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Let’s Knit a Mitten

October 3, 2013

There is nothing like a nice pair of warm mittens for fall. Leaves are falling off the trees, the rain is pouring and the winds are blowing, time for some new woolies! The Maize mittens can be knit as either fingerless mitts or full mittens. Let’s see how it’s done!

First, you will need a pattern so download Maize and away we go!  You can knit your mittens using double pointed needles [tutorial here], or using a single long circular and the magic loop technique [tutorial here].

Following the directions for your size cast on 24 (28, 32, 36, 40) sts onto 4.0mm needles. Place marker (or if you are using double points, distribute your stitches so you know where the beginning of the round is) and join for working in the round.

::: Ribbing :::

Ribbing: p1, k3, (p1, k1) to end


Work 11 (11, 13, 15, 17) more rounds in ribbing as set.

What does it mean to work as set? There are a few different ways to put this: One way is that you are ‘knitting your knits and purling your purls’. If you see a knit stitch, knit it, if you see a purl stitch, purl it. For this particular ribbing, you are simply repeating the Setup ribbing round.

Setup pattern: p1, k3, PM, purl 7 (9, 11, 11, 13), [k1, p1] 3 (3, 3, 5, 5) times, k1, purl to end

So you have just set up your pattern! The body of your mitten will proceed as follows: You will be knitting the 3 stitches that will become the thumb gusset, keeping the ribbed section as set (the k1, p1 part) and purling all the rest of your stitches.

Tip: If you are working with double points you may want to distribute your stitches as follows, to keep things simple.


Needle 1


Needle 2: ribbing

Needle 3: purl to end

Needle 3: purl to end

Work 2 (2, 3, 3, 5) more rounds in pattern.

::: but why do you use the instruction ‘work in pattern’? :::

It may seem like it would be simpler if we just wrote patterns out line by line, but I assure knitting becomes MUCH easier when you can ‘read’ your knitting. If you know what should come next it’s easier to find mistakes (they happen to the best of us!) and even see if *gasp* there is a mistake in a pattern. I always tell my beginner classes that if you understand what you are doing it is a lot easier than using 3 row counters, a pen, and 5 sticky notes!

::: thumb gusset :::

thumbgussethandTake a quick look at your hand. Your thumb sort of sticks out a bit right? Even the part of your thumb that is still a part of your hand. Well we have to make an extra little triangle of fabric to accommodate that part of your thumb.

To create this triangle of fabric we are going to work some increases. Some patterns specify which type of increase to use and some don’t. For this pattern we are going to work some M1 (make 1) increases and to be a little extra fancy we are going to do paired increases, a M1L and M1R (make 1 left and make 1 right). [check out the full tutorial on M1 here]

The gusset is going to ‘grow’ from the 3 knit stitches.

Round 1: p1, k1, m1, k1, m1, k1, slip marker, work in pattern to end

So we have increased 2 stitches. We are going to p1, k1, M1L, k1, M1R, k1, work in pattern to end (this means we are purling, ribbing, purling.

Round 2: p1, knit to marker, work in pattern to end (no stitches increased)

Round 3: p1, k1, m1, knit to 1 stitch before marker, m1, k1, work in pattern to end

Round 4: p1, knit to marker, work in pattern to end (no stitches increased)

See a pattern forming? We are increasing 2 stitches every other row and you should start to see a little triangle forming.
Repeat rounds 3-4 two (2, 3, 3, 4) more times until there are a total of 12 (12, 14, 14, 16) sts between the BOR marker and the marker (there will be 1 purl stitch and 11, 11, 13, 13, 15 knit stitches). [32 (36, 42, 46, 52) total sts]

Completed thumb gusset

Completed thumb gusset

Next round: p1, place the next 11 (11, 13, 13, 15) sts on waste yarn (removing 2nd marker), CO 3 sts, then work around on remaining sts in pattern to end of round. [24 (28, 32, 36, 40) sts]


::: how to place stitches on hold on waste yarn :::

Thread some spare yarn on your darning needle

Thread some spare yarn on your darning needle

Run the needle through all of the thumb stitches

Run the needle through all of the thumb stitches

Stitches have been placed on hold

Stitches have been placed on hold

Next we are going to cast on 3 stitches in the middle of the row. Why, you ask? Because the thumb stitches ‘grew’ out of 3 knit stitches, but then we put all the thumb stitches on hold. So we are going to need 3 new stitches to take their place.  The cast on method we use is the backward loop cast-on.


3 Stitches have been cast on

3 stitches have been cast on

::: hand :::

For fingerless mitts:

Work as established in reverse stockinette and ribbing pattern (purl the 3 cast sts at the start of the round) until work measures 0.5 (0.5, 1, 1.25, 1.5) inches from end of gusset. – tip: measure from the cast on stitches

Setup ribbing: (p1, k1) around
Work 3 (4, 4, 5, 6) more rounds in ribbing as established, then bind off all sts in pattern.

What does ‘bind off sts in pattern’ mean?  This means you are knitting and purling as you have been in the pattern (ribbing in this case). So you will p1, k1, pass the first stitch over the second, p1, pass the first stitch over the second, k1, pass the first stitch over the second etc.

For mittens :::

Work as established in reverse stockinette stitch and ribbing pattern (purl the 3 CO sts at the start of the round) until work measures 2.5 (3, 3.75, 4, 4.5) inches from end of gusset (or 1 (1, 1.25, 1.5, 1.5) inches short of total desired length).

Next: remove BOR marker, purl 2 sts, replace marker. This will be the new BOR.
Decrease Setup: P1, p2tog, p4 (6, 8, 8, 10), p2tog, PM, work 7 (7, 7, 11, 11) sts in ribbing as set, PM, p2tog, purl to last 2 sts, p2tog. (4 sts decreased) [20 (24, 28, 32, 36) sts]

So you will have placed 2 markers and decreased 4 stitches. Note that none of the ribbed stitches have been decreased, only the purl stitches.

Continue working decreases as stated in the pattern until you have 9 (9, 9, 11, 11) sts.
Break yarn, leaving a 6 inch tail. Thread tail through remaining live sts (removing markers) and pull tight to close top of mitten.

Decreases complete

Decreases complete

::: thumb :::

Place 11 (11, 13, 13, 15) held sts back on needles.

After the stitches are on the needle you can remove the waste yarn.

After the stitches are on the needle you can remove the waste yarn.

Pick up and knit 3 sts in the cast-on sts.

Insert right needle through st from mitten body from RS to WS

Insert right needle through st from mitten body from RS to WS

Throw a loop of yarn over the needle

Throw a loop of yarn over the needle

Pull the loop through the stitch

Pull the loop through the stitch

Three sts have been picked up.

Three sts have been picked up.

then knit around held sts to end of round. PM [14 (14, 16, 16, 18) sts]

You now have all your thumb stitches on your needles.


Thumb sts all picked up and on the needles

For fingerless mitts: knit all rounds until thumb measures 0.5 (0.5, 0.75, 1, 1) inches. Bind off.

For mittens: knit all rounds until thumb measures 1 (1.5, 1.5, 1.75, 2) inches, or 0.25 inches short of desired length.  Decrease round: k2tog around [6 (6, 7, 7, 8) sts]

Break yarn, leaving 6 inch tail. Thread tail through remaining live sts and pull tight to close thumb.

You may have a small hole where your stitches are picked up. Just use your yarn tail and stitch up the hole before weaving in your ends.


Turn the mitten inside out and sew up the hole with your tail.

Turn the mitten inside out and sew up the hole with your tail.

Weave in your ends and block your mittens.

This tutorial is part of The Simple Collection – our 100% free learn-to-knit series.  Check out the 8 fabulous free patterns sized from baby to big, and get started making modern seamless knits for the entire family!  Like our work?  Get our email updates and we will let you know about new patterns, tutorials, and events.

Adorable mitten patterns to try:

antler mittenLoch Mittenssitka spruce mittens

67 Comments leave one →
  1. Lynn permalink
    June 7, 2019 7:19 pm

    Is there any way to knit these flat? The magic loop is not producing the uniform stitches I prefer. I am out of the country right now, and don’t have access to DPNs, even if I had the technique for them. Please help!

    • June 10, 2019 1:41 am

      No – these mittens are designed to be knit in the round, so there isn’t a way to knit them flat. You might wan to take a look on for mitten patterns that are seamed, you’ll probably find something that works for you.

  2. Joyce permalink
    March 26, 2019 7:08 am

    After a long search for a easy to follow first mitten pattern, I found these. Thank you!

  3. Amy permalink
    March 3, 2019 5:35 am

    Thanks for all these great beginner patterns and instructions!
    I have a question about the ribbing, in the instruction it says: “Ribbing: p1, k3, (p1, k1) to end”
    What does the part in between brackets mean?

    • March 3, 2019 10:51 am

      Hi Amy: it means you are going to repeat the instructions in the brackets, so you are going to p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, etc

      • mixhond permalink
        March 4, 2019 3:01 am

        Thank you so much!

  4. Diane permalink
    January 19, 2019 3:07 pm

    Great instructions! Easy to follow ,can’t wait to make more . Thanks!!!!

  5. greycoral permalink
    January 18, 2019 3:52 pm

    Any tutorials on how to join magic loop starting with purl? Everything I’ve found joins with a knit stitch!

  6. sparrow permalink
    October 13, 2018 10:02 pm

    Directions say ‘work for 3.75 inches from the end of gusset’
    Where is the end of the gusset? Where is that spot located on your hand/ mitten?

    • October 14, 2018 11:53 am

      Hi – that’s where you placed your thumb sts on hold and cast on 1 stitch

  7. Rachel Fuller permalink
    October 13, 2018 5:07 pm

    I’ve never know mittens before and did the fingerless. These instructions are amazing and so easy to follow! Thank you for sharing!!! My mom will love them for Christmas and now I can work on a pair for myself!!

  8. Denise Tappen permalink
    October 10, 2018 7:05 pm

    Help please!!!😆 I’m am fairly a new knitter and I’m loving the pattern and working on the mittens. They are being done two at a time on magic loop. My concern is that it seems that I’m making two right hand gloves. So far, I have not seen where the pattern distinguishes between the right and left hand. Clarification is needed. Thank you 😊.

    • October 11, 2018 2:31 am

      Hello! The mittens are symmetrical (the front and the back are the same) so they work on either hand. Enjoy!

  9. August 9, 2018 2:59 pm

    I am having trouble with the thumb gusset section, row 3. At the end of row 3, is says to m1 (I am doing m1r) then k1. This is causing the purl section to look odd at the edge. Not sure if I am doing something wrong. Why is it not a p1 after the m1? Is the last stitch supposed to be part of the gusset?

    • August 10, 2018 10:07 am

      You should have 2 markers in your work (the BOR marker and the second marker placed in the Setup pattern row.The gusset comes between the BOR marker and the second marker. Does that help?

      • August 10, 2018 10:27 am

        Yes! I just realized after re-reading for the tenth time that I had misread the directions and was doing the m1 at end of row instead of before the marker! I can’t believe it. Thank you!!

  10. July 16, 2018 6:31 am

    Thanks for this! Don’t know if you’re still responding to this in 2018, but I’m having trouble with each increased stitch creating a large hole in the thumb gusset. I’ve made 3 pairs with 2 different yarns, and the result is the same. It almost looks lacy, which is cool, but not great for warmth. Help?

    • July 17, 2018 11:14 am

      It sounds like maybe you are doing your m1’s by knitting them the wrong way? When you put the bar on the need you need to knit it through the way that is more difficult (either through the front or back loop depending on the type of m1 you are doing). Does that sound right?

  11. Amanda permalink
    May 30, 2018 7:59 pm

    I tried the magic loop. First time ever to do this and I don’t know which side the pattern is for, both sides, or going as knitting in the round? Your instructions only show using this pattern with DPNs. I have no idea what I’m doing. Is the set up pattern going around the entire bothe sides or only one?

    • June 2, 2018 7:10 am

      Hi Amanda – you need to know where the beginning of the round ease. Each instruction is for one complete round, does that help?

  12. Lynn permalink
    December 4, 2017 7:19 pm

    I love your patterns, your charitable works and your wonderful instructions to inspire all levels of knitters. Thank you, for keeping my knitting addiction going!

  13. Laura permalink
    December 1, 2017 4:45 pm

    Hi –

    This is my first attempt at knitting mittens/gloves on DPN’s. I’m a little bit confused about the first instruction ( I know…not a good sign ;). What do you mean by: p1, k3, (p1, k1) to end – does that mean that for the children’s size I purl one, knit one to the end and for the adult sizes I purl 1, knit 1 to the end?


    • December 3, 2017 5:54 pm

      Hi Laura – For that instructions you are going to p1, k3, then you are going to (p1, k1) to the end (aka. p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, p1 , k1…..)

  14. Karen Verdier permalink
    November 8, 2017 10:34 am

    First of all thank you for the The World’s Simplest Mittens pattern. My problem is gauge with the mittens. I worked a test swatch (in the round) and had the requisite 5 sts/inch (using worsted weight, Cascade 220), yet once I started to knit the cuff and the hand, I felt that the mitten was very narrow. Is this normal?

    • November 8, 2017 11:22 am

      Hi Karen – if you try on the mitten and it’s too tight for you you can always go up a size. It might just be a matter of preference. I like a nice tight cuff.

  15. Cherise Lovejoy permalink
    October 17, 2016 4:09 pm

    I’ve read and followed the pattern to a tee and regardless of what I do (tighten my tension or slightly loosen, make sure first purl stitch it close to the last st at the end of the round on my previous dpn, etc( but I still keep ending up with a ladder wherever I have to purl the first stitch on the next needle. Do you know what might help to avoid this? Thank you!!

    • October 19, 2016 9:35 am

      Hi Cherise – perhaps try magic loop? Ladders should be fixed by pulling the first stitch on the needle a little extra tightly. You could also re-distribute your stitches so the first stitch on each needle is a knit, instead of a purl. Just put a marker at the beginning of the round.

      • GeniaKnitz permalink
        October 1, 2017 12:13 pm

        When you’re knitting on DPNs, tighten the SECOND stitch at the beginning of each needle, not the first. No ladders! [Well, you can also tighten the first if you like, but the second is the one that locks it in.]
        (All credit to the inimitable Cat Bordhi.)

      • October 3, 2017 8:30 pm

        Well, if Cat says it it must be true! Thanks for the solid advice!

  16. Michelle permalink
    October 3, 2016 10:51 am

    What size do I need to knit for mittens with thumb for a 2 year old ?

  17. Antoinette Barrella permalink
    September 14, 2016 10:21 pm

    Absolutely, positively, hands down, THE BEST TUTORIAL I have ever tried.

    I thank you from the bottom of my needles!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Not to mention, my heart :)

  18. Heather Ultsch permalink
    August 19, 2016 10:40 am

    This is quite possibly the best, easiest, most helpful tutorial and pattern I have ever used. I struggled through three patterns before I found Maize Mittens pattern and this tutorial. I was defeated and discouraged, but this pattern and tutorial showed me EXACTLY what my work was supposed to look like as well as explaining WHY. Thank you so much!! I can’t wait to make more mittens!

  19. Sharon permalink
    February 28, 2016 11:54 am

    Made the first fingerless mitt, only found these detailed instructions later. It came out fine although I may have fudged some of the numbers. Only hope I can fudge again for the second one to come out the same!

  20. January 2, 2016 10:45 pm

    OK, don’t know if it’s because this is my first time knitting mittens or if I’m just not connecting the dots, but it seems like there’s a chunk of decrease instructions missing from the tutorial that are in the pattern.
    The tutorial makes it sound like you should leave the ribbing needle alone (‘note that none of the ribbed stitches have been decreased, only the purl stitches ‘), while you decrease the two purl needles, but that doesn’t make sense when you say you should end up with 11 total stitches. I went back to the pattern in my confusion and saw that you say how to decrease the ribbing and that there’s a normal purl/pattern row in between decreases. Which would explain why my purl decrease edge is so sharp.
    Also, in between my purl needles during the decrease is a pretty big gap, I’m guessing from decreasing so quick?
    One other thing that might bear mentioning is to make sure to pull the first stitch every time you move to the next needle really tight – I learned that the hard way with a loose row in between my ribbing to purl needle for most of my mitten :/
    I’ll probably just scrap this mitten and start over- I love this pattern and all your designs are so gorgeous, I’m excited to try them all :)

  21. Pam Burd permalink
    November 23, 2015 11:32 am

    Not sure if anybody noticed but there is a different number of cast on stitches for the large mittens, printed out pattern says 40 stitches and this tutorial has the large with 42 stitches. I started the mittens with 40 stitches, and I am wondering how off I am now. Any suggestions on that?

    • November 23, 2015 8:26 pm

      It seems no one did notice, including us! The pattern was corrected, but the tutorial was not. They are both correct now, thanks for letting us know!

  22. Chris permalink
    October 28, 2015 5:15 pm

    Newish knitter here and reading the PDF pattern after I setup pattern “p1, k3,PM, purl 11 (in my case) [k1,p1]x5, k1, p 10 (as I have 36 total stitches. Is working more round in pattern the same as this or like you state above in the tutorial. k those 3 stitches and purl the remaining 35?

    • October 29, 2015 9:11 am

      So I think you are missing the instruction in the tutorial to knit the gusset sts, keep the ribbing section as set and purl all other sts.

    • December 14, 2016 2:26 pm

      Decrease in mittens (hand) – it appears we are decreasing 4 stitches in each row till there are 11 stitches left – in the size I have chosen. Should the 7 stitches of the rib pattern be left alone – not included in the decrease at all ?? Please help.

      • December 14, 2016 2:48 pm

        Hi – you need to refer to the patter for the exact decrease method. It starts without the ribbing but the final rounds decrease the ribbing as well.

  23. Erin permalink
    October 18, 2015 6:11 am

    I really appreciate how detailed this tutorial is. This is the most complicated thing I’ve tried knitting and it seemed a little daunting at first, but now I feel like I’ll be able to complete these in a timely manner. Thanks!!

  24. joannecasals permalink
    October 14, 2015 10:19 am

    I am stuck at the part after removing the thumb stitches and continuing with the mitten. In your instructions, you say to “Work as established in reverse
    stockinette stitch and ribbing pattern (purl the 3 CO sts at the start of the round)…”- do you mean to continue the pattern we established in the beginning after the ribbing? but instead of p1 at the BOR, we are p4? (p1 + purling the 3 CO st?). I am a little confused and don’t understand how to continue.

    Thanks for posting this by they way. I am loving how these are looking!

  25. Jennifer permalink
    June 8, 2015 10:14 pm

    Okay…do I leave the three CO stitches and the one purl stitch on one needle for three needles? And the BOR is the same or does it start with the 3 CO stitches? I’m a tad confused here. It would have been great to see another pic as you were knitting the top of the mitten after the 3 CO stitches and as you did the first and second joining round for the mitt part. Thanks!

    • June 12, 2015 3:35 pm

      Hi Jennifer – the BOR stays the same. The 3 cast on sts replace the 3 sts that became the thumb, so they don’t move.

  26. April 5, 2015 12:03 pm

    Yes, I too do not understand how you get three stitches on the needles after you pull through the loop of yarn. First you show one stick on the hook and in the next photo there are three stitches on the hook. I don’t see how this happens via the instructions given. Could you please explain this in a little more detail? Is the loop if yarn cascara piece or is this the working yarn? It’s hell being a newbie I tellya…:)

  27. Mandy permalink
    March 7, 2015 5:58 am

    I am absolutely stuck on this step! “Pick up and knit 3 sts in the cast-on sts.”

    Have my stitches picked up. Believe I have inserted needle through stitch based on picture. Thrown loop of yarn over needle… and then? Nothing. Can’t make it look like the pictures, and can’t figure out how to magically make it turn into three picked up stitches!

    Please help! <3

    • March 9, 2015 3:31 pm

      Hi Mandy – I think you are missing the ‘pull the loop through’ portion of picking up a stitch. You are inserting your needle from the RS to the WS in the cast on st, then your yarn goes around the needle and you pull it back through.

  28. Denise permalink
    February 19, 2015 12:04 pm

    This is a great tutorial. For me the only thing missing is how to read a mitten chart with color work. I can’t seem to find those instructions anywhere. Your explanations are wonderful!!

  29. Eva permalink
    February 12, 2015 7:40 am

    I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this, but you’re missing an instruction in this post. The pdf pattern tells you to work several decreases after you go back to knitting the thumb, but this post doesn’t seem to have that step.

    (I otherwise loved the tutorial. Thank you so much! :)

    • February 12, 2015 8:35 pm

      I can’t seem to find what you are referring too? Do you mean the decreases for the thumb or at the top for the mitten? There are instructions for fingerless mittens and full mittens…..

      • May 23, 2016 8:02 am

        I think I have the same question. These instructions from the pattern don’t seem to appear in this tutorial.

        Knit around to last 5 sts, ssk, k1, k2tog. [12 (12, 14, 14, 16) sts]

        Can you clarify?

        I love the simple collection and all your tutorials! Thanks so much.

      • May 24, 2016 11:20 am

        You should be following the pattern, it has all the details.

  30. Katharine permalink
    January 20, 2015 12:32 pm

    Brilliant tutorial! Just stuck on one thing – when you say 3.5 inches from end of gusset do you mean where the stitches are on the waste yarn or the end where you started increasing for the gusset?

    • January 22, 2015 9:22 am

      The 3.5 inches is measured from the END of the gusset, which means where you ended knitting the gusset and put the stitches on hold. Hope this helps!

  31. Lori Burkart permalink
    November 15, 2014 1:28 pm

    I like the pattern and have finished my firstmitt. How do I reverse the pattern for the other hand? Thank you!

    • November 21, 2014 12:08 pm

      The kittens are reversible so you can just make 2 the same!

    • December 12, 2014 6:59 am

      I’ve learned how to make TWO mittens at the same time with the Magic Loop! Mittens AND socks! Just use two separate balls of yarn – one for each mitten/sock! What a gem!!

  32. Sadie permalink
    November 12, 2014 11:34 am

    Very useful tutorial, I use these methods even when other patterns call for something different because this is so easy to understand. Thanks!

  33. Deb L. permalink
    October 13, 2014 5:49 am

    What a nice explanation~how kind of you to do all this work to help all of us mitten newbies out there! Thanks!!

  34. Elisabeth permalink
    August 22, 2014 4:49 am

    I was going crazy looking for an understandable pattern for a beginner, suddendly this popped out of my browser, thank you so much! You have an amazing talent explaining complicated things in a simple way, you’re fantastic!

    I can’t wait to try this.


  35. July 7, 2014 6:19 pm

    I think I’m a little confused. I’m doing the child sized mittens, and the directions here say to work 3.5 inches from the end of gusset, but on the PDF for the child size it says 3 inches.

    Which do you recommend for an average child?

  36. Margo Mulholland permalink
    May 22, 2014 5:53 pm

    Great instructions!

  37. October 25, 2013 2:36 pm

    Wow, wonderfully easy when you look at your site. Thanks

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