Sydänmaa Mittens and my Achilles’ Thumb

I feel so close (but still so far away!) from finishing my pair of Sydänmaa mittens, by Hanna Leväniemi.

Mittens have a very special place in my heart. When I first learned to knit, I decided mittens would be a great project to tackle. After experiencing the delight of making my very first pair for myself (one blue mitt with a red stripe and one red mitt with a blue stripe), I made similar “mismatched” mitts for all of my high school friends in a kind of mitten-making trance. Mittens were my introduction to knitting garments for others (and to knitting en masse).

syndanmaa mittens.jpg
Thumbless and pre-blocked.

I love that this pattern has helped me to improve my cable game; after working row after row of cables, I finally have a sense of what it does to hold stitches in the back or front of the work. I also followed the sage advice of the ever helpful and knitting-savvy Helen of Crawcrafts Beasties, and reproduced my cable ‘mistake’ on the second mitt. Running with mistakes, I’m learning, is OK! (though, running with scissors is not).

As you can see, however, I’ve worked the entire pair except the thumbs. In fact, I have a clear Achilles Thumb, when it comes to mitten-making: picking up stitches. In past projects, my stitch pick-up work (especially around thumbs) has always left stitch-counts that diverge from the pattern, and the ‘collateral damage’ of gaping holes that need mending. To me, picking up stitches (like seaming) is still the murkier and more ambiguous side of knitting — the skill that requires a more intimate knowledge of the architecture of hand-knit-fabric. I’m welcoming working those thumbs this week as a learning opportunity. For this reason, I’ve saved the hardest task for last. Wish me luck!

I have been so dazzled, by the way, by all of your holiday projects, productivity, and prolific making, crafters! Bravo, and Keep going!

What are you working on this week?

22 thoughts on “Sydänmaa Mittens and my Achilles’ Thumb

  1. Nice cables! I hope you keep knitting cables. They’re my favorite thing to knit. Pretty soon, if you haven’t started already, you’ll be cabling without the cable needle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, if you ever learn the trick to not having gapping holes to sew up at the thumb, I’d love to learn them. I haven’t investigated yet, just assumed I was doing something wrong. Definitely my least favorite part too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Lane, and for stopping by. I’m glad to hear that we share this. I assume the holes come with the terrain, but if my search leads to some trick, I’ll be sure to write about it. Happy knitting!


  3. Beautiful mittens. I’ve been told — although I haven’t tried it — to pick up extra stitches at the corners in the thumb, knit 1 round, then k2tog at those same corners. It sounds like it might work! Whether you try this or not, I wish you success in completing those beautiful mittens!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Belinda, for reading. That sounds like a great idea, indeed, to decrease the extra stitches after a knit row. I do think that would work very nicely and would minimize the need for lots of mending. Thank you for this very handy suggestion. I’ll try it and will report back! Happy knitting. 🙂


    1. That’s great: the Cabling-Queen! What a fun and funny moniker! I will accept, and try to live up to the honored title! 😀 And thumbs up on another knit hat! I love repeating patterns, too, when I find something that works. Why mess with a good thing? Looking forward to catching up on your blog. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Woweeeee! They look great! Looks like you didn’t have too much trouble replicating your design feature on mitten #2… How are you getting on with those thumbs? I’m also so flattered that you called me knit-savvy! Thank you… It’s totally undeserved, since my arsenal of knitting fixes is pretty much just “try knitting into the back of the stitches” or “try skipping the first stitch of every row”. But on that note, DO try knitting into the back of stitches on the gappy bits! I also agree with Belinda O about adding in an extra stitch or two at the corners – I’ve often done this on the armholes of Beastie sweaters, and it does give a nice neat finish. Good luck! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Helen! The thumbs are done, and your and Belinda’s suggestion to add more stitches then decrease them out worked great. I hope to write more in a next post about these thumbs. I can see how the armholes of Beastie sweaters would produce the same situation! And yes, skipping the first stitch of every row has been a very handy trick for getting a nice clean edge. I’m still very much learning the ropes, so these little knitting hacks do make a difference, thank you! 🙂


  5. Ah, I remember making a mistake on my first cable mittens too, although the cable section was much smaller than yours. You will be OK with your thumbs, you have your stitches neatly arranged on scrap yarn, and if you ever pick one extra, just do a k2tog on the inside on the next round. Same if there is one missing, I just do a M1 or a kf&b to make sure the final count is correct. And as mentioned above, you can either fix the gap as you pick up stitches, or fix it by a couple of stitches when you weave in your ends.
    Right now, I am working on a shawl for a friend. I’m finding it hard to get started on a big project like a sweater or a cardigan, even though I have plenty of yarn for it. Decision-making seems tough these days, not sure why. Happy knitting !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Agnès, for the helpful suggestion! This tactic of picking an extra stitch then decreasing on the next row turned out to have been just the answer (as did some very minor ‘fixing’ while weaving in). And I really enjoy how quickly a shawl can go by in an almost effortless way (depending on the pattern, of course). Perhaps the sweater-sized stash will find its new project in the coming time. In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying your current WIP! Happy Knitting to you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great mittens, Shirley! Slowly catching up on my blogs and you have been busy! I love the cabling up the center and the ribbed cuffs. They look super warm! I have become a fan of cabling without a cable needle when possible . . . but the current cabled sweater is a beast with 5×5 and 4×4 cables that demand a needle! Wishing you a happy holiday season and good, clean, knitting fun 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Melissa! I was able to wear them out for the first time today. Yes – I recently saw a video on cabling without a cable needle. I will have to try that next time! Happy to hear that you’re working on a cable-knit project, too! Looking forward to catching up on your blog. 🙂


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