Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lining mittens, part 1: thumb at the side

Today's post is the first of a two-part series on lining mittens. The illustration below shows the two main types of mittens: those with a thumb coming from the side, and those with a thumb coming from the front.

In this post we'll line a side-thumbed mitten, and the following post shows the front-thumbed version.

The best sort of lining for a mitten, in my humble opinion, is made of polar fleece. Polar fleece is a synthetic knitted fabric which has several terrific virtues. It is fabulously easy to wash, it is warm and non-itchy, it is cheap and easy to find in lots of colors and weights, and, best of all, you can cut it without having to seam it -- it will not ravel out. (For more information about Polar fleece, click here.)

In the illustrations below, the "good side" (the denser, fuzzier side) of the polar fleece fabric is illustrated in blue, the "not-so-good" side is illustrated in green. However, if keeping track of the sides is going to turn you away from using Polar Fleece, then, as set forth in greater detail at the very end of this post, just ignore that part of the instructions.

Step 1: Trace the outlines of the mitten on the not-so-good side of the polar fleece stop when you get to the straight part of the non-thumb side.

Step 2: flip the mitten over and trace it again, so that you get a double outline, joined along the outside edge, as shown. Cut out this shape without separating the two halves.

Step 3: Fold the shape in half along the dotted line, with the not-so-good side out and the good sides together on the inside.

Step 4: Pin, then sew the mitten lining form together, as shown. If you have a sewing machine, it'll just take a minute or two to sew the lining seams. If you have no sewing machine, it won't take much longer to hand sew the form shut, and the best stitch for this is the back stitch. (For more information about the back stitch, click here.)

Step 5: The sewn mitten lining form. Note that the seam is on the outside, and the "good side" (i.e.: the fuzzier side) is inside the form, where it will snug against your cold hands.

Step 6: Slip the lining form into the mitten with the "not-so-good" seamed side facing out, as shown.

Step 7: Once the lining is inside of the mitten, flip the whole business inside out, so that the "good side" of the lining is outside, while the whole mitten (flipped inside out) is inside the lining form. Pin the lining to the mitten, and sew, using the overcast stitch, as shown. For more information about sewing lining into a knitted garment using the overcast stitch, click here.

Once the lining is sewn in, flip the whole business inside out again, and you've got yourself a lined mitten.

Four final notes:

First, as you see, there is no seam allowance left when cutting the lining form. This is intentional: In Polar Fleece, you can sew quite close to the edge--1/4 inch or even less. Therefore, when you make your seam, you will make the lining form just that much smaller than the mitten, so that the form fits snugly inside the mitten. Obviously, the thicker the polar fleece you select, the thicker the seam will be, and the snugger the fit of the mitten form. I personally do not use fleece above "200" thickness for linings, and perhaps even a 100 or a micro lining would be useful for lining mittens, matching the thinner linings to a thinner knit. (If you missed the link above for more information about Polar Fleece, click here.)

Second, if you want to line a mitten, you have to knit it bigger (both wider AND longer) to make room for the lining. This is particularly true of the thumb which must be knit proportionally even bigger than the mitten itself, in order to accommodate the lining without cutting your circulation off and leaving you with a blue thumb.

Three, as you see, the cuff is not lined. It is obviously possible to line a cuff, but this tends to make the wrist stiff, and the mitten uncomfortable and unpopular. If you truly want to line the cuff, you must knit it quite loose to avoid these problems. Lined cuffs are not usually ribbed.

The last thing is this: As stated above, if you are confused by all this talk of "good side" and "not -so-good side," the good news is that on most Polar Fleece, it really doesn't matter much. There is a relatively rare kind of fleece which only has one fuzzy side, but on double-sided fleece, then unless you look pretty closely, it can sometimes be hard to tell which side even IS the fluffier "good" side. If all this chatter about sides is bogging you down down, then make sure to get double sided fleece, and just ignore these distinctions. The only really important thing is to insert the lining form with the seam on the side of the lining away from your hands, as shown in illustration 6.

ADDENDUM, 3-12-11:  If your mittens aren't fully side-thumb, but only "sorta side thumb," have a look at Purple Muse's comment, comment #8 below, for a clever way of dealing with the situation.

You have been reading TECHknitting on "lining hand-knit mittens"


Mercuria said...

Is there a reason for tracing the mitten twice? Why not just fold the fleece in half and cut while folded, like paper people? (I've never worked with polar fleece before, so please excuse me if I'm suggesting the impossible)

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Mercuria: You are quite right!

The reason it's set out this way is 1) easier to illustrate; 2) easier to explain--sometimes non-sewers put the "fold" on a cut edge by mistake and end up with two sep. mittens (happens a lot with clothing patterns, too!) But, of course, if you understand what you're doing, your excellent suggestion will save time and give as good, or even better results.


Rachel said...

Brilliant! I can't wait to do this for my kids' mittens!

Mercuria said...

Thanks for the reply! I was a bit worried that I might end up with two differently-sized halves because polar fleece would stretch strangely while cutting.

I don't think I've commented before, so I'd like to thank you for all you've put into this blog. I consider this as valuable a reference as any printed book.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! I knit a mittens for my daughter, and lined it using your instructions. It worked perfectly, and when she slipped it on she was thrilled with how soft it was. Thank you very, very much.

--TECHknitter said...

Dear Anonymous: It's great to hear that your daughter liked the lined mitts. Thanks for writing.


Lizabeth 10cowife said...

Thanks so much! I will use some of your instructions to line some baby mitts I just made for a gift. You can see the mitts here:

PurpleMuse said...

I knit my mittens with the gusset just off-set of the side on the palm (rather than the "after-thought" thumb as illustrated here). I used your "side thumb" pattern but at the top of the mitten I cut straight across the top of the curve. After I sewed the thumb and the side seam I off-set the whole thing to match where my thumb is set in the mitten, only then did I trace the curve at the top of the mitten and sew together.

I hope this makes sense to other "slightly off-set thumb" mitten enthusiasts.

I was wracking my brain in trying to figure out how to do the thumb until I stumbled across your instructions! Thanks!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Purple Muse--that is brilliant. I've amended the text to direct folks to your comment!


Anonymous said...

Perfect, clear instructions. Can't wait to line a pair that came out too large...a lining will snug them up perfectly!