When fingerless mittens go wrong

Sticking with my current obsession with stripes and double pointed needles, I decided to work up some fingerless mittens. I didn’t put much planning in and unfortunately I paid the price.

I looked for a pattern online with roughly the same type of yarn and used their stitch counts and general approach but I didn’t check the hand size they were aiming for and I didn’t knit a gauge swatch (oops).

My  own wrist is very thin and I have a long palm and hands. I tried the first mitten on as I was making it. I could see that it wasn’t looking quite right and I made a few adjustment because I was keen on the stripes and trying out the yarn. When the first mitten was done it floated around on my hand!  I tried it on a friend’s hand and she also found it awkwardly proportioned. Oh dear. Perhaps I could shrink and felt them, I thought, so I made the second one anyway.

A pair of hand knit mittens before felting
The pair of freshly knit mittens
A pair of hand knit mittens after felting attempt
The pair of mittens after attempted felting.

I’ve never felted anything before so after some googling for instructions I gave it a try and, while it might not appear so from the photos above, the mittens have shrunk a touch so they’re not as large as they were but they are still roomy. The wrist area above the ribbing is still too wide. The shape of the mitten between the wrist and the thumb does not follow the shape of a human hand.  The thumb hole feels slightly tight and awkward.  And they don’t even look felted!

The yarn was 100% Australian Wool by Morris & Sons called Estate 8 ply (the colours delightfully called Duckling and Egg Yolk!). I suspect it’s been treated in some way because the care instructions for the yarn suggest that it can be gently machine washed. This is probably the reason for my felting failure combined with my technique (and fear of over shrinking the mittens).

I’ll still make use of these mittens and I might give their felting another go sometime, but I now have a better idea of what can go wrong when knitting fingerless mittens, and I will do a deliberate felting project soon using yarn that actually states that it’s intended for felting.

Mittens that aren't tight enough at the wrist
Too much room at the wrist, not enough room around the thumb.
Mittens that aren't tight enough at the wrist
There is still a bulge of emptiness at the wrist below the thumb.


All’s not failed on the stripes front however, I made up a baby / toddler beanie hat using another Morris & Sons yarn called Empire 8 ply (these colours are called Daffodil and Marigold) which is a superfine merino and it turned out just fine :)

Baby or toddler striped orange and yellow beanie