Designing Knit Hand Accessories – Part 2

image of knit fingerless styles

In my last post, I introduced you to designing hand accessories – gloves, mittens, and fingerless styles. All three styles have many of the same components: cuff, wrist, hand, thumb, and fingers. The design process begins with taking hand measurements, with the most crucial measurement being the circumference of the hand above the thumb. The next steps to creating your design idea includes choosing the yarn, needles, pattern stitches, and calculating the gauge. So let’s delve into these steps, and how to knit a simple glove in stockinette stitch. 

Yarns

The best yarn to use for gloves is in the fingering weight category, with a gauge of around 7-10 stitches per inch. Smooth, merino wool fingering or sock yarn is my favourite. Finer weight yarns allow you to work complex patterning in texture and colour, even in the smaller areas of the fingers and thumb. Thicker yarns can work with simple glove designs, but should not be worked tightly or the glove will be stiff and uncomfortable. Heavier yarns are best left for mittens and fingerless styles with no thumbs or fingers.

Needles

Double pointed needles (dpns) are the needle of choice for seamless hand accessories. It’s easier to hold your work with a set of 4 dpns rather than 5. 

An alternative knitting method is to work gloves back and forth on straight needles. Although straight needles are easy to manipulate, if you have an aversion to sewing seams, I would shy away from them. Seams must be sewn as neat as possible. Wearing a glove with many seams may be uncomfortable. Seams work best in a simple fingerless without partial fingers or thumb, and even mittens work well on straights. In this post, I’m only addressing knitting gloves in the round with dpns.

Stitch Patterns & Other Details

The sky is the limit when designing pattern stitches and their arrangement in this accessory. There are many traditional styles of gloves and mittens you may want to try, such as Fair Isle, thrummed mittens, and lace gloves. If you are going to incorporate colour-work or complex pattern stitches, use the finer weight yarns as indicated above. The arrangement of textured patterns may be worked only on the top of the hand, just the cuff area, or any of the infinite number of design possibilities. 

Decorative details such as long, shaped cuffs, beading, tassels, pompoms, and buttons add functionality and visual interest to hand accessories.

Gauge

As with all projects you design from scratch, test swatches must be made to calculate the stitch and row gauge. The resulting numbers are used to calculate the stitches and rows required for each component of the hand accessory. Refer to “The Why & How of Test Swatching” for further information on making swatches.

Basic Glove Template

I’ll show you the steps to knitting the most basic glove in stockinette stitch with a ribbed cuff. This will provide you a construction template for designing other styles of hand accessories. Following the steps for this basic glove, I’ll give you further tips for knitting mittens and fingerless styles. I’m making the assumption that you have basic knitting skills, including how to knit in the round, and how to calculate gauge.

Steps: (The letters correspond to the sections indicated on the glove diagram below)

A. Upper hand measurement x gauge (sts/in) = the number of stitches to cast on. With smaller dpns than the gauge, work the cuff in ribbing to the desired length. You can work the rib on fewer stitches if desired. Note: The best place to begin rounds is on the outside or inside edge of the hand.

B. Change to larger dpns and work even in stockinette stitch to the thumb line. Increase stitches if necessary.

C. Thumb circumference x gauge ÷ 2 = the number of stitches to place on scrap yarn. The thumb width is 1/2 the circumference of the base. Once you’ve reached where you want the thumb to be, drop the working yarn and knit the number of stitches required for the thumb opening on a separate strand of yarn. Work these thumb stitches on the palm or side of glove. Remember to reverse placement of the thumb for the right glove. Note: A shaped thumb gusset is made by increasing to form a triangle at the base of the thumb. A gusset creates a better fitting glove or mitten. There are many good references on making gussets, such as Vogue Knitting.

D. Resume knitting rounds with the working yarn, including the thumb stitches till you reach the base of the fingers. Slip these hand stitches to a holding yarn.

E. The thumb is worked next. For the simplest thumb, remove the scrap of yarn to open up the fabric. Pick up the top and bottom stitches of the opening, and divide them evenly on dpns to form both sides of thumb. A stitch or two should be increased on each side of the thumb to neaten the join to the palm. Knit rounds to the thumb length measurement, stopping about 1/4 inch from the top. Taper the top with decreases and close. 

F. Finger base circumference x gauge = number of stitches to slip onto dpns for each finger. Separate the hand stitches, by dividing the stitches in half for the front and back of hand. Slip the stitches you calculated for each finger to dpns, beginning with either the index or little finger. Pick up 2 or 3 stitches at the base of the fingers between the palm and back of hand to join the front and back.

G. Knit in rounds to 1/4 inch before fingertip length. Make a series of decreases; decreases can be a design feature or simply gathered at the tip. You can experiment to find the most appealing closure.

diagram demonstrating steps to knitting simple glove

Tips For All Styles

  • A cuff that is too tight will make a glove or mitten difficult to put on. These accessories must be able to stretch over the widest part of the hand.
  • Mittens or fingerless styles can be knit with heavier yarns than gloves.
  • For warmth, gloves and mittens should be knit tightly.
  • Use a firm, but stretchy method of casting on. Long tail and tubular cast ons work well.
  • Closed increases such as a make one (M1) or knit through front and back loop (kfb) work best for hand accessories intended for warmth. 
  • Slanted increases and decreases along the gusset or top of mitten form a decorative detail.
  • Mitten tops can be decreased within the hand or positioned at the sides of the hand.
  • For mittens with curved tops, the remaining stitches can be grafted (kitchener stitch) like the toes of socks, or use the bind-off seam, which I prefer.
  • Fingerless hand accessories are my favourite to make and fun to wear. For warmth and ease of movement, stop knitting the hand short of the fingertips, then bind off. If desired, work a few rows of a non-curling pattern before binding off. Partial fingers with or without a thumb is another option; work up to the knuckles and bind off.
  • There are many design possibilities for fingerless. The simplest style has a hole left for the thumb, and no finger tubes.

Your design may not be perfect the first time, but with practice you’ll improve. If you’re not too confident, begin with a simple pair of fingerless. Jump in and design a hand accessory for yourself; you may find it just as addictive as knitting socks.