Thrumming is a simple technique that creates incredibly warm fabric by knitting with lengths of unspun fleece along with your main yarn. The technique originated in Newfoundland, so as you might expect it’s a great way to create fleece-stuffed mittens, slippers or hats which provide the wearer with fluffy, insulating warmth during the coldest months.
To create the thrums, small sections of fleece are taken from a skein of unspun combed wool or roving. It’s best to use a soft, non-superwash wool, as over time the fibres will felt together with wear, forming a thick, even blanket of fleece. Traditionally, thrums were made with undyed wool, and worked in a lice stitch pattern so they looked like little hearts on the outside of the fabric. Today, many knitters like to play with hand-dyed roving to create beautiful colour effects.
The resultant fabric has a sheepskin-like quality that, once you’ve touched it, you’ll want to use again and again!
Start by creating some thrums to work with – it’s a good idea to produce a bundle before you start knitting, rather than make them one-by-one as you work.
Hold the end of your fibre in one hand, and place your other hand about 10-15cm down the length of the fibre, and gently pull a length off – never use scissors. Pinch off a thin wisp of fibre from this length.
Fold the ends into the middle so that they overlap, then give the thrum a good twist. It should be the same thickness as your knitting yarn, or slightly thicker.
Take your knitting, and work to where you want your first thrum to be. Insert your knitting needle into the stitch, wrap your yarn around the needle as normal, then place the thrum on the needle on top of the working yarn, with the tails at the back. Tug on the tails so that they are of equal length over your needle.
Pull both the yarn and the loop of the thrum through the stitch – the long ends of the thrum will be on the wrong side of your work.
When you come to work the thrummed stitch on the next row/round, knit/purl the stitch and the thrum together as if you were working a single stitch, then give the ends of the thrum a little tug to make sure the tension is nice and even.
Fancy trying a thrummed project? Here are some of our favourites:
Yarn Harlot Thrummed Mittens by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (free pattern)
Mousear Mittens by Anni Howard, from The Knit Generation (Quail Publishing, 2014)
Cadeautje Slippers by Ysolda Teague
Thrummed Booties by Katie Startzman, from The Knitted Slipper Book (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013)