Monday, February 12, 2007

Mittens From the Top Pattern

Top Down Mitten Pattern for KnittingLast Revision:
Dec. 8, 2008 (added titles, spelling corrections, and transition to cuff tip)

I finished this pair of warm mittens for my DD long ago. Albiet the frogging and reworking, it didn't take more than a few hours to knit. I would've published this sooner, but since I create as I work, my scribbled calculations resemble algebra homework to the untrained eye, and it takes precious time to translate into an easy-to-read pattern....

These are ambidextrous mittens, for practically any yarn, any gauge, and any size hand, knit via the Magic Loop. I worked them both at the same time, but for easier writing, these instructions are for one. You can easily use this pattern for knitting on 2 circs. For DPN's, simply translate by splitting the sts of each needle in half onto 2 dpn's each. Google any unfamiliar knitting techniques or abbreviations here, or reference them my favorite way -- in a library of many good knitting books.

Mittens shown: Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool dyed with black cherry Kool-Aid, approx 110 yds (100 m) for a 6.5" (16.5 cm) hand circumference. Needles in Sizes US#4 (3.5mm) & US#6 (4.0mm). Gauge = 5 sts/inch, or 20 sts/10cm using larger needles.

For warmth, most mittens are knit at a tight gauge, to fit the hand exactly, but no more than 10% wider. The yarn I used recommends 16 sts / 10cm on 5.5mm needles. You can substitute ANY YARN, ANY GAUGE, ANY SIZE, because this pattern is knit to fit, and you can try them on as you work and adjust accordingly. For the hand portion, use needles 1 to 3 sizes smaller than what is recommended on the label, and 1 or 2 sizes even smaller than the hand needles for the cuff ribbing.


To figure the number of CO sts, shoot for 50% of the hand circumference, and round up to a multiple of 4 sts if you want 2x2 ribbing on the cuff, or round up to the next even number for 1x1 ribbing at the cuff. Or forget the calculations and use my CO estimates. Yarn weight=(child, adult): fingering/sport=(24,28); dk/worsted=(20,24); aran/chunky=(16,20); bulky=(8,12)

On larger needles, using the Turkish Cast-on or Judy's Magic Cast-on, cast on half the sts on one needle, half on the second. One needle is the front of the hand, the other needle is back of hand.

Inc rnd: On 1st needle, *Kf&b, K to last st on needle, Kf&b*
Rep from * to * once more across the 2nd needle. Total 4 sts inc.

Work 1 rnd even.

Rep last 2 rnds until num of sts = circumference of hand (32 sts shown here for a child).

Knit enough even rnds until length of hand reaches crook of thumb. Hand sizes vary widely, but on average range from 3.5" to 4.5" for a child, 4.5 to 5.5" for a woman, 5.5" to 6.5" for a man.


K across 1st needle, place marker, and use a provisional CO to add enough sts to equal circumference of thumb (8 sts here) minus 3 sts. Now your thumb sts are at the end of 1st needle, separated by the marker, so you'll have several more sts on the 1st needle. Knit even to end of rnd.

Provisional CO: There are a few good methods, but here's my favorite: with a slippery cotton waste yarn, loosely crochet a few more chains than the required CO. Then after working across the 1st needle, pick up the thumb sts in the back bump of each chain, starting with the 2nd chain. Then continue working as usual with your 2nd needle. When you're ready to work your thumb, simply unzip your crochet chain starting with the last ch made. If you can't unzip smoothly, it's because you picked up in the chain incorrectly, but you can still easily unpick the chain sts one by one.

Knit 2 rnds even.

Dec rnd: Knit to marker, slip it, ssk, knit to last 2 sts of 1st needle, k2tog, and work 2nd needle even.

Rep last 3 rnds until you have 2 sts after the marker, which you'll k2tog on your next dec round. Then you'll have 1 st remaining after marker, so next dec rnd, knit to 1 st before the marker, slip that st, remove marker, return st to left needle, and k2tog the last 2 sts of 1st needle to return to original num of sts. Work 1 rnd even after this last dec.


To make 1st rnd of ribbing look smoother, switch to smaller needles and work 1 rnd even. Again with smaller needles, work *K2, P2, rep from * to end of round, or work ribbing of choice until desired length. BO loosely.


Transfer provisional thumb sts to larger needles, starting with the crook of the thumb to the right of the first sts, transfer half of sts on 1 needle, 2nd half on the other.

Join new yarn, beginning with crook to the right of the 1st st, work across both needles, then PU&K 3 sts evenly in the crook of the thumb, and continue to work in the rnd.

Work all rnds even until thumb length is just a few rnds shy of reaching the tip, then k2tog across the rnd, knit 1 rnd even, and alt these 2 rnds until 4 or so sts rem. Then cut yarn and draw thru the sts.

Of course, weave in the ends. If you knit this, I'd love to hear about your project!


  1. Cool!!! Now when are you going to pick up your knitting loom and write me a pattern for Loom Knitters Circle!!???
    Love all your stuff even though I just lurk most of the time.

  2. My DD is asking for a pair of gloves for her ice skating lesson.

    Tks for the pattern.

  3. Thank you so much for this pattern. I started some mittens from the top down without a pattern and then I got to the thumb and didn't know what to do. Then I found your pattern. Thank you again!!

  4. I just finished these mittens. They rock. No Thumb holes. I'm so pleased with them. Thank you for the sharing your pattern. I will never knit mittens cuff up again! mychawd

  5. Hello, I have made 2 mittens on 2 cables from the cuff up, but I am having some difficulty with the thumbs on this pattern. I need help. Sorry.

  6. Working on my second set. The first were largely for fun, done "shadow-knit" with a cat head on them. Right now, I just have a daughter who need mittens, and some variegated yarn. Hoping to get them done in a week.

  7. Your pattern looks very nice. Thanks for sharing it!

  8. Hi! I was searching Ravelry for "top-down" gloves, and found your mitten pattern. The thumb gusset and thumb are exactly what I wanted to learn. I found your instructions very well written and easy to follow.
    Thank you!

  9. Thank you so much! In a rush to make more mittens to get us through this exceptional winter. This pattern is perfect.

  10. Much like everyone else, I did a search for top-down mittens and found this entry. PERFECTION. I realize that it's an old entry, but I still felt compelled to say THANK YOU! for a job well-done. :)

  11. Yep, like everyone else I was looking for top-down and couldn't find everything and then I was just looking for a knitting pattern to figure it out on my own and randomly clicked on this one! lol I figured I'd just start them exactly like two-at-a-time toe-up socks and figure out the thumb when I got there... this is pretty much what I figured it, I was just iffy on the provisional cast-on. So thanks! Almost to the thumb so I will be trying that pretty soon!!

  12. Wow, such a perfect pattern! P.S. I love your background, I just started a knitting blog and I'm looking for some cute yarnie backgrounds!:)

  13. Thanks for the very straightforward pattern! I appreciate that you explained each section and then went over the specifics with the example of 32 stitches for the circumference of a child's hand. The only modification i made was to include a couple of "toe" decreases after the thumb gusset and before the cuff on the thumb to follow the curve of the palm. Looking back I should have cast on a couple more provisional stitches for the top of the thumb gusset,but I compensated by switching to larger needles for the thumb top. Thanks again! Tara (in Redmond, WA)

  14. Do you know the way to knit socks from the toe and up? I use the same way to knit mittens. First I knit the thumbs in one circular needle and let the stitches wait when the thumbs are long enough. Then I knit the mittens until I reach the place where the thumbs have to sit. Then I knit the one side of the first mitten and knit the thumbs in the middle of the circular needle, knit the one side of the other mitten and turn. Then I do the same on the other side. I decrease the thumb stitches in every second round until there are only 2 thumb stitches left. Then I make a final decrease and knit the cuffs.

  15. What does provisional co mean? Crocheting? I have no experience on crocheting :( I am stuck on the thumb part

    1. Provisional cast on.
      There's lots of YouTube tutorials.

  16. Hi,

    Great pattern, thanks! I am just perplexed as to what the 'minus 3" means at the thumb gusset. Thanks!!!!!

  17. Hello,
    Thank you for sharing your pattern, it seems just what I’m looking for. There aren’t many top-down mitten patterns out there! However, I’m very new to mitten making, so although I’ve knit many toe-up socks, I can’t quite get a handle on the thumb portions. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to insert step-by-step photos of just the thumb portion would you, pretty please?


I'd love to hear from you, however, I moderate weekly, so your comment may not appear for several days. If you have a question, please remember to post your contact info. Thanks!