Tesserae fingerless mittens

Deep red-violet fingerless mittens with small Fair Isle patterns in pale and medium pink over the hand

Tesserae fingerless mittens

Tesserae fingerless mittens are the first design in my book Fair Isle Knitting and Design. I designed these fingerless mittens to be easy for knitters new to the stranded colourwork techniques used in Fair Isle knitting. The mittens are easy to knit because only a few colours and techniques are required. Three colours are used: one for the background and one each for the two peerie patterns. The only stranded colourwork technique required is stranding because there are no more than three sequential stitches in any colour.


You knit Tesserae in the round starting with the cuff, which is worked in a single colour 2×2 rib. Then you work the hand using two colours at a time and stranding the colour, not in use. You finish the mitten with another 2×2 rib. The ribs ensure a snug fit around the wrist and the fingers. Finally, you knit folk-style, forethought thumbs. When you knitted each hand, you will have marked the position of the thumbs, using waste yarn. You start each thumb by removing the waste yarn and placing the live stitches onto your knitting needles. You then work each thumb in stocking stitch and finish them with a 1×1 rib.

The pattern for Tesserae fingerless mittens is only available in my book. The book also includes step-by-step photo tutorials for stranding yarn, the only stranded colourwork technique used in Tesserae.

My yarn choice

My favourite yarn for Fair Isle knitting is Shetland Spindrift from Jamieson’s of Shetland (4-ply weight; 100% Shetland wool; 105m | 115 yds per 25 grams). Spindrift comes in over 200 beautiful colours, including both natural-undyed and mill-dyed colours. This yarn is light and ‘sticky’ because it is woollen-spun. Both of these properties are great for stranded colourwork. A stranded knitted fabric is thicker than usual for the yarn weight, because of the layer of floats on the wrong side of the fabric. Using a lightweight yarn helps to keep the stranded fabric light enough to be comfortable for garments and accessories. The ‘stickiness’ occurs because of the tiny fibres on the outside of the yarn clink to each other. These fibres help the floats to stay in place which helps keep the knitted stitches even.

I knitted my Tesserae fingerless mittens using Loganberry (a deep purple) for the background and Sherbert and Rose for the peerie patterns.

You will need one ball of the background colour, about 6 g of the colour for the larger pattern and about 2 g of the colour for the smaller pattern.
The Tesserae fingerless mittens come in one size:

  • To fit palm circumference: 19 cm | 7 ½ inches.
  • Finished circumference: 20 cm | 7 ¾ inches.
  • Finished length: 18.5 cm | 7 ¼ inches.

I used 2.75 mm | UK 12 | US 2 and 3.25 mm | UK 10 | US 3 double-pointed needles. The pattern is written so you can use your preferred method of knitting small circumferences (double-pointed needles, magic loop or two circulars). You will also need a stitch marker, for marking the start of the round, some smooth waste yarn, for the forethought thumb placement and a blunt-ended yarn or tapestry needle, for weaving in the yarn ends. Mitten blockers are optional.

Alternative yarns

If you would like to use a different yarn, for your Tesserae fingerless mittens, look for one with a similar meterage (yardage). As explained above, woollen spun yarn will work best, particularly if this is your first time knitting a Fair Isle design.

2-ply Jumper weight, Jamieson & Smith (4-ply weight; 100% Shetland wool; 125 m | 115 yds per 25 grams). Undyed or mill-dyed.

Pip Colourwork, Baa Ram Ewe (4-ply weight; 100% British wool; 126 m | 116 yds per 25 grams). Mill-dyed.

Choosing different colour palettes

The Tesserae fingerless mittens are a good project for a knitter wanting to choose colours for the first time because only three colours are needed.

In the last chapter of my book, I show you how to use colour theory to create a simple colour scheme for your Tesserae fingerless mittens. This will help you create original colour combinations, rather than choosing your favourite colours for every project. The aim is to use colour theory as a starting point, to find pleasing colour combinations of the yarn that you have, rather than stick rigidly to any rules.

Here are three alternative monochromatic colour palettes:

  1. Sherbert for the smaller peerie pattern, Cherry for the background and Plum for the larger peerie pattern.
Suggested colour palette for Tesserae fingerless mittens: Sorbet, Cherry and Plum in Shetland Spindrift
  1. Lavender for the larger peerie pattern, Violet for the background and Orchid for the smaller peerie pattern.
Suggested colour palette for Tesserae fingerless mittens: Lavender, Violet and Orchid in Shetland Spindrift.
  1. Lunar for the larger peerie pattern, Cobalt for the background and Cloud for the smaller peerie pattern.
Suggested colour palette for Tesserae fingerless mittens: Lunar, Cobalt and Cloud in Shetland Spindrift.

Tesserae fingerless mittens pattern options

The pattern for the Tesserae fingerless mittens is only available in my book, Fair Isle Knitting and Design, which you can purchase from the Being Knitterly webshop. It is only available as the standard version for right-handed knitters. The Tesserae yarn pack, containing Shetland Spindrift in the original colours, and balls of Shetland Spindrift are also available from the Being Knitterly webshop.