Knitty: little purls of wisdom
Miss Babs Hand-Dyed yarn & Fibers

For almost as long as I’ve been a knitter, I’ve been fascinated by the history of knitting. I’ve especially enjoyed the mind-twisting process of working with the often obtuse and obfuscatory language of antique patterns. There’s a thrill, I find, in watching a project emerge row by row and knowing that other knitters, long gone, followed the same path.

The process of decoding, testing and correcting isn’t for everyone, though; and so in this column I hope to share the excitement of the journey by removing as many of the roadblocks as possible. You don’t need to be a historian to come along–just a knitter with a curious mind.

beauty shot Translated by Franklin Habit from unpublished notes in the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library.


Mrs. Roosevelt's pattern calls very specifically for double-pointed needles, and therefore we have kept it that way. It is easily converted to magic loop or two circulars, if you wish.

We like to think that Mrs. Roosevelt would have been intrigued by these new innovations in knitting.

spacer photos: Franklin Habit

Women’s S [M]

Note: These are the two sizes -- equivalent roughly to a modern Adult Women’s Small and Medium, respectively -- accounted for in Mrs. Roosevelt’s notes; but the underlying method is so simple that adjustments for larger or smaller sizes can easily be made.

[note: Print everything includes the essay at the top of the page. Print only essentials includes just the pattern and the first picture.]


Cuff to fingertip: 9.5 [12] inches
Circumference at palm: 8 [10] inches



spacer St-Denis Yarns Nordique [100% wool; 150 yd/137 m per 50g skein]; color: Chalk Blue; 2 [2] skeins

Recommended needle size
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]
spacer 1 set of 4 US #4/3.5 mm double-point needles

spacer Yarn needle
spacer length of scrap yarn
spacer scissors
spacer ruler or measuring tape


24 sts/36 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch in the round


[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

N1, N2, N3:
Needle 1, Needle 2, Needle 3

Make two -- or three, if the intended recipient is inclined to be absentminded.

CO 48[60] sts, distribute evenly on 3 ndls (16 [20] sts per ndl). Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist. Rounds begin on needle 1.

Round 1: [K2, p2] to end of round.
Repeat Round 1 until work measures 3 [4] inches from CO.

Knit two rounds.

Round 1
: N1 -- k8[10], m1, k8[10] (17[21] sts). N2 and N3 -- knit. 49[61] sts.

Rounds 2, 3: Knit.

Round 4: N1 -- k8[10], m1, k1, m1, k8[10] (19[23] sts). N2 and N3 -- knit. 51[63] sts.

Rounds 5, 6:

Round 7: N1 -- k8[10], m1, k3, m1, k8[10] (21[25] sts). N2 and N3 -- knit. 53[65] sts.

Rounds 8, 9: Knit.

Round 10: N1 -- k8[10], m1, k5, m1, k8[10] (23[27] sts). N2 and N3 -- knit. 55[67] sts.

Rounds 11, 12: Knit.

Round 13: N1 -- k8[10], m1, k7, m1, k8[10] (25[29] sts). N2 and N3 -- knit. 57[69] sts.

Rounds 14, 15: Knit.

Round 16: N1 -- k8[10], m1, k9, m1, k8[10] (27[31] sts). N2 and N3 -- knit.  59[71] sts.

Rounds 17, 18: Knit.

Round 19: N1 -- k8[10], m1, k11, m1, k8[10] (29[33] sts). N2 and N3 -- knit. 61[73] sts.

Rounds 20, 21: Knit.

Round 22: N1 -- k8[10], m1, k13, m1, k8[10] (31[35] sts). N2 and N3 -- knit 63[75] sts.

Round 23: N1 -- k8[10], sl next 15 sts to scrap yarn, CO 5 sts, k8[10]. N2 and N3 -- knit. 53[65] sts.

Round 24: Knit.

Round 25: N1 -- k8[10], sl1-k1-psso, k1, k2tog, k8[10]. N2 and N3 -- knit. 51[63] sts.

Round 26: N1 -- k7[9], sl1-k1-psso, k1, k2tog, k7[9]. N2 and N3 -- knit 49[61] sts.

Round 27: N1 -- k7[9], k3tog, k7[9]. Needles 2 and 3–knit. 47[59] sts.

K all sts until work measures 4[5] inches from top of ribbing or until mitten is 3 inches short of desired length to tip of longest finger.
Note: if re-sizing, knit palm until length from end of ribbing is equal to width of palm when measured flat, just above the thumb gusset. Or, in Mrs. Roosevelt’s words, “Knit a square.”

Round 1:
N1, N2 and N3 -- k2tog, k to end.
Round 2: Knit.

Repeat these two rnds until 15 sts remain. Break yarn leaving a long tail and run through all sts.
Pull top of mitten closed an weave in yarn end on WS.

Slip 15 reserved sts at thumb gore from scrap yarn to ndl. With second ndl and yarn, pick up and knit 9 sts along the top of gore opening (24 sts total). Distribute sts evenly onto 3 ndls (8 sts per ndl).

Rounds 1–8 (or until thumb is 1 inch short of desired length): Knit.
Round 9: N1, N2 and N3 -- k2tog, k to end.
Round 10: Knit.

Repeat Rounds 9 and 10 until 8 sts remain.
Break yarn leaving an ample tail and run through all sts.
Pull top of thumb closed and weave in yarn end on WS.


Wash according to yarn manufacturer’s instructions, and gently block to shape.

Franklin Habit is a knitter, writer, illustrator and photographer who lives in Chicago. His first book, It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoonslink, is available from Interweave Press.

Visit his blog at