Commuter's Secret Weapon

Yesterday, I found myself with a rainy, solitary day on my hands. My gym was closed. The housework was done. It was a holiday. I had no excuse but to sit around the house and finish some knitting projects. After the T-Strap Shoes, next came the mittens.

Here's the Boston commuter's newest secret weapon:


I know what you're thinking. It's a mitten with a pocket. Big whoop!

But not just any pocket, my friends. It's a Charlie Card Pocket!


Without further ado, and just in time for today's cold snap, I present to you the Amazing Charlie Card Mittens! Those of you not from Boston might need some background. The T has recently completed an upgrade to its fare-collection system. Gone are the days of T passes and tokens. Starting in 2007 we're using a new system of rechargeable stored-value cards. I guess that it's a lot like the Oyster card on the London Underground. The cards are passed close to a card reader mounted on the front of the turnstiles. For those of you who don't know, you need not press the pass directly to the card reader. It just needs to get close to the reader.

"Ah, ha!" you're thinking. Exactly! Why not store the pass on my right hand, so that when I get to the turnstile I need only to wave my hand in front of the reader (located on the right side of the turnstile) to gain entry? Why not, indeed! So, when I finished knitting the mittens, I measured my Charlie Card (about the same size as a credit card) and knit a pocket for it that's slightly bigger. I knit a flap and attached a cute button. Now you might understand why it was so important for me to keep these mittens from getting lost, and why I knit the string to keep this pair in my coat.

The Details:

Pattern: use any ol' mitten pattern you have lying around. Mine is from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.

Yarn: Cascade 220 (about a hank and a half)

Needles: US8s

What I changed: Well, I attached the pocket to the front of the right hand, then I knit a loooong i-cord string so that I could tether the mittens to my coat.

Would I knit these again? We'll find out--today's the big test.


Hey, that's clever. It might not be warm enough for today, though. The low for today is *8*, and for tomorrow it's *7*. What the heck happened?

Delurking here.

We have the same thing in Chicago and I am amazed by your cleverness. I want to make myself a pair immediately. I do not commute, but I do take mass transit enough to warrant this, and it's such a hassle to dig in the purse just to wave something in front of the sensor.

I keep mine in my wallet and when i discovered i can just wave my wallet I was thrilled.

They look great! From "T strap" to the "T"--do I sense a theme to this week?

Oh, that's brilliant. No, it's Brilliant. Maybe even BRILLIANT. Now I really, really must make mittens. And I've got my Ann Budd right here.

You are a genius! Well, I had thought that before lurking through your blog, but this one is just fabu!!!! just clever, clever, clever...

Fabulous idea! Very practical, and yet so chic.

Cool! And hey, when are we going to get that technology here in NY? Damn MetroCard readers are always on the fritz, and god forbid your card gets bent...

Those are fantastic!

Fantastic enough to make me wish that I rode the T and needed a pair of mittens with a cute little Charlie Card pocket.

That's a very smart move! So far I've just been passing my wallet near the reader (no need to dig the card out, as it ends up), but this is even more suave!!!

Very clever! I don't live in a place with a subway, but I can definitely appreciate the brilliance of this knit. The color is nice, too!

great idea!!! they have that kind of system on the subway in tokyo. this would be perfect for someone living there. alas, the NYC subway requires that we swipe our metrocard. bummer.

Lovely! I am a lurker, but this deserves a post!

That's awesome. Very smart! Just don't accidentally punch the scanner thing on a bad day, ok?

That is soooo smart!!!! I have to show my EcoPass to the bus drivers and train conductors so that they can see that I've got this months' stamp on it... so it would be of no use. There has been talk of getting a similar system installed here in Lux, but it's been 2 years that they're talking about it :)
Cheers Eva

That is brilliant! Chicago uses a similar fare reader, and I love the idea that you don't have to take your mittens off to get your card out. Great job!

That pocket is brilliant! Why didn't I think of that? ;)

that is so brilliant. i'm looking forward to hearing how it works, because although i don't use a charlie card regularly, i do have to use security cards to get into buildings at work.

Very Clever!

When we were in Singapore, their MRT system had the same cards, and the swipe in a wallet/purse/glove is very handy.

Great idea! And they are truly good-looking mittens, too.

I've just recently heard about the Charlie Card. Your mittens are a great idea.

That is a great idea! We've got pods to gain entry into our building, and I've been known to just toss mine into my mitten when I get out of my car, but a pocket would be a nice touch.

Very creative!

Possibly the best gloves I have ever seen. i need a pair!

Very clever! Let us know how it works in practice!!

Very clever, and so cute I wish I had a use for some.

A practical genius is what you are! I cannot wait to hear the reports of the inaugural swipe!

BONUS! Chicago uses them too. And Washington DC.
And Mastercard and Visa are issuing credit cards with the same technology.
Woo hoo!

ah, smart! and I love that button.

[The DC metro was apparently the first in the US to allow for that type of system, but I never use it! ]

Brilliant! It gives me yet another reason to want to use a Charlie card instead of my cardboard/Charlie ticket montly pass!

oops, I meant I never use the smartcards, not the metro :)

Love them! Here in DC we have Smart Trip cards that work the same. I love the idea of being able to wave my hands and pay the fare -- magic!

Very cute! You can tuck your iPod in there too!

Very clever. Here in San Francisco, we are currently in trials for smart cards like this - can't wait 'til they go mainstream. I'm currently working on fingerless gloves - wonder if there is enough room on those suckers for a card pocket?

You are wicked smart!

What an awesome idea! I was so excited when I realized I didn't ahve to take said card out of my purse, just my purse out of my bag.

That's brilliant!


So. Clever. I hope the card reader works through a layer of 220. You'll have to let us know how it goes today. Makes me wish we also had a mass transit system that I could use to get to where I need to be... grr... Besides being super clever, though, those mitts are really cute and they go so well with your coat!

You are so clever. I definitely want to know how it works.

That is the coolest idea I have seen in a long time! Now I must make a pair for my friend in Japan.

Brilliant! DC Metro uses cards too. Another project to add to the list!

Brilliant idea! It will save me from fumbling in my various coat pockets (and coats) for the Charlie Card. Now, if only the T will get itself organized and send me a Charlie Card (yes, my company was victim to a round of snafus and we still get the monthly pass).

Very ingenious! I almost wish I lived somewhere cold enough to need mittens. Fingerless mitts are all I need in CA. I hope it works.

That is fabulously brilliant. Why can't everything work like that? Cool!

What a cool idea! Love it.

It's a great idea! And you could make just a cotton wrist band to hold it during the summer . . .

What a very super cool idea. Way to go subway knitter!

Wonderful!!! So very clever.

Such a cute idea! And now you can have fun making small children think your mittens are magical.

Now THAT'S a good idea.

Sadly our transit isn't nearly so advanced, we still flash thick paper passes at the driver and the train is on an honour system (though they HAVE been known to check for proof of fare paid.)

That's FANTASTIC! I must make myself a pair for my Charlie Card now... and I love the button, too!

Those are very cool mittens. I had a similar idea, but I have to insert my bus pass. I like that you used a BIG button, too, to make it easier to open and close. I can see you selling these at T stations all over town.

Nice -- even us counrty folks can use that. I could keep my essencial cards (licence, debit card)"handy" and not carry around a big purse.

What a great idea.

what a great idea! i love it.

Very clever! Glad that it worked so well. That'll make life easier in cold weather. Yea!

this is awesome...
i hadn't even thought of the fact that i could keep my card *inside* my mitten, rather than expose my tender, cold-anxious fingers.
and i *do* need a new pair of mittens.. :)

You are a genius.

That is all.

Wonderful! How 'bout a summer version?

Hey, I didn't know there was a scanner! When I was in Boston last week, you had to put the card in the machine and it would pop out on the other side - like with BART cards in SF. A scanner is great!!!!! And your idea superb!!

Very clever! Here in Davis Square, I've been endlessly amused by boys who keep their C. Cards in their back pockets, and just rub their butts against the scanner.

Brilliant idea! Only the subway knitter would come up with that one - it's perfect!

I have posted a link to this blog entry at Boston LiveJournal. You may want to read the comments that are accumulating there:

(how do I post a link in this comment?)

these are so fantastic. i am making some broadstreet mittens (the glove/mitten combination from and i'm going to have to add a pocket now...i didn't realize the machines could read the charlie card through fabric, incredible! thanks for sharing your 'pattern'

Excellent idea! OK, we've only had one or two really cold days in Boston, but I love these!

Hello. Found you through the link on Universal Hub. Posted a story about you to my blog, as well.

I want a pair of knit gloves, men's, in black! Pleeeeeze!!!!


I want one! Let me know how I can buy one, I am no knitter.

Well, I'm the 69th person to say it, but I have to say it again anyway:
(PS John K? $20 for a pair of handknitted gloves? I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but clearly you don't realize that with materials and time $20 would cover maybe a thumb. Geez.)

It would be less practical but I would probably put the pocket on the palm so I could simply approach the scanner, make an "open sesame" movement and have it open up for me.

That is inspirational!!! I love it!!!

oh. my. god. i love you!

Very cool! A link was posted on the MIT stitch'n'bitch list - you're famous everywhere! :-) My co-worker here in MIT Bio is very excited by the idea. Unfortunately the commuter rail is not yet using the card, so I have to have mine out to stick through the machine still. Soon though!

ohmygosh, those mittens are so damn cute! oh, that pocket is the cutest thing ever! and i'm so glad it worked too. very nice mod. colleen. :)

Now you've made it onto

Watch out!

Great idea. Could you possibly post instructions for making the pocket?

I love those! Must make a pair for my Charlie Card...

(Incidentally, I knit on the Orange and Red lines. I suspect Subway Knitters are rare, at least on my commute, because I get stared at a lot.)

What a great idea! I have a tag for the laundry room of my building that works the same way. Maybe I should knit some mittens for that one aswell. But going to the laundry room and thinking about wearing mittens, I don't know... Have to think more about this... ;-)

Colleen- Those are the cutest mittens! You do such beautiful work..I'm impressed!

Stunningly creative!

Holy crap, this is brilliant! I am also a Boston subway knitter, how have I not been reading you already?

Super idea... you could also use a variant to keep coffee cards ala DD, Starbucks, etc. if you didn't use the Charlie Card

Good idea, but personally I would wear them to keep my hands clean while riding on the T.

a coworker just sent me a link to the article about you in the Globe! yay for you!

What a great idea. You should market these for yourself or sell them and donate the money as you wish.

Hi Colleen
2 things. How can i get into the raffle for a set of those mittens? and also are you single? saw your picture in todays boston globe friday 19 January 2007.

Awesome!! Very clever!!

Great idea! And helping Rosie's Place is great too. But really, innovation of this sort needs to be respected. Look into getting a patent or copyright the pattern. It seems clear you created this. You can bet the chain stores would love to have these for their fashion customers. Way to go!

What great mittens!

I agree it's a clever little knitting project, and it's great to help Rosie's Place, but ... my wallet works just fine year round, so why do I need a special place for my card in the winter? Is Charlie cold?

NYC has a pilot program with Mastercard where you get this little key-fob thingie called a "paypass" that you can wave in front of the turnstile on the 4/5/6 line. You can also use it in drugstores and supermarkets. It'd be cool to make a mini-pocket on a mitten or glove for the NYC version. Hmm... yet another project to add to my list!

D'OH scratch that. Subway Knitter wisely pointed out how rotten it would be to lose your credit card key-fob thingie vs. losing your charliecard. We'll hafta wait until our standard metrocards go "swipeless."

Oooh aren't you a clever bugger!

Finally! A great reason to knit my first pair of mittens. Simple, but brilliant.

Awesome mittens. I would totally wear a hooded cloak and wave my hand at the turnstile Jedi-like if Edinburgh had such technologies. Unfortunately, we do not even have a Metro. Buses make me sad; they're not even a little bit underground.

Oh, I hope the NYC MTA gets cards like that soon! I am so tired of having to swipe my metrocard through the turnstile and then it not even working half the time because the turnstile's sensors are dirty!

Yay for Charlie Cards! though I just have mine in an outside pocket of my bag so I just hit the spot with the bag.. but this is a really great idea!

But I miss our tokens.. even if they were old and a pain most of the time..

charlie card!the kingston trio must be proud.i don't live in boston,so it's knews to me.

Its good to see knitting taking it's rightful place in urban planning and design. Not to mention the excellent royal highess aspect of it - wave your hand and you are in! I plan to adapt this for the NYC metrocard (which is currently testing the wave concept). Thanks for the good design.

Those are way cool.

I bet the English would like this too if you filed it under Oyster Card.


These are ingenius! Now, if only I knew how to knit!!!

Hi! And greetings from NYC! ^_^ What an awesome idea - of course, the best ones are usually the simplest, aren't they? I'm going to knit up a pair for my MetroCard. But I'll have to call them MetroCardMittens, won't I? O_o Thanks so much for sharing! ^_^

I saw pictures of two purses. One had a ready made handle. Could I get a copy of these patterns? My neighbor is from Boston and she showed it to me.

This mitten would work in England, too-in London we have 'OYSTER' cards for the Tube and the bus.

I LOVE IT!!!! So sad I didn't find out about this until today, past our -20 degrees snap.

Great Idea!! My daughter lives in Boston and rides the subway every day and sent me this link. She wants me to make her a pair. Getting started today. Thanks.

So far I've usually just put my card into the mitten with my hand. A bit uncomfortable and even cold, but at least I dont have to dig for it. The pocket idea is way cool though! Whenever I get around making mittens..

Great idea! If you see my away-at-college-green-line-commuting-son wearing a pair, give him a hug from me!


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