Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Pretend to be a designer!

Every knitter reaches the stage in their knitting career when they get fed up of just following patterns, and want to branch out into writing their own. While I have been perfectly at ease doing this with crochet (and have four original designs available for free here on the blog), knitting is a bit trickier because it's altogether more technical than crochet.

However, there exists a handy halfway step between simply following a pattern and whipping up something completely original - modifying an existing pattern. This is something I am beginning to master when it comes to fingerless gloves, having knit four pairs of gloves from the same basic pattern and ending up with four completely different and unique pairs of gloves!

The pattern is the Easy Half Mitten by Michelle Porter (a free Ravelry download).

I confess, I have yet to knit a pair that looks exactly as the pattern dictates. The very first time I knit these gloves was to make a matching pair for my Free Rapunzel hat:

I wanted a plain and simple mitt pattern that I could modify to incorporate the braided cable from the band of the hat.

There was a lot of scribbling and calculating involved before I actually cast on. The mitts are knit over 32 stitches, which means when you divide them across the dpns, you get 10 stitches on two of the needles and 12 on the third. I kept the 12 stitches on the middle needle, as these are the stitches that go across the back of your hand. This is where I was going to add my cables. I simply replaced all of the plain knit stitches on that needle with the chart from the free rapunzel pattern.

The other critical thing to remember about modifying plain mitt patterns is that once you start adding a design, your thumb has to move. On the left mitt, the thumb is as the pattern dictates, on the first needle in the round. But on the right mitt, you need to reverse the directions and knit the thumb on the third needle in the round. In the case of this pattern, that meant reversing the instructions so that when I got to the thumb part, instead of knitting 3 stitches then starting my thumb increases, I knit to the last four stitches and then started the thumb.

I also found the pattern didn't make the gloves long enough (maybe I have extra long hands?) so I added extra plain knit rows before and after the thumb gusset to make sure the cuffs sat comfortably over my wrist and knuckles.

Emboldened by my success in modifying this pattern, I offered to knit Jamie a pair.

He asked for warm, black fingerless gloves to wear when LRPing. I had just finished a pair of fingered fingerless gloves so understood the principles behind knitting proper fingers and thumbs on gloves. So once again I pulled out this easy mitt pattern, and adapted it to my needs. As Jamie has bigger hands than me, I cast on 36 stitches instead of 32, and used slightly bigger needles than I had the first time (5mm, as opposed to 4.5mm). I knit the gloves pretty much as per the pattern initially (although I did add an extra plain knit round before the thumb increases). But instead of binding off the thumb stitches where told, I just transferred them to waste yarn and continued following the pattern for the hand.

I then did some crazy maths to work out how to divide my 36 stitches evenly across four fingers. Looking at my hastily scribbled notes (another tip - make a note of everything you do that is different to the pattern, especially if you're making something that comes in a pair and you want them to look the same!) I took 9 stitches for the pinkie and cast on one across the gap, making 10 stitches. As I had done on the leafy fingerless mitts, I then returned all 27 of the remaining live stitches to my needles, picked up a stitch where I'd cast on across the gap and knit 3 more rounds (look at your hands, your pinkie starts below the rest of your fingers). I now had 28 live stitches, from which I needed three more fingers.

Ring finger took 9 of those stitches, plus two cast on across the gap. Middle finger then used another 4 stitches from each side of the glove, two stitches picked up from the ring finger and cast on one across teh gap to make 12 stitches. The index finger then used the remaining 11 stitches from the glove plus one picked up from the middle finger. All live stitches used, and four fingers knit. Each finger was 5 rounds long before binding off.

The thumb was knit in the same way, putting the 9 live stitches back on the needles and picking up three more stitches from the top of the thumb hole. 5 rounds of plain knit and I had a thumb to match.

Mitt number two was done in exactly the same way, no need to muck about moving the thumb gusset as these gloves are plain and therefore identical front and back.

I've done three pairs of gloves with fingers now, and I have to say I find it really irritating to knit them!

My third modification was essentially a return to the first. Instead of replacing the 12 stitches on the middle needle with the cable from one pattern, I used the cable pattern from Koolhaas which I'd knit from the same yarn. I couldn't find my notes I'd made for the Rapunzel mitts, so I reverse engineered my modifications by looking at the finished article and comparing to the pattern! This time, I was a bit more technical, and wrote out the entire pattern as a chart in Excel, because it was trickier to get this cable pattern to work. I think I did a shorter cuff this time, 8 rows instead of 10 in the rib, with 8 plain rows before starting the thumb gusset.

The yarn is lighter weight, but I used 5mm needles again. These gloves are slightly airier than the others, but just as warm and cosy!

My fourth modification is probably (for me) the most advanced. I wanted to use up all of the chocolate coloured chunky Debbie Bliss Cashmerino I'd used for Rapunzel, and after several failed attempts I settled on another pair of these fabulous mitts. This time, I divided my yarn into two equal sized balls, did a provisional cast on and started with the plain knit rounds below the thumb, leaving the cuff till the end. I also took some of the mods from Jamie's gloves, and added a longer thumb. This time I chose to knit most of the thumb in 2x2 rib, so it would match the cuff across the fingers. Once the rest of the glove was knit, I picked up my provisional stitches and just knit 2x2 rib for the cuff until I ran out of yarn. I managed twelve rows on each cuff, which neatly matches the six rows on the cuff around the fingers and thumb.

I had less than a yard of yarn left, so they were definitely a success.


  1. Someday soon I will delve into fingerless mitts.....like sometime in December if things go according to plan :)

  2. You don't fancy sharing the chart for your Koolhaas mitts do you? ;) Love all your mods, and agree about the fingers!

    I have got to a stage where I seem to modify most patterns, it's one of the great things about being a knitter I think!

  3. Well, I shouldn't really, as Koolhaas is a paid for pattern.

  4. That's great you're able to add in modifications for mitts and are getting great use out of this basic pattern!

  5. Yeah, good point, I hadn't thought of that!


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