This month I wrote my newsletter before my blog and discussed the rotation of the thumb in mittens. I got several thoughtful comments and decided I would like to elaborate on the subject of making mittens fit. (To sign up for my free sometimes-monthly newsletter, go to http://www.knittingtraditions.com/contact.htm ) Centering Mitten Motifs While recently designing some fingerless mitts, I dealt again with the issue of centering the motif on the back of the hand. When designing a mitten or glove that is made only of Stockinette stitch in one color, one never has to consider the challenges of centering. But if you make a design that is clearly for the top of the mitten or glove, you must make allowances for the rotation that will occur when you put your thumb in. This causes the top of the hand garment to turn toward the thumb, and if there is no allowance made for that, the motif (and any top-of-the-mitten shaping) will be off-kilter. I have found that by moving my thumb gusset or thumb hole over ½" from the side of the mitten towards the palm, the motif on top and the tip shaping will stay centered. And the mitten will feel like it fits better…um, because it does! Photos: Lying the mitt flat, the front motif seems a bit off-center, but when put on, it centers due to the pull of the thumb. Below, you can more easily see the extra ½" I have added to the side of these Norwegian Mittens which shifts the thumb gusset and thumb hole from the exact side of the mitten to the palm. Now hopefully, any pattern you buy should have all these issues resolved, so that all you have to do is read the instructions and knit. Mitten Gender OK. I just made that term up. Several issues are at hand here (tee hee) to create Mitten Gender. You can knit a Left Mitten, a Right Mitten, and even an Ambidextrous Mitten that goes both ways (Bi-dextual?). The patterning, the tip shaping, and the thumb all contribute to the gender of the mitten! I will focus on The Palm, or gussetless, Thumb for now and hope to add to this Mitten Discussion in other months. The Palm Thumb Mittens without gussets are the easiest to knit. The Latvians know all about this one! They can put their energy into knitting the amazing patterning without being too concerned about working around the thumbs! This thumb is also called an afterthought thumb or waste yarn thumb. The purpose of this thumb is to make a beautiful mitten, unfettered by the interruption of a thumb gusset. The mitten must be designed with roominess in mind, as there is no increasing to accommodate the wider span of the hand. The wrist area tends to be somewhat loose. The thumb of a classic Latvian mitten is barely discernible as the patterning of the thumb mirrors the patterning of the hand beneath. These thumbs make a left and a right mitten, unless the patterning is all-over and Round Tip Shaping is used. In Latvia, pointed tip shaping is common which further defines the Mitten Gender. Interestingly, I noted that the Latvian mittens in my collection don't exhibit thumb rotation and the thumb is situated right on the fold of the mitten. After counting lots of stitches, I realized that the thumbs are so roomy, there is enough space to counteract the torque–no ½" allowance is needed. This beautiful traditional Latvian mitten, knitted by a Latvian, is comprised of 72 sts. One-fourth of that is 18 stitches. The stitches allocated for the thumb numbered 17! (Can you see the thumb there?) It doesn't look like one-fourth of the stitches are used for the thumb, but they are! Generic (non-Latvian) mittens that are constructed this way utilize around 1/5 to 1/6 of the total stitches for the thumb. It looks nice, it fits OK albeit a little snug, but the mitten will rotate once it's put on, unless the thumb hole is moved in ½" from the side. (No, I don’t have the pattern to this beauty. Sorry!) In this Fingerless Mitt, the patterning is the same all the way around and there's no tip shaping, being fingerless, so there is no need to worry about thumb rotation. It has 1/6 of the stitches allocated for the thumb hole and I have moved the hole over a few stitches out of habit, thought I didn't really need to. Here I am taking the waste yarn out of the afterthought thumb hole so I can pick up the stitches to knit the thumb. Since this is not a mitten, but a fingerless mitt, my thumb is not a full ¼ of the total stitches. Because the top is open and won't show any torque I can get away with fewer thumb stitches so the open thumb will fit snugly. To create a Palm Thumb, knit the mitten until the length reaches the point where the thumb begins to branch off from the hand. If you are working with your stitches evenly divided on four needles, you can create the thumb hole from the stitches of the second needle for a left hand mitten, and the stitches of the third needle for a right hand mitten. There are three ways to create the thumb hole. One: A hole could be inserted by cutting one stitch after the mitten is knitted, raveling to the desired width, and picking up the resulting stitches (not for the faint of heart). Two: At the point where the hole is desired, slip the desired number of stitches onto a piece of yarn to hold for later. New stitches are then cast on. (Use Longtail utilizing all the attached yarns so they don't have to strand across the hole.) Three: (this is how I worked the fingerless mitt above) Knit with waste yarn for the desired number of stitches of the hole, slip those stitches back to the left needle and reknit them with the mitten yarn in pattern. The bulkiness of the cast-on and pickup edge is avoided, and there is more flexibility in the knitting around the thumb.