Fridays with Franklin: From Bun to Blanket

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For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

The last time I wrote about granny squares in this column it was to exult over having finally figured out how to do them.

Those who learned to crochet at mama’s knee are welcome to snicker, but they were a tough nut for me to crack. I was brand new to crochet. I knew nothing. And so often, the answers I got from crocheters to whom I appealed for help were, shall we say, opaque.

lost-bunny

One authority’s response was, “Granny squares? Oh, they’re easy. Just a ring and then double crochet and make sure to work four corners. You can do more corners or fewer if you want a different shape. Okay? Bye.”

I was reminded of a Victorian knitting pattern in my collection that instructs you to make a baby’s jacket by first casting on “stitches sufficient to reach around the baby.”

In any case, after poring over a pile of crochet books, and going so far as to draw maps for myself,

granny-map

I did finish six granny squares and assemble them into a multi-purpose accessory for the bath. You can see it here.

But I still hadn’t made myself the sine qua non of granny-based fabrics: a blanket.

Concentric Buns

Since this space is supposed to be the place where I try new stuff while people watch, it made sense to ask Makers’ Mercantile if I could use one of the newer HiKoo yarns, Concentric, for my blanket.

HiKoo Concentric is interesting stuff. It’s spun from 100% Baby Alpaca, so it’s soft and drapey–two qualities highly desirable in a blanket.

The construction is wild. Check this out.

The strand is made up of what are, essentially, four strands of two-ply lace weight. These four strands aren’t twisted together–they just lie next to one another.

yarn-01

There’s more. Every so often, one of the plies in one of the strands changes color.

yarn-02

A bit further along, a second ply changes color.

yarn-03

Then another, then another, and so forth until they have all changed.

yarn-04

yarn-05

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The result is a slow gradient yarn, but the shifts from one color to the next are attractively speckled or flecked.

The yarn is put up into a bullseye bun from which you can work without prior winding.

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I picked this colorway, Trixie, and planned a simple experiment.

KISS My Buns

Emphasis on simple. I had a boss once who was entirely useless except as a dispenser of clichéd workplace acronyms, of which his favorite was KISS, or Keep It Simple, Stupid. He used to write it all over my project proposals.

I was still feeling a little scarred from my bout with the stenciled warp, and at the top of my notes for this project I scrawled KISS.

So, what do we do with gradients? Well, one of the things we do with gradients is play them off against one another like so:

gradient

I thought I’d like to do that, too, but rather than work in stripes, I’d do this:

squares-sketch
To join the squares, I considered join-as-you-go (JAYGO); but as is so often is the case, I had to consider portability. A JAYGO blanket very quickly becomes too large to haul around in a carry-on bag, and January through May is the time of year when my teaching schedule keeps me almost constantly away from home.

In Edie Eckman’s excellent book, Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs, she lays out a method for joining granny squares that gives every square an additional round of double crochet, so the finished effect is side-by-side squares with minimal interruption from the join.

I decided to try it, since I imagined it would allow me to use a new bun of Concentric and run the gradient in the direction opposite the gradient used in the squares.

granny-sketch

So Many Squares

How big would this blanket be? I decided that through the highly scientific process of choosing a size of square that seemed reasonable to work while sitting in an airplane seat (three rounds), then working an entire bun to see how many I got.

With a US Size 4 (3.5 mm) hook, I got fifty. I kept them in strict gradient order by slipping them onto a stitch holder as they were finished.

gathered-squares
Then I did another bun’s worth, and got fifty-one. Great. I’d do a 100-square blanket. I like easy math.

In another mood, or in another month with less travel, I might have devoted a few hours to figuring out whether to keep the squares in the order they were made, or shuffle them together to make a longer gradient. Perhaps I might thrown them into the air to make them random. But sometimes you just need to make a choice. I decided to keep them in order.

To make the next step as portable as possible, I tied each strip of squares into a separate bundle.

bundles-tied
Because I have a brain like a sieve, I also added numbered tags so I’d know in what order I should attach the bundles.

tagged-bundle

It’s never a waste of time to protect your future self from the silly things it is prone to do.

E Pluribus Unum

Edie’s book is a model of clarity. Still, I was nervous. Even with a couple projects under my belt, I find crochet charts daunting. I asked some of the crochet authorities in my address book for tips, and the replies ranged from “Oh, I never use charts. Just ignore them.” to “You don’t follow them like you do knitting charts. Just sort of look at the chart, and get an idea of what you should do, then go.”

I often wonder if I lack the moxie to crochet.

Happily, Edie offers crystal-clear written instructions. As I compared them to the chart, for the first time the fog began to clear. And the little squares began to become a big square.

joining

After the second strip had been joined, I picked up speed and the process became–dare I say it?–fun.

And then there was one.

unblocked
Now, I know people who say they don’t block crochet. I do. And I always wet block, because when I think about all the places where these squares were made, the idea of not washing the fabric thoroughly makes me green in the gills.

After blocking, I was almost perfectly happy with the project. There’s a patch where the joining rows and the squares are both the darkest grey, and thats reads to me as a black hole in the work. I’m not sure I like it.

blackhole
But the fabric is cuddly beyond words.

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finished-02

finished-04

Aside from that, three buns gave me a lap blanket (the finished dimensions are 33 inches x 33 inches) that is handsome and comforting.

Yet I do have a fourth bun sitting here. A border, perhaps?

edging
Or something to dress up the black hole? I’m gonna go cuddle up under this and think about it.

See you in two weeks…

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Concentric (100% Baby Alpaca; 437 yards per 200 gram cake). Shown in Color 1027 (Trixie).

addi Color-Coded Crochet Hooks

Boye Stitch Holder, Large 3-Inch

Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

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Fridays with Franklin: Wear the Bee Socks

fwf-logo-columnsizeFor an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

This column most often shows you the progress of one project at a time, which I’ve realized gives you a false impression of how I work.

I’ve been cleaning out my primary workspace for eight years, which is the same amount of time I’ve spent working in my primary workspace.

It’s not a complete mess, mind you. If it were a complete mess, it would be complete. Nothing in here is complete.

I have a sort of area devoted to “Fridays with Franklin” works in progress. It grows and shrinks and changes its shape and moves hither and thither, like a restless volcanic island made from yarn.

At any given moment there will be three things in progress, supplies for a couple more ideas, supplies from Makers’ Mercantile for which no idea has yet presented itself, and leftover bits of finished projects that haven’t been sorted into storage.

Right now the top of the island is covered by a large (well, large for me) crochet project using HiKoo Concentric, an intriguing alpaca gradient yarn that arrived attractively packaged in a plump bun.

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Two luscious buns of HiKoo Concentric from Skacel.

Two these buns have become little bundles of granny squares, and the granny squares need assembly into the final thing.

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But that means hauling around all the granny squares, and I’ve been on the move. That means the first over the finish line will be this pair of socks made with old favorite Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock Yarn, shown here in progress on my first set of addi Flexi Flips.

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(I love the FlexiFlips, by the way. My preferred tools for sock knitting have been double-points or two circulars, and these are a sort of hybrid of the two methods. You get a set of three, and two hold the work while you knit with the third. They took a little getting used to, but after about ten rounds, I found myself working faster than usual with hands that were relaxed and comfortable.)

These socks are for me. I don’t have much time to knit for myself, so I choose personal projects with care. Things I need go to the top of the waiting list.

I need these socks, because the only reliable source of reasonably-priced, durable store-bought socks that I’ve counted on for years recently slashed its line to remove all the colors I wanted to wear. No more bright yellows, reds, or purples. No more vivid greens. No pinks, no lavenders, no royal or robin’s egg blues. They still love to trumpet that they offer dozens and dozens of choices; but now all of those choices are either browns, tans, greys, black, or navy. Whee!

I also need these socks because I want socks with a fun motif on them. You can buy men’s socks with motifs, but these are almost always selected from the acceptable list of Things Men Can Have On Their Clothes.

Here’s the classic list:

1. Stuff You Hunt (Deer, Duck, Moose, etc.)
2. Horses
3. Card Suits (Heart, Diamond, Club, Spade)
4. Cars
5. Golf
6. Sailing
7. Naked Ladies

The only lasting additions in the past eighty or so years are “fun” science motifs (e.g., robots, spaceships, atoms) and superhero logos.

Here are things I don’t want on my socks:

1. Stuff You Hunt (Deer, Duck, Moose, etc.)
2. Horses
3. Card Suits (Heart, Diamond, Club, Spade)
4. Cars
5. Golf
6. Sailing
7. Naked Ladies
8. Science
9. Superheroes

I am in no way knocking you if you want these things on your socks. But you are well provided for, and can if you so desire buy what you like right off any number of shelves.

Me, I want colorful wool socks decorated with things men aren’t supposed to like, such as this curly-swirly lyre, taken from a nineteenth-century needlework booklet.

urn-chart
It’s a symbol of the god Apollo, sure; but Apollo doesn’t count as a superhero as he hasn’t got his own best-selling comic book and movie franchise. Apollo wrote poetry and cavorted with muses, both activities the modern American male is supposed to avoid.

Clocked

The socks I want have clocks. A “clock,” in hosiery, is a decoration at the ankle, possibly spreading up the leg a bit. The plural is either “clocks,” which makes sense, or “clox.” I hate the second spelling.

sock-sketch
I could knit the clock into the sock as a piece of intarsia. I have quite a few vintage knitting books with patterns for intarsia clocks,

vintage-montage

But I bristle at the thought of working a sock with a dozen strands of yarn coming off it. I’m sorry, no.

So I thought, why not try to make this happen with duplicate stitch? I’m an old hand at duplicate stitch–last seen in this column on the chest of Rosamund’s Wonder Woofin’ sweater.*

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Duplicate stitch embroidery mimics the structure of the knitting underneath, and if it’s done well it appears to be an integral part of the fabric. It preserves, as well as any embroidery can, the stretch of knitting. It might be just the thing.

If you’re not familiar with the technique, there’s a pretty thorough illustrated write-up of as part of the series on the Wonder Woofin’ sweater. (Bonus: adorable dog pictures.)

The Best Laid Plans

Again, I’ve done plenty of duplicate stitch–but I had never done it on a sock. More to the point, I had never done it at the gauge of this sock–nine stitches to the inch.

It’s my usual practice when embroidering a closed piece of work (like a hat or glove) to insert something, usually a piece of stiff cardboard, inside the work so that I don’t have to worry about accidentally stitching through the wrong part of the fabric. In this case, I have a solid wood sock blocker that did the trick. The fabric wasn’t stretched drum tight–just enough to make it lie nice and flat.

Here we are once again, embroidering our work from a chart, so what do we need? We need guides. I put mine in, using plain white sewing thread, doubled. I put in a baseline, and lines for the horizontal and vertical centers of the motif.

first-guides
Note: To make finding the center stitch a snap, before dividing the stitches to work the heel flap, I put a stitch marker halfway across the stitches at the back of the leg (seen here), and halfway across the stitches at the front of the leg.

For the motif, I first thought I’d use Color 1496. However, paired with Color 1027, it was too close to read well–another cool color, adjacent in the spectrum, almost identical in value. The embroidery would barely have shown up from a couple feet away.

purple-and-blue
Enter Color 1476, an emphatically yellow yellow. (One of the things I love about Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock is the enormous range of solid colors.)

purple-and-yellow
Much better.

Then there was nothing more to do than slip a strand into a tapestry needle and get down to it.

Lyre

It did not go well.

It took me two hours to get about five rows up the lyre chart. They were two unpleasant hours, full of language unsuitable for mixed audiences.

After a walk around the block that included a stop at a bar on the far corner, I took a fresh look at the thing and found it to be lopsided, full of stitches not quite of the correct size, and containing one error so fatal that further progress was impossible.

I ripped it all out. Which took another hour.

ripped-lyre
Kaboom!

Lyre, Lyre

I tried twice more. I ripped out twice more. I threw things.

Hive Mind

I decided I didn’t really like the lyre, anyway. What I really wanted on my sock was a bee. This bee, from an Edwardian filet crochet chart. I’ve been wanting to put this bee into or onto a project of some kind for years.

bee-chart
Bees are a favorite symbol of mine. So industrious. Famously busy. Elegantly designed.

Twice more, I started.

bad-bee-progress

Twice more, I ripped.

Just as I was about to give up and admit to you my utter failure, I realized what was tripping me up. I was doing everything I could to ensure success: working while alert, working without distractions, working under the best possible lighting conditions.

And yet, time and again, my it wasn’t working. I mean, look at this.

bee-annotated

The problem? I couldn’t always see–even under brilliant lighting–which row of stitches was which. So I’d suddenly jump up or down a row, or take a stitch that was two rounds high instead of one.

I needed more guidelines.

So I ripped myself back to a blank slate, and I put in lots and lots of guidelines.

The center, of course, yes. But also a guideline for every row in the chart.

guidelines-in-place
That may look like a lot to do, but we’re talking about a motif 19 rows high. Putting those guidelines in took about ten minutes.

And with them in place…

bee-progress

…the embroidery took about an hour.  And it was fun. The guidelines saved me at least a dozen times from making a big mistake, and at least five times showed me that I’d made a mistake immediately, which allowed me to correct it without fuss.

bee-on-lines

The guidelines slid right out.

removing-guides

And I had my bee sock.

finished-bee
I’m pleased to report that the embroidery is perfectly comfortable and stretchy–no lumps or bumps, and it flexes along with the knitting.

sock-on-foot
The bee looks lonely, though, so I think I’ll add a second on the other side. And of course, two more on the other sock. Or maybe three.

Oh. The second sock. I need to knit the second sock.

Maybe after I finish the big crochet project. See you in two weeks!

*I know. Superhero. But she’s the only one I like.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Concentric (100% Baby Alpaca; 437 yards per 200 gram cake). Shown in Color 1027 (Trixie).

Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock Yarn (75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Nylon. 459 yards per 100 gram skein.) Shown in Color 1407 (sock), 1476 (bee), 1496 (blue).

addi FlexiFlips flexible knitting needles (length 8 inches, shown in size US 0)

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Fridays with Franklin: Fluff My Cushions, Concluded

fwf-logo-columnsizeFor an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

For the first part of this series, click here.

For me, part of the attraction of an envelope-style cushion cover is the ease of assembly. It’s all straight seams, and not many of them.

You will most often have, as I had, three pieces. The front,

cushion-aerialshot-fridayswithfranklin-crochet-tunisian

the lower part of the back, and the upper part of the back (which has the buttonholes in it).

You make them into neat little three-layer stack like this, with the right sides of the back panel pieces facing the right side of the front panel.

fwf-63-pieces-diagram

And then you sew the edges together. Well, I sewed, using backstitch and a strand of HiKoo CoBaSi Plus. If you absolutely detest sewing, then you can crochet the seams together. I’d use slip stitch, I think. Purely a matter of personal choice.

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Of course, this assumes (as sewing diagrams usually do) that you are right-handed. Left-handed persons will likely find it more comfortable and efficient to reverse the direction of seaming. In the end, the result is the same.

What’s important is that you stack your layers as shown above, so that when you turn the piece right side out, the top of the envelope (with the buttonholes) will be on the outside.

To mark the locations of the buttons on a piece like this, I like to insert the pillow form first. Then, after pulling the upper flap over the lower to the desired position, I slip a locking-ring stitch marker through the buttonhole and into the fabric.

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Take the pillow form out again, and sew on your buttons.

As in attaching the buttons to my Five-Hour Baby Jacket, I used small buttons to back the “public buttons”–it makes them stronger and more stable, and keeps the button shanks from just sinking into the fabric as you sew them on.

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All in a neat row, like obedient little ducklings. The heart, it leaps.

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Looking at the finished cushion cover, I feel even more convinced of the special joy in using your handwork to outfit your living space.

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The hideous cushion is gone, replaced by something I will enjoy looking at; and that I can expect to last for a long, long time.

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It’s an investment in the comfort of my home, plus I’ve had the pleasure of making it.

Now, of course, I’m looking at every other run-of-the-mill throw pillow around here with a crazy gleam in my eye.

Coming Up…

I’m not sure. Because while I’ve been playing with cushion cover and the Five-Hour Baby Jacket, I’ve had two other projects on the go as well.

One is crochet: a lap blanket using this intriguing gradient yarn, HiKoo Concentric. I’m giggly with anticipation to see how this is going to turn out.

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The other is knitting: a pair of socks in dear old Zitron Trekking XXL Sport, to be embellished after the knitting is complete. I really want to finish these so I can wear them.

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Knitting merrily on the train from Rome to Naples.

So, which? Come back in two weeks, and I guess we’ll all find out.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
HiKoo CoBaSi Plus (55% Cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk, 21% Elastic Nylon; 220 yards per 50 gram hank). Shown in Color 063 (Amber Waves) and Color 047 (Really Red).

Size D (3.25mm) Color Coded Crochet Hook by addi.

Enamel “Elegant Flowers” Buttons by Skacel Buttons in Black, size 22mm.

Clover Small Locking Ring Stitch Markers 353

HiKoo Concentric (100% Baby Alpaca; 437 yards per 200 gram cake). Shown in Color 1027 (Trixie).

Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock Yarn (75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Nylon. 459 yards per 100 gram skein.) Shown in Color 1407.

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

An Egg-citing Idea for March

It’s March and I’m egg-cited to share a Spring craft project with you. I really love to dye eggs for Easter. This year I’ve been having so much fun with it and I had plans to make pictures outside and this happened…

In Kentucky, they say never plant flowers until after Derby for a reason. It was beautiful but only lasted a day.

So now let’s talk about dyeing eggs.

I used water and Easy Marble. Mom blew the insides of the eggs out for me so we could keep the finished decorated eggshells for a long time. She tapped a small hole in each end with a large heavy needle, and then stuck a needle inside and scrambled the egg. Then she blew the egg out into a bowl and made omelets with it.

Then a few drops of Easy Marble are added to the water. See how it just floats on top? You can swirl the colors around a little to get the colors mixed but don’t swirl too much because the paint will start to clump and stick to the needle.

I carefully slipped my egg on a bamboo skewer to control dipping it better.

Then I gave it a good swirl through the paint. Be careful not to let the paint clump up. If you get any on your fingers, it comes off easily with nail polish remover.

I put them on cups to dry. There is probably a better way to do it, but we had cups and bamboo skewers in the cabinet so that was easy.

I really don’t think you could make two alike if you tried!

Cleanup is easy too! You can change colors in the water by using a paper towel to lift the color right off the top. When I was ready to clean up I used a paper towel to lift the color off, and then wiped the inside of the bowl with rubbing alcohol. I didn’t have any drips on the table either. When the eggs are dry, drain the water out of them. You can even go back and dip them a second time if you like. It was the most fun I have ever had dyeing eggs! My plan now is to take the eggs downtown the week of Easter and hide them for people to find.

In other news this month, I checked off an item on my bucket list and saw one of my favorite musicians in concert, Dan Zanes. He’s a Grammy award winning folk and family musician, and friends with my Mom. I got to meet him after the show. If you have kids, look him up. They’d love him.

I didn’t think of it in time but I really wanted to make him an elephant. So when I got home I borrowed Mom’s olive wood needles and knit one up.

I really love these needles. The joins are so smooth and they feel so good in my hands. I’ve used lots of different needles over my 11 years knitting. These are outstanding!

I’m still using the knitting machine too! My new goal is to learn how to knit flat on it, so I’m trying to learn more about that.

Next month I want to focus on some Mother’s day ideas. I think a cute jewelery item would be fun, and I’ve had a couple of ideas for using the easy marble again. And hopefully next month it will really be Spring and no more snow!


ABOUT 

CeeCee1Cee Cee Creech is growing up in a home full of creativity. Mom BeLinda loves making things, and Cee Cee loves it too. In 2011, Cee Cee changed their lives when she wanted to knit elephants to comfort the residents of Joplin, MO after a tornado destroyed their town.

This mom/daughter team has raised thousands of dollars, and made/distributed toys for charities all over the world. Today, Cee Cee is a high school student, curious maker, and the teen craft ambassador for Makers’ Mercantile. Follow their adventures on the Craft Corner.

Fridays with Franklin: Fluff My Cushions, Part Three

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For an introduction to what does on in this column, click here.

For the first part of this series, click here.

With Upstairs Baby nicely clad in his Five Hour Baby Jacket, I returned to the crochet cushion cover.

I’d hoped this edition would show it to you completed, but I’ve been very much on the run for weeks and weeks. February and March are busy months for those of us who teach at shows and shops and festivals, and the cushion had to be fit in between flights and classes and banquets and chatting with students and readers at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat and Stitches West, not to mention a lovely dinner with fellow makers at Makers’ Mercantile itself.

That being said, I’ve made considerable progress and I’m excited about how the project is shaping up.

I finished the cross stitching over the Tunisian crochet front panel on my flight home from Stitches West.

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Cross stitch at 35,000 feet.

There was more cross stitching than I had intended, because I failed to follow my own advice. I told you to take the time to carefully baste in your thread guidelines before starting the embroidery, right? And told you I’d done it every ten squares, right?

I did. But what I couldn’t admit to you until now is that I’d begun with only the horizontal and vertical center guidelines basted–the bare minimum. My excuse, my feeble excuse, is that I did it in a rush just before leaving for a trip to London; and I persuaded myself that just those two lines would be fine.

I was wrong. I miscounted, you see, and ended up placing the horizontal guideline several squares off the true center. Only after ripping out a major mistake, and putting it my proper grid of guidelines to avoid more such mistakes, did I discover this monumental goof. Well more than half of the center motif had been stitched.

If I’d put in the proper number of guidelines, I’d have found the error right away. Rushing never saves time in the end, does it?

I had a choice. Rip out all the cross stitch, and start over. Or keep going, and hope for a way to fudge things later on.

No matter how virtuous a needleworker you are, this is going to happen from time to time.

So the completed motif had gaps–significant gaps–on three sides. On four sides, it would have been a border. On three sides, it just looked weird.

I decided to go for broke and fill in the gaps with a simple motif, and move on with my life.

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Testing the border motif on the chart, to make sure it not only looked well, but also fit into the space available.
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The border was inspired by a filling motif from the same Edwardian filet crochet book that gave me the main motif.

Those of you who must have absolute symmetry at all times will grind your teeth. But I like it–I often enjoy asymmetry–and I’m keeping it.

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With the stitching on the front complete, I subjected the fabric to a wet block. As usual, I’m happy that I did.

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Crochet soup.

A wet block truly settles the stitches and gives the work a more professional, finished appearance–quite aside from cleaning the yarns, which will have acquired a shocking amount of grime during the transformation from fiber to skein to fabric.

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On the Flip Side

I thought I’d use double crochet, but even at a firm gauge it just didn’t work for me–too loose, too likely to allow the pillow form (which is white) to show through the gaps.

So I swatched a bit of single crochet

singleanddoubleswatch

and felt better about that. It’s strikingly handsome, especially when worked in the stripes with some of the leftover Color 063 (Amber Waves) that was used for the front.

Both sides look nice, but I decided this side

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was preferable to this side

cushion-cover-crochet-stripes-wrongside

because it’s slightly neater–no color blips at all where the yarns change. I also like the jazzy zigzag effect.

The fabric curls at the left and right selvedges, but as those will be sewn down in the finished cover that’s not an issue.

cushion-cover-back-panel

You can do an envelope back on a cushion cover without buttons, but I think they give you a neater closure. Plus it’s an excuse to play with buttons. I chose these Skacel buttons from their enamel line.

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I think the style carries some of the florid beauty of the front over to the back.

This means I that I’ll be able to try crochet buttonholes for the first time when I work the top flap. Quite exciting, really. Who could ever be bored, when there’s yarn in the world?

See you in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
HiKoo CoBaSi Plus (55% Cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk, 21% Elastic Nylon; 220 yards per 50 gram hank). Shown in Color 063 (Amber Waves) and Color 047 (Really Red).

Size D (3.25mm) Color Coded Crochet Hook by addi.

Enamel “Elegant Flowers” Buttons by Skacel Buttons in Black, size 22mm.

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Fridays with Franklin: Welcome Wagon, Part Two (includes Five Hour Baby Jacket pattern)

fwf-logo-columnsizeFor an introduction to what does on in this column, click here.

For the previous installment, and an introduction to the Five Hour Baby Jacket, click here.

Rosamund’s worries were unfounded. I finished the jacket for Upstairs Baby in due course, and he came down for a fitting.

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Upstairs Baby didn’t say much of anything about the jacket; he was too interested in his fingers and Rosamund kept licking his toes. But his mother was enormously pleased. The fit is spot-on. Upstairs Baby is about two-and-a-half months old; exact finished measurements are in the pattern below.

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Speaking of the pattern…

The biggest difference between the original and my version is the closure. The original (and all the subsequent variations I have found) have simple buttonholes made with yarn overs. Upstairs Baby’s has a single button-and-loop closure, because that’s what his parents said they would prefer.

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The closure is extremely easy to make. The most difficult part is choosing the buttons. Skacel Buttons offers so many that Makers’ Mercantile is still in the process of adding them all to the online shop.

I used shank buttons; but whether you choose a shanks or flats, I highly recommend that you also use button backers on this or any other piece of knitwear. Backers add strength and stability. They can be purpose-made, or you can use (as I have here) plain, flat buttons out of your button stash. I’m guessing my grandmother cut these off an old shirt in the 1980s.

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The stitch counts and gauge in this version differ from than those in the original. If followed exactly, the numbers in the original worked in a slender yarn at the recommended gauge of 4 stitches to the inch yield a very open, slack fabric. That’s not to my taste, and Chicago babies need warmth.

I want to be very clear that I do not consider the pattern that follows to be in any way an improvement on the original, which is a wonderfully clever and practical design. Aside from the changes noted above, all I’ve done is try to make the instructions very (very very) explicit, based in part on the questions that newbies left most often in the comments on other versions I’ve checked out. They may be annoyingly explicit for experienced knitters, who may find (for example) that the markers which set off the seed stitch borders are unnecessary.

If that’s so, that’s okay by me. Take the bits you like, set the rest aside. Do what suits you. That’s what patterns like this are for, after all.

(And by the way, though I’ve done my best to keep the errors at bay–well, you know how it is. Drop a note to Makers’ Mercantile if you find a goof, and we will correct it. Thank you!)

Franklin’s Five-Hour Baby Jacket: Yet Another Variation on the Theme

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Yarn

The sample was knit with 6 balls Zitron Gesa & Flo **held double throughout**. Note that knitting with a single strand of Gesa & Flo will not give you a sweater of the desired size.

You may substitute any yarn that will give you the indicated gauge and a fabric that makes you happy. Worsted weight yarns are a good bet; you might also test sport weight and aran weight yarns to see if they will work–yarn weights are notoriously shifty.

I recommend both HiKoo Simpliworsted and HiKoo CoBaSi Plus. The latter is especially nice for those who live in climates where wool might be too hot.

If you do not take the time to knit a gauge swatch, your finished sweater will end up becoming a gauge swatch.

Needles and Notions

1 circular needle, length about 24 inches, size US 6 or size needed to give you proper gauge; always take time to check your gauge

1 16-inch circular needle or one set short straight needles of same size as the circular above

two small buttons (sample uses these, size 18mm in silver finish)

7 stitch markers

2 rigid stitch holders (recommended) or 2 lengths of contrasting scrap yarn

blunt tapestry needle

scissors (these, from Bohin, are my current favorites for keeping handy in my project bag and sewing box)

Gauge

5 sts and 7 rows = 1 inch in stockinette stitch

Finished Dimensions

Chest: 18 inches
Body Length: 9 inches
Yoke Depth: 3 inches
Arm Length: 7 inches
Arm Circumference: 6 inches

Notes

Seed Stitch. This very simple texture pattern is used in the collar, cuffs, and hem instead of the garter stitch found in the original version. Seed stitch is usually worked on an even number of sts as follows:

RS: (K1, p1) across.
WS: (K1, p1) across.

When worked across an odd number of sts (as in the collar), the texture is symmetrical, with a k1 at each end.

kfb (increase). Knit into the front of the st in the usual way, then into the back. Makes 1 new stitch.

m1 (increase). Cast on 1 new st by making a backward loop over the tip of the right needle (sometimes referred to as the loop cast on, thumb cast on, or “e” cast on).

Instructions

Yoke
Using the method of your choice, co 39 sts. (Model shown uses the knitted CO.)

Rows 1-4. Work in seed stitch (see “Notes,” above), ending each row with k1.

Row 5 (WS). K1, p1, k1; place marker; p to last 3 sts; place marker; k1, p1, k1. (Note that the first 3 and last 3 sts of all yoke and body rows–the stitches outside these two stitch markers–will be worked in this way, including WS rows. Assume that these markers will always be slipped when you encounter, them unless otherwise noted.)

Row 6. K1, p1, k1; *(kfb, k1), rep from * to last 4 sts; kfb, k1, p1, k1. (56 sts)

Row 7. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 8. K1, p1; k to last 2 sts; p1, k1.

Row 9. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 10. K1, p1, k1; *(kfb, k2), rep from * to last 4 sts; kfb, k1, p1, k1. (73 sts)

Row 11. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 12. K1, p1; k to last 2 sts; p1, k1.

Row 13. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 14. K1, p1, k2; *(kfb, k3), rep from * to last 5 sts; kfb, k2, p1, k1. (90 sts)

Row 15. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 16. K1, p1; k to last 2 sts; p1, k1.

Row 17. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 18. K1, p1, k2; *(kfb, k4), rep from * to last 6 sts; kfb, k3, p1, k1. (107 sts)

Row 19. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 20.  K1, p1; k to last 2 sts; p1, k1.

Row 21. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 22. K1, p1, k3; *(kfb, k5), rep from * to last 5 sts; k3, p1, k1. (124 sts)

Row 23. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 24. K1, p1; k to last 2 sts; p1, k1.

Row 25. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 26. (On this row, you will place additional markers to indicate the fronts, back, and sleeves.)

K1, p1, k5, m1, k6, m1, k6, m1, k1, place marker. (23 sts for front)
K1, m1, k7, m1, k6, m1, k7, m1, k2, place marker. (27 sts for sleeve)
K2, m1, (k7, m1) 2x, k6, m1, (k7, m1) 2x, k2, place marker. (44 sts for back)
K2, m1, k7, m1, k6, m1, k7, m1, k1, place marker. (27 sts for sleeve)
K1, m1, k6, m1, k6, m1, k5, p1, k1. (23 sts for front)

Row 27. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 28. K1, p1, k1. Knit across, inc by m1 before and after the 5 markers you placed in Row 26. DO NOT inc before or after the border markers you placed in Row 5. (152 sts)

Row 29. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 30. Repeat Row 28. (160 sts)

Row 31. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Sleeves
Work across right front as follows:

K1, p1, k1, slip marker, k22. Place these 25 sts (and the marker) on a stitch holder or length of scrap yarn. Remove the marker that indicates the beginning of the first sleeve.

**Begin sleeve (RS row):

(K1, kfb) 2x, k to 4 sts before next marker, (k1, kfb) 2x. Remove marker.

With second set of needles, work these 35 sleeve sts in stockinette st (k all RS rows, p all WS rows) for 26 more rows, ending by completing a WS row.

Decrease (RS) row:

K2; (k2tog, k3) 6x. (29 sts)

Purl 1 (WS) row.

Work in stockinette stitch (all RS rows, k; all WS rows, p) for 5 more rows.

Work in seed stitch (see “Notes,” above) for 4 rows, or for 8 rows if a turned-back cuff (shown on model) is desired. End each row with k1.

Break working yarn, leaving a tail of 10-12 inches.

With RS facing, join working yarn and k24 sts; m1; k across the remaining 24 sts before the next marker. Remove marker.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: the m1 in this row is designed to give the body an odd number of sts, and maintain the symmetrical seed stitch at the borders and hem. If you are adapting the pattern for yourself, and your border/collar/hem pattern does not require an odd number of sts, omit this increase and simply knit across the 48 sts of the back.)

The original pattern suggests that the back sts now be placed on a holder. I find I am able to leave them where they are on the circular needle cable, and knit the second sleeve with the same needle. Do whichever you prefer; what follows will be the same either way.

Return to ** and work the second sleeve exactly as the first.

Body
With both sleeves complete and with RS facing, join working yarn and work across remaining 25 sts (left front), ending with k1, p1, k1. This completes the first (RS) row of the body.

In the next row, you will join the live stitches on the needle to the back and right front sts that have been placed on holders. To do this, either knit them directly from the holder; or slip the empty left needle into the held sts from left to right, removing the holder once they have all been transferred. Take care not to twist sts as you transfer them.

Row 2 (WS). K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Row 3 (RS). K1, p1; k to last 2 sts; p1, k1.

Row 4. K1, p1, k1; p to last 3 sts; k1, p1, k1.

Rows 5-28. Repeat body rows 3 and 4. In Row 28, remove markers.

Work 8 rows in seed stitch (see “Notes,” above), ending each row with k1.

BO.

Seaming and Blocking

Sew underarm seams using tails from BO. Weave in ends. Soak and gently block.Allow to dry completely. Embellish if and as desired. (For information about the embroidery in the sample, click here .)

Loop-and-Button Closure

With circular needle (or a pair of double-pointed needles of the same size) CO 3 sts and work i-cord for a length of five inches. BO, leaving a 6-inch tail.

Using the CO and BO tails, sew the i-cord into a loop on the left-hand lapel of the jacket as shown, just below the final round of yoke increases.

Sew one button where the ends of the loop come together on the left front, and another in the corresponding place on the right front.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Gesa & Flo Yarn (100% Ultra Fine Merino. 98 yards per 25 gram ball) shown in Color 08, Pastel Lavender.

Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 Yarn (100% Merino extrafine Superwash wool; 328 yards per 50 gram ball) shown in Color 2296, English Garden)

Metal Dragonfly buttons by Skacel Buttons (shown in 18mm, silver finish)

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

A Little Change of Plans

Last month I had big plans…I was going to stitch a bear. I had a great family story to go with it.

I had Mom help me cut out the fabric. It’s velvet and it’s so pretty. It reminds me of Victorian crazy quilts.

I stitched carefully. I haven’t done a lot of hand sewing like this so I tried to get the stitches even…

And then Mom and I realized I really don’t have enough sewing skills for it to be my project and not Mom’s project. It was frustrating. I wanted to share my Great-Grandmother’s quilt and the bear my Grandmother made from it.

Mom knew I was struggling so she told me a couple of good stories and we decided that with the legacy of making things there is also a legacy of being frustrated when things don’t go as planned. Mom says she can remember Grandmother hurling her sewing across the room a time or two. And Great-Granny evidently tried to wallpaper the ceiling one time and when the paper kept falling down she beat it senseless with a broom. I’ve even seen Mom rip out knitting when she was angry…she probably could have saved it but got mad at her work and started over.

The other thing Mom did was send a text to Franklin…and he said “it happens all the time”and that made me feel so much better. I’ve goofed up stuff before, but not when we had a deadline, and people expecting my work. And I’m going to finish the bear… But I’m going to learn more and take my time and get it right.

I still wanted to keep my quilt theme, so Mom helped me brainstorm a new plan. Kyle sent me a bag of fabric scraps from Makers’ and challenged me to do something with them. So I got out the bag and first thing I did was pick out all the scraps with cats. Cats are my favorite.

And then I got a big letter C.

I did the inside and outside edges in polka dot scraps because I didn’t have enough cat scraps. I think it makes the cats show up better too.

And I laid out the whole top so I could see where to place the cats. I wish I had a bunch more of the fabric with the little cats all over it. I love that one.

The other challenge I had was figuring out what to do with the two bigger cute cats.

I used tacky glue and a foam brush. The brush helped the glue go on really smooth and made it easy to wrap fabric around the sides and edges. I think I’m going to hang it in my room but it looks pretty cool in my Great-Grandfather’s chair. And isn’t it sweet where the two little cats have their tails making a heart?

My Great-Grandmother loved quilting so I think she’d be happy I found a way to use scraps to make something. She raised 6 kids and lived through the Depression so she had to mend and use what she had.I’m glad her creativity has been passed down to me.

 

 

Here’s a picture of my quilt bear. My Great-Grandmother made this quilt a long time ago. Mom thinks its close to 100 years old. In the 1980’s Grandmother made bears for Mom and her cousin.

I have made ten more hats on the addi® Express for our local shelter. I love being that I can make really nice hats quickly. If I had to knit them by hand it would go slower and I might not have time to do very many. Next month I am sharing an Easter craft… We’re going to marble Easter eggs! Did you know Makers’ Mercantile® has paint? I can’t wait to try it.

And today I’m going to leave you with a quote from  Benjamin Levisay. “The only thing better than being creative is being kind to each other. The good news is we can do both.” I hope that we all find opportunities to do both until I share again next month.

 

-Cee Cee

 

Select fabrics featured in this project:

Seven Islands Inc. CoCoLand Cats 100

Seven Islands Inc Kiyohara Canvas 85 Cotton 15 Linen Grey with Cats

RJR Fabrics Crazy for Dots & Stripes – Black Dots on White 45″ Wide


ABOUT 

CeeCee1Cee Cee Creech is growing up in a home full of creativity. Mom BeLinda loves making things, and Cee Cee loves it too. In 2011, Cee Cee changed their lives when she wanted to knit elephants to comfort the residents of Joplin, MO after a tornado destroyed their town.

This mom/daughter team has raised thousands of dollars, and made/distributed toys for charities all over the world. Today, Cee Cee is a high school student, curious maker, and the teen craft ambassador for Makers’ Mercantile. Follow their adventures on the Craft Corner.

Fridays with Franklin: Welcome Wagon

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As I mentioned last time, progress on the cross-stitch cushion has been temporarily halted due to the arrival of a new neighbor, to whom I shall refer in this space as Upstairs Baby. I haven’t got any photographs, but this is the general idea.

upstairs-baby

Upstairs Baby is the second, newborn child of the same couple who brought us Rosamund’s best pal, Little Girl Upstairs.

They are a lovely family and we adore them. Rosamund has been particularly excited to have a baby to play with, even if so far all the baby does when presented with the finest of chewy rubber bones and slightly mauled stuffed otters is lie in his basket and coo.

Clearly, a child of such quality must be in need of knitted clothes. We have undertaken to address this with all due haste.

Not that all due haste is enough to satisfy Rosamund, who has been perched on my shoulders, supervising.

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“Is he done yet? Why isn’t he done yet? He needs to hurry up. That weird bald puppy upstairs must be so chilly. “

I don’t know how she puts up with me.

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“He’s still not finished. Why is this taking so long? I thought he was supposed to be good at this. That bald puppy is going to be grown up soon.”

Time is precious, and so my thought has been to turn out yet another Five Hour Baby Jacket, also known as the Five Hour Baby Sweater.

The best online information available, a preamble to the earliest version I could find, credits the design of this piece as follows:

“This pattern was received by Sue Hulbert, sent to her by Anne Stoddard, was typed in by Jo Azary, and attempted-to-be-posted to the KnitList by Samantha Garbers and finally posted by Jo as Samantha’s post got lost in cyberspace.

Anne Stoddard writes,

‘Here is the explanation that I gave Sue H[ulbert] when I sent her the pattern. In approximate[ly] the year of 1950, I was frequenting a small yarn shop in my town run by two elderly sisters, one of them was very kind to me as she loved that I both knitted and crocheted. She wrote out this pattern for me to knit for my new little sisters that my mother was ‘continuously’ having (VBG). There are 8 of us. The two sisters have since gone to the big Yarn Store in the Sky but I remember their kindnesses every time I knit the sweater. I also gave this pattern to the women in the BAKG that knit for Charity for me and we have produced over a hundred baby sweaters for the maternity home “Siena House” in the Bronx. I sincerely hope that the women knitting from this pattern give at least one sweater to charity as this is what I meant the pattern to be used for.'”

As you would expect of any pattern that has been passed from hand-to-hand-to-hand-to-hand-to-hand for nearly seventy years, variations abound. Most of them fiddle with the yoke, adding or subtracting design elements. Some add a hood. Others include companion booties or a hat. The wording varies, and with it the accuracy and clarity.

I have made five of these jackets, which truly can be worked (if you are a reasonably capable knitter) from start to finish in five hours. However, I had misplaced my printed copy. Then I found that the source I’d used four or so years ago had vanished from the Internet.

No matter, I thought. I’ll just get it from somewhere else.

After the fifth variation from somewhere else went off the rails before I could finish the yoke, I decided I’d work out and write up my own variation–and you’ll find it in this space in two weeks, in the very next column.

Will my variation be better? I’d hesitate to use the word “better.” I will try to make it something you can use without putting a(nother) permanent angry crease in your forehead.

The Yarns

The Five Hour Baby Sweater’s claim to fame is its speed of construction–top down, one piece, minimal seaming.

What I love about it is that it lends itself to alteration and personalization. Do it once, and you’ll start to imagine how you could switch it up with different borders, necklines, stitch patterns, trims, and so forth.

I settled on these yarns for Upstairs Baby’s sweater.

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The lavender is Zitron Gesa & Flo a German pure wool that is both soft and washable. It’s also on the fine side, so in order to meet the demands of the pattern’s gauge (again, more on that next time) I decided to use it doubled, knitting two strands as one.

The other ball–the one with the zillion colors–is Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6, in a colorway (2296, English Garden) that makes my heart sing and that plays well with the lavender. I want to use that to make the sweater a little different, and little more special.

The Basic Model

When knit up in most versions (including mine) the sweater is simplicity itself. Just a little stockinette cardigan collar and cuffs in something contrasting. The original uses garter stitch; I switched to seed stitch.

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For embellishment, I decided to indulge myself with more embroidery. Embroidering my knitting is my current obsession. You may have gathered as much, as I’ve used it on the cushion cover, on Rosamund’s most recent sweater, and on the freeform crochet scarf, and so forth.

Running and Running

I could have gone bananas with covered the whole body and yoke in flowers and swirls and dinosaurs and kitty cats and Latin mottoes. In the end, though, with an eye on the clock, I settled on the simplest embroidery I could think of: running stitch.

Running stitch is the first stitch most people learning to sew or embroider learn. Even people who have never held a needle recognize it as “sewing.”

There is no easier stitch to work. You come up at A, you go down at B.

step-01

Then you continue, working right to left (unless you’re left handed) taking identical stitches until you have a dotted line as long as you like. Up at C, down at D.

step-02

You can make your stitches (and the spaces between) even or uneven. In the interest of simplicity and speed, I elected to go with stitches and spaces all equal to the width of one stitch.

And I determined that I would work them in blocks made of staggered rows, moving up one row with each line of stitching.

step-03
The Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 is one jolly, slow blend color after color, and I wanted some of each color in the sweater. In a piece this tiny, that meant unwinding the ball into a bunch of mini-balls. If I hadn’t done that, I doubt I’d have used all of the first color in the ball.

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With the palette ready, all I did was choose a color at whim and work it into a block that might be fat, skinny, tall, short–it didn’t much matter. There was no real plan, no thought of symmetry.

sleeve-detail-01

detail-fronts

detail-back

I wanted the end to have some of the cuckoo joy of crazy quilting (another current obsession).

aerial-back

Closure

I consulted Upstairs Baby’s parents about the question of closure–would they prefer buttonholes (as written in the original pattern), ties, or loops? They chose loops.

So next time–in two weeks–I’ll show you how I decided to make the loops, and give you my version of the pattern.

aerial-front
I think I have enough time and yarn to add some additional embroidery (bringing the color up into the yoke) and make a matching hat, too. What do you think?

Dinner with Franklin at Makers’ Mercantile: February 20!

burien-caresI’m wildly excited to be making an in-person visit to Makers’ Mercantile on February 20, for a dinner to benefit the shop’s local animal rescue society and shelter, Burien C.A.R.E.S. . We will have merriment and frivolity and good food and piles of fun. Rumor has it we may even have a visit from some furry friends.

For information and tickets, click here!

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Gesa & Flo Yarn (100% Ultra Fine Merino. 98 yards per 25 gram ball) shown in Color 08, Pastel Lavender.

Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 Yarn (100% Merino extrafine Superwash wool; 328 yards per 50 gram ball) shown in Color 2296, English Garden)

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

 

Fridays with Franklin: Fluff My Cushions, Part 2

fwf-logo-columnsizeFor an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

For the first part of this series, click here.

Somebody call the Vatican, because we’ve had a miracle.

Before I set out to make this pillow cover I measured the pillow. Of course.

My trusty tape measure said (and still says) it is 16 inches square. Measure twice, crochet once.

I worked the Tunisian crochet bit of it to be a bit smaller than that, so I could add a contrasting border in single crochet. That made for a fun change, and was quite simple.

fwf-59-edging-chart

I’m very pleased with the effect. Crochet borders are, as the kids on my lawn say, da bomb.

fwf-59-edge-corner
The finished dimensions of the front panel after wet blocking were almost identical to finished dimensions of the pillow itself, because what I like in pillow cover is zero ease. I want the cover to fit snugly. A loose cover, to me, resembles a sagging diaper or ill-fitting skirt.

Then something extraordinary happened. The moment I began the next stage–cross stitch embroidery of the center panel–the work expanded to cover 400 square miles.

fwf-59-relative-sizes
It’s all fun and games until your crochet blots out the sun.

Or so it has felt at times.

Cross Stitch Over Tunisian Crochet

There are so many excellent guides to cross stitch readily available that I will forbear for the moment to write one here. I do want to talk a bit about what I’ve encountered working cross stitch over a foundation Tunisian crochet.

What makes this crochet fabric so ideal for cross stitch are the nearly perfect little squares that are its hallmark.

If you have only worked cross stitch before on even-weave fabrics like Aida canvas, it can seem confusing at first as to where exactly you ought to take your stitches. There’s some wiggle room here; but you do want to make sure that once you establish your choice with the first stitches, you stick with it throughout

Here’s where I chose to make my stitches–in and out of the four orange dots. The orange cross to the right of them shows the size and shape of the typical resulting stitch.
fwf-59-stitching-holes

Since this is a crocheted fabric, the grain of it is not perfectly square like a true even-weave. The individual cross stitches will show variation.

To keep them as consistent as possible, I’ve worked with the fabric always oriented in the same direction (that is, the same edge always at the bottom while I stitched).

The Importance of Guidelines

When I teach cross stitch, I hammer home the importance of first laying out your guidelines with running stitches in thread. Don’t skimp on your guidelines! The larger your design, the more guidelines you put in.

This is the chart I’m using. My guidelines are marked with dashed lines. You’ll note they’re every tenth stitch, in both directions.
fwf-59-cushion-cover-chart

Why so many? Why not just the customary two, to pinpoint the center?

Because in large designs–especially large abstract (non-representational) designs like this, it can be too easy to make a mistake and not realize you’ve done so. The design looks fine, at a glance. You move along, and count from a bit of finished work to establish your next row of stitching–and then, only after doing a bunch more work, you realize your error.

Nobody enjoys ripping out. Put in a bunch of guidelines; and when you count, count from them first. Use stitches you know to be correct as a secondary reference point.

fwf-59-fabric-guidelines
To mark my guidelines, I used regular old sewing thread.

These guidelines also allowed me to look at the design as manageable blocks instead of a large and potentially confusing whole. So I could focus on working one 11×11 square, like this.

fwf-59-cushion-chart-excerpt
That’s  harder to goof up and, frankly, less daunting psychologically.

Keeping Your Twist

I got a very alarmed e-mail from a reader who told me you cannot, simply cannot, embroider with yarns designed for knitting and crochet.

I beg to differ, seeing as I and many others have done so for years. In fact, the booklet I referenced last time, from the early 20th century, was quite gung-ho about it. If it were impossible, someone would have twigged it by now.

I will say that any yarn or thread you choose for embroidery must be strong enough to withstand the repeated abrasion that comes from being pulled through the fabric. Most lightly spun and all unspun yarns are unsuitable–they will fall apart as you work.

Yarns with lots of texture (like coils) won’t pull readily through the small hole made by your needle, nor will yarns with additives like sequins. Beaded yarns may work, if the beads are quite small, but beaded embroidery is a topic I’ll leave for another time.

fwf-58-hikoo-cobasi-plus
HiKoo CoBaSi Plus

HiKoo CoBaSi Plus has worked very well, with one caveat. Like any embroidery strand made from fibers that do not stick together (this includes purpose-made embroidery cottons with multiple plies), the yarn will tend to untwist as you work.

Just pause every so often and twiddle the needle to put the twist back in. That’s all.

Some Now, Some Later

I began working the central motif as I’ve always worked cross stitch: row by row, laying in the first part of the cross from left to right, then completing the row by working back from right to left.

Then, after realizing how much of this piece would be done on the road while teaching or in company when I was liable to mis-read my chart, I decided to take a different tack.

When I’ve been in a situation that allowed me to focus–at home, in my workroom, or alone in a hotel room–I’ve worked only the first part of each cross stitch, filling out the design.

fwf-59-embroidery-progress-shot

Then, when I’ve been in distracting situations like airplanes and airport lounges and cafés, I’ve worked over those established stitches–in other words, that’s when I’ve done the mindless work that requires no counting.

Where Am I?

It’s gone well, though I have not as I hoped finished all the embroidery yet. As I said at the beginning of this installment, what began as a cover for a tiny little pillow keeps growing larger, and larger and larger. Still–I’m pleased. The entire first layer is in, so now I merely fill in the second layer. (I may add borders in the blank areas to the right and left, but I’m not sure yet.)

fwf-59-firstlayer

We’re going to have to pause this project for a bit, anyhow–because a newborn baby in the apartment upstairs needs a warm sweater, quickly, and I have just the thing waiting to be knit up: Zitron Gesa & Flo, with a dash of Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 Light Fingering.

fwf-59-newballs

I’ll show you in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
HiKoo CoBaSi Plus (55% Cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk, 21% Elastic Nylon; 220 yards per 50 gram hank)
Zitron Gesa & Flo (100% Ultra Fine Merino. 98 yards per 25 gram ball; shown in Color 8: Lavender)
Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 (100% Merino Extrafine Superwash Wool. 328 yards per 50 gram ball; shown in Color 2296: English Garden)
Addi HeartStopper
Addi Click Crochet Hook Interchangeable Set

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Do you wanna build a snowman…or maybe knit some hats?

I almost always do a charity project of some sort for my birthday and this year I chose  Linda’s Hats for Hope Initiative. When I was younger I collected lots of hand knit toys for charity and every year Linda would knit my age in donated toys. She’s sweet and generous  and has helped me with so many projects so many times so this year I’m helping her by knitting my age in hats! It’s only January 15th when I’m writing this (I have to turn it in early for approval and stuff) and I’m already at 15 hats and a couple of scarves… So I think I’m going to send her a few extra if I keep knitting until January 27th.

Kenzie yarn makes a nice soft drapey hat and the colors are lovely too. But my favorite thing is Makers’ gives you yarn when you get a knitting machine. It’s soft and squishy and two balls makes a great hat.

Are you a process person or a product person? Mom is process person but I am a product person.  Having a knitting machine is awesome because I can make so many hats in a short amount of time. I just have to be careful not to go too fast and drop stitches.

First off you need to watch the video Karin Skacel has for how to use a knitting machine. I watched the video and in an hour I had my first hat. Mom still helped with finishing, but a hat in an hour and it was so much fun to watch the knitting machine go around and around. Karin had some really important tips that helped me set the machine up successfully so that it wasn’t frustrating, like how to start and how to watch the counter.

Most of my hats are two colors and reversible. Sometimes if I have smaller amounts of yarn I add more stripes, but it is important for these hats to hold up well, so I try not to cut the yarn for no reason.

I do a total of 108 rounds on a hat. So its pretty easy…just 54 rounds of each color.  I can divide by 3 to get even sections of 3 stripes.

I gather each end up tightly and carefully finish each end.

Then I turn one end inside the other. Make sure you leave a tail of yarn to join the inside so it will turn inside out without coming apart. The video I suggested has the cute topknot finish.

I hear weather reports about how cold it is up north and I hope these hats keep people warm this winter and that they know people care.

Next month I’m making an “unbearably” cute kit….it reminds me of a craft project my Grandmother did. I’ve been excited about making it ever since I got it and I can’t wait to show you guys. My Grandmother and Great -Grandmother were both really good at sewing, so I’m looking forward to more of that.

Mom is getting ready to start a knit a long over in the Makers‘ group on Ravelry…I love the scarf pattern. It’s called Holey scarf  and it’s a free pattern. She’d love it if she had some friends to knit with.

And then! We’ve been snowed in for two days… probably tomorrow too because it just keeps snowing…Mom said “hey! I bet we could make a snowman.” She made the nose and I did the rest….we made a knitting machine snowman! I don’t have a pattern for him yet, but we’re working on it so you can make one too!

And p.s. if you want to join in the fun and get your own knitting machine, this is the one I have. I just love it!

 I will see you in February! Post in the comments and tell me about projects you like to do when you are snowed in.