Fridays with Franklin: The Edge of Crazy

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

For the first part of this project, click here.

It’s not often that I wish a project were larger. This one has been an exception. Every stage has been more fun than I anticipated–and the result makes me smile.

This is a small piece. I thought it would be a swatch.

I’ve carried it with me during the busiest teaching travel season I’ve ever had. It has been worked on in eleven states; in big cities and in the middle of nowhere; on land, on sea, and in the air; in view of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; next to one Great Lake, two small lakes, and a medium-sized pond with a frog in it.

It’s seven inches wide and nine inches long.

When last we met, I was working on the decorative embroidery between the patches.

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In addition to the buttonhole stitch (open and closed) and the feather stitch, I went cuckoo and added French knots with little tails in a few places where it seemed additional frivolity would be welcome.

It was fun.

At no point did this project require me to be serious or restrained. At no point did I have to ask myself whether more embellishment would be too much, or whether I ought to tread within the bounds of good taste. This project is crazy. It says so right there in the name.

When I had finished the lion’s share of the embroidery I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to leave the swatch a swatch. I didn’t have the time (or yarn) to do an entire blanket. But I had enough to make it up into a tiny, unserious cushion cover.

Since it was an unserious cushion cover, I kept dicking around with stuff I had been told never to do. For example, a very serious knitter once warned me that in cushion covers, one must always be sure the grain of the front fabric matched the grain of the fabric. In other words, you must always arrange the panels thus:

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and never thus:

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If one broke this rule, she insisted, one’s cushion would…I don’t know what. Explode? I mean, the horizontal grain (rows) and the vertical grain (columns) of any knitted fabric do stretch at different rates; but why would this be a catastrophe in a cover over a stable (if squishy) center?

Anyway, she’s dead now, and she was mean while she was alive. So I decided to stick my tongue out at her, posthumously, and mix the grains up like a madman with nothing left to lose:

I striped the back panel at random with every color from the front except the purple, because for about a week I couldn’t find it.

I put one-row buttonholes into the upper back panel.

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Wait. That sort of looks like a superhero mask, doesn’t it?

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Garter Woman! Na na NA nana na NAAAAA!

This was, of course, an excuse to play with more buttons from Skacel buttons; so I lost a pleasant hour wandering among the hundreds on offer and settled on the Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons because I was feeling both fancy and iridescent.

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Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons from Skacel Buttons

I sewed the panels together with mattress stitch, and found that the joins were fine–clean, straight, unobtrusive–but altogether too sober. Insufficiently bonkers. So I pulled out my vintage needlework books in search of a mildly bonkers edging.

A pattern collection from 1905 turned up just the very thing, a picot edge, which looks like this:

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and is worked like this (I quote the original verbatim–if I can make sense of it, so can you):

Make a chain of the length required, work Sg. C [single crochet] or DC [double crochet] on this, then fasten yarn with a Sg. C in the top of a stitch; chain 3, insert the hook through the top of the first chain stitch, throw yarn over the hook and draw through both loops; fasten with a Sg. C in top of next stitch, or skip one stitch and fasten whichever way makes the picot lie flat.

I wanted to crochet the edging directly to the cushion cover; so rather than make a chain, I worked slip stitches all the way around the seam line between the front and back panels and worked the rest of the edging stitches into that.

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You may notice that I found the purple HiKoo Sueño Worsted that had gone missing. I used an addi Olive Wood crochet hook in size US D/3.25 mm because it seemed like it would do and it was near the chair I was sitting in.

The result was a very unserious ruffled edge–ruffled because instead of obeying the instructions about making the edge lie flat, I crammed the picots in. Jamming lots and lots of fabric into a smallish space gives you ruffles. Annoying when you don’t want them, delightful when you do.

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It’s kinda like the edge of the petticoats on a cancan dancer. O, là-là! La plume da ma crayon! Défense de fumer!

Then on went the buttons, one-two-three-four. In four different colors. Because in crazy patchwork, more is more.

I have heard more than one knitter say that button placement makes him nervous. This is all I do–put the upper band over the lower and insert locking stitch markers through the buttonholes to mark the place each button needs to go. Boom.

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Neat little buttons, all in a row. A pretty sight.

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In case you’re wondering where I got a pillow form of the correct size (7 inches by 9 inches), I didn’t. I cut up an old cotton sheet that was in the rag bag and sewed one, stuffing it neatly with some clean, hand-dyed wool roving that I bought ages ago at a fiber fair, and have never been able to understand why I bought it, because the colors are hideous. No, I am not going to show it to you; and no, I’m not going to tell you who dyed it.

I’m not that crazy.

Now I have this hilarious little pillow…

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…and I don’t know what it’s for, though I am absolutely going to use it as a sample for a new class on knitting and embroidering crazy quilt squares. If I can’t stop the madness, I might as well spread it around.

Epilogue in HiKoo Sueño

This is was my first encounter with HiKoo Sueño Worsted and I can’t say enough good things about it.

It’s so crisp and smooth, and the colors show off brilliantly. There’s been no sign of pilling, even though the balls of yarn and the knitting itself has been dragged around the country.

Even after the cushion cover was finished I didn’t want to stop knitting the stuff, so I whipped up an impromptu cowl for Rosamund without a pattern.

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She likes it. She likes to have clothes on, especially as the weather in Chicago turns nippy. The only thing I think I might do is line it with woven fabric to keep the floats on the inside from catching on her collar. But that’s for another column.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)
HiKoo Sueño (80% Merino Wool 20% Viscose; 255 Yards per 100g hank.)
Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons (18mm) by Skacel Buttons
addi Olive Wood Crochet Hook
Clover Small Locking Stitch Markers

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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