’ve got a cute, sweet dog, I get to read whatever I can cram into a day.  I know enough about computers to do what I need to do without much effort — and I can let the machines fix the majority of evidence of my dyslexia. (If I’d been born 30 or 40 years earlier, they would have marked me off as too stupid to function.)  I can still paint — paint brushes are very light and easy to hold.  I’m learning to cook all over again, using a different set of techniques and skills.

Leave No Child Behind Painting by Yannick Pigois Braunschweig

Banksy on Political Evolution

I guess if I lived in a country where typing free speech or painting incorrect themes and ideas could get your hand cut off or your fingers broken by a government, or  a band of righteous neighbors — that would be a quality of life issue….

Jelly beans, anyone?

-political cartoons

-graphic novels

-science fiction









Jesus and Handguns make it to the gallery...

If I couldn’t make or view or buy or appreciate all kinds of art, from painting and sculpture to literature, dance, music and film — including political art, or art with the ideas of the artist worn on its sleeves — that would be a quality of life matter for me.

This is more like an elaborate puzzle to figure out.

I stopped knitting and gave away my heavy pots and pans on purpose.  If I can do 6 or 8 or 10 non-consecutive half hours of low-impact work with my hands each day — and I get to pick what kind of work I use those half-hours for — I choose to type some, to draw or paint some, to make dinner, to clean the bathroom fixtures, to brush the little lhasa’s coat, to make notes on whatever I’ve been reading, to go shopping, play card games or play on my Wii,  — to cram as much normal as I can into those half-hours.

But knitting eats up a lot of those half hours for not much progress.  And elaborate cooking belongs to people who love it more than anything else in the world.  I’d just as soon take short cuts and have an occasional frozen dinner.

And in the other hours — I wander about the internet; read (albeit slowly) to my dyslexic heart’s content.  In fact, this hand stuff is a lot like the dyslexia and the asthma –puzzles that can be solved.  Obstacles that aren’t so tough to maneuver around in the long game.

I make tea; paint, draw, write, talk to friends — things I’ve always done, but at different times of day.  All those things act like spacers so I don’t put a constant low-level strain on a hand that doesn’t work properly.

That’s what happened in these last couple of weeks.  I got used to the good effects of having taken such care with my hands.  I got cocky and thought I’d cook something that required opening jars and cans (both require torque,) grinding fresh peppercorn (there’s that twisting torque motion again…) and chopping lots of veggies.  Then I followed it by shuffling new decks of cards to play a new game.  And hand-washing a couple of favorite shirts and wringing them (torque, again.)  And baking Jim a pound cake.  All without much break in between.

And because my hands were hurting, I got temporarily pissed off at the inconvenience and bad timing of a little pain — so I kept going and ended up with more than a little pain.

Chalk one up to being too stupid to function.

But if I can learn to work around dyslexia, I can learn to work around this — at least until/unless it gets so bad that it really does interfere with my quality of life.

For now, it’s an inconvenient and complex puzzle.

I guess I just defined the point at which I’d actually consider surgery.  And I’m a long way from that point.