Brr! I’m not quite ready to let go of fall, but we’ve had our first snow around here, and it’ll just keep getting colder. I don’t know about you, but I hate having cold hands and feet. It’s borderline panic-attack inducing. So I always have like 8 pairs of mittens and gloves and thick, wooly socks around to keep my digits from freezing right off. Mostly, I make my own. Sometimes I knit, but sometimes I want something a little bit more instant and green. Like recycling an old sweater into mittens!
Google “things to do with an old sweater” and you’ll find lots of simple instructions for hats, scarves, and mittens. Usually, the instructions for mittens go something like this:
Felt the sweater. Felt the heck out of it. Keeeeeep felting, until it’s all crazy felted up. Use like 4 cycles of the washer on hot to felt a single garment. Now trace a mitten shape around your hand, cut two, and sew. Hooray, you have mittens.
Honestly? I don’t really like the feel of felted sweaters against my hands. I also don’t like how much water it wastes to felt something so much. Last winter, I had two small scraps of wool from which to make mittens, and two scraps of a wool-poly blend. My wool scraps were too small to take the shrinkage that goes along with felting, and besides, I like the knit look. The wool-poly blend won’t felt all that well because it’s not 100% wool. (If you’re not familiar with fiber chemistry, wool tends to felt because it’s an animal’s coat. Like how a dog’s hair clumps if it’s never combed. Polyester doesn’t do this.)
Easy fix: just line your mittens. You’ll end up with a reversible mitten that is warm, stretchy, and versatile, without having to bother with felting. Makes it much easier to use what you have on hand, too, rather than trolling thrift stores for wool sweaters that you only need a little bit of fabric from anyway.
Trace around your hand in a mitten shape on your fabric. Make the shapes a little larger than you normally would, since there will be two layers. (I don’t have a picture of this, but… you know how to trace a mitten shape onto fabric. Right?)
Cut two from one fabric, two from a contrast fabric. Or four from the same fabric.
In my case, I was able to use the ribbed bottom of a sweater vest for one of my mitten pairs. I cut those pieces longer. I highly recommend that you do this as well; bulky cuffs are a pain. This method gives you one handy, finished edge that looks really nice and isn’t bulky.
Zig-zag your way around those shapes and turn only the shorter one right-side out.
Pull the right-side out mitten over the inside-out one. In other words, put one inside the other, wrong sides together.
Fold the raw edge of the shorter mitten under and pin. Take thread and stitch around in a mattress stitch or other invisible stitch. In my case, I did this sort of weird up-and down stitch, drawing the thread along the little ladders between the stitches. It worked for me, but I have no idea what that is called.
Side note: See how my stitching doesn’t match? At ALL? Last winter me didn’t feel like venturing out in a snowstorm to buy matching thread. Current me is facepalming, but unwilling to let the mittens go to waste. Don’t be that person. Get matching thread. Seriously.
Now, you may have noticed something. I can hear you scratching your head. “But if one of my mittens is longer than the other, and the wrong sides are together, that means that the seam will be visible on one side, right?” (If you didn’t notice that, it’s OK, just nod and pretend you did.)
Yes. You’re right. You could avoid that by binding or french seaming or what-have-you one of the mittens. If you have a serger, so much the better. I don’t have a serger, and I thought that binding and french seaming and so on would be super bulky. So, when I was done, I cheated a little bit. The ribbed cuff is thinner than the rest of the mitten, so I just folded the cuff in a little bit and stitched with a matching thread, into a partial french seam. This will result in a slight ridge when wearing the mitten the other way, but the raw edge will be protected so it’s a good trade-off. Another option is to take your matching thread (MATCH. YOUR. THREAD!) and just do a whip-stitch along the exposed edges.
Overall, I’m happy with how these turned out. My fold-and-stitch method hides the stupidly contrasting stitching well, and they’re nice and warm and stretchy. They were less than an hour of work (very outside estimate, shouldn’t take you more than 1:30), warm, they go with a variety of outfits because of the dark and light colors. I might make them again in a brown/black combo. Or a bright color or pattern/black color, where the black is the longer mitten. (That way, when worn dark-side out, they’re neutral mittens, when worn bright-side out, they have a black contrast cuff.)
Happy crafting, and keep warm in the winter!