Waste Yarn Placeholder

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.

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!

Set Up

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 left needle and using the main yarn from your project, knit into the waste yarn stitches and then continue on and finish the row or round.

Closeup of the palm section of a mitten with seven orange waste yarn stitches reserving a spot for the thumb.

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?

Remove Waste Yarn

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.

A small double pointed needle is inserted through seven stitches in the row immediately below the waste yarn stitches and another needle holds seven stitches in row immediately above waste yarn stitches.

Then turn your knitting upside down and do the same with the sts on the other side of the waste yarn. You should have the same number of stitches on each needle.

#proknittip: 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.

Half of orange waste yarn stitches have been unpicked with two separate needles holding stitches above and below waste yarn.

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.

A hole for the thumb has been created in the mitten with live stitches safely preserved on two separate needles.

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.

Three double pointed needles with thumb stitches on them frame the hole in the mitten for the thumb.