Hands down I’m a mittens gal. I believe that mittens keep hands warmer than gloves. Plus, I enjoy the finger freedom. But, that’s not why I’m smitten with mittens. It’s because of the fond memories I have of my grandmother when we sat by the fire, drank hot cocoa and made our mittens.
Whenever the cold winds of autumn rolled around, and whenever the snowflakes started falling, Grandma Rosa would pull out last season’s sweaters, socks and blankets to stitch mitts that’ll keep our hand toasty all through winter. Small mittens to big mittens and patterned mittens to plain mittens, we made it all. It’s one of my favorite family traditions.
But, you see, it wasn’t about the mitts. True, the purpose was to keep our hands warm as the weather grew colder, but it was the bonding time that warmed our hearts. I remember the tales my grandma shared about her younger years, and all the funny memories she used to share from my mother’s childhood. I heard the touching story of how my grandma met my grandpa and, as it turns out, my mom wasn’t as calm of a teenager as she likes to claim.
It’s an ongoing tradition in my family that my mom keeps alive with her two grandchildren. I hope to continue the trend with my future grandchildren, and one that I hope will make its way into your family. Straight from the teachings of Grandma Rosa, here’s a do-it-yourself guide for upcycled mittens.
Have any worn-out sweaters lying around? Or are there any sweaters that your little one has grown out of? As Grandma Rosa used to say, “Although they’re no longer of good use, they’ve still got love and warmth in every stitch.” Recycle that love and warmth by turning those old sweaters into mittens.
What you’ll need:
• Old sweater
• Pen or pencil
• Sewing pins
• Needle and thread
Trace your hand. Place your hand, either right or left, on the plain sheet of paper. Keep your fingers together, with the thumb extended, and trace a mitten shape around your hand.
Enlarge the shape. We’ve got to make room for the seams and the cuffs, right? So, trace a half-inch around the traced hand to allow for the seams. Next, draw 1-2 inches at the wrist of the traced hand to create a cuff.
Cut around the mitten pattern and pin it to the front of the sweater, parallel to the garment’s side. Double check to ensure the pinkie space of the mitten is against the sweater, and that the cuff aligns with the hem.
Cut the sweater around the mitten pattern. Cut as close to the pattern as possible for a custom fit. See that the sweater’s side remains connected to create a front and a back for your mitten.
Create the second mitten. Flip the pattern over and reposition it against the opposite edge of the sweater, as described in step three. Pin the pattern to the sweater, and get to cutting.
Flip the mittens inside out. Now that you've got the right and left mittens cut out, flip them inside out to hide the seams you’ll eventually create as you sew. Then, pin the front and back together.
The final step — yay! Sew the mittens together by stitching around the edges of the mittens. Once completed, flip the mittens right-side out and slip them on for a day out in the chilly weather.
What's the best part about blankets? You guessed it — the amount of excess fabric! Just think of how many mittens you can make out of a standard sized blanket.
Another family tradition of ours is to buy wool blankets to transform them into dozens upon dozens of mittens for those in need. To make ultra comfy blanket mittens, follow the steps of the sweater mittens above.
Fingerless Sock Mittens
Grandma Rosa never threw away socks when their match went missing in the dryer. Instead, she turned them into fingerless mitts. While they may have been mismatched, they get the job done by keeping hands warm and fingers mobile.
What you’ll need:
• A pair of socks (either mismatched or matching)
• Needle and thread
Create the thumb space. The thumb is going to be the odd man out because it’s going to be separated from the other fingers. To create a thumb space, slip your hand inside the sock. Ideally, the tips of your fingers should reach the sock’s toe section, and the thumb should land in the middle of the sock’s heel. Next, cut an obtuse triangle between your thumb and forefinger, leaving 1/4 of an inch for allowance.
Cut the finger space. Place your hand over the sock and align your thumb in the center of the toe area. Locate the space between your knuckles and cut a clean, straight line to remove the toe section of the sock.
Turn the socks inside out to hide the future seams. Next, fold the jagged edges of the thumb and finger spaces you created about 1/4 of an inch to keep the rims from fraying. Finally, hem the edges by sewing the folded edges to the sock to keep everything in place. Once complete, you can turn the sock mittens right-side out and slip them on!
Add a personal touch
Now that you’ve made your very own mittens, it’s time to add a personal touch! Find embellishments around the house, such as buttons, pins and other trinkets for decoration. Or you can recreate my mom’s favorite personal touch by sewing her initials into the cuff.
From my family to your family, take this guide and craft mittens together. The bonding experience is sure to knit everyone closer together!