Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tutorial: Closing the Thumb Gap

Anyone who has ever knitted mitts or gloves with a traditional thumb gusset has had to deal with the pesky thumb gap problem. Typically, you knit up to the base of the thumb, put the thumb stitches on hold on a length of waste yarn, then cast on a couple of stitches by the backward loop method, and continue on with the hand. Then you come back, put the thumb stitches back onto dpns, pick up some stitches, and work the thumb. It's the picking up the stitches bit that can be problematic. So, step by step, here's what I do:

1. Assume you have 16 thumb stitches on hold. Return those sts to 3 dpns. Divide them 5-6-5.

2. Now, turn the work so that the thumb stitches are at the top, and the stitches that were cast on by backward loop are at the bottom of the opening. The point between those two cast-on stitches will be the start of each round.

3. Knit up the first cast-on stitch as a M1R, then pick up a strand in the gap and work a M1R into it. You now have two M1Rs in a row.

4. Work around all the thumb stitches that started out on waste yarn. You should now be at the second gap.

5. Pick up a strand between the last stitch on your needle and the remaining cast-on stitch, and work a M1L into it. Then, work a M1L into that remaining cast-on stitch. You now have two M1Ls in a row and are finished the set-up round. 20 sts total.

6. On the next round, begin by uniting the first two M1Rs by working them as k2tog. Work around to the last 2 M1Ls and unite them by working them as SSK. 18 sts total.

Voila! You have successfully and neatly closed those nasty holes on either side of the thumb. If there is any lingering looseness, you can always use the yarn end from the start of the thumb to snug things up on the wrong side, but odds are you won't need to do that.

IMPORTANT: Usually when you pick up a strand to work a M1, you pick up a horizontal ladder between two stitches. For this thumb gap business, pick up a half of an actual stitch, the half lying right on the edge of the gap. It's an exception to the rule, and makes the whole thing much tidier.

Here's a schematic to help clarify the process.

Fingerless Gloves in Quince's "Chickadee".

Finally, has anyone else encountered these? I'm not sure if they were produced for Shetland Wool Week, or Chinese New Year. Maybe both!

Now, I'm off to knit a set of bulky mitts in Quince's "Puffin" to go with that top-down hat you see above. Given the state of our weather, I'll be able to get some decent wear out them this season.