Originally written for suite101.com and published on 26/12/08. Now hosed at Xomba.

Knitting with four or five needles at once can be somewhat daunting to beginner knitters. However fingerless gloves knitted on ordinary needles can be both fun and easy.

While many mitten patterns are more straightforward, their central appeal is with small children. Adults and older children often prefer to have their fingers freer (whether for driving or texting), and this is where fingerless gloves are a boon to both the knitter and the wearer. Replacing the little half-fingers of shop-bought equivalents with a ribbed open-end, the knitter is freed from the tyranny of fingers, while the wearer gains greater flexibility.

For those willing to sacrifice having a seamless end product, this technique can remove much of the stress and frustration from knitting that first pair of gloves. While this method requires four needles, in this case they are two different sized sets of single-ended needles. One size for the main body of the glove and another – perhaps one or two sizes smaller – for the ribbed borders at the start and end.

Getting Started

Adapting a pattern you like to this technique can be part of the fun, but for the less adventurous the only part of the pattern really necessary involves the shaping of the thumb. The rest of the glove can be done in straight stockinette stitch, as long as sufficient stitches are cast on initially to make the glove wide enough for the main part of the wearer’s hand, then the number of stitches should remain consistent throughout.

When shaping the thumb, it should be kept in mind that the additional stitches should be made rather than increased in the normal way. Rather than knitting into the back and front of knit stitch to increase the number of stitches, instead pick up wool from between two stitches with the right needles, pass to the left needle and knit as normal, as this technique produces the shaping that is required for the thumb.


Ribbed Borders

A ribbed border at either end of this glove is the key to its simplicity. Worked in 2x rib (1st row: 2 knit sts, 2 purl sts repeated, next row: 2 purl sts, 2knit sts repeated) using a smaller size set of needles than the main body of the glove, for approximately 1 inch/2.5 cm. These sections allow the gloves to cling a little at the wrist and fingers, to keep them from sliding.

For the more adventurous, once the glove is completed a couple of additions can be made to the rib sections. If the wrist rib is too loose, or the recipient has thin wrists, shirring elastic can be threaded through the rib to give a closer fit. Also at the fingers end, the rib can be segmented using hand-stitched seams to mark out finger holes in preferred, although the open-ended option gives great flexibility to the wearer.


Seams and Finishing

While the ribbing has the advantage of keeping the cast on edge tidy, the casting off method used is equally important. When casting off the thumb, purl-wise produces a particular effect that works well with the open edge. Especially for the fingers, but also for the thumb, casting off using a larger size of needles provides a looser cast off that can give the wearer greater flexibility.

Although this technique usually only produces two seams, down the inside of the thumb and along the outside side of the hand, it is particularly important that these seams are strongly made. Mattress stitch is a good sturdy option for this type of seam, especially if the main body has been worked in stockinette stitch. It also has the advantage that when done carefully it can make the seams all but disappear.

Decorating the Gloves for the More Confident Knitter

Once the basic idea of the glove has been mastered, making them more aesthetically exciting is relatively straightforward. Simply switching back and forward between colours to form stripes is an easy starting point, while the intarsia technique can be used to put both simple and more complex patterns on the back of the gloves. Both Swiss Darning and crocheting techniques can be used to add extra embellishments to a plain glove.