In the course of getting Aragorn Gloves pattern test knit, a number of questions arose about the thumb I used for the glove. Elizabeth Zimmermann dubbed this method the “afterthought” method. She used it for sock heels as well as thumbs. The general idea is to knit the stitches needed for the heel or thumb onto waste yarn, then continue knitting your project and come back to the thumb or heel after you have finished the project. This method is super-fast, convenient for travel and doesn’t involve transferring stitches onto stitch holders then back onto needles like gusset methods do. Though perhaps not as elegant as the gusseted thumb, I find the speed and ease of knitting more than makes up any difference in overall look. Without further ado, here is my little photo tutorial of the afterthought thumb as used in Aragorn gloves. For reference, I am knitting the left glove.
Work until you get to the point in the pattern where you will add your thumb. Drop the working yarn. Picking up a piece of scrap yarn, knit the stitches for the thumb with the scrap yarn. I just held one tail of the waste yarn with my left thumb as I knit the first my stitches.
When you have completely removed the scrap yarn, you should have one less stitch on the top needle than on the bottom. In the case of Aragorn gloves, you will have 6 stitches on the bottom needle and 5 stitches on the top needle.
Knit half the stitches from the top needle onto this needle. Now picking up another needle, knit the remainder of the stitches from the top needle and pick up and knit 2 or 3 stitches from the gap between the top and bottom needle. I generally pick up three stitches on the palm side of the hand and two on the top side.
Once you have picked up all your stitches, you should be back to the first stitch on the bottom needle in a position to reclose the round. Knit or work the next round in pattern. I find that if I work the stitches that I picked up through the back loop, there is less chance of a visible hole at this point. After knitting one round to reclose the round you should have something that looks like this.
There you have it. The Afterthought Thumb. EZ as pie or was that pi.