Behind the glove – how to design your own

I’ve fiddled with this so much I can no longer read straight.  So here goes.  I hope it makes sense:

I mentioned in my earlier post I had discovered so many pretty cables that could go on to the back of these gloves, that I wanted to share them with you. 

But then I thought that it would be a bit pointless putting out a heap of patterns that were essentially the same, except for the design on the back.  And those designs are just ones that you find in any good stitch dictionary.   

Instead, here’s Part II of my post on the concept of my cabled fingerless gloves and how to create your own: fingerless, ribbed, cabled on the hand, and long.  I’ve restricted this post to just this type of glove.  I would need to write a book to cover the multitude variations you can get in gloves!

The workings

How does one go about creating the physical manifestation of your dreams?

First, make a list of the considerations behind your very own concept:

  • Purpose
  • Length, width & fit
  • Design


When designing any item of knitwear, it helps to write the purpose down so it crystallizes in your mind when/how/why you’ll be using it.  This helps you select:

  • the correct fibre to knit the item in
  • the stitch pattern you put into it, and
  • other details like the sort of thumb gusset you’ll want to put in. 

For example, if you are going to carry a lot of heavy stuff while wearing your gloves, it’s probably not a good idea to make them in possum yarn as it’s a reasonably delicate fibre (unless you somehow fortify the hand part with sock yarn, for example).  You’d want to use a strong wool, which will stand up to abuse.   You will also want to make the thumb gusset a strong one.

But if it’s pure warmth you’re after, and you are only going to wear your gloves to and from work/out walking, etc, then possum yarn will be fine, and the lacy thumb gusset I’ve used in my design will work. 

The stitch pattern you put into your gloves will depend on whether you want your gloves modern, vintage, cute, pretty, or whatever else you dare to dream up!

Length, width and fit

Once you’ve decided how long you want your gloves, jot down the length down, as well as the measurement of the widest part of your arm to be gloved (be it hand (or forearm)). 

Also think about whether you want your gloves to hug the arm, or whether you prefer to wear them bunched up, and therefore a bit looser.

Casting on

Now that you’ve got your design in mind, to find out how many stitches you need to cast on, it is necessary to knit a 10cm x 10cm (4in x 4in) gauge swatch in the yarn of your choice.  Unless you already know what gauge your yarn is going to knit at.  A stocking stitch swatch is fine for this purpose.

I’m sure a few of you will be questioning why I’m emphasising this (Are we idiots?  Surely everyone does a swatch?)  But I do know a few who don’t…

Anyway, back to the gloves.  In my case, my swatch came out at 22 stitches wide over 10cm (4in) of stocking stitch on 3.75mm needles. 

To calculate the number of stitches to cast on, I took the widest point of my arms (‘Widest Point’), in this case, being 10in, or 25cm round the forearm.  I then multiplied my Widest Point measurement by the number of stitches in my swatch, and divided by 10.  Eg. I want gloves that will fit a 25cm arm.  Multiply 22 stitches by 25, then divide by 10.  This came out at 55 stitches.  

There’s just one more consideration:

I find that when I want something fitted (eg a pair of gloves), I need to create negative ease of between 10 – 20% so that the garment hugs the relevant body part and doesn’t end up too loose.  In this case, 20% works well.  And that’s how I came up with 44 stitches (55 stitches less 20%).  If you want a looser fit, you might want to experiment with 10% negative ease, and cast on 50 stitches instead.

The design

So, you’ve cast on 44 stitches, and knitted double ribbing until you got the desired arm length.  Now comes the hand section where you change to stocking stitch and include a cable design.  If your chosen cable design has a definite beginning and end like this one: 

and you’re not sure how it will fit into the length of your hand, it might be a good idea to do another swatch in the cable design.  I’ve found for my hand size (medium), that cable designs with up to a 15 row repeat are mostly safe to knit without swatching first.

As for the cable width.  A rough guide is that up to 33% of the cast-on stitches can be used for the cable design.  In a DK weight yarn, on a medium-sized hand, this means you can safely choose a cable pattern between 10 and 16 stitches wide (this includes the two purl stitches on either side of the cable) so that it fits neatly on to the top of your hand.  If you have a very small hand, stick to a cable of a maximum of 10 stitches wide.  If you have a very large hand, you could possibly squeeze in 18 stitches.  

Where to place the cable

In terms of where you start the cable on your arm tube, it doesn’t really matter.  It’s where you place the thumb gusset that will give the cabling its final resting place on your arm (read here the bitter experience of my first self-designed gloves where the cable ended up over the forefinger, and not the middle of the hand as I wanted!) 

The best non-mathematical, fool-proof way I’ve worked out for the placement of the thumb gusset is so:

Knit the hand section until you get to the base of your thumb joint (in my instance, this is 6cm after the ribbing – take a tape measure and measure from your wrist to the base of your thumb for your own measurement). 

Now take the needles off the stitches. (Do not worry – the stitches should stay where they are put, but if you are a new knitter and not confident about being able to pick them all up again, or you are using slippery yarn and worried about slipped stitches, thread the stitches on to a piece of waste thread to hold them, but make sure it’s loose enough so that the knitting can lie flat). 

Press the glove flat on a firm surface so that the cabling lies right in the middle of the front of the glove. 

Count the number of stitches between the end of the cable purling and the edge of the glove of the side where your thumb is (count the stitch loops at the top – I always find counting the stitches in the fabric a bit confusing). 

In this example, I have found that 5 stitches from the end of cable section to the edge of the glove is the best place for the thumb gusset to start so that the cabling ends up right in the middle of the hand. 

Put the stitches back on the needles.  (Don’t forget to count them very carefully before you start knitting again, particularly the cabling, as it’s very easy to miss a stitch there and find, a couple of rows later that there’s a forlorn loose stitch sitting a few rows down waiting for you to pick it up…  In this sense, using waste yarn to hold the stitches is probably more sensible, but I’m an impatient girl, and can’t be bothered with all that fiddling around).

Noting the above pictured example for the right thumb, all you need to do is count 5 stitches from the cable edge and start your thumb gusset.  For the left thumb, the thumb starts before you get to the cable, so add 2 stitches to include the initial thumb stitches (ie. 7 stitches before the cable).  

Making the thumb gusset

Knit to where you are to start your thumb gusset.  Place your marker to start the thumb gusset, make a stitch, knit two stitches, make another stitch, place another marker, and you’re on your way. 

Knit round and round following your stitch pattern and increasing between the markers until you have made the correct amount of stitches for the thumb (in my case, it’s 16 stitches for a 7cm round thumb). 

The formula for the thumb stitches is the same as above (except you replace ‘hand width’ with ‘thumb width’, and you don’t need to discount 20% of the stitches for negative ease). Now put the thumb stitches aside on a piece of waste yarn, and continue knitting the hand.

Hand length

Hang length again depends on how much of your hand you want covered.  Some like the fingers exposed.  Others (like me) like the hand of the glove to finish at about the middle joint of the little finger.  Still others like the gloves to almost cover the fingers. 

When you’ve got the length you want, start the double ribbing again.  Decrease two stitches above the cabling section to give the top of the hand a gentle taper and avoid the flare you get in ribbing after a cable ends.  Knit a total of three or four rows of ribbing, depending on your personal preference for the depth of the ribbing, and cast-off loosely.

Now pick up the stitches for your thumb.  Knit as many rows as you want for your desired thumb length, finishing with two to three rows of ribbing.  Cast-off, weave in ends, et voilà!  Your gloves are done!

And finally, a friendly word of advice:

Take copious notes of everything you do so that you can replicate the process for the other hand.  I also like to physically compare my second glove against the first as I’m knitting it, just to make sure I haven’t missed anything, and that it is coming out the same as the original.  Just because I get anxious.

If you’d like a written pattern for the above concept, feel free to visit my original pattern and use it as a guide.

Happy glove making!

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