Monday, December 1, 2014

Afterthought Thumbs (and Heels)

I often hear knitters lament that the scrap yarn approach to afterthought thumbs or heels is cool, but that pulling out the yarn while picking up the live stitches is tedious as best.  However, with the addition of lifelines, this process is easy.  The other way is to put the stitches on a holder (or yarn) and then cast on the same number of stitches.  When you get ready to come back to do the thumb, you pick up the needed stitches along the cast on edge plus use the live stitches from the holder.  I find this isn’t always very seamless as the other way.  There are several sites out there that show using the life lines, but I felt that I might be able to add some insights.

I will demo this with a swatch of worsted weight yarn I knit with 5mm double points.  This method works for any type of circular knitting.  I usually knit with magic loop myself.

While I am referring to a thumb, the same process would be used for a sock heel.
1) Knit to the first of the stitches that will become the thumb.
2) Run a thin and smooth thread of contrasting color (I used sock yarn here, but cotton crochet yarn works well) through the stitches that will be the used for the thumb.  Tie this loosely into a circle with a square knot.

3) Knit these stitches onto a piece of waste yarn.  It’s best if it is of a contrasting color and of the same weight the project is being knitted with.

4) Transfer these stitches back to the left needle and knit these stitches with your project yarn.
5) Run a life line through these new stitches and tie into a loop.

6) Continue knitting your project.
Sorry this is a bit blurry.

7) When you are ready to knit the thumb, pull out the waste yarn.  The life lines will keep the live stitches from going anywhere.  I can actually pull the original waste yarn at any time, which is helpful if I need to try on the item during the knitting of the main part.

8) Pick up the live stitches onto the needles.  Most instructions call for picking up a new stitch at each side, but I usually pick up whatever is instructed plus 2 more. On the next round, I knit the extra stitch on each side together with a main stitch.  I find this reduces the possibility of holes and it creates a little give at the thumb base.

9) I can pull the life lines at any time, but I usually tend to wait until I am sure I like how the thumb is developing.  That way I can always frog this back to the beginning, if needed.

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