Over the years I’ve made dozens of mittens and fingerless mitts and I thought it would be fun to pull out all of my mitts and mittens and talk about the different types of thumbs that can be used. Most of these patterns can be found on Ravelry, but the links below go to other websites.
This is my current mitten collection. The two pairs on the left have already been given as gifts, I’ve been wearing the two pairs on the bottom right for years, and I just finished the pair on the top right last Spring.
These are all of my fingerless mitts. The two in the upper left are my own design, Traveling Mitts and Downtown Alley. I like to keep a lot of fingerless mitts around because they wear out after a few years.
I made this pair several years ago and they are just starting to wear out. The pattern for these mittens comes from The Mitten Book, a collection of Swedish colorwork mitten designs. They use a simple afterthought thumb with no increases. This is one of the easiest thumbs to make but it’s not the best fitting. At the point where the thumb separates from the hand half the thumb stitches are knitted with waste yarn and then again with the working yarn. After the mitten is finished the waste yarn is removed leaving live stitches on the top and bottom to work the thumb.
These are my Downtown Alley fingerless mitts. They use a vertical opening for the thumb created by working flat for the length of the thumb slit. They opening is reinforced with cabled stitches at the top and bottom.
All of these mitts and mittens have thumb gussets. The gusset usually begins with 1 stitch and 2 stitches for every 2 or 3 rounds are increased on each side of the center stitch until the gusset is as wide as the circumference of the thumb. Then all of the gusset stitches are held on waste yarn, 1 stitch is cast on to replace the center stitch, and the mitt or mitten is finished. The held stitches are then returned to the needles to finish the thumb. From left to right the patterns are Belle Ruffle Gloves, CanCans, my own unpublished design, and Pattern 1 from Mostly Mittens: Ethnic Knitting Designs From Russia.
These are all my Norwegian mittens and I think this type of thumb, a combination of the afterthought thumb and the thumb gusset, is my favorite. Stitches are increased on the palm similar to the thumb gusset, but only half of the thumb stitches are increased. When the gusset stitches are set aside on waste yarn an equal number of stitches is cast on. I especially like how the gusset shaping is incorporated into the colorwork on the palm and back of the hand. The patterns on the left and right are from Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition and the pattern in the center is the Broughton Mittens from Ysolda.
My Traveling Mitts are shaped with single increases that start below the wrist on the palm of the hand. When the number of stitches equivalent to the width of the thumb is increased the thumb stitches are set aside. This type of thumb fits very well and allows the pattern from the back of the hand to continue uninterrupted onto the thumb.
Are you knitting mittens this winter? Tell me about it in the comments! Thank you for knitting!