Monday, December 21, 2009

Afterthoughts in Knitting

Again, the spoiler alert is just for my sisters. (I think at least one of them is still honouring them!)

I wanted to give you an update on the mittens I'm working on. I have finished the first one, and am well on my way for the second. It's been a bit of a slog, I must say. I haven't had "second sock syndrome" hit me before, but I think "second mitten syndrome" is trying to take root. I am fighting hard.

I'm getting concerned about finishing on time, but I did buy myself a little more time by arranging the gift exchange for Boxing Day (December 26). I'm not working the 24th or 25th so they are my emergency knitting days if I really need them. But meanwhile, I try to keep working on them to minimize the last minute panic. (And I do have to give time to block them.)

I have two things to share about the mittens today: the first is finishing the top point and the second is preparing for afterthought thumbs (and heels, in socks).

The directions call for you to decrease to eight stitches and then just pull the working yarn through the stitches. This would be how you'd normally finish a round piece like the top of a hat or fingertips on a glove. But these mittens aren't round. They come to a flat point.

So what I did instead was to work to four stitches. That left a coloured edge stitch from each side and a brown stitch from the center of both the back and the front.

After cutting the working yarn (leaving about 5 inches), I pulled the brown yarn through first one brown stitch and then the other, and pulled snug.

And then did the same thing with the coloured yarn:
Now the mittens come to a definite point and the coloured edging travels continuously around the edge of the mitten. Much better, no?

The second topic concerns afterthoughts. I first read about them in Elizabeth Zimmermann's book, The Opinionated Knitter. She suggested it as a method to add pockets to a sweater. (Remember when sweaters had pockets?) It's kind of handy to not have to decide exactly where the pocket is going to go until the garment is done. She suggests snipping one thread in the knitting and pulling out stitches in both directions. As you pull the stitches out, you catch live stitches both above and below. This will yield live stitches to work the pocket on. It's really quite ingenious.

With these mittens, the method is adapted for the thumb. It's not exactly "afterthought," however, because you prepare for it by knitting certain stitches at the base of what will be the thumb with a piece of waste yarn:
15 stitches knit in pink waste yarn

Then you slide those stitches from the right needle back to the left needle:
And then knit them again (in pattern) with the working yarn. You end up with the body of the mitten knit according to the pattern, with one extra row knit in the waste yarn:
This waste yarn will be pulled out later and once again live stitches are picked up both above and below. Putting these stitches onto a needle while you unravel the waste yarn gives you the stitches to knit up the thumb (picking up a few in the "corners" to avoid gaps and to give you enough stitches).

This is the first time I've done a thumb this way and I have to say it beats what I used to do--putting stitches onto a holder, casting on stitches to continue working on and then later picking up stitches from the cast on edge.

Funny thing--it's the same method used for the heel on the Outside In socks I'm working on:
I've never done a heel that way either! We'll see how I like it.


  1. Was looking for a link to email you privately as I wasn't sure exactly where to post this, but with Christmas in the heading I thought this was the most appropriate spot. I just wanted to let you know that my husband received one of your earflap hats for Christmas yesterday. It's absolutely beautiful, warm and quite stylish on him (even though the younger generation has claimed this style - he's 43). He and I are actually discussing who needs it most when we're out walking our goldens this season. I'm very excited to have come across your blog as a result of this gift!

  2. Thank you for your kind comments...I hope the hat serves you very well! (Sorry I don't have an email link yet but I'm working on it.)

    Glad you've found the blog; hope you enjoy!


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