Picking Up Stitches for an Afterthought Thumb

The March Flowers Mittens pattern uses an afterthought thumb – similar to an afterthought heel on a sock – to avoid interrupting the colorwork on the mitt and provide an easy, neat finish. The downside of this, of course, is that it doesn’t fit as well as a mitt with a thumb gusset. However, I envisioned these mitts as a perfect quick knit to throw on during those chilly spring morning and then tuck in your pocket when it warms up. The afterthought thumb suits my purposes perfectly.

It can be a bit tricky to pick up the stitches neatly once you’ve removed the waste yarn, so I prefer to do it while the waste yarn is still in place. In the photo below I’ve placed the stitches on the two tips of my circular needle, and you can see the blue waste yarn there in between.

Photo shows the palm of a fingerless mitt with two rows of stitches picked up around with waste yarn in place.
Picking up the thumb stitches with waste yarn in place.

When you go to pick up the stitches, you need to pay attention to three rows of stitches: on the bottom you have a row of stitches where the top of the ‘v’ meets the waste yarn; in the middle the row made by the waste yarn, which will be removed in the next step; and on top a row of stitches where the bottom of the ‘v’ meets the waste yarn. To pick up the stitches, keep the mitt facing up, and insert a needle tip (or double’pointed needle) into the right leg of the ‘v’ in the row above and below the waste yarn. You can then safely unravel the waste yarn (if you are using a long circular needle shifting the stitches onto the cable will make this easier), and you will be left with live stitches on the needles.

The other tricky thing about the thumb is picking up the stitch in the gap on either side so that you get a neat finish. Since I’m working the thumb in the main color, I created my stitch by picking up a bar of the main color along the edge of the gap and knitting through the back loop. Here you can see the tip of the needle has been inserted into the green bar that will be picked up.

The palm side of a fingerless mitt with thumb stitches on the needles. The needle tip points to the stitch to be picked up in the gap.
Picking up a stitch in the gap.

I hope this tip helps, and please tag your projects #MarchFlowersMitts and #BullockOzkanDesigns. I love to see your creations!

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New Pattern Release – March Flowers Mitts

The March Flowers Mitts pattern is now live on both Ravelry and Payhip. It’s been awhile since a design popped into my head almost wholly formed – I knew I had to knit these up right away! These mitts are just the thing to brighten up those chilly spring mornings, and they’re a great stashbuster too.

The pattern includes two charted options for the tulips. Use either chart for a simpler knit; or if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can mix and match the charts – if you mix and match there will be one 3-color row. The mitts are completed with an afterthought thumb so you don’t have to interrupt your colorwork knitting. Instructions are given for two adult sizes.

The March Flowers Mitts are 20% off from now until March 21st on Ravelry and Payhip with code MARCHFLOWERS20. Please share your makes with the hashtag #MarchFlowersMitts – I always love to see your projects!

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Sampling CVM for Cables – Woolen vs. Semi-Woolen

I’ve been sampling some CVM fiber (from Heelside Farms) for my next Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em project. I’ve been thinking I might want to knit a cabled sweater with this fiber, and I was wondering if my drafting method would make a difference in the cable definition. I would expect that, since worsted-spun yarns are often touted for their cable definition, getting closer to that with a semi-woolen yarn would give me cables that ‘pop’ more while retaining the softer, rustic look of a woolen-spun yarn. But a woolen spun yarn would likely be faster to spin, so I wanted to make sure the extra time for a worsted draft was really worth it. So I did a little experiment.

I’m starting from roving, so my options are to create a semi-woolen yarn using a short forward draft, or go for a fully woolen-spun yarn using longdraw. I pulled off a small amount to sample each way, and attempted to spin yarns with approximately the same diameter and ply twist. Both yarns came out to around a DK weight, and with similar ply twist. The woolen-spun sample came out a bit more uneven, and has a bit of a thick and think quality to it. I also had some areas that were underspun in the singles, so breakage was a problem. I would want to spin a more careful sample before I decided to use this for a sweater, but for my comparison purposes I assumed it would suffice. Unsurprisingly the woolen-spun sample had slightly less twist overall in the singles.

Yarn butterflies of CVM - woolen-spun and semi-woolen.
Left: woolen-spun CVM (spun longdraw); Right: semi-woolen CVM (spun with short forward draft)

I cast on and knit two swatches on US #7 (4.5mm) needles, using a simple 3×3 cable as a test. The woolen-spun swatch came out slightly bigger for the same number of stitches as I would expect – it measured about 3 3/4″ over 20 stitches vs about 3 1/2″ for the semi-woolen swatch. And the cable does appear a bit flatter and less three-dimensional, which I suspected might happen. The semi-woolen swatch also has better stitch definition overall. What surprised me a bit, though, was in that the swatch spun with a short forward draft the stitches appear a bit puffier and seem to fill in the space better. That could be because of my inconsistency in spinning the woolen swatch, though. The other thing that surprised me was the difference in weight of the swatches. I know woolen-spun yarns tend to be lighter, but I was surprised that the two swatches spun from roving were so different. The semi-woolen swatch weighed 4.5 g versus 4.3 g for the woolen-spun – not a huge difference in a swatch of this size. But it made a noticeable difference to the feel of the swatch in my hand. It might be worth sacrificing a bit of cable definition to get a lighter, cozier feeling sweater. I like the look of both cables, and even though the draft did make a difference I’m not sure it was enough to prefer one draft over the other on that basis.

Two handknit cable swatches comparing woolen-spun vs. semi-woolen CVM.
My two cable swatches: woolen spun using longdraw (L) and semi-woolen (R) using short forward draft.

I haven’t decided yet if I will knit a sweater with this fiber – I would need to purchase more of it – or, if I do, which draft I will use. I also want to test how these swatches will stand up to wear – maybe a topic for another post. But I do have an idea of how my choices will affect the final yarn and what I might use it for.


Spinning Round Up – Shave ‘Em To Save ‘Em ProJects

I recently completed my second and third Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em project. So far I’ve done Clun Forest (which I wrote about in this post), Tunis lambswool, and Leicester Longwool. If you’re not familiar with the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em (SE2SE) program, it’s a program run by The Livestock Conservancy to promote rare and endangered sheep breeds. You can learn more by visiting rarewool.org.

Now that I’m knitting my hexagon blanket ‘squares’ for each breed it’s given a bit of structure to my breed sampling. For each new breed I take around 1/2 an ounce to an ounce of the wool and spin a ~DK-weight 2-ply to get a gauge that will work for the blanket piece. Most of the time I spin with a short forward draft, but sometimes another draft just works better, as with the Clun Forest. If I have more than about 2 oz, as for the SE2SE projects (the minimum purchase is 4 oz), I spin it however I think will be best based on my sampling. I have to admit I haven’t been great about keeping fiber or plyback samples, but I do record the WPI, weight and yardage of my finished skeins, so that I can figure out the grist for selecting a potential knitting project. Note that I record my grist as yds/ 100 g for easier comparison to commercially-spun yarns.

My second project was American Tunis lambswool roving from Tarheel Billy Farm. I didn’t really know what to expect from this breed. The information I have from the breeder and The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook tells me this is a dual-purpose breed (bred mainly for meat) and that the first Tunisian Barbary sheep were sent to North America when a few sheep were sent as a gift to the government in 1799. Tunis lambs have a reddish color to their wool when born, which fades to a creamy white over time. The breed is well adapted to hot, humid climates and is popular throughout the Southeastern US.

This lambswool was lovely and fluffy, and after spinning a two-ply sample for my blanket square, I decided to spin the rest into a 3-ply woolen yarn using a long draw technique. I think the resulting yarn will make a lovely hat and/ or pair of mittens.

Two skeins of woolen-spun Tunis lambswool next to a SE2SE passport
Tunis lambswool 3-ply, woolen spun

Final yarn: grist 152 yds/ 100g; ~11 wpi

My third project was Leicester Longwool spun from washed locks. I bought this wool from Fuzzy Ewe Farm after seeing a photo of the dyed, millspun yarn on Instagram – it had so much depth sheen you’d swear it was silk! While I had worked from raw wool before, this was my first time working from washed locks. Since I don’t yet have wool combs I decided to use my flick carder to maximize the sheen. After sampling I also decided I needed to re-wind my bobbins and ply in the same direction that I spun in to make the yarn as smooth as possible.

I divided the flicked locks into two groups by color and spun separate skeins. Although washed, the locks still had a fair amount of grease in them, and I found the fiber somewhat tricky to spin. I probably would’ve been happier if I’d given the wool another wash before prepping, so I did wash the leftovers from flicking before carding it. For the carded batch I blended the colors together at random. I was pleasantly surprised by how soft and fluffy the leftover fibers were. Since the fiber lengths varied a lot in the carded preparation, I decided to try spinning it with supported longdraw. It came out rather uneven, but I decided to knit my blanket ‘square’ from this carded preparation.

(L-R) An knitted hexagon from carded longwool; two skeins of Leicester Longwool yarn.
Leicester Longwool spun from washed locks.

Final yarn: grist 220 yds/ 100g; ~17wpi

This project confirmed my sense that I don’t love spinning longwools. I’m still fascinated by their sheen, and I just might have to buy one of the dyed millspun skeins and knit up a project with it. I also really liked the color variation in this fleece. I’m not sure yet what I’ll knit or weave with the yarn I’ve spun, but I think maybe some lace knitting or incorporating into some free-form weaving might work well. If you’ve worked with longwools, what have you knit or woven with them?


A handknit cowl, hat, cardigan, and socks.

Shop Announcement

I now have all my individually released patterns available in my Payhip shop, and you can click the link in my header menu to go directly to my storefront. I hope this will streamline things a bit. You can still find my patterns on Ravelry, Etsy, and LoveCrafts, of course, but I wanted a simpler way to shop directly from the website. Payhip is a very nice, streamlined interface, and you can pay with credit card or PayPal. Try it out and let me know what you think!