Tova Mittens Sew-Along / Tutorials

How to Sew Mittens From a Recycled Sweater

Want to know how to turn a sweater into a pair mittens? Just like Bernie Sander’s famous mittens? In this tutorial I show how to sew a pair of sweater mittens in less than an hour, that could, at least for an untrained eye, pass for being hand-knitted.

Here we are using my Tova Mittens Sewing Pattern, but you can, of course, use any sewing patterns to create the mittens.

Note that these instructions are specific for sewing mittens using a sweater, so if you want to learn more about sewing mittens in general, check out the regular step-by-step tutorial for the Tova Mittens.

We are using three pattern pieces for this project: Thumb, Back and Front. No need for a cuff pattern piece, since we are using the knitted cuffs from the sweater.

1. Cut the cuffs off the sleeves

Try and see if they fit, you might need to make them tighter, but that’s an easy fix and I’ll show you that in a later step.

2. Place the pattern pieces on the sweater and cut

If your sweater has a prominent knitting texture or pattern, such as a cable knit, cut the pieces as a single layer to make sure the texture ends up on the same spot on both the left and right pieces. 

3. Place the thumb piece to back palm piece

Right sides facing, the wrong side up. You are going to sew along the curved line to attach the thumb to the palm. 

4. Set your machine for a narrow zigzag stitch

This means that you reduce the width of the stitch to make it look a bit straighter, but it should still have some stretch.

This is an example of how a narrow zigzag stitch could look like

5. Stitch along the curve

On very loose knits I recommend stitching two rows, to keep any loops from slipping through, which can be an issue when sewing refashioned knitted garments.

6. Fold the thumb piece in the middle

This is in preparation for closing the thumb, it might look a little bit like a puzzle, but when you are doing it with your own hands it will all make perfect sense. Also, check the Tova Mittens tutorial for clearer illustrations using contrasting fabric and illustrations.

Sewing Tova Mittens Step by Step Tutorial

7. Stitch the thumb

Start at the outer corner, then pivot where the thumb begins and sew all the way around, making sure that the lower layer doesn’t slip. Again I recommend reinforcing this area with a second row if using a loosely knitted sweater. BTW, here I’m using another fabric to show this step since the sweater knit hides every seam!

8. Turn the thumb out

Now it’s starting to look more like a mitten!

9. Add the upper palm piece

Place the back palm on front palm piece. Right sides facing. Make sure the thumb is folded towards the middle. 

10. Stitch along the outer edges of the entire mitten

Use a narrow zigzag stitch or a stretch seam. When you pass the thumb piece, make sure it’s folded away so that it isn’t caught in the seam. Again make sure you catch both layers when sewing, since sweater knits can be slippery to sew.

11. Turn the mittens so that the right sides are up

Now we are almost done sewing them mittens. As I told you, it would all make sense, once we got going. Notice the corner underneath the thumb. This is the corner pivot that we did when we attached the thumb.

13. Prepare the cuffs

Try them on the wrist and see if they fit. If they are too big, pin them to mark how much to trim. It also depends on how wide the glove part is of the mittens, the cuffs should be smaller than the opening of the mittens, but not too much. Remove the extra width from the cuffs.

14. Stitch the trimmed cuffs together

Again use a narrow zigzag stitch.

15. Pull the cuffs over the opening of the mittens

With the cut edge aligned with the edge of the glove. Right sides should be facing, with the wrong side up. 

16. Sew the cuffs to the mittens

Using an overlock, stretch seam or a narrow zigzag stitch. Stretch out the cuff when sewn, since it should be smaller than the opening of the glove.
Tip: If you are using a serger for this step, try to increase the differential feed to prevent the pieces from stretching out when sewn, as this is common when working with less stable sweater knits. 

Do try on a sample before cranking up the differential feed so that you don’t end up with a bunch of gathers.

The finished mittens

As you can see they look pretty nice, and if I had used a sweater fabric that had more shape and was more tightly knitted they would have looked even better!

As I said, I used my own Tova Mittens sewing pattern for this project, and while it’s primarily intended for regular fabric, it works super well for upcycling an old sweater into a pair of mittens too.

To learn even more about how to sew a pair of mittens using a sweater, check out this video tutorial as well:

Lining the mittens

To make the mittens warm and cosy, add fleece lining using my easy step-by-step tutorial for adding lining to mittens.

And if you are aching to try out ways to refashion an old sweater, check out my tutorial for making a beanie hat from an old sweater.


  • JenL
    January 5, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    I have been thinking about making mittens too. I salvaged a nice sweater and turned it into a kind of cowl/snood, but I find that I never wear it. Mittens would be nice and I have small hands too. I may give it a try!

    • Johanna
      January 9, 2017 at 7:55 am

      You should! It was a very quick make, the only extra work was making them even smaller than the pattern. So making a sample first to make sure the fit is right is something I would recommend, to myself too 🙂

      • Darlene
        December 30, 2019 at 2:32 pm

        I have a mitten pattern but can’t find the directions. I am baffled about how to attach the thumb which is a complete separate piece to the mitten and cuff. None of the online patterns I’ve seen are similar. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Pieces are all cut out and ready to sew.

  • Anne
    January 7, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Nice! This is definitely a project I could take on to put old sweaters to good use! Thanks for the tutorial – seeing the way the mittens are put together is very helpful!

    • Johanna
      January 9, 2017 at 8:01 am

      It is, I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it earlier! It really mimics the look of hand knitted mittens, and I’m gonna make more for sure

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    March 9, 2017 at 9:53 pm

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  • DoyleAbags
    April 22, 2020 at 11:28 am
  • Annette Bollig
    November 30, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Last year I switched to your pattern for teaching immigrant women to sew. It is so much more intuitive than some of the other patterns. It fits well and is warm. Many of the women lined their mittens with fleece or knit fabrics.

    Love this pattern

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