If you’re following Free Pattern Friday, you already know that November is mitten month. We’ve enjoyed a different mitten pattern every week, each focusing on a different technique. While designing the projects, I discovered some pretty cool stuff about mittens that I hadn’t thought much about before. For example, I’ve found myself brainstorming some interesting ways to knit thumbs and thumb gussets.
The thumbs and gussets of mittens and gloves are a lot like the heels of socks; most people find something that works and stick with it. It’s one of those technical moments in knitting that becomes rote, automatic and maybe a little boring. I’ve had fun these past few weeks changing up thumb and gusset strategies depending on the technique being worked. “Tess” for example, employs an after-thought thumb so that the mathematics of the tessellated mosaic pattern would not be disturbed, while “Fresh Snow”, traditional Aran mittens, uses the classic thumb gusset. I thought it might be useful to give a quick overview of some thumb gusset treatments you might like to try. All of these can be substituted one for another as long as you know what you want from the start.
This is by far the fastest, easiest thumb to work because you’re really not working a gusset at all. Simply put, you’ll be setting aside your thumb stitches onto waste yarn or a stitch holder. Thumb stitches are subtracted from the main body of stitches and then replaced with cast on stitches to bring the stitch count back to full again. To build the thumb, simply retrieve the held stitches and pick up one for each of the stitches you cast on. So easy!
The beauty of this simple method, beyond its speed, is that it does not disturb stitch patterns. Where ever you decide to place your thumb, be sure to “indent” the thumb a few stitches in from the end of a needle. This makes it much easier to cast on your replacement stitches over the thumb. The After-Thought Thumb is used here in these beautifully simple moss stitch mittens by PurlSoho.
This technique is clean, classic and probably the most often-used thumb strategy of all. It can be worked into ribbing easily. It provides a superior fit and is easy to work.
It involves adding an extra, pie-shaped strip of fabric that accommodates the fullness of the thumb. Beginning at the top of the cuff, 2 stitches are added at either side of a central stitch(es), followed by an even round, gradually building until there are enough stitches to encircle the thumb. I like to use directional increases for the classic gusset, with the new stitches leaning away from the gusset line. I think it’s most attractive when the gusset begins at about the center of the mound of the thumb a few stitches toward the palm from the end of the needle. The Traveling Cable Hand Warmers show a classic gusset worked seamlessly into ribbing.
I’ve saved the prettiest for last! This technique creates the most attractive thumb, I think. Sometimes called the “lifeline” gusset or the “Indian thumb”, the palm gusset reserves a number of thumb stitches, then adds directionally increased hand stitches to compensate. Depending on the pattern and yarn weight, you’ll work a round even between increases.
Back in 2013, Interweave published a great recipe for the palm gusset as part of their Learn Something New series. This is an easy-to-follow primer complete with the little bit of math you’ll need to knit a perfect palm gusset every time! Here’s a wonderful example of the palm gusset, the lovely Inverness Gloves by Elizabeth McCarten available from her Ravelry store.