If you weren’t aware, I am in the throes of strife and discombobulation. While knitting up a storm recently, it suddenly struck me: “Maybe I’m just in the thumb gusset of life right now…” Then I decided that wouldn’t make much sense to any non-knitters, so here below is an explanation and illustrated guide to what that means…
When knitting a worn article—either a glove or a sock—the body has bends and contortions that obviate the necessity of making special tangents in the knit article to accommodate those body extrusions. We’re talking about things like heels when making a sock, or opposable thumbs when making a glove or mitt. The extra tangential knitting protuberance is often called a “gusset,” and it is usually the part of the knitting pattern that gives the most trouble to new and amateur knitters—and sometimes even seasoned fiber artists! It most often entails increasing stitches; making an agile convex bump in an otherwise smooth tube; and sometimes changing the type of stitch to prudently anticipate additional wear, rubbing, and flexing of the anatomical protuberance.
As with all knitting—because there is no “wrong” or “right” way to knit and everyone has their own style and preferences—there are always multiple ways to tackle this gusset challenge. When knitting in a tube, like I do to make my fingerless gloves, I prefer to use the “Magic Loop Method” of knitting. This is where a set of circular needles with a really long cord, can be used on both side of the tube at the same time—as opposed to knitting in the round with a set of double-ended needles (sometimes as many as five needles at a time). Creating the triangular thumb-joint gusset itself isn’t hard outside of counting the number of rows between increases, but when I get to that point of turning the triangle in on itself to create a secondary tube, things get messier.
At this point I pull out a second long-cord set of circular needles and separate the main body of the glove from the thumb gusset—each on a different set of circular needles. Then I can work separately on each section as need be until the thumb is complete and I wend the knitting back over to the original-main glove body and continue on my merry way. I’ve done it a million times, so I feel like I know what I’m doing. But this doesn’t always account for the mind-of-its-own plastic cording that likes to twist itself into contortions that border on Gordian. I often literally get to points where I have to place my knitting down in my lap, take a deep breathe, count to ten, and then calmly return to untwisting the knotted needles with a compassionate elegance that doesn’t match the cursing that rings in my head.
At times like those, I realize that I am irrationally personifying my knitting needles with a malice that they cannot possibly have. But it’s easier to blame them than it is to blame myself for not inventing a better way of tackling the frustration.
And if I were to make correlations to life—because that’s what we do as human beings, isn’t it… everything we try to conceive and relate to becomes a simile of previous experience—I might say that I’ve gotten myself into a wicked tangle of a thumb gusset in life. This time the needle cords are so consternatingly intertwined that I’m not sure the project is worth saving. Alexander’s solution to the Gordian Knot was rather brash, but it got the job done.
Sometimes you just have to set the knitting down for a count of ten (or twenty… or twenty-five) and then pick it back up with the confidence that “you’ve done this successfully a million times before; you know how good this project is gonna turn out when you just slow down, follow the threads, untwist the anxiety-tightened cords so that they loosen-up enough to slip backwards to a more comfortable position and at the right angle to tackle the rest of the job…”
Look: you bought this specific yarn because you saw how beautiful the heather flecks and colors were. You know how stunning they are going to be paired with that old jacket in the closet. In fact, they are gonna be so smashingly beautiful that the jacket will look like a whole new wardrobe worn with those gloves! These needles might forget to bend in the right direction once in a while, but that’s because you and they are so comfortable with each other that you forget to communicate properly and you each get wrapped up in your own momentum. Remember to dance with you needles, and soon you’ll be waltzing onto your next knitting project together…
Remembrance. Foresight. Prudence. Composure. You’ve got this.