Cage Match, Part One

fwf-logo-v11It scarcely seems possible, but by the close of this series we will have reached the fiftieth installment of Fridays with Franklin. Fifty! Can you imagine?

I was flipping through my binder of shade cards from Makers’ Mercantile looking for the next yarn to play with when my elbow knocked over a little basket of yarn that was sitting on the work table. Odd balls of yarn spilled all over the floor. Or they would have, if they’d hit the floor. Instead they spilled all over the four open boxes on the floor that were already full of other odd balls of yarn. You couldn’t actually see the floor.

It appears that nearly fifty columns full of knitting, crochet, and weaving have landed me with quite the buffet of leftovers.

That’s not something to cry about, I know; but please keep in mind that I live in a large city and do my work in a very small room. How small? Not much larger than the footprint of a king-sized bed. It is crammed, absolutely crammed, with things I need. Here, I’ve drawn you a little plan:

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Of course, what you don’t see in the plan are the things I have hanging from the walls and ceiling, including my Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, my card weaving loom from John Mullarkey, my swift, my project bags full of things in progress, and other hanging bags full of weaving, spinning, and embroidery tools. Every inch is spoken for.

I try to keep leftover yarns organized and sorted into the bins under the bed in the next room. That’s the place where, by mutual agreement, my stash lives. If it won’t fit under the bed it has to leave the apartment. Fortunately, it’s a big bed. Good intentions don’t sort skeins, though; so I have a perpetual backlog on the workroom floor. The prettiest little tripping hazard you ever saw.

Seeing as we’re celebrating a milestone of sorts with this adventure, I think it’d be fun (and prudent) to hold back from ordering new stuff and make use of what’s already to hand.

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Talk about memory lane.

There’s HiKoo Simpliworsted here from The Adventure on the Floor (the crocheted mat) and The Adventure of the Warm Puppy and The Adventure of the Transparent Excuse to Show You More Pictures of My Adorable Dog (sweaters for Rosamund).

There’s HiKoo Rylie from The Adventure of the Scarf That Ate the World (and the Into the Hoods interlude that followed).

There’s HiKoo Kenzie and also HiKoo Kenzington from The Adventure of the Stealth Blanket (the Ohio Star quilt-inspired afghan and pillow).

There’s Schoppel-Wolle Leinen Los from The Adventure of the Little Poser.

And that’s just the top layer.

These are wildly different yarns, in wildly different fiber blends, constructed in all manner of methods from chainette (Kenzington) to felted singles (Leinen Los).

Pushing the pile around didn’t give me fun ideas for using them all together. An obvious choice would have been some sort of scrap blanket, but one of the yarns (Leinen Los) isn’t really well suited to that. A scrappy shawl might be fun–but a shawl made with a significant quantity of hefty Kenzington might suffocate you.   

Then I got a note from one of my friends at Makers’ Mercantile in which she mentioned one of their most popular kits–the Cage Purse. You may well have seen a friend with one of these, or you may well have one yourself.

The cage bit…

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…comes ready to use. The fun is knitting (or crocheting) a liner for it. The open cage supports your work, which means you don’t have to resort to felting in order to get a bag that won’t droop and sag when you fill it. And because it’s a cage–well made from good leather and handsome, sturdy rivets…

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…whatever sort of liner you create is beautifully shown off.

Makers’ Mercantile sells the cages as part of several kits (like this Brown Kit, or the Red Kit shown below) – each with yarn, pattern, and fabric for a lining…

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…or you can buy just the cage (in a choice of colors such as Basil) and use your imagination. That’s what I decided to do.

The Amazon Arrows cowl in our last adventure

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…had so much going on (miters! shadow knitting! duplicate stitch! I-cord!) that I felt this piece ought to be as simple as possible. When you have four very different, eye-catching yarns in eight or ten colorways all smooshed together, I think it’s unwise to make the structure of the fabric complicated as well.

So, what’s the least complicated knit fabric? Probably garter stitch: when working flat, knit all stitches and all rows. I cast on for a small swatch…

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…and within a few inches I got that tingle in my chest that either means I’m onto something I like, or that I shouldn’t eat half a pan of brownies right before bed. I hadn’t been eating brownies.

This is nothing but garter stripes with changes from yarn to yarn at will. Most of the colors are fairly closely related (clearly I have a thing for purples and blues), but as we noted the yarns themselves are strange bedfellows. And I like that. The fabric was looking good, and the swatch was (brace yourself) fun to knit. Truly fun.

When you find yourself smiling at a swatch, that’s a good sign.

I sketched out what I needed to make. Pretty simple, really.

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All that remained before calculating my cast-on numbers was a plan for how to make that happen. There were two obvious options.

Option 1…

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…was flat construction. Knit panels and sew them together. That would make sense, as garter stitch is a natural result of flat knitting. I don’t mind sewing–it’s quite fun, really, once you know a little bit about what you are doing–and the side seams would give the bag some structure.

On the other hand, a seam sewn in a fabric with this many yarns would never be invisible. Not a deal-breaker, but a point to consider. It also might be tricky to sew a good seam when joining panels where two very different yarns are meant to align at the selvedges. In fact, just getting all four sides to be exactly the same length might be a challenge.

Option 2…

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…was primarily circular construction. Knit the bottom as a flat panel, then pick up and knit around the edges and work the body of the bag in the round. Without doing anything special at the corners, this bag would have softly contoured sides. It might be possible to give those corners a touch more definition using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s “phoney [sic] seams” technique–slipping the corner stitches every other round.  There would be no sewing. But every other round, in order to make garter stitch, would have to be purled.

Either way, we’re talking about a ton of ends to weave in. Happily, I like weaving in ends.

So, what to do?

See you in two weeks!

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Makers’ Mercantile Leather Cage Purse available separately or as a kit
addi® Olive Wood Circular Needle available in fixed and interchangeable varieties
Schacht Cricket 15-inch Rigid Heddle Loom
HiKoo Simpliworsted (55% Merino Wool, 25% Acrylic, 17% Nylon. 140 yards per 100 gram hank)
HiKoo Rylie (50% Baby Alpaca, 25% Mulberry Silk, 25% Linen. 274 yards per 50 gram hank)
HiKoo Kenzie (50% New Zealand Merino Wool, 25% Nylon, 10% Angora, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils. 160 yards per 50 gram ball)
HiKoo Kenzington (60% New Zealand Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils. 208 yards per 100 gram hank)
Schoppel-Wolle Leinen Los (70% Wool, 30% Linen. 328 yards per 100 gram ball)

About Franklin

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, 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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