With the chill in the air I’m back at one of my obsessions again; Mitten making mania! Perhaps it’s that quest for the perfect combination of fit, warmth and function that sends me making and perfecting each year. One can’t have enough mittens can they?! Our precious hands do so many things that may require various types of protection. I have taken my ‘making’ to natural fibres this year so I’m in love with wool….
I have been collecting those old thick woollen blankets. They were once the cherished staple of each household and lasted for decades. It is sad to see such wonderful pieces end up in the landfill due to being replaced with those darn cheap ‘comforters’. Here’s one way to make great use of them.
I recently visited the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair where I met this charming fellow. He was ‘telling’ me the great virtues of wool. I had no idea how strong it is; each fibre can bend back on itself over 20,000 times. It has the ability to absorb moisture to up to 30% of it’s own weight but resists building up bacteria since it releases it back into the air. The crimped nature of the fibres makes it able to return to it’s shape after wearing. It is biodegradable and each sheep makes a new fleece each year.
Felted Wool Blankets or Sweaters
The other reason they are so great is that they are probably already ‘felted’. Felting happens when the wool is washed and is somehow ‘shocked’ by different temperatures of water. This makes the fibres mesh strongly with each other somewhat like those dreadlocks seen in hair. You can tell if something is felted by checking to see if the individual strands of wool are now all ‘fuzzed’ together so that they are indistinguishable.
Why is that so great? Well it now makes it super dense and thick. It also makes the edges NOT unravel when you cut it. Being a sewer I love it when I don’t need to always ‘finish’ the edges of the fabric that I’m using.
The Free Mitten Pattern
It’s a good idea to wash the wool before using if it is vintage or stored for a long time. Make sure it is perfectly dry as well.
As a bonus I have drafted out a pattern for you. It is sized for about a medium large ladies hand. Download the free pattern (2 page PDF file) and print it out (make sure that your printer does not shrink the pages to print). Perhaps make a test mitt for sizing purposes.
When laying out the pattern, it gives more stretch of it is cut on the bias (meaning at a 45 degree angle). Pin and cut or trace with a marker.
The unique method I used was partially seams on the inside and outside. (you can however use the pattern either way)
Sew the inside thumb to the inside hand matching the dots. This seam will be on the inside as it is more comfortable that way.
Clip at the dots to the stitching. This will allow the fabric to change to exterior seams for the rest of the mitten.
Note the clipped sections after seams
Bend the inside thumb up and match ends to sew around the thumb and mid seam. The thumb is slightly shorter on the inside to allow better bending towards hand. Ease to fit edges together.
Step #4 (optional)
If you want some elastic at the wrist, then you can at this point sew some elastic along the wrist (test for you length) to the inside piece. I find that a snug fit is just as good…
Easing the outside to match the length with the inside (slight difference in length for comfort of bending the hand) and sew around the outside. The seam allowance can be adjusted for slight size variation.
After sewing at the seam allowance (about 1/4″) it is easier to then cut to a small even edge.
Good job making your first mitten! Note the inside seam of the thumb is towards the inside. You could have all the seams inside if you prefer, you will then feel them with your fingers though.
Step #6 Embellishments
Since these will definitely look handmade why not embellish them even more. A simple blanket stitch around the outside with a winter white wool yarn is perfect. I can imagine these with additional crocheted stitches at the wrist as well, or add some crewel stitching to the outside of the hand.
But don’t stop there! Make more mittens of all kinds… Reuse those old leather coats as they can be sewn nicely with a home sewing machine. In that case you may use the pattern with a slightly bigger seam allowance to make a liner as well.
I marbled some wool blankets to make some interesting colours.
Virgin wool blankets come in all colours and can also be dyed or eco-printed.
In past years I made liners that were made of a short faux fur and then they were washable since being a separate piece.
Add some trim, a simple threaded way to tie it and add a poof of faux pom to the ends.
These are the warmest ever! Sometimes almost too warm!
In my stockpile I have some vintage furs from my milliner mother so I could not resist a mink pair. I bet that mink is almost as old as I am.
To adjust the size for a man you can either print at a larger scale or add length by splicing in additional length. Mittens are quite easy to adjust for size.
For the stretchy ribbing I used some tights as they will hold their elasticity perfectly. Black suede and faux mink… I can’t decide which I like best!
If you are scrambling to find gifts on a budget these are a great idea as they can also be handstitched. You may have all you need in the back of the closet already as who really wears those leather skirts anyways?! Handmade gifts warm the heart…
…and warm the hands!