Waste Yarn Placeholder

After all this sunny hot weather, it’s time to look at a some photos with a little snow and ice! It’s also a great time to work on small projects such as mittens. Winter is coming!

I like to create openings in my knitting for things like thumb holes, pockets and afterthought heels, although in this case perhaps ‘afterthought’ is a misnomer. I plan in advance for the opening and place a line of stitches in a contrasting colour that reserve the spot for the hole.

The number of waste yarn stitches should be equivalent to the width of the opening. After working the waste yarn stitches, transfer them back to the LH needle and using your main yarn from your project, knit into the waste yarn stitches and then continue on and finish the row or round.

This tutorial demonstrates the technique for the thumb on mittens, but as mentioned, it can equally be at home reserving the spot for pockets on a sweater front or the heel of a sock.

So, how do you remove the waste yarn stitches without creating any runs or unravellings?


1. Insert your knitting needle into the stitches below the waste yarn. It’s easiest to consistently pick up the same “leg” of the stitch. The stitches look like little V’s and I always pick up the right leg. Pick up one stitch for each waste yarn stitch.

Then I turn my knitting upside down and do the same with the sts on the other side of the waste yarn. This time there will appear to be a half stitch at each end of the line of waste yarn. Just choose one of those half stitches and leave the other one alone. You should have the same number of stitches on each needle.

Hint: it’s easier to use smaller sized needles to pick up those stitches. Just remember when you begin knitting to switch to the appropriate sized needles.

2. Once all the stitches are securely on the needles start at one end and begin unpicking the waste yarn. You could also clip the waste yarn (be careful not to clip your knitting!) and pick out the pieces or unravel from both ends. Whatever works the best for you.

3. Once the waste yarn is removed you’ll have a nice big hole in your knitting with the stitches safely on two needles. At this point it’s a good idea to take another close look at the stitches on the needles to make sure you haven’t missed one.

4. For this mitten, I transferred some of the stitches to another dpn so I could work in the round. You could also work with 2 circular needles or magic loop. If working a pocket, the pocket edging would be worked on the lower needle and the pocket lining would be worked top-down from the upper needle.

The following patterns all employ this technique:

Tobie’s Mittens

JoJo (for the pockets)

Annie’s Mittens

and a soon-to-be-published sock pattern

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