Fridays with Franklin: Butthurt

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

In my life there is (and always has been) a constant battle between the useful and the beautiful, the aesthetic and the ergonomic.

It’s no use going all Corbusier on me, either, and suggesting that I learn to appreciate household goods that are meant to be cogs in a machine for living.

I grew up in military houses decorated by a mother who used beige as an accent color, and once rejected a bedspread of pale gray striped with white as Too Busy. Carved details on furniture gave her headaches. Antiques gave her the heebie-jeebies. She was sure they were either haunted or harboring lice.

Naturally, I have grown up to become the sort of person who uses old bits of china and silver–the more floral, the better–to hold tools in my workroom. I love color. Lots of color, as you may have gathered from the beginnings of my excursion to crazy quilt knitting last time.

workroom-china
The piece with the fans and sunflowers is a British-made Aesthetic Movement toothbrush holder. Somewhere up there, my mother is gagging.

My intent this week was to show you the next stage of the crazy quilt project, but two things happened. First, the dear postman who was entrusted with the stage two yarns threw them, so far as we can tell, into Lake Michigan. I hope the fish enjoy them. Perhaps they can knit themselves little fish mittens.

Second, my workroom chair threw my butt out of whack.

Here’s the chair. Cute, right? That’s why I chose it. It’s cute.

chair
In the background is my trust Schacht Wolf Pup 8.10, nakedly awaiting our next adventure.

My workroom is in a building my mother probably would have admired. It was built as an automotive garage, and includes such charming features as cinderblock walls, rubber industrial flooring, and dropped ceilings.

That’s Chicago, baby. You get what you can get. If I want a skylit studio in a sweet vintage building, I’ll have to give up knitting for a living in order to afford it.

I figured I could warm up the space with furnishings and décor, sparse as they presently are. The chair is a key part of that. Not for me, some rolling plastic and rubber grotesquerie from an office supply chain. Heavens, no.

It was all fine until I spent a  long day in the chair, pushing out work to meet a draconian deadline–then stood up and fell right down again.

Wouldn’t you know, wood slats and a rush seat don’t offer the last word in lumbar support; nor do they cradle my aging buttocks in a manner sufficiently ergonomic to keep them happy. The sweet little chair just about crippled me.

I appealed to a local friend who is an expert in these matters, and she told me to turn the chair into a plant stand and go buy something sensible. I got all quivery and weepy.

She sighed and said, fine– if I must insist upon using it, at least pad the damn thing. That might help.

So I warped my trusty Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, because I wanted to weave the fabric for my new cushion. Because of course I did.

The yarn had been in my “Fridays with Franklin” stash since the last time I played with shadow knitting in these pages. I adore shadow knitting, in fact it’s a subject I teach with the zeal of an evangelist. But that project failed to make me happy–the theory of the mitered shadowing didn’t turn out as I’d hoped.

I kept all the leftover yarns, though, because the yarn did make me happy. It’s gorgeous stuff–HiKoo Llamor, 100% baby llama.

leftover-llamor-yarn
The sewing box isn’t an heirloom–it came from the Aumuller Korbwaren line carried by Makers’ Mercantile. There’s a link at the end of this entry.

Those colors  would punch the industrial gloom of the workspace right in the nose. There are echoes of them in some of my painted china. That shocking pink may well set the drop ceiling on fire.

I couldn’t keep my butt waiting forever, so I made the warp (almost) as simple as I could: stripes, symmetrical, tied on without any real planning. I followed my nose, putting some of each color into the mix.

warp-ties
Except I forgot the purple, because it fell off the table.

A warp like this takes a newbie like me about two hours to finish. I love the look of a fresh warp. It’s so orderly. Full of potential.

warp-backbeam
spreaders
For the weft pattern, I settled on more simplicity: eight shots of each color, forming broad stripes. To prepare, I wound a bobbin of each color (including, this time, the purple). Using a boat shuttle meant changing from one to the next was as easy as clicking out the old bobbin and clicking in the new.

bobbins
Then, I wove.

weaveinprogress

It took about four hours–maybe it would have been three if I hadn’t been watching The Crown–to whip up this.

yardage-folded

yardage-flat

The fabric is off the loom, but not finished. I need to:

• stabilize the cut ends with two quick lines of machine sewing,
• repair three or four skips (places where the shuttle went over or under a wrong warp thread),
• wet finish the fabric so it will be ready to sew into a cushion.

I’ll show you the finishing next time, though I’m just about to get down to it. This project has a certain urgency. Happy butt, happy me.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Llamor Yarn (100% Baby Llama, 109 yards per 50g ball)
Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, 15-Inch
Aumuller Korbwaren Large Cantilevered Sewing Box (one style of the many carried by Makers’ Mercantile)

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. He will lead his own knitting cruise to Bermuda in September, 2018.

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: Crazed

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

All of us who make things are prone to funny little peeves and preferences.

One of mine–one that I have in fact shared with students who bring up the question of inspiration–is an aversion to pieces of needlework in which one technique tries to ape another. Knitting pretending to be crochet. Crochet pretending to be knitting. Knitted or crocheted versions of things usually (and for good reason) sewn with woven fabrics. I don’t care for it.

There’s no rhyme or reason to this aversion of mine. It’s purely personal. Instinctive.

So imagine my surprise when I was leafing through a much-loved copy of Weldon’s Practical Needlework (a late Victorian publication from England, available in facsimile reprints) and stopped at this, one of my favorite illustrations…

inspiration

…and found myself thinking, It would be fun to knit a crazy quilt.

I’m not supposed to think that. If you want to make a crazy quilt, I said to myself, then get out the rag bag and sew one.

My naughty brain would not leave the idea alone. It had been some time since I’d indulged myself in intarsia–a technique too maligned, too often considered unwieldy. This would be a golden opportunity to play with it.

Crazy quilting, if you are not familiar with it, became something of a Craft Madness in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Unlike the workaday cotton or wool pieced quilts meant as bedcovers, crazy quilts most often recycled odds and ends of luxury fabrics like silk and velvet. But any fabric could be used. The combinations found in extant pieces are astonishing. This example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is representative.

62.143
Aletta Whitehouse Davis (1830?–1925), Crazy Quilt (c. 1885). Made in New England from silk, silk velvet, cotton, and chenille. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Reverend and Mrs. Karl Nielsen, 1962.

The scraps could be any shape. Colors, textures, and fibers were mixed at the pleasure of the maker.

The result–sometimes called an “art quilt”–was often used as a stylish throw for the parlor sofa, or might be draped over the furniture in a fashionable “Turkish corner” filled with artsy exotica.

And because a crazy quilt isn’t only about the joining of colorful bits with odd shapes, I’d get to decorate the piece with embellishments. Embellishments were fundamental to crazy quilting–the place for the needlewoman to really flaunt her creativity.

The Davis quilt is covered with embroidery and appliqué in cheerful profusion.

62.143
Embellishment meant I could look forward not merely to intarsia, but to intarsia with stuff on it. And, as you will have noticed if you tune in regularly, I am in love with projects that allow me to combine techniques.

When I realized that after two months of daydreaming I still wanted to try this, I gave in and asked Makers’ Mercantile for a mess of HiKoo Sueño Worsted in a jumble of pretty colors.

sueno-basket
The pot basket from Big Blue Moma (you can get one from Makers’ Mercantile) is so cute I want to carry it everywhere.

This is a favorite workhorse worsted of mine. It’s warm. It’s soft, but tough. The color range is wide enough to allow craziness. It makes a handsome finished fabric.

I chose colors that I remembered seeing in old crazy quilts, especially my favorite 1880s-1890s examples.

The late Victorian crazy quilters were the most exuberant and profuse in their decorating, even including things like appliquéd paper scraps and photographs, beads and buttons, tassels and fringes, and even paint.

I didn’t know if I’d go that far, but I figured my experimental base ought to at least admit the possibility.

Crazy Knitting Without Going Crazy

Now, intarsia (if we set aside extreme examples) is not the frenetic waltz with an octopus that it is often imagined to be.

Yes, it can get kinda stringy with multiple ends hanging off the work-in-progress. But  a little advance planning keeps them nicely managed.

Me, I love intarsia; but I choose my projects carefully. The technique is wonderful for bold patterns constructed from large areas of flat color. It is less wonderful (from the standpoint of the knitter) for fussy patterns constructed from fifty billion wee bits of color.

My crazy square,* therefore, was laid out with enough shapes and colors to evoke patchwork. But the shapes were mostly on the large side, and almost no row in my chart ever had more than four strands of color in play.

Here’s my chart. There was no plan to it. I just filled in shapes until it looked like I thought it ought to.

crazy-garter-chart-v01
The collision of the star symbol and the dot symbol is unfortunate, but I was in a hurry. After I printed out a working copy to take on the road, I shaded the star squares lightly with a pencil to make them easier to read.

I also decided to work this experiment as intarsia in garter stitch. For those of you who are new to the party (welcome!) that means that in my flat-knit fabric, all stitches would be knit stitches. No purling (until the final row, but more on that later).

My reasons for this were as follows:

• The gauge of garter stitch is roughly square–the number of stitches per inch is usually about the same as the number of rows per inch.

So I could lay out my chart on a plain ol’ square grid and not worry about differences between stitch gauge and row gauge. Yes, I have access to “knitter’s graph paper” with a non-square grid; but this was easier. And it was right at hand. And as you know, if you read this column regularly, I am LAZY.

• The primary visual feature of garter stitch is the ridge formed by two consecutive rows of knitting: once across the right side, once across the wrong side.

Working my chart in garter stitch meant that the order of the colors in any wrong side row would be identical to the order of the colors in the preceding right side row. So on all wrong side rows, I could ignore the chart and just work the colors as they presented themselves. If the next stitch on the left needle was blue, I would knit into it with the same blue. Ditto for all the colors. No need to look at the chart. Simple. Easy. See, “I am LAZY,” above.

• Garter stitch lies flat.

• Garter stitch looks pretty.

• I like garter stitch.

Using garter stitch meant numbering my chart rows appropriately, like so:

crazy-garter-chart-v02
Right side rows are odd numbers, worked right to left. Wrong side rows are even numbers, worked left to right. Each row of squares in the chart is worked twice: once right to left, then once left to right.

Yes, every row of squares in the chart is knit twice. Once across for the right side, once across for the wrong side.

Now, as to the stringy bit.

Intarsia requires a separate strand of working yarn for every block of color in a given row. If you’re not familiar with intarsia at all, you might like to check out this installment of an earlier Fridays with Franklin adventure for a decent introduction.

To keep dangling ends to a minimum, one of the things I like to do is estimate how much yarn a given block of color will require, then reel off that much of it. I don’t wind these strands onto intarsia bobbins, or wrap them into butterflies. I just let them hang.

How do I estimate the amount of yarn I need for a block of color? It’s pretty simple. Takes a bit of time and counting, but it’s worth it to me in terms of time saved (in the end) and annoyance avoided.

Estimating Yarn for One Block of Intarsia

Step One. Take the yarn you’ll be using, and wrap it gently but firmly ten times around the needle you’ll be using.

needle-wrapped
Wrap that needle.

Step Two. Remove the yarn from the needle and measure how much you used for those ten wraps. That’s how much you need for ten stitches. (Let’s say, for demonstration purposes, you got a result of 6 inches.)

ruler
Measure the yarn you wrapped.

Step Three. Count up the number of stitches in that block of your intarsia design. (Let’s say, for demonstration purposes, you have 108 stitches in the block.)

Step Four. The math bit.

If you’re working in stockinette stitch (each row in the chart is worked one time), do this:

Divide the number of stitches in the block by 10. (We get 10, with a remainder of 8.)

Multiply the resulting whole number (ignore the remainder for the moment) by the number of inches you needed for 10 wraps. (We multiply 10 by 6, and get 60).

To this number, add additional length for the remainder. (Since eight is pretty near 10, I’ll add in the full six inches needed for 10 wraps. Our total is now 70.)

Add in an additional 12 inches for tails at the beginning and end.

So our hypothetical strand would be measured out to 78 inches.

If you are working in garter stitch, do as above; but multiply your total by 2 before you add in the 12 inches for your tails. (We do this because every square in our chart represents two knit stitches, not one.)

This is a loosey-goosey way to estimate, yet I’ll be darned if it doesn’t get me the right length almost every time.

The Naked Square

Once I had done up a chart, and counted the squares in each block, the knitting clicked along with refreshing ease.

I cast on using the long tail method, following the color order given in row 1.

caston

Since the long tail cast on not only casts on, but also works your first row of knit stitches, I followed it by knitting row 2 of the chart. In the photo above, I’ve just finished row six. I think it’s row six. I’m pretty sure it’s row six. Where are my glasses?

From there, it was shockingly quick work to finish the entire chart. I ended by binding off in purl, following the order of the colors, on the right side after completing wrong side row 80.

See?
quilt-with-hand
It’s not perfectly square, but it’s close enough that it could be easily blocked to square; or I could adjust the chart to make it knit up square. All part of the experimentation process.

Also, please admire my tidy backside.

crazy-quilt-reverse
If this side is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Just for fun, I put a photo of the finished square into Photoshop and multiplied it. I do this a lot, by the way, to see how a small sample of a repeating motif will look across a larger field.
crazy-quilt-repeat

It’s encouraging. This is the same square repeated, of course; but if you used the same chart, and knitted it in different colors each time; then rotated the squares as you put them together; you could achieve a finished knitted quilt with something of the non-repeating verve the original quilts offer.

I kinda hoped that would be the case.

The greatest surprise was finding that my colors were strongly evocative of the “paint spatter” Trapper Keeper I carried to school in the 1980s. This was not, I admit to you, an entirely pleasant surprise.

But now comes the embellishment, and we’ll see if we can temper the Valley Girl vibe with that. Fer shure.

See you in two weeks.

*Note that the Davis crazy quilt, like many from the time, is formed from small squares later joined into a single large square. This kept the work as portable as possible for as long as possible, and allowed for flexibility and adjustment in laying out the final design. A sensible method indeed.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

 

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)

Woven Pot Basket from Big Blue Moma

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. He will lead his own knitting cruise to Bermuda in September, 2018.

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.

Substitute Socks

Cee Cee has been sick so here I am filling in for her… I figured the best way to do that is share the socks I made her a while back.

The truth is she isn’t the most organized kid, and right now I don’t even know where any of her hand knit socks are… But she wears them and loves them so I just keep making them. She especially loves footie socks which is handy because there’s no leg to knit. She also loves mismatched socks so there’s only first socks and no seconds!

The pattern I’m sharing is easy. Yes it has stripes and such, but I just put things in where I liked (and where it was easy) so don’t overthink it. CoBaSi is very forgiving and makes good comfy socks… and when you mix up the stripes and order of the colors, you don’t even have to remember what you did to make a pair!

In other news, Cee Cee finished making hats and took 54 hats to Grace Centers of Hope in Pontiac, Michigan. If you want to find a fun way to help others, the addi Express knitting machine is a great tool. Being able to turn out a hat fairly quickly means she can really make a difference to an organization. She begins a new project for Green River Ministries tomorrow at our local hand crafted market. When you buy a hat from her, a second hat gets donated to help others. That would be very slow to do on knitting needles and she probably wouldn’t even try it… But this machine has given her such a useful and practical way to help people. Every project seems to inspire her to think of the next thing she could do. It’s a knitting machine, but it’s so much more than that.

And while we’re talking about helping, I encourage you to find a way to do that with whatever you make. Helping just makes everything a little better. A hat, a toy, a casserole… It’s amazing how it can turn your day around.

I’m not sure what Cee Cee is planning for next month…in the meantime grab your free footie pattern and some CoBaSi (This might be a good excuse to grab some FlexiFlips too!) Make some socks for someone you love. (Or yourself…you deserve cozy socks too!)

Substitute Footie Socks
By BeLinda Creech

What’s most fun about this pattern is it’s knit to fit. Change colors for stripes any time you like! I just changed up the colors when I felt like it. Don’t be afraid of stripes and trying stuff. Its only yarn and the CoBaSi is very forgiving!

With the three hanks of CoBaSi I easily made two socks…and I think I may add a third to the mix just for fun!

 

Yarn: HiKoo CoBaSi 55% Cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk, 21% Elastic Nylon;  220 yards per 50 gram skein, 3 colors.

Special Stitches:
Mock baby cable (RT) – Also known as a right twist: k2tog but don’t push the stitch off the needle. Knit the first stitch and then push both off the needle. 

Cuff
Cast on 64 stitches. Join in the round, being careful not to twist. PM to indicate beg of round.
Rounds 1-3: *K2 p2; rep from * to EOR
Round r: *RT, p2; rep from * to EOR

Repeat these four rounds three times.

Heel
Knit two rounds. Divide stitches to work the heel over one half of the stitches (32 sts)

I do a very simple flap heel.
Sl1,  k1; repeat across 32 stitches, turn.
Sl1, then p across to EOR.

Repeat these two rows 16 times ending with the right side facing.
Turn the Heel
Sl1, knit 17, ssk, knit one, turn
Sl1 one, p5, p2tog and turn.

Now do each row by knitting  and purling with either ssk or p2tog, one stitch before the gap. Do this until you have 18 stitches left and the RS is facing you.

Pick up and knit 18 stitches on the left side of work….sometimes I find that I have a few little holes along the way. I knit into the back of the stitch and that solves the problem nicely.

knit 32 across the front of the sock.
pick up and knit 18 up the other side and knit half of the heel stitches (9)

Knit to three stitches before the end of the first needle, K2tog, k1
K across the 32 stitches
K1, ssk, k to end of round.
knit the next round

repeat these two rounds until 64 stitches remain.

Now just knit the foot of the sock by knitting around and around. I measure, and stop knitting the foot when I get to the start of Cee Cee’s big toe. Knit to the last three stitches of the first needle, k2tog, k1 knit one.
K1, ssk, k to the last three stitches and k2tog, k1.

K1, ssk, K to end of needle
knit next round.

Do this until you have 8 stitches left and kitchener the heel. To create the color change on the toe, just switch colors when there are 16 stitches left.

 

Have a great month!

-BeLinda