All Thumbs

Today is Mitten Day.

To be fair, last Wednesday was Mitten Day as well.

Now, Mitten Day can mean a great many things to many people – maybe it’s the first day it’s cold enough to put on the first pair of mittens for the season.  (Thankfully, that is NOT what I mean – it’s in the cool 60s and absolutely gorgeous here.)  Or it could just mean that you’re having fun knitting mittens, stalking patterns on Ravelry, and imagining all the beautiful things you could make for the coming winter.

But when I say “Mitten Day”, my fiancé knows that I mean one thing – today is the day when I am finishing my mittens!  I’ve been working on and off for several months on a mitten pattern of my own creation.  It’s been accepted for publication (hopefully – I don’t like to count on those things until they’re 100% finalized), so part of my hard work has been creating the sample set.  This has proved more difficult than I originally thought.  The biggest problem was the thumb gusset – when I shipped off the original finished sample, it turned out that they didn’t fit very well because I had placed the gusset about 2″ too high up the hand.  I hadn’t noticed this was a problem, in large part because I have teeny little hands that fit into pretty much anything.  I had used a few other mitten patterns as my guide for creating this pattern…the more I look at those original mittens and the set that I made when I was designing the pattern in the first place, the more I think that this must be an error that many knitters make.  

Here’s a little exercise – hold your hand up and really look at it.  When we first look, it seems like our thumb begins halfway up our hand – but that’s just where the phalange sticks out, isn’t it?  Your hand begins to widen all the way down at the base – practically at the wrist – to begin your thumb.  And the point of a gusset, of course, is to create that extra pocket of space for your thumb.  So starting the gusset halfway up the hand meant that the mitten was long on the wrist and too short on the fingers.  I ripped back on one mitten, re-placed where the gusset began, and continued my way up the body.  When I bound off at the top and put it on, it fit like a dream.  Like a good mitten should.

Excited to be on the right track, I ripped back the second mitten and started it as well, happy to know where the gusset should be placed.  I ignored the part of my chart where I had originally placed the gusset lines, took notes as I went along so I knew how to edit the pattern later, and happily set my sites towards that most exciting part of completing mittens – doing the thumbs.  Knitting a little thumb is something that seems like it will take a short period of time and then winds up taking you an hour or so…all those little finishing things.  

So it was that last Wednesday night, I finished knitting the body of the second mitten, bound off, buried the ends, and started making the thumb.  I’ve struggled to figure out just how long the thumb should be before starting the decreases – I’m still not quite satisfied with it and will probably go back and make it a little longer so it isn’t so snug.  My uncle Jay and I were happily watching the series finale of Dexter (from what I can tell, I’m one of the only people on earth who liked it), and I was knitting away at the thumb.  When I finished the first thumb, I did what every knitter does with an FO – I tried it on.  Perfect, just perfect.  I admired my right hand, all warm and snuggly inside something that was entirely my own creation.

I set down the now-finished mitten and picked up the other one, wanting only to be finished with the thumbs so they could have a nice little bath, then be packed up, shipped out, and arrive in time for a little photo shoot.  As I clicked away, I tried to gauge how long the thumb was growing.  Was it time to decrease yet?  How about now?  I decided to put on both mittens so that I could see if the thumb length was matching up.  I put the completed one on my right hand, started to put the in-progress one on my left hand, and did a frozen double-take…you know what I mean, instead of whipping your head back around, you just hold your body stock still while your eyes slide back and forth in a panic, like they’re trying to watch the world’s most terrifying tennis match.  Because in my desire to keep knitting, my exuberance over knowing how mitten construction and thumb placement works, and my absolute love of this yarn, I had overlooked THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. THING.

I had made two right-handed mittens.

Two of them.  Both for the same hand.

It was one of those moments…one of the ones where you begin to come up with all kinds of ways in which you can “fix this” – tucking in the gusset and sewing it up and cutting holes into the other side of the mitten, or maybe chopping off the bottom half of the mitten, creating a new cuff and working up the body to the gusset from scratch, then joining the two halves of the mitten together to create a whole one.

Instead of doing any of the insane things that were running through my head, I did the only one that made any sense.  I put the mittens back into my knitting bag and pulled out an entirely different project.

The next day, I ripped back the mitten – after all, what else can be done?  I knew I had time to finish the mitten correctly before my deadline, and as I’m always telling everyone, there are some mistakes you can fix and others you have to rip out and start over.  Thank goodness knitting is the type of hobby where you can go back to the beginning and smooth everything out.

So now we have Mitten Day, Part 2.  I have checked an ample number of times to be certain that this mitten has the thumb on the left side of its body.  I have followed my notes and charts carefully.  And I have prayed to all that is good and pure that at the end of the day today, or tomorrow at the very latest, to have my WIP grow up to be an FO.

At least this experience has taught me that Joel (the aforementioned fiancé), does listen when I use knit-speak.  When I showed him the horror that was two right-handed mittens, he thought (and gaped) for a moment before saying, “Well, at least you noticed that before you blocked them.”  Now that’s a good partner.

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