Thrumming

An English sailor, illustration from Habiti Antichi e Moderni by Cesare Vecelli, 1600.

I’ve been bowled over by the interest in the General Carleton hat – especially from 18thC living historians and re-enactors.  (If you’d like the pattern, it is in Piecework, Jan/Feb 2014). But one question keeps coming up: how do you thrum?  I thought I’d tackle this here on the blog.

In the 17thC, English sailors seem to have worn knitted hats with allover thrums. By the 1780s, the allover thrums are a distant memory – and seem to be confined to a decorative fringe. Similar fringes can be found on the earliest of knitted Dales gloves ~ the G. Walton gloves at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, and also Marie Hartley illustrated a now-lost pair of fringe gloves, in ‘The Old Hand Knitters of the Dales’.

There are two rounds of thrums on the General Carleton hat, as I knitted it. You make the thrums on rounds 2 and 4.  I did the first round of thrums in the natural cream colour and the second in the natural dark. You can mix it up if you prefer!

I was lucky to have access to another researcher’s photos of the inside of the hat.  I haven’t permission so won’t reproduce the Carleton interior pictures here but what I can show you are our own photos of the G.Walton glove which appears to be thrum-fringed in a similar way. Even so, I am not confident we can say any one way of thrumming is ‘authentic’ for this – or any –  period. Which frees you to thrum how works best for you.

I could only see the hat in a display case and as museum exhibitions tend to be for everyone, not just knitters, knitted items are rarely inside out when on display. Which is a shame as it tells you a lot about construction methods from an inside out item!  Another item with a fringed edge I have been able to examine, are one of the earliest pairs of Dales gloves, the ‘G Walton’ gloves – pattern soon to be published in ‘The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales’. You can look at our reference photos of the Walton glove and decide how you think these 1846 thrums were made. The gloves are incredibly fragile and most of all at the fringed edge.

Meantime, for those struggling with thrums, you can just knit the hat straight then ‘sew’ in lengths of yarn when it’s finished; secure how seems best to you.  I will try and explain how I thrummed my version of the Carleton hat.

Walton glove thrummed fringe
Walton glove thrummed fringe

How To Thrum

The Yarn Harlot’s Thrum FAQ is pretty well the method I opted for. Only you’ll notice, as in Maine mittens, the Harlot is using unspun wool and the thrums are lying on the inside of the work. For our fringe, we want them on the outside.

All you are doing, is knitting the 6″ length of yarn in with your next stitch, and then pulling both legs of the yarn to the outside of the work. You can do this in whatever way seems good to you. But I have tried to write down the way I did it, below, for anyone who needs to know.  It is not the same way the 1846 knitter of the Walton gloves did their thrummed fringe. But it is a way that works.

NB: You make thrums over one round and secure them in the subsequent round. Steps 1-3 making the thrum, Step 4: securing the thrum

1.Take the 6″ length of thrum, lay it alongside your working yarn, but line up the thrum’s centre at the point of the needles where you will be working.

2. This will leave one leg of the thrum on the exterior of the hat, but one, annoyingly, on the interior. Your mission is then to physically haul the second leg, (that wants to lie on the inside of the hat) out so it is also dangling down the front of the work alongside the other thrum.

3. So slip the thrum you just made to the left needle, and haul the second leg out to the front of the work.  Once both legs of the yarn are dangling on the front of the work, slip back to right needle. You’re ready to make your next thrum.

4. On the next round, when you come to each stitch, knit it with its thrum like a K2tog. Tug each thrum to make sure the legs are level and it is secure.  At the end of the round, you will have your original number of stitches, and the thrums will be secured.

DSCF1178
Walton glove fringe from inside

In Newfoundland and Maine mittens, the thrums are made from roving, not spun yarn like our’s, and the ends are dangling on the inside of the work, not the outside like our’s. However, you may find this video by Eunny Jang helpful. Although Eunny is folding the thrum in a more complicated way than you need to. All you need to do is fold your 6″ thrum in half, then work the thrum into your knitting at its centre point (3″ in), and unlike the Newfoundland and Maine thrums, you are eliminating the thrum on the next round, by knitting it together with its stitch – whereas the Newfoundland and Maine thrums have their thrum’s  loop left in the work, its contrasting colour providing the pattern in the knitting. We’re essentially making an inside out thrum, in other words!

For more info check out:

Two Nerdy History Girls: allover thrummed sailor’s hat

Wicked Woollens’ Thrummed Sailor’s Cap

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4 thoughts on “Thrumming

    1. Hi Peggy! There is no reason why you can’t just sew them in after. If you are fulling the item, hopefully that felting process will lock them in place..? We have no extant thrum caps so we’re not really even sure how it was done.

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  1. I’m not quite sure how I’ve missed out on thrumming all these years (especially as I have an attic full of fleece), but I love the sound of it – it must add so much in terms of warmth. I have got to have a go – thank you!

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