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by Ysolda April 02, 2020 4 min read

The Broughton mittens include an optional flip-top opening which allows you to use your fingers without taking your mittens off. The flip-top opening, and the thumbs, are created using an “afterthought” method, although it’s not a true afterthought because we’re planning for it. This method is often used to add sock heels, or pocket openings and is a very useful technique to learn. For a true afterthought opening, eg. if you got so into the movie you were watching that you forgot to turn a heel and ended up with a long tube instead of a sock, you snip the yarn where you want the opening to be and unravel it across. The resulting live stitches are placed on needles and you can knit your heel, or edgings, or pocket, straight up from them.

Adding scrap yarn for the openings

For the planned afterthought method in the mittens we’ll make the unravelling easier by knitting in some scrap yarn where the opening will be. I particularly like that this method means all the fussy finishing on this project can be grouped at the end, and you can work both mittens to that stage before opening them up.

Knitting in the scrap yarn is simple: drop the working yarn, and using scrap knit across the indicated stitches, turn the work so the wrong side is facing, and purl back across the same stitches. Break the scrap yarn to a length that won’t unravel or get in your way, pick the working yarn back up and continue from exactly where you left off in the charted pattern.

We’ll come back to how to remove the scrap yarn, and pick up the resulting live stitches in a later post. For now, you can continue to shape the top of the mitten.

Shaping the tip of the mitten

The top of the mittens, with their classic point that’s perfect for a button-loop, are shaped by working a centred double decrease on each side, on every round. As a reference point, so you can check your decreases are in the right place, the centre stitch of the double decrease should continue the column of MC that runs up each side of the mitten.

How to work a centred double decrease (CDD)

A centred double decrease is worked by slipping two stitches together knitwise (insert the right needle in the same way as you would for a knit 2 together, and then slip the stitches off the left needle); knit the next stitch and then pass the slipped stitches over this stitch (in the same way as you pass stitches over for a bind off). If you need a video there’s a good one here.

Arranging stitches before beginning the decreases

The pattern directs you to rearrange the stitches "so that the column of MC stitches between the top of the hand and palm are in the middle of needles rather than at the beginning". This is because each centred double decrease will consume one stitch from the palm and one stitch from the back of the hand. If you don’t rearrange the stitches before beginning you’ll constantly have to move stitches between needles to work the decreases.

If you’re knitting with two circulars or magic loop simply rearrange your stitches so that the needle junctions are at the centre of the palm and centre of the back of the hand. For dpns arrange stitches on three needles (rather than 4) so that two needles have more stitches and one has fewer, and the decreases will be in the middle of the needle. As you decrease you’ll eventually need to rearrange the needles and may find that you can work with the stitches divided only between two needles, a method commonly used for small items by knitters in Shetland.

Working the first decreases

On the left mitten pictured here the first decrease is worked by working in pattern to 1 stitch before the end of the palm stitches. The decrease uses the next three stitches and you can see that the dark MC stitch in the centre is on top of the stack of decreased stitches.

The second decrease is worked in the same way, by working to 2 stitches before the end of the back of hand stitches.

Catching floats while decreasing

As you continue the decreases you’ll find that, towards the tip of the mitten, there are some longer stretches of stitches worked in MC. To avoid long floats that the wearer’s fingers could be caught in you’ll want to catch the floats when working these decreases.

We looked at how to catch floats of the dominant (pattern) yarn colour when working the Bellfield hat, but here the float is the non-dominant CC1 yarn which I’m holding in my right hand. How you catch the float will be a little different depending on how you hold the yarns, and you can absolutely drop both yarns, twist them, and pick them back up again. Here’s how I catch the float without dropping the yarn.

Slip the first two stitches of the decrease together as normal. Then, insert the right needle into the next stitch, bring the non-working yarn to the left, below the needles so that it’s crossing the working yarn and hold it in this position while you complete knitting the stitch and passing the slipped stitches over. 

Bring the non-working yarn back to its usual position.

You can see the caught lighter grey strand at the wrong side.

Completing the tip

When all of the decreases have been worked 4 stitches will remain on the needles. Note that the left mitten chart shows 5 stitches on the final round, this is because the first stitch is worked at the beginning of the round and then incorporated into the last decrease at the end.

You can either break the yarn and draw it through the remaining stitches to close the top, or work I-cord for a buttonloop.

Read all colourwork club blog posts. The next post in this series will cover removing the scrap yarn, finishing the flip-tops and adding the linings.

If you're not a member of the Colourwork Club all three patterns can be purchased together here. 



Ysolda designs knitting patterns, spent years teaching at events and loves to find new yarns and books to share.

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