Tag Archives: yarn

Afterthought Thrums

A couple of years back I was asked to teach a class on thrummed mittens. Naturally, I experimented with heaps of patterns in my quest to concoct the perfect mitten– but ultimately found that the most important thing is the construction of the thrum. I thought I’d share my recipe for the perfect thrum, plus a neat trick to replace missing thrums in your finished object.

How I make my thrums

My method is based on the Yarn Harlot’s technique, but there’s one important difference: instead of twisting in step 3, I use two fingers to roll the center of the thrum against the palm of one hand until it’s lightly felted.

This creates a much more durable thrum than the twisted technique, and keeps the inside of the mitten from getting scraggly with wear. The poor half-mitten pictured below has been much abused as a teaching model, but the thrums are still as soft and puffy as when I made them. (Once washed and worn, they’ll felt and stick to one another a bit more.)

Your thrums should be a little bit thicker than the yarn you’re knitting with, but not so much that they distort the shape of the stitches. Once you knit them into the mitten, they’ll compress down to about the same size as the yarn and look like neat little hearts.

Inserting a thrum after the fact (i.e., “afterthought thrumming”)

Because the Perfect Thrum is neatly felted, you can treat it as if it were a short piece of yarn, and insert it into your knitting even after the mitten is complete. Reasons you might want to do this:

  • You accidentally left out a thrum while knitting.
  • You accidentally pulled out a thrum while knitting.
  • One of your thrums was mangled in a tragic accident, and you yanked it out in pity.

To fill in the empty spot on your mitten, you’ll need a crochet hook in a size suitable for your yarn (or slightly bigger) and a spare thrum.

  1. Find the stitch where the missing thrum belongs, then insert the crochet hook under both legs of the stitch immediately above that one.
  2. Catch one end of the thrum and pull it through.
  3. Put the crochet hook inside the mitten and bring up the hook at the base of the stitch you’re thrumming.
  4. Catch one leg of the thrum and pull it down inside the mitten.
  5. Repeat with the other leg.
  6. Smooth the fabric around the thrum with your fingers.7. Admire your handiwork!

More thrumming tips

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  • To take your thrum knitting out on the road, prepare a batch of thrums in advance and carry them in a small organza gift bag– the fabric is stiff enough to protect your thrums from squashing, and keeps any fuzzy bits from escaping.
  • Whether you’re working from a kit or following a pattern, you probably have a bit of commercially prepared top or roving with which to make your thrums. Don’t cut your fiber– just grab a pinch from one end and pull! If the fiber won’t come apart, make sure the roving isn’t twisted and move your hands farther apart. You can also strip it down lengthwise to help keep the width of your thrums consistent.
  • You can insert afterthought thrums with a very short tapestry needle using duplicate stitch, but I find this rather more fiddly than the crochet hook method.

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A Bobbin Box

So I’m a bit of a scrap hoarder. I have a bin for wood scraps, a bin for leather scraps, a bin for wire scraps, et cetera. This drives my boyfriend crazy. But as you crafters know, all that stuff comes in handy one day. And it’s so rewarding to find just the right thing without having to run to the store and spend your entire craft budget on some silly little part.

Right now, I am working on a tapestry. (That’s a post for another day.) I tried various methods of wrangling the pile of mini-cones on which the fine wool weft was wound, none of which were working quite right. Then a lightbulb went off!

I got out the scrap bins.

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A bit of doweling, a plywood tray, and eight might miniature flowerpots later, I am totally organized slightly less disorganized.

A bit more on that shawl bag

I recently wove and sewed a bag to coordinate with an old handwoven prayer shawl, and had lots of fun coming up with overshot treadlings on the fly. The recipient asked for the bag to echo the design of the (intimidatingly masterful) original shawl, with the addition of an embroidered Star of David. Have a peek:

This was a fun project, and I’m happy with how it turned out. Next time, I’ll put on a longer warp!

Tasty Things

(I’ve been sitting on this post for ages, trying to take new photos with better lighting. Since it’s February, I’ve given up.)

My friends and I talk about yarn the same way normal people talk about food.

“I broke my diet again, but the MadTosh was too delicious to resist.”

“Eh, it’s little bland, but the texture is unbelievable!”

Perhaps not coincidentally, one of my more frequently used comparisons of weaving and knitting is as follows:

Knitting is like cooking. You’re always moving around, keeping track of five things at once, and it makes me immensely frustrated. (Note that this aspect of knitting is less true the more I practice. I’m getting better at the juggling act.)

Weaving, on the other hand, is like baking. All the hard work is at the beginning, and once everything is set up and running smoothly, it’s only a matter of time before you have a delicious finished good.

I suppose spinning is equivalent to making tea, all soothing and repetitive. And bobbin lace… is confectionery?

Sorry. I’ll quit torturing the metaphor. Here’s a guinea pig.

It Folds!

Between twisting fringe, washing fleece, learning to crochet, digging through dormant works-in-progress, winding warps, and planning new projects, this past month has been a busy one. A few days ago, I made a happy discovery while idly browsing Etsy*: the manufacturer of my baby loom! It’s a toy loom from Brio, and at least one other adult weaver has succumbed to its charms. I wasn’t able to identify it before because one supporting beam, which would have been marked Brio, is missing. It seems that later versions of this loom used a rigid heddle, but mine is definitely an older model.

In fact, it brings back hazy memories of a toy loom I had as a child. Maybe it’s the same one.

Once I knew its manufacturer, I could find a PDF version of the instruction manual. To my astonishment…

…it folds! When I saw it in the weaving shop, I tried to collapse it for transportation, but when nothing moved, I assumed the loom wasn’t made for it. Actually, it was just that the screws on which the braces rest had rusted, and just needed to be loosened slightly.

Now it can come with me wherever I go. Or, at least, places that my Fanny couldn’t. So, with an upcoming weekend trip in mind, I warped it up again. Using a finer yarn than last time meant tying another 40 string heddles and using two ends per dent, but as a bonus, this made the log cabin threading a piece of cake. The yarn is Lion Brand 1878, which is a new one for me: a review on Amazon compared it to Harrisville Shetland for half the price, and so far it’s very nice, though I did find one knot and one weak spot in the eighty meters I wound for this mini-project.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Meanwhile, the laboratory kitchen was taking on a suspiciously sheepy smell, so I could justify spending time happily washing fleece in lieu of dishes. Below, a smidgeon of California Red and Targhee from the Spinning Loft:

Fresh fleece is so delicious and squishy that I’ve contemplated using it as a pillow. Or just sticking my face in it.

The Targhee has a good bit of VM, so I’ll be spending some time picking by hand while plotting to build a box picker. I think I’m going to card the stuff and spin it before dyeing, but I did toss some commercial BFL roving into the dyepot. Having done all the samples for my gamp at once, now I’m focusing on one dyestuff at a time.

In addition to deepening my knowledge of natural dyes, it’s much easier to coordinate.

Since it’s been a while since my last post, and the holiday season looms, there’s plenty else in the works: a hairpin lace shawl, a crocheted hat, a knitted sweater, and a 600-end Mystery Warp, all to be revealed in due time. But for today, I’ll leave it at that. Hope you’re having a nice November!

*A too-frequent pastime. Help!

Mittens and Museums

First, the mittens!

My half-handspun Nightingale adaptation is now progressing nicely. I think the design is more succesful with this combination of yarns, at least on an aesthetic level, but I’m not sure the mittens will fit my monstrously large hands. I’m holding out hope for a bit of blocking magic.

Also on the Coffee Table of Crafting, a small piece of cross-stitch that I made from a kit picked up at the local Highland Games. Making something from a kit led to much rumination on the nature of creativity, and whether I was actually adding anything new to the world, and whether making a project from a kit is the same as using someone else’s pattern and following their yarn specifications, and whether there is any point to changing something just for the sake of changing it, and why it’s easier not to follow “recipes” in weaving (no shaping! …generally), and then– I decided not to worry about it. So here is my Wee Hieland Coo. (I kid you not, that was the name of the kit. This may have played a role in my purchasing decision.)

As it turned out, I did wind up placing my own personal stamp on the project. After a few days of carefully managing every last thread, I misplaced the whole glob of it just as I was finishing the cow’s head. Rather than wait until the weekend to go thread-hunting, I dug into my embroidery box for some close-enough floss. So, this is a blonder Hieland Coo than some– but according to Wikipedia, they come in all shades of orange to yellow! Of course, I found the missing floss immediately after completing the project. (It was stuck between the pages of my mitten pattern.)

Also on the coffee table, another knitting project has mysteriously appeared. I can’t figure out how this happens. I keep telling you, I’m not a knitter!

Socks. This yarn will become socks.

In loom-land, my warp is still…  well, with another half hour’s work, I should be up and weaving again.

Now, on to the museum. This is becoming something of a theme on the blog. Last weekend I went to this delightful little museum, which fills up the floor of an old stone church with beautiful stained glass, various artisanal works, and a few artifacts of interest to textile folks:

My significant other thought it was funny to see a glass case full of things that I use all the time. (He’s learning to identify the different tools and even to recognize quality!)

Sadly, there were some errors in the labelling, in both French and English. This cute little artifact was identified as a spindle, though it is, of course, a distaff. I am considering contacting the museum to let them know.

But the real treasure of the visit was from the gift shop:

Yes! A book all about the ceinture fléchée, complete with instructions for finger weaving a number of different traditional designs. I think this is becoming a mini research project of mine. They had a nice example on display, too:

I believe this dates from the early twentieth century, but I’m not certain. Next time I’ll take notes.

Already I’m eyeing my baskets of yarn bits and dreaming of inkle-loom adaptations. But it will have to wait for a bit: tomorrow it’s off to the races, by which I mean the Twist fiber festival, with friends chopsticknitter and starweaving.

And yes, the inkle loom is coming along for the ride.