Knit the Mittens from Jan Brett’s The Mitten!

Although technically Jan Brett’s books are for children, they are loved by people of all ages. The stories always are charming, but for many needleworkers, Jan’s illustrations are of particular interest.

Kathy Augustine’s sweet mittens inspired by the mittens Nicki’s Baba knits for him in Jan Brett’s The Mitten (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 1989). This version features an embroidered design. Photos by Joe Coca.

Kathy Augustine’s sweet mittens inspired by the mittens Nicki’s Baba knits for him in Jan Brett’s The Mitten (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 1989). This version features an embroidered design. Photos by Joe Coca.

Here’s an excerpt from Kathy Augustine’s article, “Inside The Mitten: A Peek into Jan Brett’s Adaptation of a Classic Ukrainian Folktale,” in the September/October 2016 issue of PieceWork:


Descriptive details breathe life into a story, and Jan Brett’s books, through words and illustrations, are always pulsating with energy. One of her most popular stories, the retelling of the Ukrainian folktale, The Mitten (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 1989), has become ageless through its captivating and endearing drawings.

Nicki lives with his grandmother Baba in a snug cottage at the edge of the woods. He wishes for a pair of new mittens as white as the snow that he loves so much. Although his grandmother advises against it, she relents and knits him a pair from her handspun wool yarn. When Nicki next ventures out with his new wool mittens, just as Baba had anticipated, he loses one in the snow. . . .

Many interesting details are included in her artwork for The Mitten. Inside the snug cottage, a warm fire glows in the decoratively painted hearth. Ornate plates adorn the wooden mantle, and colorful skeins of handspun wool spill out of a handmade basket. Nicki’s clothes are purposefully drawn to be just a little big on him, just as they would have been made, to allow for growth. Because children’s outfits typically needed to last for more than one season, Nicki must belt his oversized embroidered tunic shirt and tuck the hems of his roomy pants into his colorfully patterned knitted woolen socks. Traditional needlework designs trim his bulky sheepskin coat and leather boots.

The snowy countryside is filled with animals that Nicki unwittingly disturbs from their shelter while he is outside playing. Through Jan’s sidebar drawings beautifully framed in a mitten cut-out on a birch-bark background, readers can follow Nicki’s adventures and anticipate the next animal that will be introduced. Additionally, colorful traditional embroidered motifs are on the sidebar frames. Every page of the storybook is a visual feast.

This version of Kathy Augustine’s mittens for young children are without the embroidered design, making the left- and right-hand mittens interchangeable.

This version of Kathy Augustine’s mittens for young children are without the embroidered design, making the left- and right-hand mittens interchangeable.


Kathy Augustine designed a companion project to go with her article on Jan Brett: Nicki’s Winter Mittens to Knit and Embroider. Kathy’s introduction to the project includes: “Be sure to knit several pairs for your young and adventurous fans of Jan Brett’s timeless and enchanting book. One pair is decorated with colorful embroidery based on the design featured on the back cover of The Mitten. When fashioned without the embroidery, the left- and right-hand mittens are interchangeable.” The mittens measure 7 inches (17.8 cm) long and 5½ inches (14.0 cm) in hand circumference.

And with our newest PieceWork kit, you can do just that! The Mittens to Knit from Jan Brett’s The Mitten Kit includes the yarn for knitting two pairs of the mittens and working the embroidery, a copy of the September/October 2016 issue of PieceWork, which is filled with literary-inspired articles and projects, and a copy of Jan Brett’s The Mitten. Make the mittens, wrap them up with the copy of The Mitten, and make a gift that a youngster will adore.

Happy knitting and reading,

Jeane Hutchins