Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I've been thinking...

So, if you’ve been reading this blog lately, you’ll know that I’m into mittens and gloves right now. In looking at and trying out different patterns, something’s caused me to wonder. Thumbs.

In particular, thumb gussets. I know about peasant thumbs, almost like an afterthought thumb, which has no increases for the thumb. Basically, they’re like a buttonhole, usually on the palm side of the hand. Stitches are put onto waste yarn at the place where the thumb will be, and the same number of stitches are cast on and the rest of the mitten is worked. This is one thumb I’m not particularly fond of because I think there would be way too much stress on both sides of the thumb opening. I know about the standard thumb gusset, with it’s increases every third round or, sometimes, every other round. Once you have the required number of stitches for the thumb, they’re put on to waste yarn and picked up later when the rest of the mitten or glove is finished.

Lately, though, quite a few of the patterns I’ve perused have a different kind of thumb gusset, one that I’ve not knit before. They’re increased every round until the required number of thumb stitches have been worked. Then, the mitten is knit upwards until the whole mitten is at the right length for the thumb opening. That’s when the thumb stitches are removed to waste yarn. From there, the mittens are worked the same as those with other types of thumb gussets.

Also, thumb gusset placement isn’t uniform on all patterns. Some, like the basic mittens and gloves in Ann Budd’s book “Handy Book of Patterns” are what are known as ‘sore thumbs’; in other words, they stick out like a… well, you know. In other patterns, the thumb is offset towards the palm by a few stitches.

I’d post pictures of all these different thumb gussets, but I haven’t knit all of them. What’s your experience in mitten or glove knitting? Which methods of thumb gusset, or lack thereof, have you tried? What’s your favourite, or preferred, thumb gusset and thumb placement?

That reminds me… Interweave Knits had an article in it’s Winter 2003 issue on thumb gussets. It includes descriptions of the basic, wide, palm and asymmetric gussets. What I’m talking about here are variations on the basic gusset.

Talk to me.


  1. For mittens at least, it makes sense to me to put the thumb on the side and not in the palm. This way the mittens can be worn on either hand. (assuming that there is no other obvious way for determining L and R such as patterning or the lack thereof)

  2. I love the basic "afterthought thumb" where you leave 9 or 10 sts on some waste yarn and add the thumb at the end. It's easy and I don't have to think about it.

    I have Ann Budd's Handy Book of Patterns and will one day get around to making some her way - you never know, I might prefer it.

    If you look at Elizabeth Zimmermann's books, she does a mitred mitten with a thumb at a different angle altogether!

  3. As you know, I haven't made a lot of mittens. I have Anne Budd's book though and I can tell you I don't care for her thumb. I suppose I really mean that it doesn't fit my hand they way I want it to.

    The previous poster mentioned EZ's mittens and I do want to try those out some day. I've got them in the Knitter's Almanac, I believe.

    I've only ever made the gusset-less mittens for a small child and while they were super easy, I worried they wouldn't fit right or feel right. I think there's a number of really good reasons for a gusset and no real reason for leaving it out.