The first pair of mittens went well enough. I found a pattern I loved and fumbled my way through, producing a perfectly serviceable pair that I adore, errors and all, and wear every day.
I got more adventurous on the second pair, changing yarns (and therefore gauge) and size, as I was knitting these for my daughter. I chose a different pattern and, true to my nature, instantly made changes. (Can't do anything simple around here, nosiree bob.) This mitten, like the first, has an opening for fingers. It also had a new thumb gusset -- knitterly excitement!
The first mitten went pretty well. I only had to rip it back, oh, six or seven times, and that was for size issues. What really tripped me up was that thumb gusset: specifically, how to make it for the left hand. The pattern states,
Knit second mitten, being sure to reverse instructions to place flap on palm side of mitten.(I didn't make the flap. I was following the pattern for the rest of the mitten. Well, actually, I changed the top, too, but that doesn't matter here.)
I just couldn't get that thumb gusset to end up on the left side of the mitten. What does it mean to reverse instructions? I counted stitches backwards and forwards, knit and ripped and knit and ripped.
What I needed was a visual aid. Legos? Playmobil flowers? I couldn't find enough similar pieces. No, I wanted something else:
Lima beans. Each line of beans represents stitches on a circular needle. (I'm using two circular needles instead of double-points.) They're joined into a circle, although I left the beans in straight lines. The arrows in the picture above point to stitch markers surrounding one knit stitch: the beginning of the (hopefully left-handed) gusset.
Now I've increased by making one stitch on the inside of each stitch marker.
Here is the final gusset round, having increased four times to make nine gusset stitches.
Now I've put the gusset stitches on a holder. I cast on three stitches to cover the gap, marked by arrows in the picture above.
Take the stitch markers off and hey presto, a side-seam thumb! It can be left- or right-handed!
Looking back at the original pattern, I see that the designer already knew that:
Knit second mitten, being sure to reverse instructions to place flap on palm side of mitten.
One reverses the instructions for the flap, not the thumb. D'oh.
I had tried the first mitten on so many times that it naturally formed around my right thumb. Because the first pair I knit had left- and right-oriented thumbs, I figured these did, too.
The pattern's author recommends Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, so I surfed on over to Amazon and checked it out. I love that "search inside the book!" feature. Side-seam thumbs explained, just like in the pattern. I am such an idiot. And I'm buying that book.
It takes beans labeled with Sharpie pens to make me understand simple instructions. Please, when you meet me, speak very slowly and use short words. Visual aids will help. You'd better bring some beans.