Thrums are the scraps of warp threads left on the loom after the handwoven cloth has been cut off.
Some weavers throw them away, but that seems wasteful, especially with expensive or hand-spun yarns.
But what, then, do you do with all those short strands of yarn?
At the Bear Paw Spin-In near Spokane, WA, I met a weaver who used her thrums to weave small projects. Inspired by her thriftiness, I designed these coasters in twill.
This is a great project for beginning weavers: you use up thrums, learn hemstitching, and create a stockpile of small gifts that can be used to thank a hostess or tucked into a holiday stocking.
These coasters are a quick project that can be fit into small bits of weaving time during the holiday bustle.
- Four-harness loom with 12-dent reed.
- Spacers: 4x6-inch cards, cut into 1x6-inch strips.
Harrisville Shetland wool yarn in a color that coordinates with your thrums. Neutral colors and dark jewel tones work well, as does black. Wind a warp of 48 ends, 2 yards long. (96 yards, makes eight coasters.)
Tie-down weft: 36-40 yards of Harrisville Shetland wool yarn; same color as the warp.
Pattern weft: About 120 bundles of thrums.
Your thrums should be at least seven inches long. Longer thrums can be cut down to seven-inch lengths.
How many thrums per bundle varies depending on the thickness of the thrum threads. Each bundle should be roughly as thick as four strands of the warp yarn. I weave with thicker threads, so my bundles were typically 2-5 threads each.
Choose fibers that can withstand a hot mug or wet beverage glass. Wool, cotton, and linen are great choices. Acrylic and man-made fibers may melt, depending on their composition. If you're unsure about the fiber content of your thrums, you can test them under a hot or sweating beverage before you commit to weaving with them.
You’ll need approximately 12-16 thrum bundles per coaster, depending on the thickness of the bundle and how hard you beat. Weave to square the coasters.
Variation: You can use dried plant stems, such as lavender stems, in place of the thrums.
12 epi in a 12-dent reed.
Plain weave with the tabby weft, and 2/2 twill with the pattern weft.
In the drawdown below, blue indicates the Harrisville Shetland wool warp and pattern weft, and orange represents the thrum bundles.
Width on the loom: Four inches.
Fabric off the loom: Four-inch squares with one-inch fringe on all four sides.
Weave in three inches using the paper spacers. Leave a tail of weft thread 14-16 inches long before the first shot to use for hem stitch.
Weave five shots of single Harrisville yarn in plain weave. Hem stitch the front edge of the header using the loose end.
Twist a bundle of thrums.
You will now weave the body of the coaster as follows:
- Open the first shed in the 2/2 twill pattern (shafts one and two) and place the bundle in the shed.
- Weave two shots of plain weave using the single Harrisville yarn.
- Twist another bundle of thrums and place in the next twill shed.
Alternate steps 2 and 3, rotating the thrum pattern shots through the twill sequence as shown in the drawdown and the photo above.
When a coaster is just short of four inches in length, weave five shots of plain weave with the Harrisville Shetland. Break off the yarn, leaving 14-16 inches for the hem stitch. Hem stitch this end. One coaster is complete. You have enough warp to make 8 coasters.
Cut the fabric off of your loom. Remove the paper spacers and cut the coasters apart by cutting half-way between the coasters.
On your ironing board, use a fork or wide-toothed comb to straighten the fringe.
Steam and press each coaster to set the weave structure and to flatten the fringe.
Use a cutting mat and rotary cutter to trim the fringe to 1 inch on all sides.
Your coasters are done!
First we bought sheep so we wouldn’t need to mow the pasture. Then we found out that they need a haircut every year. Those fresh fleeces were lovely. A friend told me I needed to learn to spin. "No time," I protested. But I found out that fifteen minutes each night while your preschoolers brush their teeth is enough to start. A friend who spins and weaves told me that weaving makes your handspun go farther. She’s right.
Cheryl Reed is a member of the Desert Fiber Arts guild.