Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Generic Mittens - From Wrist to Thumb

Before the instruction for the mitten from wrist to thumb, I wanted to respond to one of the comments from the previous Generic Mitten post.

Felicity from the comments said:

What little bit of the colour pattern you had done looks really pretty, and I'm really looking forward to seeing more since I can't stand doing colour work myself.

Thanks, Felicity, and I'd really encourage anyone to try this pattern as it's not really colorwork! It's kind of a cheat. You do one round in pattern with your main neutral color and then purl a complete round with your color. The patterned row makes it look like you've actually been doing fancy color work - when you haven't. Each row only used one color! If you use a solid and a handpainted yarn, the effect can look quite intricate.

Now onto the mitten...

step 1: what kind of thumb
I know of three. Feel free to chime in if you know of others - I love learning new things. There's the thumb with a gusset kind of thumb, and the thumb that just sticks out of the mitten. With both of these, when you get to the part where the thumb stitches are, you put the sts on a holder and cast new sts on to replace them. Later you go back and knit the sts on the holder and some new stitches that you pick up in the same place as the cast on sts. The third kind is an after thought thumb. You knit your mitten happily until it's time to decrease and close the top. Then you decide where to put your thumb. You snip the yarn in the centre of that spot, carefully unravel just the right amount of sts for the thumb, place them onto some needles and knit to your thumbs size. I like making a thumb gusset - I find the mittens just fit me better that way. I do have some that have the other kind of thumb, too - they are my Bayerische mittens and I just couldn't figure out how to make the thumb gusset blend nicely with Eunny's beautiful cables so I didn't make a gusset.

But before we go on from Wrist to Thumb, we need to know what kind you want to make. I'm making one with gussets, but I'll give instructions for both.

step 2: setting up for the thumb gusset
This might be a good place to discuss a phenomenon known as finger claustrophobia. I believe Grumperina coined the term and I agree whole heartedly with her that mittens should be just right. I think this may vary for each person. I usually get the right amount of stitches for my fingers when I'm working in stockinette if I stick to my hand diameter measurement. But if I'm doing something with lots of ribbing, or cables I might add 0.5 to 1.0 inches worth of stitches to ensure my fingers don't feel cramped. For the pattern I'm using for this tutorial, I'm not adding any sts. Feel free to add some (or not) to yours!

I'll assume you've already increased, if needed, (or in the case of my mitten, decreased) to the right amount of stitches for your hand.

If you're making the gusset-less mittens, you can skip this step and just knit happily along in your chosed pattern instead.

For the Right mitten
Round 1: Knit 4, pm, m1, pm, knit to the end of the round. The sts between the markers will be the thumb gusset sts.
Round 2: Knit
Round 3: Knit to the marker, slip marker, m1, k1, m1, knit to the end of the round.
(For the left mitten, round 1 would look like this:
Round 1: knit to the last 4 sts, pm, m1, pm, knit 4)

I find with kids' mittens, it's best to make your thumb gusset increases every second round. For adults, I increase every third round. For this stitch pattern, I'm increasing every 6th round, since the row gauge is quite tight.

step 3: knitting the thumb gusset
Continue knitting your mitten hand in pattern, increasing for the thumb gusset on the inside of the markers when it's appropriate for the size and gauge of mitten you're making. If you wish to include your thumb gusset in the pattern you might have to fiddle with things a bit. For the stitch pattern I'm using, I've found that it's best to have an even number of sts between the markers, so I omitted the m1 in Round 1 above.

If you're making the other kind of thumb, continue knitting happily along in pattern

Remember your measurements from "Generic Mittens: Getting Started"? Look back at Measurement 4: thumb diameter and Measurement 3: wrist to thumb.

Calculate the number of sts you would need to make your thumb diameter + plus a bit for comfort - I'm adding 0.25 inches:

Thumb diameter_______sts/inch_______thumb gusset sts

For my mitten:
(2.5 + 0.25)inches x 6.5sts/inch = 17.875, so 18sts.

This works well for me, since I want an even number of sts between my markers. When I make a plain mitten, I'd likely round this down to 17. Figure out the number of gusset sts you need and then meet me at step 4.

step 4: setting aside the thumb sts
Once you have the right amount of sts between your markers for your thumb gusset, measure the length of your work from the end of the ribbing. You are aiming to get Measurement 3: wrist to thumb. If it's way too long, unfortunately you'll need to rip back and increase for your thumb gusset more frequently. If it's too short, that's ok - continue knitting without increasing until you have the right measurement.

If you're making a mitten without the gussets, simply knit until the distance from the ribbing equals this measurement.

Get a stitch holder, or a waste piece of yarn ready. Knit to one sts before your first marker, transfer one st on either side of the gusset and the gusset sts to a stitch holder or onto a waste piece of yarn. Using the knitted cast-on, cast on 2 sts to replace the ones that were on the outside of the markers. Continue knitting in pattern to the end of the round.

If you're making a gusset-less mitten:
For the right mitten
Knit 4, slip half the stitches needed for your thumb onto a stith holder or waste piece of yarn. Using a knitted cast-on, cast-on the same number of sts. Knit to the end of the round.

For the left mitten
First a little math: 1/2 thumb sts + 4 = _____. In my case that number would be 9+4 = 13
Knit until that number of sts remian, slip half the stitches needed for your thumb onto a stitch holder or waste piece of yarn. Using a knitted cast-on, cast-on the same number of sts. Knit 4.

Once I have both my mittens to this point, I'll post the next installment of this tutorial, "Generic Mittens: From Thumb to Pinkie Tip"

Oopsies (added Jan 21/10)
Just a little blip here! I had thought to add this bit of info to the decreases for the top, but realized it's needed here.

Depending on the type of top decrease I'm planning for my mitten, I'll sometimes make the left and right mitten identical - I like to call them ambidextrous mittens. Other times, I need to make sure the thumb of the mitten lays just to the inside of the palm, rather than sticking out to the side. To accomplish this, I'll knit a certain amount of stitches before beginning my thumb gusset. For the right mitten, I knit this amount at the beginning of the row; for the left, at the end of the row.

In step 2 where it says "knit 4..." and then for the left mitten "... knit 4", these 4 sts are the magic number for my typical worsted weight mitten. If you're using a heavier or lighter yarn, you'll need to decrease or increase this amount a bit - approximately 3/4 of an inch's worth of sts.


Julie said...

awesome detail, these are great! Maybe when you are done with the tutorial, you should have it as a pdf on your sidebar? Then people could download all the tutorials for mitts at one go. Just a thought!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm following along with these, as a lot of what you're showing is helpful for some wrist warmers I've been planning--especially this bit about the thumb gusset.

And that is a rather nifty trick with purling the next row with another colour! I may have to try it on a pair of socks sometime. I bet it would make for an awesome cuff.

PogKnits said...

Great Idea, Julie! I started on the PDF today. I'll post it to the sidebar once I'm done the tutorial!