Maybe it’s because I’ve got my mother’s hands.
Big, substantial hands, with a big, strong thumb.
Or maybe it’s just because I want my mittens to fit perfectly.
A mitten hand is easy enough to design – just measure as you go and be sure to check your gauge, and you can make it fit.
But a thumb is a slippery part of the anatomy to cater to.
When you’ve got hands like mine, the thumb just won’t fit into some generic tube stuck onto the side of the hand, as so many mittens are designed.
Ever since I designed my first pair of mittens, I’ve tried to achieve the perfect mitten thumb.
I reached true understanding when I knitted a pair of mittens designed by Brittany Tyler, co-founder of “Tangled” – the knit and crochet online magazine.
What Is The Secret To A Perfect Mitten Thumb?
First, the mitten thumb has to be in the right place.
Look below at the photos of my hand, shown from the side.
If your pattern ignores the natural position of the thumb, you’ll end up having to hold your thumb like I do in the right-hand photo – not very comfortable.
An added challenge: when designing for two-at-a-tine, the stitches have to be perfectly set up from the get-go: you can’t adjust the stitches once you’ve started.
So to offset a thumb correctly, the trick is to figure out how many stitches you need for the offset, plan out where each stitch will go, and then divide the stitches correctly for Magic Loop right at the beginning.
Requirement #2: The Thumb Should Be Wider Towards The Palm
A thumb is not a cylinder stuck to a rectangle. See the photo below.
For the perfect mitten thumb, you need to pick up and knit as many stitches as can possibly fit between the hand and the thumb, but be careful – the thicker your yarn, the fewer stitches you can pick up before things start getting unwieldy.
Then, in order to rapidly taper the hand into the thumb without any holes, you have to decrease many times in the same row, until the knitting matches the circumference of your thumb.
The Ultimate Mitten Thumb Incorporates Both Thumb Principles
When used correctly, these concepts, which I came to deeply understand as I wrote and re-wrote the mitten patterns for this post, result in what I call the Ultimate Mitten Thumb. The key:
Get To Understand Mittens With 2 New Mitten Patterns
Because KnitFreedom is all about teaching you intermediate knitting techniques and tips as you knit, I use good, basic patterns as the starting points for all my video lessons.
And while of course you can use any method to knit in the round, I always add specific directions for Magic Loop, to help those of you just learning the technique.
When I filmed and published How To Knit Mittens last summer, I designed these basic bulky-weight mittens for Magic Loop for the main project.
The knitting would goes fast and students quickly learn all the steps.
Tons of students then asked for a worsted-weight version of the same pattern.
So, just in time for summer, I’m publishing both the worsted-weight and bulky-weight versions free to my readers.
Students also told me it would be a great idea to do a video demonstrating the tricky bits of the Ultimate Mitten Thumb.
I was happy to oblige – the video is below the pattern downloads.
Video Demo: How To Knit The World’s Best Mitten Thumb
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Equipped with these two basic patterns, plus the above video on the slightly-tricky Ultimate Mitten Thumb, you’ll be ready to turn out at least a dozen pairs of mittens by this Christmas.
My Latest Travel Adventure: A Perfect Month In California
I have a secret for you – I grew up in Palo Alto (proud home of Google, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Xerox, and more…) but haven’t been back to visit in more than ten years. Eek!
My Ima (mom) and I are such better friends than we were when I moved away after high school that it was a pleasure and a treat to be able to stay with her this month.
We walked together, talked late into the night, cooked for each other, supported each other in our business endeavors, and just shared our lives.
Here are a few photos from my month in sunny Palo Alto…
First – a MUST for enjoyable and responsible transportation:
Yep, I bought a used bike, as is my custom almost everywhere I go when I stay for more than a month. This one is a bona-fide collector’s item (a Centurion with a mixte frame) and, of course, it’s red – my favorite color.
That said, bikes are for getting places, not just looking cool and environmentally-friendly.
I even used the skills I’ve learned from running KnitFreedom over the past year and a half to help the wonderful studio owner with her website – and scored a month of free yoga!
I highly recommend her Mountain View Yoga Studio if you’re in the area.
Although my mom and I were working too hard on our own businesses (she’s becoming a real estate agent in her second career) to spend lots of time out and about, we made a point every week to get to the Palo Alto Sunday Farmer’s Market, which takes place year round. That’s California for you!
My mom LOVES radishes! She’s a gourmet cook, and says that radishes have a great peppery bite. Mom’s tip: add radish sprouts to an herb salad for more “zing.”
While mom was shopping for organic veggies, I was just enjoying being out under the clear blue California sky.
We also treated ourselves to a little bunch of Gerbera daisies each week…
And lots of love and appreciation every day. I love you, Ima!
Lastly, I had a special commission to fulfill before I packed my bags and set off for Argentina.
For my good friend Gi and her family, I had to absolutely, without a doubt, on no uncertain terms, bring to the home of Tango and the Aconcagua a hefty serving of something that doesn’t exist there:
That’s right – In Argentina, peanut butter is as legendary and foreign to the locals as Vegemite is in North America.
Last year when I lived there it seemed that, by the astonishment of my interrogators when I answered the question “do you guys actually eat that stuff?” I might as well have told them that I have a pet unicorn.
Needless to say, Gi’s never tried it before, and, while I tried not to go overboard, I did manage to make enough room in my suitcase to responsibly fulfill my role as peanut butter ambassador to Argentina.
Up next week: a fantastic technique you can use on this week’s mitten patterns to make the ribbed cast-on completely invisible: The Italian Cast-On. See you then!
- Really cute designs for knit and crochet, founded by Brittany Tyler: Tangled Magazine.
- Learn how to knit mittens like a superstar: How to Knit Mittens Video E-Book
Leave a comment below! I love to hear your thoughts.