Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How Not To Thrum Mittens

I like to analyze how things are made, and to know why they were originally made that way. I spend a lot of time at work poring over old tailor’s drafts and all the other information I can find about how garments were made in past centuries, and I love figuring out why they are made like that, and getting into the long dead tailor’s or seamstress’ mind. And then I figure out how I may need to adjust them for modern materials, and modern bodies, and how I may want to improve them, at least in small ways. When it comes to knitting, I almost always feels that there are ways that I can improve the pattern as written. I feel that I know more about fit than most pattern writers, and I fully believe that it’s better to knit something as seemlessly as possible than to knit it in a bunch of separate pieces as most patterns instruct. This infuriating belief that I always know better can sometimes backfire on me.

I decided to make thrummed mittens after reading about them in a Spin Off article a few years ago. I erroneously thought that they had been invented by the writer of the article. When I saw that each thrum was a separate piece, I decided that that was a mistake on which I could improve. So instead I decided to use a continuous piece of roving, with the idea that it would be more secure than individual bits. Boy was I wrong. Because the roving was caught at all different points within each fiber, much of it disappeared with use, and came out of the mittens as annoying extraneous fluff.

As you can see here, after a few years of wear, the roving worked in as another “yarn” is too thin to really add to the overall warmth of the mittens. I really like these mittens, are at least the idea of these mittens, because they include wool from Oscar, Lilly, Iris, and Blaze, all of whom were sheep I had met and who are no longer with us, and also angora from my first pet rabbit Jessica, who has been gone for over 5 years now. Also, they match my hat and scarf. So after researching more about thrumming, and realizing that sometimes things are done that way for a reason and don’t need my help, I decided to unravel and reknit them the right way.

I started by unraveling the yarn, winding it back into a skein, and washing it. This took out all the kinks, fluffed it up again, and got it really clean. Think about it, the soap may not really get in between all the stitches when you wash a knitted garment, but boy it can get all the way around strands of yarn in a loose skein.

I threw out the remains of the brown roving, and started fresh. I ended up using at least twice what is pictured of the dark brown for the thrums.

As for actually thrumming the right way, both the Yarn Harlot and Adria at hello yarn have excellent and well photographed instructions posted for free at their blogs. (Click on their names to see!) I did a combination of the two, maybe leaning slightly more towards the Harlot’s method.
The actual thrummed mittens. Look how much fuller and fluffier they are than the first attempt. It’s best to wait until spring to unravel one’s winter mittens, so I can’t test them while shoveling snow in Buffalo until at least late October, but I can tell just by putting them on that they’re way warmer.