History Knitting Leeds world war two

Wartime Fingerless Gloves

Dad, 1947, Palestine

More wartime knitting. And it’s been a productive week.

Here’s dad in Palestine in 1947. Not entirely the sort of place you’d need fingerless gloves, or balaclavas.  Although I’m sure he was very glad of them when he got back to rainy old Leeds, later this same year.

He does remind me of the men in 1940s/50s knitting patterns though – endlessly smoking and making it look cool, somehow.

He was always a pipe man, never saw him with a cigarette. He’d buy tins of tobacco in a tobacconist (still, incredibly there!) on the Market Place in Selby. It’s where I got my obsession with tins, I think – those tobacco tins with pretty pictures on.   He stopped smoking when I was a teenager in the 1970s, but he’d still always smoke just one cigar – when he put me back on the train or the National Express coach to university. He smoked to show how proud he was of me!

Knitted Comforts For Servicemen

Here’s the balaclava from ‘Knitted Comforts For Servicemen’, Leech-Way Wools.  I knitted this precisely as per pattern, using British Breeds guernsey 5 ply wool. That little widow’s peak at the top is down to bad photostyling – he’s since squidged it down. It was the total opposite of the Edwardian balaclava with a bottom up construction. The rapid decreases at the top (actually at the sides once you got halfway up the face) are what give it that shape.  It’s much more snug round the face – draught-proof. It’s fine in wear,  but we took this hastily before he jumped in the car for work.

And then, the matching servicemen’s fingerless gloves.

I adapted the gloves heavily as the pattern was written for a finer grist yarn, and also I wanted to do the thumbs and fingers in the way I’m used to. I also closed the thumb with ribbing to prevent it being gappy. You may notice the fingers are knitted a bit shorter than the originals, too. You can play about with that acc. to personal preference,  if you want to try knitting these!

So, this pattern belongs to an anonymous pattern writer from a WW2 woollen mill, not me. But, I will give you my heavily adapted version which looks identical to the photo in Knitted Comforts, andwas probably much faster to knit! Vintage patterns are great to simply use or adapt – but I never forget the often anonymous original designers!

These are going to be invaluable in the current weather as poor Worser Half is outside all day. The 5″ long cuffs alone make them worth the effort – and they’re the work of just 2 evenings at my fairly snaily pace.

You can find British Breeds Yarns here. And I hope you do, as British wool is worth promoting and using!  See the Campaign For Wool here.

“Knitted Comforts For Service Men”

I’d imagine with a bit of fiddling, these might work with DK but I used guernsey wool as it’s what I had to hand (geddit?) – plus, it is worsted not woollen spun, so makes the pattern ‘pop’.

This 70 year old pattern deserves to be used and out there.

Knitted Comforts For Servicemen

Fingerless Gloves

Pattern adapted heavily.

2 balls British Breeds 5 ply Guernsey yarn

1 set 2.5mm DPNs, or circ for magic loop.



Cast on 44 sts (needle 1: 15, needle 2: 15, needle 3: 14 on 3 needles, if using DPNs).

Work in K1, P1 rib for 5”.

K 1 round stocking stitch, at end round M1 st [45st]

Establish pattern.

Round 1: Knit

Round 2:  * K1, P1, Rep from * to end

Round 3: Knit

Round 4:  *P1, K1,, Rep from * to end

Knit 4 complete rounds, then

Establish Thumb

At end of needle one (or, 15 sts in if doing magic loop),  Make 1 st purlwise.

K 1 round, staying in pattern, purling the new stitch. This is going to be the base of your thumb gusset.

On 3rd round after making st, M1 st purlwise  in the space before the new st; K the purled st, M 1 st purlwise after it. (You now have 3 sts, at base of thumb)

Continue to Purl the 2 P sts, and inc 1 st after the first P and before the final P, every 3rd round.  K thumb in stocking stitch, but as you knit it, cont rest of glove in patt.

When you have made 11 plain sts (13 sts inc the 2 Ps), place these 13 sts on waste yarn and continue to knit up glove in patt, for 1 and a quarter inches. This completes the patterned part of glove.


1st Finger

Do fingers in stocking stitch.

Centre Finger 1, over thumb, by using 6 sts from end of needle 1, and 6 sts from start of needle 2. Put rest of sts on waste yarn.

K round these 12 sts, M 2 stitches [14 sts], between fingers 1 & 2. K 4 rounds, cast off loosely.

2nd Finger

Pick up 6 sts from palm side.  Pick up 4 sts between Fingers 1 & 2, but immediately (K 2 tog) twice, so you have 2 new sts, not 4 (this eliminates holes). Then,  pick up 6 sts from back of hand side and M 2 sts between Fingers 2 & 3. [16 sts]. K 4 rounds, cast off loosely.

3rd Finger

Pick up 5 sts from palm side, M2 sts , pick up 6 sts from back of hand side,  Pick up 4 sts from between fingers 2 & 3 – again, reduce immediately down to 2 by (K 2 tog) twice; [[15 sts], K 4 rounds, cast off loosely.

4th Finger

Pick up remaining  10 sts, pick up 5 sts between fingers 3 and 4, K 4 rounds, cast off loosely.


Pick up the 13 sts waiting for you.  Pick up 3 stitches from side of hand.  [16 sts].

Knit 4 rounds in K2, P2 rib. Cast off loosely.

Knit Glove 2.

For Thumb On Glove 2

Start thumb gusset at end second needle. Knit as per first.

Picture Credits: 21stC photos: Alexander Hunt.


13 replies on “Wartime Fingerless Gloves”

I’m relatively new at this and was so happy to find this pattern here that I immediately cast-on.

I’ve don’t my 45 cast-on and during my first 15 st rib it dawned on me… this was an odd # cast-on. If I go K-P-K-P… all the way ’round for 5″, it’ll result in a seed stitch, not a rib (which would need a 44 or 46 stitch cast-on)

Since I need the 45 sts for when I get to the thumb and fingers, what does a guy do here? Do I add/subtract for the time being until I get to the thumb? Do I K-P-K-K-P-K when I get to the start of the next round during my rib so I can stay ribbed?

I could really use some “hand holding” here (if you’ll pardon the pun.)

Wonderful pics, by the way.

Thanks in advance.


Sorry, Tim – I have edited it now. I should have said cast on 44, then make 1 straight after ribbing.

As you rightly say, you need an even # of sts, so I would unravel and re-start with 44 or if you have done a few rounds, K 2 tog to give you 44, then increase later (as above) – just to keep the ribbing looking right. My mistake – apologies!

Liked by 1 person

I found your website and these wonderful gloves in a very happy accident. However, nowhere do I find the gauge or tension noted. I see your recommendation for U.S. sport weight yarn, which helps. What is the gauge/tension? Thanks so much from Colorado, USA.


Hi Rachel

It would be hard to match the grist of 5 ply exactly, but you could try fudging it with any brand non-wool DK (US sports weight) – maybe change the needle size slightly (so long as you check tension first!) Perfectly possible though. Yarnbox have 100% alpaca. Or you could try a Rowan cotton. Purlescence stock Handmaiden Seasilk which is a blend of silk and seacell – horrendous price as it’s a US import, I think, and that is a finer gauge but again, you can mess with the tension by changing needle size and/or adding a repeat or so to the pattern… Or any brand synthetic DK. The best resource online I know for checking out the weights and typical tensions of yarn (and has full description of fibre content) is on Ravelry. Worth joining if you’re not already a member. Then search the ‘Yarns’ tab. Let us know how you get on! (Pics would be great too!) as I know many knitters have an allergy to wool, and it’s useful to share what works with everyone!

Hope that helps a bit!


I’m going to try the pattern with this yarn in the colors of black and orange. No, these gloves aren’t for halloween, but rather to wear while I watch a baseball team in Northern california play. It gets really cold in San Francisco! I’ll post pictures here when I get the gloves in progress and done. 🙂

thanks for the help!


I’m so glad I stumbled upon your website. I really enjoy the vintage patterns with a bit of history. These are very practical and the pattern was easy to follow. Thank you!


Thank you — this pattern is exactly what I was looking for, and I found it quite by accident. Those are always the sweetest finds! I will be making a pair for my teenage son for Christmas.


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