Feeling a bit sheepish…

Mom got a new work table for her birthday and I decided to make her coasters on our zoom loom. A zoom loom is a kind of pin loom. Pin looms have been around since the 1930’s. They are easy to use and don’t use very much yarn. My coaster turned out pretty good. But then I had another idea…

I think I can do a square start to finish in under an hour and the directions that come with a zoom loom are very well written. (Poorly written directions really annoy me.) I chose schoppel wool for my project. The slow color changes made really colorful sheep and the wool was really nice to weave with. I also used CoBaSi for a non wool sheep and I really liked weaving with it too.

Working a simple little square is just a very satisfying project. Mom and I have been enjoying listening to Audible while we work. We are almost finished with To Kill a Mockingbird performed by Sissy Spacek.

Once you have a square done, you can stop there, or you can make your square into something else. I have seen lots of kits to make animals, but I wanted to be able to make something with one square, so a sheep was the purrrrrfect choice. (My cat Mocha thinks so too!)

The legs would be easy enough to make using pipe cleaners, but we had mini clothespins and I think they are cute also. I save an extra couple of feet of yarn for sewing up, but I also use the leftover tails to draw up the ends of the square. First I secure the clothespins inside the square and place the stuffing. If you try to stuff it after, it shifts the clothespins around and the legs don’t stay put. If you decide to sew up the square completely and then clip the legs on after, your sheep looks like his mama was a giraffe and his legs are way too long.

Basically I just place the legs and stitch around it until it feels like it won’t move around too much. Here are a couple of pictures with the pipe cleaner legs. Place the stuffing carefully around the legs so they don’t get moved around. If you just stuff it in, the legs get out of place.

On each end I use a running stitch and draw it up. Whichever end is smooth gets to be the rear of the sheep. If it’s a little more uneven when I draw it up, that can be the head. We will be sewing a felt head on, so any uneven bits will get covered up.

I used safety eyes on some of my sheep, but wiggle eyes work too. The ones with wiggle eyes remind me of characters from the animated series Shaun the Sheep. The head is really easy. I just cut that freehand out of felt. And I don’t use a pattern so each one is similar, but unique.

I also used craft pins so I could hang a sheep on my bag. I just used the holes already present in the weaving to attach it to the back. How fun is that?

I’m sharing one with my pen pal! They would be great to top a crafty gift instead of a bow, or tuck in a skein of yarn for a little surprise for your favorite knitter.

Next month I’m going to be using the easy marble to create some fun shoes for summer, and I am looking at creative ideas for a blanket for Mocha.

I am also talking to my Dad about going on a little trip somewhere fun and I’ll be sharing that too!

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Post

Schact Zoom Loom

Schoppel-Wolle Gradient

HiKoo® CoBaSi Plus


ABOUT

CeeCee1

Cee 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.

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Fridays with Franklin: From Bun to Blanket

fwf-logo-columnsize

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

yarn-06

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.

fwf-63-hikoo-concentric

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.

finished-03

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.

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.

gathered-squares

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.

IMG_20180314_064940_259
(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.*

fwf-54-eaglefinished
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.