A Pair of 1838 Knitted Muffatees

In the middle of 2020 we made the decision to move our small family back to Illinois to be closer to family during the pandemic. We were thrilled to find this old farmhouse in the countryside built about 1903. The summer and fall were splendid as we got to know our knew home. I baked an apple pie using the apples from our apple tree to celebrate the autumn equinox and made a jar of blackberry jam using the berries I harvested from our blackberry bushes. And now winter has settled in and we are experiencing our first bout of cold weather in our new home.

We have learned quickly that our windows are a bit drafty and certain rooms are a bit colder than the others, depending upon which side of the house the wind is blowing on. In our small family, it appears that I am the only one who gets cold rather easily; our daughter is as warm blooded as her papa! Having a cooler house during the winter doesn’t bother me too much because I can put all of my knitted goodies to good use during this time of the year. However, my hands and my fingers tend to freeze, even when the rest of me is bundled up! To help keep my hands warm while I go about my daily tasks, I’ve decided to knit up a pair of muffatees.

Muffatees is a tube of fabric sewn up the side with a hole left open for your thumb. This can be made of warm cloth or it can be easily knit up. After browsing the interwebs, I was eventually led to The Workwoman’s Guide by A Lady for a pattern to make a pair of muffatees. This manual, first published in 1838, contains “Instructions to the inexperienced in cutting out and completing those articles of wearing apparel, &c., which are usually made at home; also, explanations on upholstery, straw-platting, bonnet-making, knitting, &c.” In it I was able to find several different patterns for knitting a pair of muffatees.

Below I will include an image of the original instructions and my interpretation of the pattern to suit my needs. This pattern is great for any beginner knitters and I will provide optional pattern designs too.

Frontpiece of A Workwoman’s Guide by A Lady

A selection of muffatee knitting patterns from The Workwoman’s Guide

To Knit a Pair of Muffatees

Materials

  • US size 5 / 3.75mm needles (either straight needles or circular needles will do)
  • DK weight yarn
    • Kelbourne Woolens Scout in Juniper Heather (21 g/ 57.5 yds)
    • Jagger Spun Green Line in Twig (26 g/ 86.3 yds)
  • Tapestry needle

Muffatee Length Options

  • Shorter Length
    • Kelbourne Woolens Scout in Juniper Heather (green)
    • Approximately 5 inches in length
  • Longer Length
    • Jagger Spun Green Line in Twig (brown)
    • Approximately 7 inches in length
Plate 21 from The Workwoman’s Guide illustrating the different finished knitting patterns

Instructions

Cast on 25 stitches for the shorter length OR 35 stitches for the longer length. The number of stitches you cast on determines how long the muffatee will be on you hand, wrist, and arm. Use your choice of cast on method, I used the long-tail cast on. Note: Leave a long enough tail from your cast on to be used to sew up the side seam.

Follow the pattern below:

  • Row 1 (Right Side): Knit
  • Row 2 (Wrong Side): Purl
  • Row 3 (RS): Purl
  • Row 4 (WS): Knit

Repeat the 4-row pattern until the knitted fabric is wide enough to wrap around your wrist. For both the shorter and longer lengths I repeated the pattern a total of 14 times. This may be different for you, it is dependent upon your wrist circumference, weight of yarn used, and your knitting gauge.

Once you are satisfied with the width of your knitted piece, bind off the muffatee leaving a tail long enough to use for sewing up the side seam.

Repeat the above steps for the second muffatee.

After completing the second muffatee, fold each of the muffatee pieces in half so that the garter ridges run vertically. Mark where your thumb hole will be and use the tails from the cast on and the bind off to sew on either side of the thumb hole using the tapestry needle. (This is a great way to use up those tails that you would already need to weave in without having to use additional yarn.)

Turn the pieces right-side out and wear your 1838 muffatees to keep you hands warm!

The shorter version of the 1838 Muffatees

Pattern Options

You can easily customize this pattern beyond just how long or short you want the mitts to be. Below are two more options beyond the 2 x 2 garter ridges listed above.

For The Absolute Beginner: Garter Stitch

This pattern only requires you to know how to cast on, knit the knit stitch, and bind off.

Cast on 25, 35, or your own desired number of stitches.

Knit each row (front and back) until the piece has reached your desired width.

Bind off and finish the muffatee as described above.

The 3 x 3 Garter Ridges

This pattern gives you 3 rows per garter ridge, instead of the 2 ridges per garter ridge as the above pattern.

Cast on 25, 35, or your own desired number of stitches.

Follow the pattern below:

  • Row 1(Right Side): Knit
  • Row 2(Wrong Side): Purl
  • Row 3 (RS): Knit
  • Row 4 (WS): Knit
  • Row 5 (RS): Purl
  • Row 6 (WS): Knit

Repeat the pattern until the piece has reached your desired width. Bind off and finish the muffatee as described above.


This is a very versatile pattern and a quick pattern to knit up, so much so that I would even recommend it as a first project for a new knitter. I already have plans of knitting a third pair of muffatees that are long enough to cover my forearms because I tend to wear blouses have 3/4 length sleeves.

If you take the time to knit a pair (or more), I would love to see how you adapted this pattern for yourself! You can tag me on Instagram @historicalhomemaker or share your project with me on Ravelry.

Happy Knitting!

-Bethany

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