A good friend made me a delightful pair of these for Christmas last year, and I couldn't help myself, I just had to figure it all out for myself and try making these too!
Knitting thrum mittens is reallyas simple as your favorite standby mitten pattern (knit in the round) and embedding a ball of roving or raw fiber. The premise is as simple as this: regular, plain stockinette mittens, with tufts of soft fluffy fiber knit into the body and thumb of the mitt at regular intervals, both to create a pleasing pattern, and to evenly space the tufts so as to create a wool sheath inside the mittens that felts over time into an extra warm wooly layer.
A few things to consider when designing your Thrum Mittens though...
- Remember that there will be a layer of wool INSIDE the mittens... so you may have to make a larger size than usual for a given hand to accomodate for the thrums inside. It never hurts to take specific measurements, especially if you are making them for hands that don't live with you and are not readily available for trying on repeatedly! I usually add about 1/2 - 1 inch to those measurements to leave room for extra puffy thrums.
- Start with measurements around the wrist for the cuff (for kids I like to make cuffs a little longer than for adults... you wouldn't want snow up Your sleeves during an epic snowball battle would you?)
- Measure the circumference of the hand at the widest point, around the knuckles usually.
- How long is the hand, from the base of the hand to the tip of the fingers?
- How far from the base of the hand to the place where the thumb begins?
Once you have your measurements, you are ready for the design process. I like to insert a thrum every 4 stitches... this means that I need my rows to be in multiples of 4 stitches. This way I have 1 thrum, then 3 plain stitches all the way around. I insert thrums every 5 rows (thrums then 4 plain, then thrums again) Depending on the basic pattern you choose, your thumb gussett increases might mess up your thrum "pattern" on the mitten. To avoid this, I try and start at the base of the thumb with ALL the stitches I would have needed to increase for the gussett.
- i.e. if Normally I would have started at the base of the hand with 40 stitches and increased over 12 rows to 48 stitches for the thumb gussett... just increase around the first row of stockinette after the ribbing cuff at even intervals (i.e. every 5 stitches do in increase in your favorite method) and start off at the base of the hand with 48 stitches. Any bagginess that this would have created will be filled in with the thrums, and won't be noticed.
You may need to swatch and adjust your needle size to achieve the measurements you calculated above. Most knitters HATE swatching. Me included. But it is the most reliable way to know whether your yarn will behave to your exact specifications. It allows you to see how your yarn will knit up on given needles, and will let you see if the finished product will be big enough. Knitting gauge gadgets are cheap and help to figure out gauge conundrums... this one was about 4$, and includes a needle sizer. Worth every penny... now I just need to find one with a "wraps per inch" tool built in...
A Gauge Example
- Imagine you have someone with a hand circumference of 8 inches... you cast on 56 stitches... and your stockinette stitch is knitting up at 10 stitches per inch.
56 stitches, at 10 stitches per inch, would knit up give-or-take to give you a tube of 5.6 inches... that mitten is NOT going to fit the desired hand.
To make it work with this yarn, you will either need to use bigger needles, to stretch your stitch size, or perhaps modify your design to accomodate more stitches
If you stick with 10 sts per inch, you will need to increase to 80 stitches in a round to accomodate an 8 inch circumference hand.
If you gauge up your needles... and achieve 7 stitches per inch, then 56 stitches would give you the required 8 inches.
Clear as mud right?
Now for the Thrums:
A picture speaks a thousand words...
Embedding the Thrums:
Another part that has various methods... Myself, I like simplicity. I basically just "knit" the thrum along with the strand of yarn in the Thrum stitch and then continue along the row. I repeat a thrum every 4 stitches, or you can add them as you like.
... Knit, Knit, THRUM, Knit, knit, Knit, THRUM, Knit, Knit, Knit, THRUM, Knit... You get the Picture!
For the row following a thrum row, I knit into the Thrum+Yarn stitch THROUGH THE BACK LOOP.. this creates a nice puffy stitch where the Thrum is most visible, and the other yarn stays to the back of the work more. Play with this in your swatch, and see how it looks for you. You will find that you need to gently tug the backs of the thrums to tighten them a bit after knitting a few rows, but they tend to stay fairly tight thereafter. I found it easier to tug the thrums from the tips of the mittens and the thumbs when they were finished by turning the mitten inside out and then tugging at that point. You will find a way that works best for you. Remember to keep tucking the thrums dow inside your mitten-tube as you go to keep them out of your way!
Thrums are usually made from raw wool... which turns into FELT when you heat it up and agitate it! Thrum mittens are not machine washable unfortunately, and never machine dry, or you will get mittens that felt together inside!
Hand wash in cool water, agitate very little if possible, and lay flat to dry. After a few weeks of wear, the thrums will start to mat a little inside and create that felted wool sheath, so they are easier to wash as time goes on.
Just be cautious your first time, and all will be fine!