Estonian Mitten & Pattern Question

Hi, I am finally getting around to working my Estonian mittens. They are knit on 000 needles and this is the first time I’ve worked on such tiny needles. It makes for a very dense knit. It is quite lovely so far! You can see my progress here:

Unfortunately the pattern is pretty poorly written (or translated) so I have a question for anyone who has worked this so far. I’m close to the thumb opening. This is what the pattern says to do:

“For the right hand mitten knit two stitches at the beginning of needle III, pick up 18-20 stitches on the scrap yarn (this is the first mention of scrap yarn), which is followed by knitting 18-20 stitches in addition to the previous 2 stitches, which results in the thumb opening.”

Right now I’m using a magic needle with a total of 72 stitches. I really have no idea what this means!!! Thanks for any help.

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Your mitten is looking very amazing!

As for that instruction . . . hmmm, that’s definitely some imaginative Estonian translation. Let me dig around to see if I can get some clarity on this.

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Thanks so much Ann. I was thinking I should look at another mitten pattern. Maybe that would help. I haven’t knit mittens in a long while so I don’t remember. Did anyone else send you pictures of their work? would love to see it! It is knitting up nicely!

this might be the secret

and The PDF shows a slit for the thumb. So I’m thinking to knit 18 sts onto scrap, continue the pattern around and pick up 18 stitches and finish the mitten body. Then go back to the thumb and pick up around the back of the thumb to get enough stitches for the thumb.


I have a query out to another mittenmaker re that peculiar instruction, but
I haven’t seen pix of other courageous Estonian mittenmakers. You are

Good Morning @julie1!
I think this means - Knit 2, use the scrap of yarn to knit across the 18-20 stitches which creates the thumb hole, then those stitches need to be slipped back to the right-hand needle to continue the round in the main yarn. It’s similar to several techniques for working a sock heel after knitting toe to cuff or cuff to toe.
You will unpick the scrap yarn and capture the stitches above and below to work the thumb.
I think that some knitters also pick up a stitch between the rows to avoid a gap and to compensate for the loss of a stitch across the top.
(If you worked 18 st in the scrap yarn you’d be able to knit those 18 at the cuff end of the mitt, 1 from between the rows, only 17 across the top, then 1 from between the rows)
you have 18 loops up, but only 17 loops down.

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Yes, I sort of figured something of the sort when I looked at the graphic so what I did (I’m living in India now so I’ve been awake for a long while to ponder this!) was put the 18 sts on the scrap yarn, then I made, in pattern 18 new st and continued the row. When I got to the next round I just worked the stitches in pattern. The thumb looks a bit messy but I think it will work. Goign to finish the mitt part and then work the thumb. Stay tuned! Updated pictures below.

When incorporating an afterthought thumb, it’s important to knit the first row after the holding yarn without stranding, so plain kitting across that stretch, carrying the yarn. If you strand, you’ll have a tangle when you unpick the bottom of stranded stitches. This is just from my experience. You resume the pattern for those thumb stitches in the second round.

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Wow, those are gorgeous! Have you looked at a map to see where Estonia is? It is very cold there!

oops. too lazy to frog it. i’ll slog through it, but thanks for the heads up. will send pictures when i get to it! really appreciate your experience.

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But gorgeous in the summer. We were near in Helsinki a few years ago and thought to go to Tallinn for the day and now wish we had. Another trip in the future! The joke is that I live in very warm India so these are completely useless here, but in Estonia they are considered good luck so I might have to walk around with them. More pictures to come.

You’ll be fine, I hit the send button before I actually LOOKED at your beautiful mittens. You cast on your thumb stitches after you held some out, so technically this isn’t an afterthought thumb. I was on my soap box about the kind of thumb that is picked up out of a “holding yarn” that is actually knit into the fabric of the mitten, then picked out and stitches transferred onto needles. That would be a tangle in the downward sts without a resting row. You have a whole different matter here which you handled expertly without disaster looming.

Thanks for all the support. One mitten done and I think it looks fine. Hasn’t been blocked yet, but the thumb turned out great. In the end it didn’t matter that I did the cast on with multiple colors because I didn’t use the pick up that way. I decided to use the neutral color to pick up along the seam (you can see this in the third picture).

So to round out the poorly written pattern this is what I’d do:

when you come to the thumb opening K2 as usual, then knit in pattern the next 18 stitches onto scrap yarn. then continue the pattern around the mitten body until you come to the thumb opening. at that point cast on (not pick up) an equal number of stitches that are on the scrap yarn (so 18 sts) in a neutral color. then continue the mitten body. this means your scrap yarn has 18 sts and your mitten body is back to the number of stitches you started with. finish the mitten body.

to finish the mitten thumb, using a neutral color wool, put the 18 sts on the scrap yarn on your needles, pick up 2 stitches to the side to close any holes and then pick up 18 sts from the neutral row above and then 2 stitches on the other side of the thumb. you will have 36 pattern stitches + 4 extra stitches that need to be decreased away.

k17 in pattern k2 together twice when you come to the extra side stitches (dec 2), k16, k2 together twice (dec 2). you’ll now have 36 stitches and can continue the thumb in pattern.

On to the left mitten!


Oh my gosh, your work is fabulous! I had to really, really look hard and expand my screen to see the thumb!