The Adventure of the Little Poser, Part Two
For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.
For the first part of this adventure, click here.
Before we go any further with this crocheted yoga mat bag,I want to make sure you understand something.
When it comes to crochet, I still don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m enthusiastic. I’m ambitious. But when you get right down to it, in this adventure I’m no more than a little kid suddenly announcing to his mother that he is a fireman, or a dragon slayer, or prima donna assoluta of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Wishing will not make it so.
This is a dangerous place to be. I know just enough crochet to have ideas about what I want to make. Yet my technical skills aren’t within a mile of my imagination.
So my swatches have been bizarre–curiosity, fumbling, swearing, and ripping. So much ripping.
I have had in mind a yoga mat bag with an open mesh structure. And I’ve known that I want it to be floral. How exactly? Not sure. Just…floral.
I can draw it.
It’s the transition from ink to yarn that’s been sticky.
I messed around with a floral mesh I found in an old stitch dictionary and thought for certain I’d cracked the code. I got exactly this far
and got stuck, and cried a little, and then ripped it out.
I thought I might do the whole bag in filet crochet. For those not familiar, filet crochet is form of lace based upon a square mesh made primarily of double crochet. It’s very old-fashioned and it polarizes the crochet community–you either hate it or love it. I love it. I mean, look at this design from Grand Album de Modèles pour Filet No. 3, published in 1908.
And, boy oh boy, filet crochet is dead easy to chart. Light squares are filled bits of mesh. Dark squares are open bits of mesh. I can do that.
So I tried it with Schoppel-Wolle Leinen Los, only to find that while I adore filet in fine, smooth yarns, in a larger gauge and more rustic yarn it bears an unfortunate resemblance to the lumpy raffia tote bags that my late grandmother’s more adventurous friends used to bring back from package tours of the Caribbean. So I took a shot at lancet stitch, which is often used in conjunction with filet crochet.
Nope! It’s a hard truth of fiber arts: not every yarn is suited to every technique. I really like Leinen Los. I really like lancet stitch. I do not like them together.
The meshes I tried were all either too open or too closed or too dang ugly; or, most often, I’d get one round into the making of some mesh I’d dreamt up and realize I couldn’t get there from here–I didn’t have the knowledge to realize my idea.
I whined to my buddy John Mullarkey about this. He’s primarily a weaver, but has years of crochet under his belt. We were teaching together at Stitches West, and I showed him the little misbegotten snippets and my sketches of wild, ornate open fabrics.
“I don’t think crochet will do that,” he said. Repeatedly.
I was by then desperate to make progress, and rather equally desperate to not turn out yet another yoga mat bag composed primarily of double crochet.
“Try this,” he said.
“This” was little clusters of treble crochet alternating with open spaces.
It wasn’t going to set the world on fire, but sometimes I just need to move forward somehow, anyhow, or I’ll get into one of those states where the neighbors find me on the front sidewalk attempting to set fire to all my yarn.
John suggested I alternate the colors randomly, rolling a die for the number of stripes. I tried it. It felt…wrong. My gut was telling me to do a simple round-by-round change. As you can see above, I went with my gut.
This wasn’t unattractive. It also wasn’t floral or especially original. However, I’d learned in The Adventure of the Fallen Flowers that one of the joys of crochet is that it readily accepts the addition of new layers and new elements–far more so, I find, than knitting.
Maybe I could use this simple mesh as a framework. A trellis.
What if I made flowers separately, as a second step?
So I started to noodle around with different flower shapes, separating my experiments with lengths of chain stitching.
Then it hit me. Why not go ahead and work the all the flowers on chains,
then twine the floral chains through the mesh?
I like it. It’s not exactly right yet. I don’t know how original it is. I don’t know if ultimately it will be a success. But right now, I like it. It’s giving me something of the overall effect I had in my head, and I don’t feel like I have seen it already in seven free patterns.
And so…onward. In two weeks, I’ll show you how it’s come along–and I think we’ll be ready to talk about making the strap.
A Note About the Crochet Hook
The mention of the quizzically shaped Addi® Swing Crochet Hook in the last column stirred up a bunch of questions. After a couple weeks of using it, here’s my take.
I use a “knife” rather than “pencil” hold when I crochet, which is the grip that the Swing was designed to accommodate.
This means my thumb rests exactly where the designer intended, and the positioning is effortless. When I picked up the hook, that’s where my thumb landed. The grip of my other fingers feels equally natural.
The handle is made of soft, light plastic that’s easy on the hands, but doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy.
I have arthritis in both wrists and spend upwards of eight to ten hours a day doing handwork. For me, the Swing has made crochet far more comfortable. I find myself working steadily for longer periods with far less fatigue, though I am still careful to take reasonable breaks.
Now, a caveat: no two people have the same hands, and no two people crochet exactly the same way. If you have been crocheting for a long time, you might find yourself taking some time to adjust to a different grip. But especially if you’ve got issues with your wrists or fingers, as I do, an Addi® Swing might help you as it has helped me.
See you in two weeks!
Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
Schoppel-Wolle Leinen Los (70% Virgin Wool, 30% Linen • 328 yards per 100 gram ball). Colors: 0908 (White) and 8495 (Gray-Brown).
Addi® Swing Crochet Hooks
Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His new 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, 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.