Knitting MittenThumbs – The Debate (by Ina Gilmore)

September 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Advanced, Stitches

Where are you in the knitting mitten instructions for thumbs debate?

The other day, I was astonished at how passionately two knitters were debating.   Knowing both of them, it’s not surprising they were passionate.  What surprised me was the topic of their debate: knitted thumbs.  Each was absolutely convinced her favorite thumb was “the best,” and other ways of knitting thumbs just don’t fit right. It took the calming influence of another knitter to put the discussion in perspective.

She noted while she preferred one type of thumb, her husband another. Perhaps, she calmly asked, it depends upon our individual hand shapes?  Or even what we do with our hands when we use the mittens? Maybe this is a case of individual preference?  Since I’ve usually made only one type of thumb for myself, this discussion started me thinking:  Just how many different thumb types are there? And are there times one would be better than another?


So, what are the types of knitting mitten instructions for thumbs?


Peasant Thumb: Often considered the simplest thumb to knit. Knit without a gore, or wedge-shaped insert, this thumb is often preferred when a complex color pattern is used. The peasant thumb allows the pattern to continue without interruption. The thumb is knit slightly into the palm, so the mittens are either left-handed or right-handed. There’s no adjustment in mitten width for the thumb. The thumb tends to be flat.



Peasant Thumb

                      Gore Thumbs: Knit with a gore either in the side seam (side seam gore) or slightly into the palm (normal gore or normal thumb). The side seam gore thumb will not interrupt the knitting pattern, while the normal gore thumb interrupts it. The side seam thumb makes the mittens identical, so it’s often used for knitting young children’s mittens. If either is made in circular knitting (no side seam) and a stockinette stitch, the mitten will rotate so these two types of thumbs may be indistinguishable. This can give more flexibility to the mitten, because thumbs don’t grow out either of the sides of hands, or directly under the index fingers. The mitten body is narrower above the thumb than below it. For many folks, this feels like a more fitted mitten.  The thumb tends to be rounder than the Peasant Thumb.

Stiches for thumb gore

Stitches for thumb gore




Side seam gore thumb








Normal gore fingerless mitten

Normal gore fingerless mitten










Norwegian Gore Thumb: Knit with a gore and a peasant thumb, this thumb also interrupts the color pattern. In Norwegian mittens, though, this interruption is often incorporated into the color pattern. The mittens are either left-handed or right-handed.  While this mitten has a thumb gore, the mitten body continues above the thumb with the same number of stitches. This thumb also tends to be a flatter thumb.



Color pattern interruption for thumb gore


Norwegian thumb

Norwegian thumb






Many knitters view these as two types of thumbs (those with or without gores) or four types of thumbs.

Do you have a favorite?


About the Author: Ina Gilmore

Ina Gilmore learned to knit as a child.  She enjoys sharing her knitting adventures, tips and techniques. You can find her online at her knitting blog, The Knitting Yarn, on Twitter at, and on Ravelry as theknittingyarn.


2 Responses to “Knitting MittenThumbs – The Debate (by Ina Gilmore)”
  1. Patrice says:

    I admired your Norwegian mitten, as I also just finished my first one yesterday. I followed a pattern from Terri Shea’s book, Selbuvotter, but looked at the Folk Mittens book in the library last week. For me, the thumb was the only problem, which is how I found your site. I don’t think either author explained the casting on of stitches very well. My mitten looks fine on the outside, but is not really correct and I shall investigate and practice further before I attempt another. To me, you were casting on in the wrong direction and the instructions I got for how to do a “backward loop”cast on, which is what my pattern called for, didn’t produce a very satisfactory line of stitches. I’m sure there is a great technique for this – I just need to find it!

    Sorry, I do fine at email etc, but am not up to speed with blogs & pictures etc. Happy knitting and thanks for sharing. Patrice (Michigan)


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. [...] The thumb is surprisingly comfortable. You see, I’ve often wondered how comfortable a Norwegian thumb gore would be, since I’ve almost always made side seam or normal thumb gores. Confused? Don’t be: check out my recent article on knitting instructions for mitten thumbs. [...]

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