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Whit's Knits: Ribbed Hand Warmers

If you're a careful reader of the Purl Bee, you may have noticed by now what a big fan I am of hand warmers. I love how practical they are (no holding dirty mittens between your teeth while you fish around for keys); I love how fast they are to make (you just can't say that about too many knitted things!); I love how flattering they are on everybody's hands; and, for all these reasons, I love how perfectly suitable they are as gifts (I'm remembering recent recipients: friend Claudia has a pair, so do aunt Bretta, cousin Katie, and sister-in-law Jen.).

Ever since Joelle made the Log Cabin Baby Blanket for her new niece out of Anzula's Squishy, I have been really anxious to give it a try. Joelle is a tough customer when it comes to yarn, so her rave reviews of this one set my expectations high. I was not disappointed! This is a seriously pleasurable yarn to knit with, maybe because of the 10% cashmere, or the lofty spin, or the super high quality merino, or the generous 385 yards per skein, or because of all those things plus some magical ingredient. Add to its luxurious feel the beautifully hand dyed palette of sophisticatedly quirky colors, and I've got a new favorite yarn!

The Materials

  • 1 skein of Anzula's Squishy, 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon. This color is "Plum". One skein is enough for at least 2 pairs of hand warmers.
  • A set of US #3 double pointed needles.

The Pattern


16 stitches = 1 inch in 3 x 2 rib, unstretched

7 stitches = 1 inch in 3 x 2 rib, comfortably stretched

Finished Size

11 inches long and stretch up to 9 inches around to fit most women's hands.


Cast 50 stitches onto double pointed needles.

Join for working in the round, being careful to not twist the stitches and placing a stitch marker if you want to.

Round 1: *K3, p2, repeat from * to end of round.

Repeat Round 1 until the piece measures 8 inches from the cast on edge.

Thumb Hole

NOTE: For the thumb hole, you will work back and forth in rows, turning the work between each row, as you would a flat piece of knitting. Work the stitches on the double pointed needles just as they are, moving from one needle to the next.

Row 1: [K3, p2] four times, k4, turn so the inside of the hand warmer is facing you. (You work only 24 stitches for Row 1.)

Row 2 (wrong side): K1, *p3, k2, repeat from * to last 4 stitches, p3, k1, turn so the outside of the hand warmer is facing you.  (Row 2 and all following rows work all 50 stitches.)

Row 3 (right side): K4, *p2, k3, repeat to last stitch, k1, turn.

Repeat Rows 2 and 3 until the thumb hole measures 1 1/2 inches, ending with Row 3. If you were using a stitch marker, you can remove it on the last row.


NOTE: For the hand section you will work in the round again with the outside of the hand warmer facing you. You will begin with a joining round that connects the two sides of the thumb hole. For the joining round, just continue to work from the end of Row 3 with the outside facing you. (See the picture below.)

Joining Round: Place a stitch marker, p1, *k3, p2, repeat from to last 4 stitches, k3, p1.

Next Round: P1, *k3, p2, repeat from to last 4 stitches, k3, p1.

Repeat the last round until the piece measures 2 inches from the top of the thumb hole.

Bind off in the 3 x 2 rib pattern.

Weave in the ends, make a second identical hand warmer, and you're ready to go!

Reader Comments (65)

Wow! I've been scouting around for just this pattern. Here in Quebec you just have to have something on your hands for driving in cold weather. Full gloves and mittens slide on the steering wheel and mittens that flop back to reveal fingers make me feel like a hand puppeteer. So bless you and thanx a big bunch!
October 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy
I'm pretty new to knitting, but I may have to try these soon - they look pretty easy...and cozy. Thanks!
October 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFinding My Stitch
These are gorgeous! If I didn't want to use squishy, can you recommend a comparable yarn?
October 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
It's been a busy fall wtih little time for knitting (sigh) but this pattern and this yarn has me putting a little "me time" for knitting back on the calendar! Thank you for this great pattern, and thank you Purl Soho for the constant inspiration in your emails and blog!
October 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermauismuti
I love these! I'm working on a similar pair right now. You can speed up the process a little by just knitting straight across (no knitting in the round, just use straight needles) and then later sewing a side seam to form the fingerless glove. Just leave a hole in your seam for your thumb!
October 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecca
I'm a beginning knitter and would like to know if you could give me a really rough estimate for how long these might take to make. I just have no idea if it would be hours or days or months. I know it depends on the person so maybe you could just tell me how long it took you to produce and I can scale it up for me. Trying to figure out if I'd have enough time to make them for my sweet mom's birthday :)

Love this site, btw! Been following the RSS feeds for a few years now
October 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercrumblecake
Hi Crumblecake,
It really depends on you of course, and how many hours you spend working on them at a time,, but if you haven't knit anything like these before (small gauge, dpn's etc) definitely plan on days of knitting if you're knitting a few hours a day. We estimate that the pair takes anywhere from 6-10 hours to complete. Hope this helps!
October 28, 2010 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi. I love these hand warmers and cast on for them immediately but I have a problem. I'm ready to work the thumb hole and am confused. Am I knitting only 24 stitches for 1 1/2 inches? For the life of me I can't figure this out!! Thanks for your help, Cynthai
November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia
Hi Cynthia,
You should be working all of the stitches for 1 1/2 inches for the thumb hole, the only difference is that you'll be working back and forth, instead of in the round, in order to create the hole.
Hope this helps!
November 1, 2010 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Yes, this does help. I think my confusion stems from this: in the section regarding the thumb hole the insturctions say "Row 1: [K3, p2] four times, k4, turn so the inside of the hand warmer is facing you". As I read it that means to knit and purl 3x2 = 5 for four times = 20, then k4.

So it sounds like I should do the k3, p2 ribbing until the last 4 stitches and those last 4 stitches would be two knit stitches, one purl, and then one knit stitch. Am I on the right track?

Sorry to be so think headed!! Cynthia
November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia
Hi Cynthia,

Actually your first interpretation is the correct one. The thumb hole is half way around the hand warmer, so you should work just 24 stitches and then turn. Beginning with Row 2, you will work all 50 stitches.

I'm sorry if this is confusing, and I hope this straightens it out for you!

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee

i know that some patterns specify how many stitches to divide between the 3 needles, and this one didn't.
i did 15, 15 and 20. is this correct? if not, what do you suggest?

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwhatevermariver
Hi Whatevermariver,
That should work just fine!
Good luck and let us know if you have any further questions.
November 7, 2010 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Could I knit these using the magic loop method? I'm a fairly new knitter and haven't invested in DPN's - and they scare me a bit. But I've had some success with magic loop for small projects, like a baby hat and beer cozy. Suggestions?
November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie
Hi Melanie,
Yes of course you can! You can use the magic loop method for anything in the round.
November 18, 2010 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I'm ready to work on the thumbhole and I completed the first row of 24 stitches, ready to begin row 2 and I just want to be sure about this...once I turn the work around do I then get out a fresh needle and work with an extra needle for this part? (Rather than knitting row 2 with the adjacent needle that already has some stitches on it. I've been working with 4 needles so now I think I should switch to 5...?) I feel like this is a dumb question but since this is my very first knitting project I would rather ask and be sure than do it wrong and ruin it :)

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercrumblecake
Oh...nevermind. I think I've got it. :) thanks anyway. Good learning experience.
November 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercrumblecake
I just finished my 1st one, on to the 2nd!! I used 2 circulars to speed it up which works fantastic. I think it took about 4 and a half hours to complete one.
Obviously, they'll be a (last minute!!) gift but they are so quick, easy and best of all gorgeous that I think may even be able to make a few more pairs before the 25th!!!
I love the purl bee and am ever so thankful for your generosity in sharing so many great ideas and (free?! What! Holla!) patterns. Sincerely, y'all are fantastic and appreciated very much by me!!
Oh eta- I subbed a sport weight peruvian wool I had in my stash due to time constraints but can't wait to try the squishy!!
Thanks and hope everyone has stellar holidays!!
December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

I just want to thank Cynthia for asking about the same dilemma I had, starting the thumb hole. Here I am on Christmas Day, wanting to continue with these nice handwarmers during my vacation but I had a hard time figuring out Row 2 (I'm still a novice knitter). Fortanately, I checked this blog and found the help I needed!!

Thank you for the guidance from Purl Soho too! Your website is THE BEST and I am looking forward to visiting your new store again too!

Cynthia, another one.
December 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia
@Helen - When using the two circulars, was the second circular used for the thumb? I happen to have two 8" circulars and I just hate working with double poiinted needles......
Where can I find a tutorial on your method?
PS - I'm pretty new to this kitting stuff, in case you haven't guessed!
January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVal Payne
Hi Val! Sorry I'm just reading this now.
I casted on and worked up in pattern. When it came to the thumb, I just started working the 2 circs back and forth (as opposed to in the round), leaving one side 'open' for the thumb hole. I do remember having to move one stitch over to the other circular before working back and forth to make the pattern line up. I also had to work extra rows in order for my thumb to fit through!
Once the thumb hole was long enough, I simply re-joined the round and continued as I had before the thumb hole.
So, to recap (because I'm not the best at explaining)-
Divide stitches on 2 circulars, join the round.
Work in pattern via rounds until thumbhole.
Work 1st needle to end, slip/transfer one unworked stitch over to 2nd needle (if you need the extra stitch there for the garter edge)
Now turn the 1st needle around so you will be working a ws, knit across 1st and 2nd circular in pattern,
Turn, work 2nd and 1st needle in pattern,
Continue until thumbhole length is complete, ending with a rs row
Then simply re-join by continuing to work in the round.

Hope that helps! And again, sorry for the lateness in replying!
This pattern is excellent and all 3 recipients thought it was the best gift ever!!
January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelen
I finished the handwarmers last night..wearing them now. They are so nice and love the way they fit. We keep a cool house, so how nice it is to wear these when my hands get chilly!

I used a tweed type of yarn, edging the top and bottom with coordinating color..really cute, but I want to make my next pair with the "Squishy" yarn...will get some next trip to the Purlsoho in a couple of weeks!

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia
Where is Squish yarn made? If it is China, count me out.
January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKmbold
LOVE these! I have renewed hope of a handmade Christmas for a few very deserving friends. Thanks you!
December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Can this be done with circular knitting needles? Thank you
July 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah A.
Hi Sarah A.,

Yes, you could use an 8-inch circular needle, but when you get to the thumb hole, you'll need to use at least two needles to knit that section back and forth. It is such a tight turn that trying to use one circular needle will be frustrating, maybe not even possible. Instead, use two short circular needles (treating them like they're straight needles) or three double pointed needles.

If this sounds confusing, it's not really. Once you get to the thumb hole, you'll understand better!

Thanks for your question! Please let me know if you need any more help!

August 2, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
i would like to knit these on straight needles. dp are a bit scary.what size needle should i use and how many stitches will i cast on?
love your site.
September 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdiane
Hi Diane,

You would use the same size needles (US #3 or whatever size gives you the pattern's gauge) and cast on the same number of stitches. Then just knit a ribbed rectangle and sew the sides together, leaving a space for your thumb. Easy!

Thanks for your question and good luck!

September 7, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
This is a great pattern for a beginning knitter. I used 9 inch circulars (for the first time; I wanted to try them out), and it worked really well. I did not have to use an additional needle for the thumb part. I found the pattern to be very easy to follow. The pictures helped too. I'm sure that I will get many compliments when I wear my new gloves. Thanks!
September 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermanneko
how many meters is your skein of yarn? i plan to make a pair..It looks so nice and cozy~

thank you
September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiyana
Hi, I love love this pattern and am planning on using it for my first project using the double pointed needles this weekend. I have small hands and arms, and am worried that this pattern will be too loose. To make it work, I think I need to make it smaller by about 1/2" or so... My question is, how many stitches should be cast on to do this and still make it simple around the thumb hole? Thank you!
September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolliday
Hi Holliday,

I'm afraid I missed your weekend plans, but in case you haven't started yet... You can cast on any multiple of 5 stitches, so in your case, 45 would be a good bet!

Thanks for your question!
September 18, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello. I'm having trouble understanding this porition of the pattern: "Row 1: [K3, p2] four times, k4, turn so the inside of the hand warmer is facing you".

Does this mean to literally turn the hand warmer inside out or to turn it to the far side in your hands?

Is the turning to the inside actually working the remaining 26 stitches in Row 1 or turning back on the 24 stittches just knitted and going back the same direction we just came from?

I'm sorry to be so dense about this. I would appreciate any help in understanding that you could offer.
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteramber
Thanks Whitney,

I didn't have time to sit down over the weekend to start, but now that I have I am running into problems after the first row! Ak! How do you turn it inside out and what needle does the last stitch (after the k4) go on to?

Thanks for the help!
September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolliday
Hi Holliday,

You don't turn your hand warmer inside OUT, you turn it so the inside is facing you. In other words, flip the whole work around so the needle with the working yarn is in your left hand.

If you have an extra stitch left on your needle after the k4, just slip it over to the adjacent needle. It's actually the last stitch of the next row.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you run into any more problems!
October 4, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Amber,

No, you don't turn the hand warmer inside out; you turn the whole work around so the needle with the working yarn is now in your left hand and the inside of the hand warmer is facing you. And yes, you will now be working the same 24 stitches you just worked.

Thanks for asking your not-dense-at-all question and good luck!

October 4, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Does one skein of Squishy make one pair or two? The directions say two, but the description of Squishy says one.
October 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjuststitchy
Hi Justitchy-

It's enough to make 2 pairs. Sorry for the confusing description on the yarn page!

October 10, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I don't know what I did wrong. When I got to the thumb hole, I followed the pattern and it did not line up with my previous purls and knits. In which case, my knit piece looks slopping and there is a major shift? How do you explain this? What did I do wrong? This seems to be what the instructions say to do. Should I undo all of these stitches?
October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
HI Nicole,

The stitch pattern should continue seamlessly as you work the thumb hole. I'm not sure why yours has shifted. Did you work just 24 stitches for Row 1, then turn the work so the inside of the hand warmer is facing you and then work all 50 stitches?

Please let me know if you suspect where you may have gone wrong, then maybe I can help you more specifically!

October 30, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love these handwarmers. Can they be done on circulars with a short cable? I thought the ribbing might offer the stretch if needed.
Thanks, Linda
November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Palmer
Hi Linda,

An 8-inch circular would work fine, although when you get to the thumb hole opening things get a little tight. You may find you'll want to use the circular needle along with a double pointed needle or two!

Thanks for asking!
December 3, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
If I wanted to make these handwarmers for a man with average sized hands, how many stitches should I cast on?

Thank you!
December 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey
Hi Lindsey,

You should be okay casting on 60 stitches!

Thanks for asking!

December 13, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi! What type of cast on would you recommend using for these arm warmers? Thanks!
February 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
Hi Elizabeth,

I almost always use a regular long-tail cast on, but honestly, there is a better technique for ribbed knitting. It's a variation of the long-tail cast on, but it's a bit neater and more elastic. I found this tutorial for a 2 x 2 rib from which you should be able to extrapolate a cast on for a 3 x 2 rib:

But if you're just in the mood to get started, a regular old long-tail cast on won't be the end of the world!

Thanks for your question!

February 11, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi. I'd like to make these for my toddler. How can I adapt the pattern for very small hands? Or can you recommend a pattern for baby hand warmers?
May 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobyn
Hi Robyn,

You just need to cast on a multiple of 5 stitches (if the cast on is also a multiple of 10, you'll find the thumb hole instructions easy to follow too!). Adjust the lengths for little hands, and you're all set!

Thanks for asking and good luck!

May 13, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

I'm in the process of knitting the Rib Cowl, using yarn that is 22-24 Stitches to 4 inches. I'd love to make a pair of these handwarmers to match.

Would I need to reduce the number of stitches? (I have tiny wrists anyway) If so how would I calculate this? Or would I be better off making the zippered handwarmers as this seems to need a thicker yarn anyway?


August 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHelen
Hi Helen,

Your yarn does sound like the right weight for the Zippered Hand Warmers, but if you'd prefer to make these, you certainly can!

You should knit up a knit 3, purl 2 swatch and measure your gauge. Figure out especially how many stitches to the inch you get when the ribbing is gently stretched. Multiply that number by the circumference of your palm. Round up or down to the nearest multiple of five for your final cast on number. So if you have an 8-inch palm and your ribbing is 6 stitches to the inch, you would multiply 8 x 6 = 48 and cast on either 50 or 45.

My guess for you is that you're going to cast on either 45 or 40 stitches!

Thanks so much for your question and please let us know if you have any more!

September 1, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

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