Sunday, 8 June 2014

Thrum caps as modern camouflage?

Thrum caps go back to at least the 16th century, where they were popularly worn by sailors who found the thick, shaggy pile of the cap a practical warm 'thatched roof' against bad weather. I regularly make these for re-enactors and am always on the look out for new-to-me images of these in use or the occasional very rare surviving example in museums around the world.

A few months ago, I was asked to make a modern interpretation of the thrum cap to be worn as camouflage in tule reed beds by a lovely gent in America.

We started with an image of the local tule. As you can see there are a huge range of shades and colour effects caused by light and shadow on the rushes here.

So, to get a clearer idea of the colour balance, I cropped the image and ran it through an image colour histogram programme to give me an approximate reference of the proportions of colours within the project.

I then used this to select yarn, from which thrums were cut and knitted randomly, the only 'rule' being that I always used two different shades in each knot of thrumming, and avoided using the same two colours two stitches in a row. I also deliberately chose yarn in varying textures which would felt at slightly different rates in the final cap. The interior hat was worked in a neutral drab background shade.

Also did a second version with the thrums somewhat more clustered to approximate a more traditional camo pattern. I still used two shades in each thrum to ensure a broken up effect but this time used the same shades for several stitches at a time to create a more solid block.

The hats were fulled and blocked, and went off to be field tested. They may look a bit odd sitting by themselves, but they are intended for a specific environment. Here's a couple of images showing just how nicely they blend into the background scenery. Warm and cosy for a long day out in the tule as well! We decided in the end that the more random selection of yarn in the first cap was ideal for this particular scenery.

If you fancy trying this effect yourself, using a historic pattern with modern shades to create a whole new type of sporting hat, I do have a pattern for a Thrum Cap available for download via Ravelry, and as always, I do take commissions for hats.