The Case for Fingerless Mitts

By Ann Shayne
September 18, 2018
We're thinking it's time for fingerless mitts and other colorful coverings

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  • One more reason – its damn cold in your office. 2 scenarios:
    1) There’s an air conditioner that’s set at nuclear winter
    2) The heat fairy lived in North Dakota and has never seem 72 degrees evah.
    I say warm hands get deadlines done. #wearthemitts

    • Agreed!

    • So true!

    • Yes!!! I live in the L.A. Area and while it is 110 degrees outside, my office is set at -60 degrees (ambient temperature) and I have data entry to do. I carry my texting mitts (as I call them for the benefit of my younger whippersnapper coworkers) every day and they are perfect!

    • That’s where I need them!

    • Hear hear! My office is roughly the temperature of the planet Hoth year round– fingerless gloves are a must!

    • Exactly!

  • I, myself, love a good fingerless mitt. My father, however, was in the doubters camp. One Christmas we gave him a heavy fleece vest and a pair of fingerless mitts – perfect for the wood-chopping kind of guy he was in those years. That Christmas is still referred to as The Christmas of Missing Parts…he laughed, but used the hell out of both gifts!

    • OMG, The Christmas of Missing Parts! I LOVE this and it sounds exactly like my father! Thank you for sharing!

  • You can also pull mittens on over them, if required, in between bouts of manual dexterity.
    Tell your dad that there are also toeless socks. 😉

    • Hahaha! Unfortunately, my dad’s been gone for quite a few years, but I would definitely have thrown in those toeless socks had I known!

      • I’m with your dad on this one. If the mitts are short, your fingers get cold. If you knit them longer, they get in the way like mittens. If you wear mittens over them you have to take the gloves off, it’s
        just like wearing gloves. I live in Michigan, where it gets cold enough. I once tried a pair when I stay late at school and they would shut the heat off, but I found them too awkward to be useful. No one I know uses then, not even knitters. They may be great for others, but for me they’re just another pair of things I have to keep track of!

  • Living in the Northeast where it is nearly always cold or damn cold (except for when it is too damn hot), I wear my fingerless regularly and when it’s too damn cold, I wear them inside my mittens.

  • I use mine to knit when waiting on the platform for the train. Knittingbag dangling from one arm, I get quite a lot done when the train is late (which happens often).

  • I made my bonus mom a pair and she said they are perfect to drive with because gloves sre slippery.

  • Fingertipless gloves. They are not just for tending the alpaca herd in the middle of winter anymore. Love mine. Must knit more.

  • The only problem is when it’s damn cold, and the skin on your finger tips split (Psoriasis, it’s a heartbreak.) Gloves are a necessity. Leather especially, for fine motor needs mentioned above. However, that doesn’t stop me from knitting them for everyone else. Looking forward to knitting this pattern soon.

    • May I suggest a little bit of conductive thread woven in a la duplicate stitch into the fingertips of knitted gloves? It works pretty good!

  • I made my husband a pair in worsted weight yarn a few years ago. He wears them over a pair of thin flying gloves. Dexterous and warm!

    • I also wear mine over thinner gloves on bitter cold days when I’m out walking the dog (He’s huge and I have to have Better Leash Control) or driving to work.

  • You are damn funny. Love these mitts and can’t wait to make several pairs.

  • I love fingerless mitts. I walk home from the train station and during the winter especially, it is so dark, so I use a small flashlight. I need finger dexterity to grab my flashlight from my bag so I actually wear a pair of store bought close-fitting gloves and then fingerless mitts over them for additional warmth. And, of course, to wear more knitwear.

  • All of the above plus:
    -your college student is up all night typing that paper before the 8 am deadline, and the library is chilly.
    -your best friend has Raynauds and needs fingerless mitts UNDER her mittens. You make her one fingerless pair and one full mitten pair.

    • Yes Raynauds sufferers need them! I have knit my bf 4 pairs , she wears them year round indoors and out. I should knit her a pair of these.

  • Fingerless mitts are the perfect transition wear in the fall and early spring!

    • This! If it’s damn cold here (UK) I’m straight into gloves, but the chill is just creeping into the early autumn days, and fingerless mitts are just enough to take the edge off cold knuckles and stop any draughts going up my sleeves. And they look cool!

  • I am on the side of wearing mitts over mittens. Keeps fine motor skills available while keeping hands warm. Mitts by themselves make my hands colder!! (I have made short-finger gloves for my son (“beer gloves” he calls them) and that is fiddly work indeed..) One suggestion that works for the fingerless mitts that I do make: instead of using ribbing at the edges of the hand and thumb, work 3 rounds of purl. Still stretchy but keeps its shape instead of stretching out, as ribbing often does.

    • Thanks for the tip!

    • I’m having trouble figuring this out. Did you mean mittens over mitts? And you take the mitten off when you need fine motor skills, then put it back on again?

      • I believe Elizabeth’s “over” was the kind that means “more than” or “better than” or “instead of.” So no mittens involved at all.

    • Ysolda has an icord method that might be dandy. It’s in my queue.

  • It was 96 here in NOLA yesterday. We are breaking heat records. Oh, how I long to break out the knitwear. Another nice thing about fingerless mitts is that, unlike the giant shawl scarf Nissolia I just finished, they are small and do not rest on your already overheated lap while you are knitting them. I realize this is also true of mittens and gloves but those just feel warmer somehow when you are knitting them and you cannot even imagine anyone wanting to wear anything that warm ever again.

  • So excited I get to go to MDK this Saturday! Just have to not buy one of everything in the shop. I live fingerless mitts. They are perfect in Louisiana.

  • Yep, I just wore them for two weeks straight while hiking in the Canadian Rockies–especially at night while knitting in the tent! They are essential!

  • You make some damn good arguments! I personally see them only as a fashion statement,the only part of my hands that get cold enough to covered are the finger s.

  • Absolutely right!

  • I live in Minnesota: its damn cold here, and I guess I side with Dad. I have a couple of pairs of fingerless mitts, and if i wear them,I slip a pair of inexpensive gloves inside them so my fingers don’t freeze (I am partial to the ones from H&M and buy a half a dozen pairs a year; anyone who gets its gets the gloves to wear under them). By mid winter, the cold dry air has produced dry cracked cuticles, loves with fingers are the first line of defense My favorites are Ugg gloves, lined with deep shearling

    • Yes to “loves with fingers.” 🙂

      • nobody has ever praised my typing! Of course I meant gloves, but i do love the kind with fingers!

  • I too thought fingerless mitts were pointless until I made a pair. The BEST things ever! They are great for driving (I just pull them down over my fingers when I’m walking into work), offices so cold they’re like meat lockers, and last but not least, walking the dog.

  • You crack me up! I’m going to make these, too!

  • Yes to all these benefits.

    A suggestion for those who live in actually cold places like my home in New England: I’ve learned to make the finger section longer than the patterns dictate – basically a mitten missing its top inch. Those wimpy mid-Atlantic length mitts would leave half my fingers exposed walking about or driving at 10 degrees or less. The un-closed mitten protects nearly all except the tips I need to manage the keys or the wheel of the car. When necessary I can scrunch them down to get more joints involved in the task, or alternately curl my fingers slightly to get them completely covered from wind etc.

    • Me too!

  • The cables reminded me of a hat that Shay was wearing in this week’s episode of 800 Words on Acorn. Anyone know what pattern that is? I would love to see that here. Looks like it was in a really soft, cream colored yarn.

    • I love that show!

  • It’s not all that cold, but it’s raw – wet & windy – & the dogs want their 11 pm walk. DH says “Fingerless mitts? You bet!” Plus they’re a great conversation starter for flirting with the moms at the dog park in the afternoon – “Do you knit? Or are you married to a knitter?” I second the idea of mitts for driving; knitted gloves or mittens are much too slippery on my steering wheel. One of my favorite small & gift projects.

  • I wish more designers would sell their patterns with both mitt and mitten options.

    • I agree Brenda!! I wish I knew how to take a Fingerless mitts pattern and convert it to full mittens. It’s probably doable, I just don’t have enough knitting know how to accomplish this! I would make these in a heartbeat if there was a pattern!!

      • Just keep knitting the palm portion, no ribbing at the top, until it’s long enough to close it up like a sock toe!

      • Search “convertible mitts” on Ravelry for fingerless knits with a fold-over flap to cover the fingertips.

        • I wondered when someone would bring up what are often called “Convertible Mitts” these days. As Cindylou said: “search Ravelry for Fingerless knits with a foldover flap to cover the fingertips.” So you can add a warm pocket (mitten top) to Thea’s pattern that will suit your individual taste and fit, by measuring the top of your favorite mitten from the top to about an inch or two below your little finger crease (unless one of your other fingers has the lowest crease between fingers). You can knit the pocket top-down by using a sock pattern that has a star or spiral toe and keep increasing until it is wide enough to cover your fingers and the top of your thumb with a little wiggle room. Leave a very long tail as you start so you can come back to it later and make a crochet loop instead of weaving it in. Knit to about two inches below the lowest finger crease, trying on as you go – and finish the last two inches using the same ribbing as Thea’s pattern. If you prefer to knit the pockets bottom up, just add one or two repeats of the number of stitches in the ribbing pattern and close the top as you would your favorite mitten or sock – after trying on as you go to make sure it is long enough to overlap the fingerless base by an inch or two. Leave a VERY long tail at the end that you can weave back to the middle and bring to the right side and make the crochet loop. Then you can join the pockets on by hand-sewing the bottom of half of the pocket in place over the back of the hand (the pocket top is hanging down facing you as you see it in place). It needs to flip up easily to pull on over the fingers and thumb. Then buy a pearl-shaped button or a small teeny toggle style and sew it on the back-of-the-hand side of the fingerless base where the top of the pocket will flip back when not in use and lay flat. If you already have a convertible mitten pattern you can use that for the pocket and skip my wordy instructions. Alternately, you can make the pocket wide enough to cover all the fingers but not the thumb. Some patterns have a fully knit thumb with a long horizontal buttonhole near the top so there is just a little hinge holding the top of the thumb on, and it can be flipped off to text or do other opposable thumb tasks.

  • My fingerless mitts are just about my favorite garment ever. They started out as a derivation of Knitty’s “Fetching.” They are snug and feel therapeutic on my incipiently arthritic knuckles. Mitts are the best!

  • You missed one very good reason for fingerless : it’s damned cold outside and you keep your house temperature at 66 in winter. You want to sit in bed snuggled under a mountain of warm blankies and you want to read. You cannot turn pages or even click buttons with gloves or mittens. Thus, fingerless mitts to the rescue to keep your hands from freezing.

  • I love them, too; but when it’s damn cold, I’d wear pop-top mittens. If you’re a serious texter, the thumb can be pop-top as well.

  • Works for me, but for real winter in New England I prefer to knit that magic yarn into mittens (and gloves) that lets me type with my whole hand covered…

  • I had to sort through documents in an unheated warehouse. Every hour or so, I went into the office restroom and washed my hands to get heat in and dirt out. I would have LOVED me some finger-less gloves. I needed to page through document, so gloves were not the thing at all.

  • How else do you achieve a proper Dickensian vibe while out goose shopping or more likely clutching a Starbucks? Also appropriate for staring out to sea from the beach or breakwater while clad in a peacoat and knit cap. Obviously.

    • More please, sir! 😉

  • I have long fingers. I ruin EVERY SINGLE pair of gloves I have ever owned by my fingernails pushing through the tips. Gardening gloves are usually the first to go. Living the Pacific Northwest, I’m not in danger of frostbite, although I do have some really cold mornings walking my dog. Fingerless mitts or fingertipless mitts are the answer.

  • I hate knitting mitts; guess what’s the most frequent (and fervent) request from family and friends? And of course, they’re all washer/dryer, itchy wool-shunners. But it certainly is more than time to organize their Christmas and get down to it. Thanks for your post.

  • I’m mostly with your dad. Fingerless mitts seem about as impractical to me as bulky-knit sleeveless turtlenecks. (What possible weather conditions are these meant for?) I would change my tune on the mitts, however, if I were a supermarket cashier enduring frigid summer AC and blizzard temps blowing in through the constantly open doors in winter. For all-round use in cold climates, why not just add those flip-off tops that let your fingers escape when necessary?

    • I used to think sleeveless turtlenecks were dumb too. My best friend is an aircraft mechanic. She often has to work outside . She needs to be warm in the winter,but needs freedom of movement to raise her arms. So she wears sleeveless turtlenecks under her uniform shirt. It works for her.

  • I’m going to play devil’s advocate here…Situation 1: Warm the damn car up, then retrieve the damn phone. Situation 2: Retrieve the keys BEFORE loading your arms with bags of stuff. Situation 3: The yarn was acrylic — the really cheap, really nasty kind. It melted. The house is full of toxic fumes. Forget typing — break a window to let the fumes out. Situation 4: The damn e-mails can wait, especially the one from That Mom complaining about your precious precious murdering “Stairway to Heaven.”

    Seriously, fingerless mitts in a Chicago (or Buffalo or Minneapolis or Toronto, etc.) winter? Did you grow up in Frostbite Falls?

    • Happy wearer of fingerless mittens here, both on their own, and layered with thin gloves and full-coverage insulated windproof mitts as needed.

      (boring details, please don’t hate me.)
      In far northern Minnesota, even in recent years, it’s not uncommon for the overnight temp go below -25 degrees (F), and the “feels like” temp to be 20 degrees lower than that. Some would say that’s where Frostbite Falls is.

      Except for a gap in the middle, I have lived most of my 62 years within 70 miles of Minneapolis (with the past 25 years within 10 miles.) Until the current warming trend, Winter was easily four months with high temperature below freezing (32 degrees (F)). For a lot of that, the high temp was under 20 degrees, and a low approaching 0 degrees. Maybe 14 days with temp staying below 0 all day and low temps of 25-30 below zero. Those are the thermometer temperatures. “Feels like” temperatures 10 degrees lower are not uncommon.

      The TV weather report often includes the temp in Chicago, especially if it’s lower than the Minneapolis area. Which it frequently is. If we’re having a winter thaw here, and there’s a place in Texas or Florida that’s chillier than us, it is noted with pride, and we feel all the warmer.

  • Certainly, there are pros and cons to most everything in the whole wide wide world, which includes fingerless mitts.
    I have another reason for wearing them though – I like to knit long forearms on the fingerless mitts for those days when a long-sleeve sweater is too warm, as is long sleeves. But still there are moments one needs a light warmth and something not too heavy for the fingers especially in cold air conditioning or early fall. Thus, long fore-arm covered fingerless mitts are the answer.

    • Plus they look darned cute! I knit a pair of gauntlets up to my elbows for a classroom I was teaching in one semester that never got warm.

  • So funny! But why does your father want to avoid That Mom? I think that we’re not getting the whole story here…

  • Situation: Birding. You can fine tune the focus on the binoculars and mark your list.

    Situation: You work in a 1970s-vintage Brutalist style government office building with no energy saving features, and the cold draft from somewhere under the table by the window manages to freeze the right side of your body. And you’re a tech editor and need two functional hands.

    Situation: Silent auction- bidding was fierce for the pair I made- air conditioning and mild winters (Albuquerque).

    I’ll wear a pair of polypro glove liners under my mitts when the situation warrants.

    I love ’em!! There is a pattern for gloveless fingers on Ravelry.

  • I love my mittens with the flap for all of the reasons stated

  • Actually, I wear my fingerless gloves when it’s not all that cold. I wear them around the house because my hands and fingers get cold easily and when they do the rest of my body has a hard time warming up. It doesn’t seem like they would help but they do. Amazingly so. People don’t believe me when I tell them. Maybe it doesn’t work for everyone (or maybe they just need to try it) but it works for me.

  • I think to remember reading some time back that if your wrists were warm, the rest of your hand would be warm too. Thus the case for wrist warmers and fingerless mitts.

  • And for the few of us in New York and other cities who have dogs but no backyards, fingerless mitts are key to staying warm while scooping that poop! And also giving treats to my and other dogs along the way. Dog walking is very social in my congested city. Also if you make them a tad lomg, they are pretty close to not being fingerless. In hte bitter cold I wear convertible mittens — bought from a vender on B’way, with lovely Mayan stranded design, all wool, lined, hand knit (!) and much nicer than I could ever knit myself.

    P.S. We have a Saint Bernard puppy in the hood! Met this 42lb 4-month old yesterday — soooo cute is an understatement. Likes to play but oh my oh my, walking is not his favorite pastime. So young he barely even drools! Evolution sure has made baby everythings extraordinarily cute! (My sincere for long digression, couldn’t help it, evolution has cursed me with TMI & verbosity. I am sorry.)

  • Ok. I get it.
    It’s been hotter than hell here this week.
    The idea of needing anything to keep warm is as foreign to me as A good nights sleep!
    Now let me cast on a pair of fingerless mitts to keep in the car when someday the cold will be back.

  • I love the comments as much as I love Ann’s and Kay’s letters! I’m convinced that fingerless mitts are basic necessities for many situations and I need to cast on for a pair, or three or four. Christmas is coming.

  • I enjoyed this post but must confess; never was nor will be a knitted mitten person fingerless or not. I”m a high tech microfiber kind of gal.

  • I carry a pair of lovely merino fingerless mitts with my music folder. I sing with an auditioned choir and once we get into cold weather here in N. Iowa I wear them at every rehearsal to warm my hands up. It is very easy to hold your music and/or folder. I’ve read somewhere that keeping your wrists warm will warm up your hands…and it seems to work. I end up taking them off before the end of rehearsal.

    • Mitts are the chorister’s best friend for turning pages in a stone church on a winter weeknight.

  • For years I have made seasonal or holiday themed mitts and paired them with warm washable gloves in coordinating colors (often polarfleece that can be bought at end of season on sale…). Mitts with some stretch will go over most dressy gloves. Can’t wait to make these.

  • I have a deep and abiding love for fingerless gloves….but I do tend to lengthen the lower edges on most patterns. I am totally looking forward to making your pattern!

  • So, warming your pulse point at the wrist actually helps warm the extremities! Also, I have another scenario. I have Reynaud’s which means an extreme temperature transition can be painful. I keep a pair of fingerless mitts in my purse for those 100+ (F) days when I walk into the grocery store and it’s 65. I wouldn’t be able to function if I didn’t have the mitts!!

  • I just want to say that, while my kid are band kids rather than guitar kids, the idea of sitting in the car in a blizzard to avoid going in to where they are learning/practicing/rehearsing is one that I suspected only I would do. So amazing to find a kindred spirit! And yes, I have quite a few pairs of fingerless mitts so that I can knit in the car in the blizzard while the sweet things make music in the warmth of indoors.

  • I, too, never understood the fingerless mitt. BUT a friend enlightened me several years ago. She said to wear them when shopping. You don’t have to take off a glove or mitten to do anything AND you don’t lose a glove or mitten because you removed it and dropped it but didn’t know it. (Something I’m notorious for doing, unfortunately.) So, wear your fingerless mitts and run your errands! (Curl your fingers into your palms on colder days. Or, keep a beautiful pair of mittens in the car to put on OVER the fingerless mitts rather than clutching the sold, cold steering wheel with bare fingers!) Think of fingerless mitts as underwear for your hands!

  • So well stated! I am down right tired of defending my fingerless mitts. From now on, I’ll just hand out this article. They are also very useful when it is 20 below outside and you need to stock up the bird feeders. So add that to the list of useful activities one can perform, with fingerless mitts.

  • Boy, your right on about this topic!!! LOVE IT

  • Even in South Carolina…mornings (and somtimes days) are damn cold ( for the south…) and you have to walk the dog….and there are those slippery poop bags to open…..nuff said

  • Annother situation (one I’ve long passed): You have small children. They require car seats. You live on the Great Lakes where It Snows. It’s cold. You have to strap kids into the car. You wear your fingerless mitts and your hands maintain some warmth as you navigate the straps and arms and snowsuits while securing the children into the car seats.

  • It took me a very long time to “warm up” to the idea of fingerless mitts. Once I finally decided to make a pair, I ended up making tons of them! I have a neutral colored pair that lives in my purse just for cold hands requiring dexterity kinds of emergencies.

    • I’m with your dad. Only my fingers get cold!

  • I love making fingerless mitts using 2 needles. Double pointed needles are horrible and not much fun to work with.