Shetland Mittens Knitting Pattern (Size 4T & 5T)

Happy November everyone. To celebrate colder weather, I think it’s time to share my Shetland Pony Mittens pattern. I make a pair of mittens every year for my kids. Last year wa20181011_161454s the first winter both kids made it through the whole winter with their mittens. So this year, I upped my game a bit on them.

**DISCLAIMER** Some of this is technical knitting stuff. I’ll warn you before it starts. For now, if you’re not obsessed with knitting, you can read on.

It can be really tricky making handmade items for kids when you know they will get lost. I have met more than one hand-knit mitten in the spring after the snow it was lost in had melted. (Let me tell you, it’s a depressing sight to find one sad and lonely mitten soaked and crushed in the dead grass.) However, I think it’s still worth making them. I think handmade mittens are warmer than than those little stretchy gloves and I like putting my kids in things made with love. (Even if they lose them and I get upset.) I’m trying to think of fun things to do with lonely, sisterless mitten. I’m wondering if a little mitten advent calendar is in order.20181029_090323.jpg

One of these new Shetland Mittens has already been lost at school. I shrieked when my daughter told me, and she immediately looked stricken. I told her I was sorry and that I was upset, but I had worked hard to make the mittens just for her. She said she’d look for the escaped mitten, and came home that afternoon proudly toting it in her pocket. So, they’ve made it through October. Only a bazillion more months of cold to get through…

Why Are they Called Shetland Mittens?

When I decided to start releasing my own designs of knitting patterns on the blog, I wanted to have a theme. One day, while listening to Love to Sew, inspiration struck: I wanted to do horse breeds. If you know me, you know that horses are a pretty important part of my life. (Mostly because my mother is obsessed with them and has brainwashed me.) I have an exceeding amount of useless horse knowledge, so keeping this theme gives me an excuse to share some of it with you.

SIDENOTE: There is a Shetland breed of sheep (of which I own two), this has nothing to do with these mittens, however, you can make them with Shetland wool to be appropriate. Shetland sheep are great. But. This is about Shetland ponies. Just roll with it.

First of all. Shetland Ponies are ponies. This means that they are little; even when they are adults, they will be shorter than a full size horse. (Small mittens get a small horse name!) Also, Shetland ponies were originally work horses in the Shetland Isles. I wanted these mittens to be practical and work for the kids through winter. They are made with alpaca (mostly stranded in the back) for extra softness and warmth and wool (the main color of the exterior) to help keep hands dry. I made them with a thin yarn so they wouldn’t be too bulky to easily make snowballs and snowpeople.

Shetland ponies are often playful little scoundrels. This matches the personality of my kids to a tee. So it seemed fitting that a pattern in their honor should be named after this breed. The image that comes to mind for me when I think of Shetland ponies is this painting by one of my favorite artists, Wesley Dennis. It’s an illustration from a much beloved book from my childhood called The Album of Horses, by Margaret Henry. I’m also including a couple of other Shetland Pony illustrations from this book, because they are so adorable.

If you spend much time looking at Shetland Ponies, you will notice they have usually have enough mane, tail, and forelock for horses twice their size. I thought long and hard on what to add to the mittens to give them that little extra flair, and I decided a little tassel on the back of the hand would do nicely. It doesn’t get in the way of usefulness, but it does add a touch of whimsy (at least I think so) similar to those fabulous little forelocks.

shetland-pony-roadside-large

Are you ready to knit mittens?

Can you knit? Then you’re probably ready to knit mittens. Mittens are a very easy baby step to up your knitting game if you’ve only worked scarves or dishcloths before. You will learn most of the skills you need to make a sweater or socks, but with a much smaller investment of time. Also, you can always check that things are going well by holding up your hand and making a comparison. This is not true of many sweaters, which is why sweater knitting often leads to some epic fitting failures.

********TECHNICAL KNITTING STUFF BEYOND THIS POINT******

**********SKIP TO THE BOTTOM IF YOU AREN’T INTO IT***********

If you’re still reading this, you’re a yarnaholic, or you’re not very good at taking directions.

TIP: If you’re making these mittens, then I recommend having your little one hold their hand up to yours and you can remember roughly how their hand compares. I have my kids do this when I’m making them mittens, and I will make mental or physical notes of their hand size. (For example, her middle finger reaches the middle knuckle of my middle finger. Her thumb is two finger-widths above her wrist. After her thumb, the rest of her hand is as long as four finger-widths. I am much more likely to check if size is correct while knitting if I can compare it to my hands since I’ll be too lazy to get a ruler later.)

The Yarn

I spun a whole bunch of yarn for this project and dyed it several different colors for my kids to choose from. The colors they didn’t choose are up in my Etsy shop. I knew I wanted these mittens to have some from Lightning’s first fleece, so I matched the weight of the wool yarn to be the same thickness as the yarn I made from my softest little guy. To see more about these yarns, I have some for sale in my Etsy shop.

Although I wanted to do color work, I didn’t want to take too terribly long to knit mittens for a three-year-old and five-year-old, so I went with a light sport-weight. Eventually, I will trust them enough that I will be willing to spin up a super-thin fingering weight and give them some true Latvian mittens (maybe….). For now, I’ll stick with larger needles and thicker yarn for a quick project.

The Designs (Charts)

I was going to do charts for the designs I did on the back, but you can really do any old design you want. I sketch up my designs in a knitting notebook. But you can use knitting chart software too, a quick Google will give you several options. For size 3, you will have a rectangle chart of about 16 columns by 20 rows (plus a few for the top decreases). For size 5 you will have 17 columns and 23 rows approximately.

For the backs of the hands, I kept the designs open in the middle so the tassel would be sitting on just one color. For the palm sides of the hands, I did a simple column design for my three-year-old, and snowflakes for my five-year-old.

Fair Isle Knitting

When working on the mittens, I used a Fair Isle technique. This means carrying the yarn that you’re not working with behind the stitches you are working. This works well, but you have to make sure that strand in the back is loose enough to let the stitches stretch. Margaret Radcliffe (author of The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques) recommends checking this by stretching out the stitches after you knit them. If I had spaces where one color wasn’t being used for more than four stitches (these long strands of unused yarn are called floats), I caught it behind the working yarn on the third stitch. (Knitpicks has a great tutorial for this if you aren’t familiar with dealing with floats.)

SHETLAND MITTEN PATTERN20181029_222442

(build your own fair isle chart required)

Gauge: 5 sts/inch 7 rows/inch

Needles: 3.75

100 Yards Main color (A)

75 Yards Contrast color (B)

Darning needle

Several beads for tassel (depending upon taste)

TIP: in order to avoid 2nd mitten syndrome, I like to work sections of the mittens simultaneously by working with center-pull cakes. This means I have access to both ends of the skein of yarn and I can work one mitten from the center tail and one mitten from the outside tail. Normally, I work through row 18 in one mitten and then cast on the other. This also helps me remember to slant my Latvian Braids different directions.

20181029_090307SIZE 4 Mittens (a bit large for a 3 year old)

CO 28 sts A. (Ideally Italian Tubular or other stretchy caston)

Rows 1 – 15: K1P1 in A

Rows 16 & 17: Latvian braid with A & B (for instructions on the Latvian Braid, Craftsy has a great tutorial here. NOTE: there are instructions on getting the braid to slant different directions on this site, I find that a pair of mittens with different slanted braids looks particularly pleasing and professional. Don’t forget to switch your slant for each mitten

Row 18: K in A
**start using the chart for your design

Row 19:  Rearrange sts to sit on 2 needles with 14 sts on each needle. For right mitten, K across to 1 st before the end of the needle and M1. K the last stitch on the needle and the first st on the next needle, M1, and knit the rest of the row

*** For the left mitten M1 st at the beginning of the first needle and end of the second. DO NOT FORGET TO PUT THE INCREASES ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE NEEDLES FOR THE SECOND MITTEN or you will have TWO right mittens and no left one.

Rows 20 – 23: Increase 1 st per needle every row in the same spot until you have 19 sts on each needle (38 sts total).

Row 24: K across working in chart. Place last 3 sts from front needle and next 3 sts from back needle (or vice versa for 2nd mitten) on a holder for the thumb. Complete row working in chart.

Rows 25 – 38: cont in pattern, leaving sts on holder to complete later

Rows 39 – 43: complete decreases shown in chart

Cut and pull yarn through remaining 2 sts to close

Thumb:

Place sts from holder on 2 needles (3 in front and 3 in back). Pick up 3 more sts around the thumbhole for each needle for a total of 12 sts. Complete chart. Cut and pull yarn through remaining 2 sts to close

Tassels:

Using A & B, cut 24 lengths of yarn about 6 inches long. Using half of these for each mitten, fold the strands in half and stitch into place on the back of the mitten (use diagram for reference). Strands will be a bit long to allow you to trim some of them down, add bead, and/or braid some of them together for effect.

Finishing:

Weave in all ends. Block if desired. To block mittens, I will cut out a rectangular piece of cardboard about half and inch wider than the intended user’s hand and slide it into the mitten before steaming.

20181001_082854

SIZE 5 Mittens

CO 30 sts A. (Ideally Italian Tubular or other stretchy caston)

Rows 1 – 17: K1P1 in A

Rows 18 & 19: Latvian braid with A & B (for instructions on the Latvian Braid, Craftsy has a great tutorial here. NOTE: there are instructions on getting the braid to slant different directions on this site, I find that a pair of mittens with different slanted braids looks particularly pleasing and professional. Don’t forget to switch your slant for each mitten

Row 20: K in A

**start using the chart for your design

Row 21:  Rearrange sts to sit on 2 needles with 15 sts on each needle. For right mitten, K across to 1 st before the end of the needle and M1. K the last stitch on the needle and the first st on the next needle, M1, and knit the rest of the row

*** For the left mitten M1 st at the beginning of the first needle and end of the second. DO NOT FORGET TO PUT THE INCREASES ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE NEEDLES FOR THE SECOND MITTEN or you will have TWO right mittens and no left one.

Rows 22 – 28: Increase 1 st per needle every row in the same spot until you have 22 sts on each needle (44 sts total).

Row 29: K across working in chart. Place last 5 sts from front needle and next 4 sts from back needle (or vice versa for 2nd mitten) on a holder for the thumb. Complete row working in chart.

Row 30: TURN and P across (cont in chart pattern)

Row 31: TURN and K across

Rows 32 – 46: cont in pattern (35 sts), leaving thumb sts on holder to complete later

Rows 47 – 53: complete decreases shown in chart

Cut and pull yarn through remaining 2 sts to close

Thumb:

Place sts from holder on 2 needles (5 in front and 4 in back). Pick up 9 more sts around the thumbhole for a total of 18 sts. Complete chart. Cut and pull yarn through remaining 2 sts to clos

Tassels:

Using A & B, cut 24 lengths of yarn about 6 inches long. Using half of these for each mitten, fold the strands in half and stitch into place on the back of the mitten (use diagram for reference). Strands will be a bit long to allow you to trim some of them down, add bead, and/or braid some of them together for effect.

Finishing:

Weave in all ends. Block if desired. To block mittens, I cut out a rectangular piece of cardboard about half and inch wider than the intended user’s hand and slide it into the mitten before steaming.

********KNITTING JARGON COMPLETE, YOU CAN COME BACK NOW******

Whew! All done. If knitting isn’t your thing, but you’re still here, I am tempted to evangelize you to knitting. I will, however, try to resist the urge (for now). In this section, I just encourage you to remember that wool knit mittens are super warm and (in my humble, knitting-obsessed opinion) more stylish than the ski gloves people often wear up here in the north. Ask a knitting friend for a pair and you won’t be disappointed. You can also sew them. But one wonders why bother when you could knit.

This pattern is out with enough time to complete them before Small Business Saturday or Christmas. If you are not a knitter but do buy gifts for people, I encourage you to commission a knitter you know for some mittens for your little people.

SOS REQUEST: I know I said I’m ok with the fact that my kids will lose these mittens. And it’s true. But I’m still going to try to avoid it. I’ve tried the string through the sleeves, but I’m sending out my request for other methods to keep these things from getting lost aside from the threat of guilt to my children. What do you use to keep gloves and mittens from getting lost?

20180803_183340
This is my daughter and her pony, Jack. He’s not a Shetland Pony. But we love him anyway.

 

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