Knitting Mittens with the Fair Isle Technique

Instructions for knitting mittens with a colorful snowflake themed pattern to keep you warm in the winter.

article image
courtesy of Abrams Books

The Mitten Handbook (Abrams Books, 2017) acts as an instructional manual for knitting custom mittens. Author Mary Scott Huff encourages knitters to create their own unique mittens by combining different versions of individual components including thumbs, cuffs, tops, and edgings. Additionally there are 20 complete patterns for traditional mitten instructions.

Snow Day Pattern

Fair Isle knitting has such irresistible charm. Snowflakes in shades of blue and gray decorate these cuffs, reminding us of times when school got canceled and we played in the snow. Declare your own snow day, and give the drifts the attention they deserve.

 Abbreviations Guide
CC Contrasing Color
CO Cast On
K1 – F/B Knit into the front loop and back loop of the same stitch to increase 1 stitch
K2TOG Knit 2 stitches together
K Knit
M1 or M1L (Make 1-Left Slanting) With the tip of the left-hand needle inserted from front to back, lift the strand between the 2 needles onto the left-hand needle; knit the strand through the back loop to increase 1 stitch
MC Main Color
PM Place Marker
RND(S) Round(s)
SM Slip Marker
ST(S) Stitch(es)
ST ST Stockinette Stitch
WS Wrong Side

• Woman’s Large / Man’s Small

• 8 inches hand circumference 10-1/4 inches long, including edge and cuff.

YARN (Fine Weight)
• Harrisville Designs Shetland [100% Shetland wool; 217 yards, 1-3/4 ounces]
• #49 Charcoal (MC) [1 skein]
• #53 Silver Mist (CC1) [approx. 25 yards]
• #46 Oatmeal (CC2) [approx. 25 yards]
• #25 Aegean (CC3) [approx. 25 yards]
• #12 Seagreen (CC4) [approx. 25 yards]
• #10 Spruce (CC5) [approx. 25 yards]
• #35 Chianti (CC6) [approx. 25 yards]

• One set double-pointed needles, or other needle(s) for working a small circumference in the round, size US 3 (3.25 mm). Change needle size if necessary to obtain correct gauge.

• Stitch markers
• Waste yarn

• 27 sts and 40 rnds = 4 inches in st st

• Western Gusset Thumb
• Spiral Top

• These mittens are worked from the bottom up in the round. One size is given; the size may be adjusted by working at a firmer or looser gauge.

Mitten Instructions

• Using MC and Tubular CO or CO of your choice, CO 54 sts. Join for working in the rnd, being careful not to twist sts; pm for beginning of rnd.
• Work Rnds 1 – 4 of Snow Day chart (see below).

• Work Rnds 5 – 31 of chart.

• Change to MC.
• Set-Up Rnd: K26, pm, k2, pm, knit to end.
 Increase Rnd: Work to marker, sm, k1-f/b, knit to 1 st before marker, k1-f/b, sm, knit to end – 2 sts increased. Repeat Increase Rnd every other rnd 11 times – 78 sts. Knit 1 rnd.
• Next Rnd: Knit to marker, remove marker, k1, place 24 Thumb Gusset sts on waste yarn, k1, remove marker, knit to end – 54 sts remain.

• Work even until piece measures approximately 9-1/4 inches from CO, or to 1 inch less than desired Mitten length.

• Set-Up Rnd: *K9, pm; repeat from * to end.
• Decrease Rnd: *Knit to 2 sts before marker, k2tog; repeat from * to end – 6 sts decreased. Repeat Decrease Rnd every other rnd 7 times – 6 sts remain.
• Break yarn, leaving a long tail. Thread tail through remaining sts, pull tight, and fasten off to WS.

• Transfer Thumb Gusset sts to needles; rejoin MC.
• Next Rnd: M1, knit to end – 25 sts.
• Join for working in the rnd; pm for beginning of rnd.
• Work even until Thumb measures approximately 1-1/2 inches, or to 1/2 inch less than desired Thumb length.

• Decrease Rnd: *K3, k2tog; repeat from * to end – 20 sts remain.
• Decrease Rnd: *K2, k2tog; repeat from * to end – 15 sts remain.
• Decrease Rnd: *K1, k2tog; repeat from * to end – 10 sts remain.
 Decrease Rnd: *K2tog; repeat from * to end – 5 sts remain.
• Break yarn, leaving a long tail. Thread tail through remaining sts, pull tight, and fasten off to WS.

• Weave in ends, using tails to close gaps at base of Thumb. Block as desired.

grid chart with multiple colors forming a pattern in the shape of a snowflake

close up of a knitted snowflake pattern in blue and white

This excerpt is reprinted with permission from The Mitten Handbook by Mary Scott Huff, with photography by Lesley Unruh, published by Abrams Books, 2017.

blue book cover with a partially knitted mitten on it