someone suggested posting the advice i received on thumb holes onto the knitlist. i've decided to put them here, so as not to fill folks' in-boxes with what could end up being a pretty lengthy message. my original question is posted below (waste yarn and other stuff i don't get). read on to see what some knitters suggested. i hope they help you, too!
OK, you knit the first 2 stitches of the round. Very carefully take
them off of the needle by threading a length of yarn through them. I
usually use cotton yarn in a bright color that does not match
whatever yarn I'm knitting with. It makes it easier for me to see.
For a twisted M1, you lift the yarn between the stitch you've just
knit and the stitch that is next to be knit, place it on the left
needle, and knit into the back leg of it. Most of the knitting
magazines or basic knit books have pictures of this. I don't
understand why they have you doing it here, though. If you've just
put the first 2 stitches on a piece of waste yarn, doing a twisted M1
increase is going to make those 2 stitches pull in way too much.
> cast on 4 sts over the thumb hole.
You will have a much easier time with this if you just use a simple
backwards loop cast on for these 4 stitches. Trust me on this one,
I've tried other methods & this one seems to be simplest, and the
results look great.
I'm assuming that you started off with probably 31 stitches? If you
put 2 of those stitches on waste yarn, you would then have 29
stitches. Casting on 4 stitches for the top of the thumb hole would
then give you 33 stitches.
> working in striped pattern, knit until mitten is finished length,
less 6 rounds.
Or, knit until the mitten part above the ribbing is about the length
from the base of the palm to the tip of your little finger. You'll
then probably be reducing stitches for the next 6 rounds.
> next round: K2, place on a piece of waste yarn
> (this is the first thing i don't get)
or put on a holder. putting it on a piece of scarp
yarn is less intrusive. use a yarn needle and pick up
those stitches and let them swing free!
> with twisted M1, cast on 4 sts over the thumb hole.
> you will have 33 stitches. (HUH?)
I'm going to assume you have 29 sts around?
an M1 is like a pick up. Um. You know, I would use
either a cable or half-hitch pick up for this. the
point being that you are creating a hole for the thumb
to go thru. basically you need four new stitches not
attached to the knitting below.
Though I'm not familiar with your specific pattern, I've made a lot
of mittens and they're all basically the same. You wrote:
"... next round: K2, place on a piece of waste yarn (this is the
first thing i don't get) with twisted M1, cast on 4 sts over the
thumb hole. you will have 33 stitches ..."
When you're making a thumb, you first have to 'park' some stitches
on a piece of waste yarn while you continue knitting the rest of the
mitten. Later you'll return to these stitches, place them on some
needles, pick up a few more stitches around the circle which is the
thumb hole and knit the thumb separately.
So, your pattern says to K 2, leaving these on your right-hand
needle. Then you'll need to thread the next X-number of stitches
(your snip doesn't say, it's probably about ? 10 ? sts which you
created by increasing, usually including and between the two M1
stitches) onto a piece of waste yarn - I use a yarn needle - and
remove them from your left-hand needle. Leave these dangling all on
their own until you're ready to knit the thumb later. Then, pulling
on your working yarn a bit to tighten the gap created by the parked
stitches, cast on 4 sts onto the right-hand needle. On your needles
you should now have 33 sts. Keep on knitting the remainder of your
mitten according to your pattern.
When it's time to knit the thumb, you'll thread the parked stitches
onto some needles and pick up probably about ? 4 ? stitches around
the thumb hole to complete the circle which will be the thumb.
There's inevitably a bit of a gap somewhere here so afterwards I use
the thumb's yarn ends to darn this area and make it stronger.
I think what this pattern is trying to get you to do is what we call a folk thumb - where you put aside a few live stitches on a big safety pin or 12" length of string or yarn (not the yarn you are knitting with), then cast on the same number (or a one or two less) at the same spot on the next round, then close the hole. If your mitt is about 33 st around, that might mean putting aside 6-10 stitches on the bottom of the thumb hole, and on the next round, casting on about that many stitches across the top of the thumb hole.
You have to make this hole fit the base of your 5-year-old's thumb, and I routinely find patterns too tight in there. To tell the truth, you are going to do better to abandon the pattern at this point, try something out, try it on the little girls hand, see if it fits, and redo it bigger or smaller if it doesn't. Go biggish for best fit, and then when you pick up the stitches for the thumb and work it up, you can knit two together every once in a while to snug it to the thumb as you go up. This leaves some ease at the base of the thumb, which allows for comfort.
When you cast on the stitches over the top of the thumb hole, the pattern recommends a M1 cast on. Its just a bunch of backward e's. You don't want it to unravel while you knit to the top of the hand. Any cast on will do. You can use www.google.com for M1 cast-on and probably find directions on the Web. Whatever you did to cast on the cuff works too.