Garneted Tweeds: Reusing Thrums for Eco-Friendly Palettes

Learn about garneting—the process of turning yarn back into fiber—using your thrums and leftover yarns.

Jaya Srikrishnan Aug 2, 2023 - 10 min read

Garneted Tweeds: Reusing Thrums for Eco-Friendly Palettes Primary Image

Rolags and finished yarns in Jaya's three color palettes: red/pink, teal/purple, and yellow/orange. Photos by Matt Graves

What’s a thrum? Knitters often know thrums as short tufts of unspun fiber that can be incorporated into a knitted fabric, creating a squishy pile inside a mitten, for example. Weavers more often use the term thrum when referring to loom waste. When woven cloth is cut off the loom, some warp remains unwoven. Weavers often keep this unwoven warp to incorporate into other projects.

In Judith MacKenzie’s video Spinner’s Color Toolbox (see Resources), she demonstrates garneting—the process of turning yarn back into fiber. Judith cuts yarn into pieces and uses her handcards to open up the fibers, making them suitable for blending and spinning. Judith discusses this process as a way to create unique handspun yarns for weft or for knitting. It made me wonder: Could I garnet my thrums and high-end yarn leftovers?

As a spinner, I like using natural fibers, some of which are quite expensive. Being naturally frugal by nature, and also concerned about the waste that I generate, I don’t throw any fiber or yarn out. I have many zipper bags containing small balls of yarn and thrums. The yarn is from knitting, the thrums are from weaving. I’m always looking for ways to use these leftovers.

Last spring, I volunteered to spin the warp for a fleece-to-shawl team. As is often the case in a fleece-to-shawl competition, teams plan their projects and warp their looms prior to the competition day. Warp yarn must be relatively smooth to go through the heddles and reed of a loom. Especially with the time constraints of a competition, the warp should be strong to withstand the tension placed on it during the weaving. I started thinking about Judith’s garneting demo and decided to use this technique to make a tweedy yarn suitable for warp. A challenge, you say? I love challenges!


Jaya garneted the thrums and leftover yarns separately so she would have better control when blending later. Before and after garneting: (from left) Shetland knitting yarns, handspun silk blend, and mohair yarns. Note the staple-length tufts near each fiber type. The silk blend had the shortest fiber after garneting, followed by the Shetland yarn, with the mohair having the longest staple.

The Process

First, I selected my materials. Some washed, dark-brown Finn fleece would make a good background for my tweed. To add flecks of color and texture to the yarn without compromising its function as warp, I selected two sets of thrums and some leftover Shetland jumper-weight yarns in colors that coordinated with my thrums. One set of thrums was pure mohair, spun by itself without a binder. The second set was handspun cashmere/silk and wool/silk that I had used with commercial silk to weave scarves.

To provide freedom of design to the team’s weaver, I decided to spin three sets of yarn. All three would use the same brown wool base, but they would have different colors of garneted tweed. I selected yarns and thrums for three palettes: teal/purple, yellow/orange, and red/pink.

As I divided the thrums and leftovers into the three palettes, I kept the individual types of yarn separate to provide more blending options later. I created nine containers of add-in fibers, three each from the three sets of thrums/yarns I had selected for garneting.


I started with a sample skein to check out the process. After cutting the yarns into 2- to 3-inch lengths, I garneted them with handcards until they were mostly fiber again. I then carded the Finn, blended some of each of the add-in fibers in the yellow and orange palette into the final carding step, and made rolags. I didn’t want to blend the add-ins too much with the Finn. The rolags spun very easily and I got a good, strong singles yarn. Having tested the process, I moved to my Louet Standard drumcarder.

After carding the Finn fiber until I had a lofty, open batt, I fluffed the garneted add-ins with my fingers and placed them directly on the drum, as I do when creating textured art yarns. However, as I spun this first skein, I learned a few lessons and tweaked my process. The add-ins placed on the drum came to the drafting triangle in big clumps, creating a more textured yarn than I wanted. I also had to ensure that I included some of the Finn in each draft. The mohair was very strong, but the other fiber add-ins came apart if they were spun by themselves. Additionally, I had put far too much of the add-in fiber into this first batt. I had to ply it with a Finn-only singles to make a smoother and stronger yarn.

Despite some of the challenges that I discovered while spinning this initial experiment, the team liked this sample skein; I was good to proceed.

Fully garneting the add-ins and careful blending resulted in tweed flecks that stay put.

The Modified Process

In making subsequent batts, I layered the batt in the final carding step by alternating layers of Finn with layers of each of the sets of fibers: handspun silk blend, mohair, Shetland. I also ran the fibers through the feed tray with the previous layer of Finn so they opened up a bit more than with my hands alone.

I changed my spinning process from a pure long draw to a short-backward draw when I came to an add-in, allowing me to draft out clumps and ensure some Finn was also drafted at the same time. Occasionally, I had to move the add-in to be able to draft the Finn in parallel.


Along the way, I learned that the thrums and leftover yarns had to be fully opened up. If there was a length of ungarneted yarn mixed in with the fiber, it could be drafted out smoothly, but it took time. Regardless of the length that I cut the yarns, once garneted using my handcards, they reverted to their original staple length (or shorter), so altering the cut yarn length had no effect. I was aiming for a DK yarn, which can only take a certain amount of twist before it becomes overspun. A fine yarn could have handled the greater amount of twist that those short fibers needed to hold together to make a strong yarn, but my DK-weight yarn depended upon the presence of the Finn to perform as a successful warp.

I continued making adjustments and reduced the amount of add-ins from the second batt onward so I could ply two tweed singles and still get a relatively smooth yarn. I didn’t weigh or measure as I worked, creating the blends purely by visual appeal.

Based on my carder’s capacity, each skein was 2 ounces in weight and 70 to 80 yards of a sport- to DK-weight yarn. I made nine skeins in all, three in each of the palettes so that the weaver had complete freedom in designing the warp. We used about two-thirds of the yarn in the competition. The team was awarded a second-place ribbon. The weaver said she had no problems with the warp sticking in the heddles or the reed. Success!

Jaya's scarf is a beautiful example of how thrums and leftovers garneted back into fiber can add color and texture.

The Conclusion

With care, it is possible to make a warp yarn with thrums and leftovers. For spinners who carefully select the fiber they use and produce lovely handspun yarns, it is a great way to ensure that every last bit of that precious fiber and handspun yarn is used. Additionally, luxury yarns don’t have to be wasted. They don’t have to be relegated to tying handspun skeins or weaving in the Japanese zanshi style where they are knotted together and used for weft only.

Thrums and leftovers garneted back into fiber add color and texture to handspun yarns without sacrificing smoothness and strength. These add-ins can increase the visual interest of natural-color fibers. The resulting yarns are suitable for any application and do not need to be coddled.

At the end of this challenge, I wove a scarf from yarn leftover from the competition. I cut the scarf made with garneted thrums off the loom, collected the new thrums, and put them into a bag with other leftover thrums to be used again in the future. The cycle continues.


This article was first published in Spin Off Spring 2023.

Jaya Srikrishnan is a knitter, spinner, and weaver. She loves to try new things and has fun challenging herself in her creative process. Her designs have been published in knitting magazines, and she teaches knitting at various venues.