The secret to knitting same-size mittens (+ giveaway!)

I started knitting in the year 2000. Two sticks, some string, and a patient friend is all it took (thanks, Ursula!). But I’m one of those knitters who has only completed hats, scarves, and halves of sweater vests. Knit, purl, increase, decrease. That’s all I know.

When the sock-knitting craze soared, I was introduced to Antje Gillingham’s first book, Knitting Circles around Socks. I knew how to knit with circular needles, but without ever having knitted a sock before, I doubted I could pull it off. (In other words, I totally chickened out.) I set the book aside for . . . someday.

Fast forward to Antje’s newest book, Knitting Circles around Mittens and More. Socks are great, but mittens? Luxurious, keep-my-digits-warm-through-Utah-winters mittens? My “someday” has arrived. I had the opportunity to ask Antje (below left) a few questions about circular-needle knitting and two-at-a-time knitting from a beginner’s point of view. Her answers spurred me to reorganize my circulars and plan a trip to my local knitting shop. I hope they’ll do the same for you!

My Q&A with Antje Gillingham

What has been the response from beginners to your two-at-a-time technique—can a confident novice really do this kind of knitting?

Antje: Absolutely, they can! You are actually the perfect candidate for knitting two somethings at a time on two circular needles because all you need to know is how to comfortably knit, purl, increase, decrease, and work in the round. This method is going to be filled with fresh ideas regardless of whether you’re a beginner, advanced knitter, or expert. And that’s part of the thrill—learning new techniques, conquering more involved patterns, and in the end being able to say, “Heck yeah, I made this!”

I am fortunate to be able to teach this method all over the country. Some knitters come to my workshops with only basic knowledge; some have knitted socks using other methods. But all of them need the same two things during class and beyond: Time and patience. Time to read the instructions carefully and understand them as each step is worked, and patience to learn a whole new way to work in the round.

Unfortunately, I lacked both time and patience when I first decided to learn how to knit two socks at a time on two circular needles.

I always shoot for my dreams first, and then work my way down to reality. It was no different when I encountered this two-needle sock knitting business. I wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it BAD! I had just recently opened The Knitting Nest in Maryville, Tennessee (shown at right). Before even looking at the technique, I offered a workshop. Mind you, I was no expert knitter. I knew my basics, and learned the rest through books and on the internet as I went.

Fourteen people signed up for the class, and I was thrilled. Three days before I was supposed to teach them how to knit two socks at a time on two circular needles, I sat down in the living room, utterly excited, with sock yarn and two size 1 circular needles in hand. I began to tackle the basic pattern I had written out that afternoon. Oh boy! Within minutes I began to curse needles, yarn, and pattern. The itty-bitty fingering-weight yarn had not only wrapped itself around all four needles, it had also started to cling to itself, creating knots and tangles. My language stooped to new lows—husband, children, and pets alike fled the room. But I couldn’t give up because I had to teach 14 excited knitters!

I plowed along, vowing to never ever use this dumb technique ever again. And then it happened. I had worked about 2″ or 3″, and I paused. I stared at the little cuffs, which were suddenly hanging off my needles . . . the working yarns were in the right place . . . my eyes flitted from one cuff to the other . . . and then a big bright lightbulb went on over my head. I got it! I caught on in that split second and never looked back at any other method of knitting socks.

Kudos to my early students who were great sports, having to learn this method with sock yarn and small needles. These days, my students use worsted-weight yarn and much bigger needles. All I ask of them in return is their time and patience.

In your new book, beginners can start with Basic Fingerless Mittens. The pattern uses two sets of circular needles and two balls of yarn. Do you have any tips for starting up, and for keeping it all together as you go?


Basic Fingerless Mittens

Antje: When the patterns say, “take time to knit the gauge to save time,” they mean it. Keeping this in mind, here are a few tips to help you get started faster.

I ask you to use two circular needles of the same size, but with different cable lengths, because it helps distinguish them from one another as you practice the technique. Putting point protectors on either end of the “resting” needle while only using the “working” needle will also help you get along faster. It’s very tempting, but DO NOT use both ends of one ball to practice this method.  Instead, wind two balls from one. Remember, you can try out different ways later when you are more comfortable using the technique.

Take a moment to read through the knitting basics and abbreviations before you begin your project. My patterns include what I think are the least-confusing methods that work best for my patterns.

Finally, take your time. Remember, this is supposed to be fun and exciting, educational, relaxing, rewarding . . . you get the idea. There’s no need to rush; no one is there to time you. The fewer times you have to rip back, the more ecstatic you’ll feel and the faster you’ll get done!

You’ve turned thousands of knitters on to two-at-a-time knitting. (Our editor in chief now knits all her stuffie arms and legs using the technique she learned from you!) It sounds like a great technique to use beyond the patterns. What do you like best about the two-at-a-time technique?

Antje: Wow, where to begin? As a compulsive knitter, I definitely like the fact that I don’t have to count rows continuously to make sure that both pieces come out the same length. When I did work one mitten at a time using the same yarn and needles, they came out different sizes—one was visibly larger than the other! They would have been the same size had I worked them at the same time.

I also LOVE that when I work two pieces at the same time and I bind off or Kitchener my stitches at the end, I AM DONE. I can immediately try my projects on. It’s instant gratification. When you’re done, you’re ready to start a new project rather than repeating the one you just finished all over again. And isn’t that just happy and totally awesome?

It sure is, Antje. Thank you so much for sharing your take on two-at-a-time knitting!

Have you tried two-at-a-time knitting? How’d it go? How about knitting with circular needles? Leave your knitting story in the comments and you could win a copy of the Knitting Circles around Mittens and More eBook! We’ll choose a winner one week from today and let you know by email if you’ve won. (You can also purchase the book here, and if you do, you also get to download the eBook for free right away.) Good luck!

Comments are closed for this post.

Thanks to all who entered the drawing to win the Knitting Circles around Mittens and More eBook! The randomly chosen winner is Diane, who said:

“I’ve just picked my knitting needles back up after a 40 year hiatus! I’m looking forward to working with the circular needles I just bought, and this book is going on my list of must-haves!”

Diane, we’ll email you a special coupon code for your free eBook. Congratulations!

Projects from Knitting Circles around Mittens and More:


60 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I so want to try this. It would be great to have a project done so I can get to my next one! I love homemade mittens, think I’ll do a pair for myself.

    —Susan Brooks on March 24, 2012
  • I am a beginner, just a couple of baby blankets under my belt. I would like to try this method as my next project. I’ve used circular needles but have not worked in the round. Need to learn this method before I do it the wrong way and mess up the project. I don’t need a UFO!

    —Jeannie on March 24, 2012
  • I bought the Knitting Circles around Socks books, and they are sitting here staring at me. I’ve done lots of knitting on circular needles, but using two at a time seems intimidating. I want to try it, but I keep putting it off "until I have time"! Maybe mittens would be a good way to start!

    —Barb Johnson on March 24, 2012
  • I used to knit and I too only made hats and scarves. Then I moved to crochet and it seems like that is where I stuck. I want to get back into knitting just to prove to myself I can do it and this may be my opportune time to do that. Thanks for a chance. BTW: My first scarf must have been 24 foot long, it was horrendous but I was learning. LOL

    Jeanne from Missouri on March 24, 2012
  • I have used circular needles to make dishclothes as I was always losing one needle. I have also used them to make baby sweaters that call for single needles and them you have to sew the seam. This way I eliminate the sewing. I will have to try them for mittens as I always get one a little longer than the other

    —mary ann johnson on March 24, 2012
  • I’ve knit a lot on double-point and circular needles, but have never used the technique described above. I love to win this book and learn how!

    —Anita on March 24, 2012
  • This is a method I’ve always wanted to try as I knit a lot of socks and started over on that second sock is pure torture. I agree that mittens might be an easier way to learn this technique.

    —Helen Pickens on March 24, 2012
  • This sounds so helpful and interesting. Cant’ wait to try it

    —Peggy cConnolly on March 24, 2012
  • I haven’t tried circular needles yet. I am a beginner so I think this book looks like it would be a big help.

    —Phyllis on March 24, 2012
  • Yes, I started out knitting socks on DPNs and quickly tried the 2-at-a-time method. Unfortunately, I abandoned it because my yarn balls stayed in a twisted up mess. Now that I have more experience with knitting socks (about 20 pair done) I’m thinking I may go back to the 2AAT method. I also soon want to knit some fingerless gloves or mittens from my left-over sock yarn bits. I would LOVE to have this new book… I have both of her sock books and love the patterns in them.

    Kathy E. on March 24, 2012
  • I love knitting two at a time! I’ve got your first book on sock knitting, but I’ve never tried TAT mittens yet. I would love to win! Thanks! Debbie H

    —Debbie H on March 24, 2012
  • I’ve been wanting to get back into knitting, and this method sounds intriguing. Socks do seem intimidating, but I like the idea of trying mittens!

    —Sheila W. on March 24, 2012
  • I use DPNs to knit 2 (almost) the same time. Getting them the same size is not the issue so long as I take GOOD notes!! I spent August to December 2011 exploring THUMBS. ack…still hate them but figured out how to hate them "less"?!

    Laurie in Maine on March 24, 2012
  • Oh My! I have tried before and gotten hopelessly tangled. I just couldn’t wrap my rain around this method doing it on my own. Maybe with the book and the tips and tricks she shares I could do it? I have done mittens and socks but everything has been one at a time. I love the idea of having two ‘somethings’ done at the same time!!

    stephanie-deliberately creative on March 24, 2012
  • Oh! Lovely. I have always been frustrated by trying to knit small circular objects and have to admit I am not a sock knitter. this book has caught my eye but was put off for this reason. Now that I see the two needle method I am up for having another go! Many thanks. Would love to win a copy of the book.

    —Caroline on March 24, 2012
  • I have 4 granddaughters that all want Gma to knit them mittens and this looks to be a great way to go about it

    —Peggy M on March 24, 2012
  • I have knit 2 socks at the same time but on separate needles. I work a section at a time on one and then move to the other. I would love to try to knit both socks and mittens 2 at a time. The designs in the mitten book are beautiful!

    —Karon Mathews on March 24, 2012
  • I have finally worked out how to do one sock with two circular needles, but haven’t tried two-at-a-time – YET! Would make the finishing faster as, by the time you finish one the second is also done.

    Question – can this be done with the toe-up method? I imagine one would have to do the toes separately and then start working on both at the same time.

    —Judy M. on March 24, 2012
  • I have tried knitting mittens but they are never the same size, so i gave up. Maybe this book and method will help. I am also trying to knit socks this way…learning to do mittens would be awsome as the number of grandchildren that need them is growing
    ….

    —Lise Dostie on March 24, 2012
  • I have done 2 @ a time with 2 circulars before. I get messed up easy though and have to use point protectors or I end up with both socks on 1 needle. I haven’t done gloves or mittens on 2 circulars though

    —Robin D on March 24, 2012
  • I made a bunch of tiny Christmas stockings, and knit them 4 at a time on 2 circs. One time, when I had just begun a set, and had 4 little cuffs on my needles, someone asked me if I was knitting a dog sweater!

    —Dottie on March 24, 2012
  • I have collected yarn by the skeins to try socks 2 at a time but have yet to tackle it. This may be the push to get me started finally.

    —Gjeneve on March 24, 2012
  • I am a beginner – but have been knitting with circular needles since the start for 2 reasons – one they were inherited with my mom’s knitting things, so it is what I had, and two, I started with wide rectangular shawls that would not fit on straight needles. I would love to get to the point of socks and mittens.

    Regina on March 24, 2012
  • I am currently working on a pair of fingerless mitts on four (yes, four) needles, and turning the air blue with choice words, each time I sit down to work on them! LOL I need this book so badly! I’d love to try this technique – the pictures show some of the cutest mitts I have seen!
    I tried my current project one at at time on circular needles, and that just did NOT work! 🙂 I’d love to learn to make them two at a time!

    Jacque on March 24, 2012
  • I am a new knitter and I have tried the circular needles on a hat once. I struggled with it and ended up using DPN. There has to be an easier way than using DPN (or too short circulars!)and by reading the above info, I see there is. I love the idea of knitting two at once, cuz when you’re done, you are done!! Sounds like a good resource book.

    —Nadia W. on March 24, 2012
  • I am very much a beginner knitter with limited skills but the one larger project I ever knit was a sweater for my son on circular needles. I really liked it!

    Kerry on March 24, 2012
  • I tend to use circulars more than straight needles, especially for large projects. I use DPN’s for mittens, toys, and finishing on hats. I haven’t tried 2AAT mittens but would love to win the book. I’ll be starting on socks for Christmas gifts soon and this would be a great help.

    —Virginia Smith on March 24, 2012
  • I have just learned circular knitting – I love it and really want to learn more knitting styles. thanks!

    —Lee on March 24, 2012
  • I have never tried knitting two anythings at the same time, because it’s always looked complicated, but I would really like to learn, since I’m very prone to second mitten, second sock, etc. syndrome…

    —Jean A. on March 24, 2012
  • Boy, where have I been? This was my first time to hear of this technique and I am so excited to try it! Thanks for the chance to win!

    —Karen G on March 24, 2012
  • I’ve done two-sided jaquard knitting. I’ve knitted sleeves flat using the same needles at the same time. It would be neat to add this technique to my skills.

    —Joan F on March 24, 2012
  • I knit one pair of socks using this method for my father. It took me about 6 months due to family and work obligations. I was very thankful that I used this method because I lost my motivation half way through the knitting process. I’m sure it would have been a UFO if done the traditional way. I finally finished them in time for my father’s birthday. He loves them and wears them all the time since he is always cold. He has even made requests for more socks. I think that mittens would be a great project next though. Thanks for the book and giveaway!

    Elise Henry on March 24, 2012
  • Ville blive glad for at eje bogen – den ser så spændende ud

    —Inge Lise on March 24, 2012
  • Hi Inge,

    According to Google Translate, your entry in English reads, ‘Would be happy to own the book – it looks so exciting." Good luck to you, and thanks for dropping by our corner of the globe!

    —Jenny on March 26, 2012
  • I try to do side-by-side knitting when the project is small enough…as I am currently doing with a vest for my Mom for Mothers’ Day.

    Suzanne on March 24, 2012
  • Haven’t tried circular needles yet – would love to win this book and learn how!

    —Gwen W on March 24, 2012
  • Wow. Those finger-less mitts are so beautiful! As I pack to move, and am forced to revisit my stash I am really motivated to learn the two at a time method, ingenious!! I’m in!

    —Nancy V on March 24, 2012
  • best e-mail from Martingale I’ve ever read!
    I’ve tried knitting two at a time on one needle – repeatedly, but just couldn’t grasp it, even though I’ve been able to do Cat Bordhi’s mobius with no problem. Sooooo, my method is to cast onto one set of dpns for one glove & another set of dpns for the second glove & work 4 rows on one then 4 rows on the second. Same end result, two gloves actually get made at the same time, just a little slower than the one needle method!

    —Charlotte on March 24, 2012
  • I’ve knitting socks two at a time – it is always a little ‘fiddly’ at the beginning and just when I’m about to give up, it all comes together and I’m glad I chose to do them both at the same time.

    —Lisa on March 24, 2012
  • I would love to have this book, i once this tecnique with a pair of socks, and loved that they where done at the same time, i probably never would have finished the other sock had i dont them one at a time!

    —Shelly E. on March 24, 2012
  • I have used circular needles before and really like them. However, I have never tried the two needles at one time. I can see where it would be a real help.

    —Shirley Strait on March 24, 2012
  • I tried knitting 2 at a time socks but never finished them. I got to the gusset part and was lost. But it was fun up to that point.

    —Jennie P. on March 24, 2012
  • I have knit many pairs of childrens mittens on a circular needle. It is great to have them the same size and finish a set together, but my pattern has to have a seam sewn up one side. I would LOVE to learn how to knit a set in the round. I love circular needles.

    —Barbara Young on March 25, 2012
  • I really tried to use circular needles technique to knit two babysocks. It worked out, but it was so nervwrecking!!! I will give it an other try with mittens if I am the winner of the free copy, but I think I will be buying the book and knit the mittens one by one 🙂 and that thought made me very happy already. I loved the fingerless mittens with the cap and the fringes so much, very elegant and will certainly try to knit that pair.

    Daisy on March 25, 2012
  • I love this method because when you’re done, you’re done!! My socks never seem to have the same gauge if they aren’t done this way! My favorite go-to method is two socks on two circs!

    —kelly jo on March 25, 2012
  • I’m a left handed knitter and struggled as a child trying to learn how to knit from my right handed Mom. I have persevered over the years and have "created" my own knitting technique to compensate for my left handedness. After several unmatched mitten attempts I devised my own two-at-a-time mitten knitting technique but on two needles, not in the round. I still have to sew the mitts together after the knitting is done. This never bothered me much until I read your interview with Antje this morning. I need to know her method! I think it will liberate me from my two needle dependence and has excited me about mittens for the very first time. The fact that my first grandchild was born days ago has made your article even more poignant. I must have that book!

    —Linda Isherwood on March 25, 2012
  • Antje, where were you when I use to knit alot? This would have been great for all those Fair Isle sweaters I use to make. Kniting the sleeves involved alot of counting of rows. This is such a brilliant idea.
    Most of my knitting at the same time involved kniting the left and right of sweater fronts.
    My Granny who passed away when I was 11 was forever knitting us up socks during winter hockey games and made it look so simple. I thought she was so wonderful and loved the last pair of pink socksshe made me. I didn’t learn to knit until I was in highschool and I have never done mitts or socks because I hate keeping track of the rows knitted.
    Think this is great incentive for me.

    —Chrstina MacKenzie on March 25, 2012
  • I learned to knit when I was 11 and never enjoyed it until this year when I decided to knit socks. Like many others I was too chicken to try two at a time (though I checked out the book). After struggling to make my socks the same size, I am ready to try some mittens two at a time. I love the different styles of mittens in the book.

    —Marilyn on March 25, 2012
  • I have tried knitting 2-at-a time with magic loop on one long circular, but I am very intrigued by the method in your book and e-book! I would love to
    try it! I love the patterns shown from the book. Very nice! I would love to win your book.

    —Bobbi on March 25, 2012
  • Boy this sounds so neat! I have not yet tried knitting the two at once way. I have used circular needles so I’m hoping I’m one step ahead. I’m very anxious to get ahold of this book, one for my library for sure.

    Thank you for your giveaway and a chance to win.

    usairdoll(at)gmail(dot)com

    —Jodi G. on March 25, 2012
  • I use circular needles when knitting blankets, but I’ve never knit mittens and would love to learn.

    Teresa on March 25, 2012
  • I’ve knitted two at once since I began knitting. My mother had knitted since she was a girl and passed on to me the habit of knitting two sleeves at once when knitting sweaters or cardigans and knitting both bootees at the same time when knitting for the countless babes that were born to friends and families.
    I have never tried it using two circular needles though. The idea gives me butterflies and peaks my interest……!!!

    —Kayt on March 25, 2012
  • Hi fellow knitters,

    Many of you are saying that you started but didn’t finish a project because you got stuck. Please, if you’re ever in that situation again go to a yarn shop and ask the owner for some help. If you don’t have a yarn shop, go online!
    There are so many knitters out there who have been where you are and got through with the help of a friendly knitter and it breaks my heart that you are collecting UFO’s for want of a little bit of help and encouragement.
    Remember, the only silly question is the one you don’t ask!

    —Kayt on March 25, 2012
  • I’ve just picked my knitting needles back up after a 40 year hiatus! I’m looking forward to working with the circular needles I just bought, and this book is going on my list of must-haves!

    —Diane Fields on March 25, 2012
  • After knitting nothing but scarves and a couple hats I decided to learn to knit socks. I immediately went with two at a time toe up on one circular. I actually did quite well, except I didn’t measure my foot correctly or something because after making the heel the sock was way too short for me. I still haven’t learned how to rip back to the start of a mistake, so my daughter will get them when they are finished. I hope to try the two at a time fingerless gloves soon. It looks like a great way to make them!

    Amanda Hume on March 25, 2012
  • I would love to learn to knit two at a time! Socks are on my agenda, but mittens would be right up there next.

    Susan on March 26, 2012
  • Looks fascinating and exciting to try. Knit a bit but have never tried circular nor two at time. Luv the look of the mitts. Thx

    —Deb on March 27, 2012
  • I knit a lot of fingerless mitts, gloves, etc. in the round, but not two at the same time. I’d love to learn the best way to do that and I believe this book would show it. Thanks for the opportunity to try and win it!

    —Susan on March 29, 2012
  • Years ago I loved to knit. With four babies, two dogs and one hamster, I had no time for hobbies, so I stopped knitting. Years later, when knitted scarfs were all the rage, I thought I’d save some money and knit scarves for my granddaughters. Having given away all my needles I went to a yarn shop to purchase some more. I mentioned to the clerk that it had been a long time and I was hoping it was like riding a bike and I could get right back into it. The young girl behind the counter asked me how long it had been since I knitted anything. When I told her it had been 40 years; she said,"oh that’s longer than I am old"!

    —pat michelsen on March 30, 2012
  • One day I decided I wanted to learn to knit. I happened to be attending a class with lace makers and asked if there were any knitters in the crowd. I was very interested in learning the European method. Imagine my surprise when four different women showed me four different ways to cast on! Also I learned two ways to knit! Isn’t it fascinating to know their are secrets from all over the world on the same handicraft!

    —Mama Mia on March 31, 2012

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