Fridays with Franklin: Fluff My Cushions

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

If you ask me, you can tell a civilization is in decline when it stops caring about good throw pillows.

Most of us, if we are lucky, spend quite a bit of time with our throw pillows, and they do so much for us. They hide that coffee stain on the sofa from visitors, they add a certain quelque chose to the bed on days when we make the bed, they support our backs as we knit in a favorite chair, they cradle our heads while we fall blissfully asleep during a weekend binge of The Crown or America’s Next Top Cake Hero.

Yet how much thought do we put into the selection of these small but essential elements of the well-appointed home? Judging from the pillows I’ve seen lately (including on my own sofa), shamefully little.

roz-and-pillow.jpg
Rosamund doesn’t like it, either.

I’ve taken a hard look at the soft furnishings of our nest this winter, in part because for a couple of weeks I couldn’t leave the nest or the Chicago weather would have killed me. And I feel the need of an upgrade.

I don’t even know where that green sofa pillow and its twin came from. They mystify me, because I don’t like that depressing olive green and I don’t like that clammy fabric.

I suspect they came home because I was out at some discount store, remembered that we needed new pillows, and grabbed the least offensive pair off the shelf because they were a) cheap and b) meh, good enough.

Is that any way for a man who claims to be a fancier of fine textiles to act? No, it is not.

Out of the Past

A few years ago I was visiting a friend’s great-aunt, and the friend told her that I knit and crochet. The great-aunt said languidly that the afghan over the back of the couch upon which we were sitting was her own work, circa 1950; and it was the first and last thing she’d ever made because needlework was boring as all hell.

It was quite a showpiece, fashioned entirely from wool, weighing in at about three hundred and forty thousand pounds. Most fascinating to me were five square panels set into the center and corners, each embroidered with florals in cross stitch.

I asked if I could photograph it. She thought that was a weird request, and said no. She changed the subject to the voracious and seismic lovemaking of the newlywed couple in the apartment above. They, on cue, went into action at that very moment and we scrambled to keep the tea service from bouncing off the table. The afghan was forgotten.

Months and months later, I came into possession of a 1916 book of knitting and crochet patterns that included an afghan with cross-stitched panels.

fwf-58-bookpage
I strained my rudimentary crochet skills to understand the method, which the book called “afghan stitch,” and realized it was what I had seen demonstrated at a couple of fiber shows as “Tunisian crochet,” and had read about in a few Victorian books as “tricot crochet” or “tricot stitch.” (And yes, “tricot” is French for “knitting.” Foreshadowing!)

Ever since, I’ve been looking around for a chance to play with the technique, and at last hit me–why not do up a pretty sofa pillow/cushion cover in Tunisian crochet, and embroider it to suit?

 

The Apparatus

Now, the world of Tunisian crochet is large and varied. This is not the only stitch, but it’s the one called for in all old manuals for cross-stitched panels.

First, a note about the tools for working it.

Tunisian crochet is usually not made with typical crochet hooks, but specialized hooks intended for the purpose. Maker’s Mercantile sells them, and they are usually either double-ended, like these, or have a hook at one end and a stop at the other, like these.

But they also sell a set-up that interested me particularly because of the size of the panel I wanted to make. It looks like this.

fwf-58-hooksetup
An Addi Click Interchangeable Hook at one end, a cute little Addi Heartstopper at the other.

That’s a hook from the Addi Click Crochet Hook Interchangeable Set, with an interchangeable cable and, to keep the work from sliding off the end, an Addi HeartStopper. A long panel can be heavy, and using a hook on a cable means the weight of the growing fabric slides down the cable to rest, and won’t wreak havoc on your wrists as it might with a traditional hook–one of the same reasons circular knitting needles have become so popular, even for flat knitting.

Also, I knew I’d be working on this project on a lot of airplanes–and a short hook with a short cable is less cumbersome in an airplane seat and less attention-getting at security than a long metal hook.

The Tunisian Crochet or Afghan Stitch, Part I: The Set-Up

You may have noticed that those Tunisian hooks with an end stop look like knitting needles. That’s no coincidence, because this odd form of crochet acts a whole lot like knitting. (Hence the nineteenth century moniker “tricot crochet.”)

In fact, if you are a knitter and think you can’t possibly do this, let me give you all the fundamentals of the basic Tunisian stitch in two steps:

*1. Pick up and knit stitches into your fabric. Don’t turn the work.
2. Now bind off all but one of the stitches you just picked up. Repeat from *.

I’m not kidding. You pick up stitches and you bind them off. You can do that, right?

Let me show you how.

I’ll demonstrate some of the gold HiKoo Simpliworsted left from Rosamund’s superhero sweater. (If you want to crochet a washable afghan that incorporates this sort of fabric, Simpliworsted is a great choice.)

We have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is with a crochet chain. It’s no different than the standard chain you’d use to start a regular piece of crochet.

The chain has two sides to it. The front shows you little Vs.

chainvs

The back shows you little bumps.

chainbumps

We will work the next stage, the “forward” row of picked-up stitches, into the bumps.

Set-Up, Forward Row

Insert the hook into bump nearest the hook,

firstpickup

and pull through a loop of the working yarn. Now–and herein lies a great difference between Tunisian crochet and other sorts–we slip this new loop onto the shaft of the crochet hook. That’s right–just as we keep our knitting stitches on the shafts of our needles.

Continue to pick up a loop through every one of the bumps on the back of your chain, keeping all the newly-created stitches on the hook.

middle-of-setup-forward
In the midst of the set-up forward row.

Do not turn the work. That’s right–don’t turn the work. In fact, never turn the work.

Instead, we will now work a “reverse” row and bind off all these new stitches.

Set-Up, Reverse Row

Yarn over the hook, and pull a new loop through the stitch at the left end of the row.

setup-reverse-01
Yarn over hook, pull a loop through last stitch you made in your forward row.

Yarn over the hook, and pull a loop through the first two stitches on the hook.

set-reverse-02
Yarn over the hook, pull a loop through the first two stitches on the hook.

**Yarn over the hook, and pull a loop through the next two stitches on the hook.

Repeat from ** until you have only one stitch left on the hook.

setup-complete
The forward and reverse rows of the set-up are complete. One stitch remains on the hook. You’re ready to work the rest of the fabric.

Your set-up is now complete. The next section will tell you how to work the remainder of the fabric.

The Tunisian Crochet or Afghan Stitch, Part Two: All the Other Rows

You’ll continue to work your fabric in much the same way–with forward rows (right to left) in which you make new stitches; and backward rows (left to right) in which you bind off all but one of them.

Forward Row

Look at the fabric you’ve created in the set up. You will see a series of vertical “bars.” I’ve marked them here to make them obvious.

verticalbars

Each bar you see has a mate on the back side of the work. We will work only into the bars on the front until the last bar of the forward row.

Put the hook under the second bar in from the right selvedge of the work. Yarn over the hook and pull up a loop.

forward-01
Slide the new loop onto the shaft of the hook.

Repeat into the next bar, and all remaining bars until you reach the final bar–the one at the left selvedge.

forward-02
Working a forward row, making a stitch under each vertical bar at the front of the fabric.

Create the stitch at the left selvedge by sliding the hook under both the front and back bars, yarn over the hook, and pull up a loop.

forward-03
The left selvedge stitch is picked up under both the front and back vertical bars (outlined in orange).

This little change gives you a neat left selvedge that matches the right selvedge.

DO NOT TURN THE WORK.

Reverse Row

 

Note: This is pretty much identical the reverse row in the set-up!

Yarn over the hook and pull a loop through the first stitch on the hook only.

***Yarn over the hook and pull up a loop through the first two stitches on the hook.

Repeat from *** until one stitch remains on hook.

DO NOT TURN WORK.

first-row-completed
First complete row of fabric (made from one forward and one reverse row) completed.

Begin the next Forward Row, as above.

Bind off as you would any flat piece of crochet.

The fabric this stitch creates is intriguing: dense, cushy, and with a surface texture that reminds me of the little square cells in a waffle.

DSC05149

Destination: Throw Pillow 

For my pillow cover, I settled on HiKoo CoBaSi Plus. It’s a worsted weight–unlike the original CoBaSi, which is a fingering weight, and fabulous for wool-free socks and summer shawls.

fwf-58-hikoo-cobasi-plus
Yes, please.

CoBaSi Plus (a mix of cotton, bamboo, and silk–get it?) is strong, soft, durable, springy, lustrous, washable, and feels nice against your face–all important in a cushion you’d like to be beautiful and useful.

In setting about making my fabric, I learned a few things very quickly.

First, when guides to Tunisian crochet tell you to use a hook size that seems large for the weight of your yarn, they mean it. This fabric is tight. Use a hook that would be reasonable for, say, a granny square, you may find very that your fabric is impossible to work without damaging your fingers.

How do you figure out which hook to use? SWATCH. No way around it.

 

cobasi-swatch
I tried three sizes of hook. The smallest (at the bottom of the photo above) made a fabric so dense that was nearly impenetrable on forward rows. The largest (at the top) made a fabric loose enough for the fabric of the pillow form to show through…tacky. The hook in between (in the middle), a 5mm, was just right. You can barely see the difference in the photograph–but it’s there.

Also, Tunisian crochet has a reputation for being tough on the hands and wrists. I won’t disagree with that–it can be. Using the loosest suitable tension (therefore, the largest suitable hook) will help, as will avoiding yarns (like pure cottons) that don’t like to stretch.

I also found it was far easier on my hands and wrists when I grasped my hook knife-style (in the palm of the hand, rather than resting pencil-style on the thumb), and held it nearer the lower end of the hook, where it joined the cable.

Coming Up…

The making of the fabric was quite pleasant, if occasionally monotonous. But what I was really looking forward to was turning it into a big, bold piece of cross stitch.

fwf-58-newsletter-promo
For that more on that, see you in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
HiKoo CoBaSi Plus (55% Cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk, 21% Elastic Nylon; 220 yards per 50 gram hank)
HiKoo Simpliworsted (55% Merino Wool, 25% Acrylic, 17% Nylon. 140 yards per 100 gram hank)
Addi HeartStopper
Addi Click Crochet Hook Interchangeable Set

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.

 

Advertisements

This Is Not Going to Be Pretty, Part III: Actually Kind of Pretty

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

For the beginning of this project, click here.

I knew if I hesitated before setting the uneven warp to rights, I’d never finish this piece of weaving. I had to take the tide of madness at the flood.

The bunny who represents my Better Judgment had given up on me for the time being and was posting Instagram selfies from various scenic locations in central Ohio.

fwf-58-bunny-selfie
After a fitful night’s sleep, I carried the loom back down to the cellar, clamped it to the table, and set about unrolling the warp. In anticipation, had already cut a long strip of freezer paper to the proper width, carefully, using a rotary cutter and self-healing mat.

In theory I would unwind the warp and re-wind it with proper separation (the freezer paper) between the layers. This isn’t a fun thing to do, but it can be done.

I got about three feet of yarn free of the loom. Then it refused to budge. Refused.

I investigated and found my previous sloppiness had allowed about forty strands at the left edge to slide so far off course that they were now tangled around the warp beam, around the cords that hold the bar to the warp beam, around the bar itself, and around each other.

This meant I couldn’t unroll the warp. I’d need to untangle it–one strand at a time. Then tie the untangled ends to the warp beam. Then re-sley the reed. Then re-wind the warp.

Now ensued a dark, dark moment of the soul in which I considered ripping it all to shreds. Not just the warp. Also the loom. And then setting the house on fire, and changing my name, and moving to Mexico, and beginning life anew as one of those people who sells decorated coconuts outside Señor Frog’s in Cozumel.

If you think I’m kidding, you’ve never stood and contemplated how long it will take you to separate two hundred sticky alpaca warp threads, enmeshed together more tightly than an entire subdivision of suburban swingers throwing themselves into the last orgy before school lets out.

I would show you photographs, but I haven’t any. I was so utterly demoralized I couldn’t pick up the camera.

The only thing that got me through the dark moment was you, dear reader. Also you, and you, and those other readers over there.

It turns out the fear of total failure in front of thousands of people is, for me, motivational.

It took me two days to get the warp back on the loom.

Then I had to weave the damn thing.

fwf-58-rewound

Gettin’ Sticky With It

The re-wound warp was evenly tensioned, but still sticky as an entire subdivision of suburban swingers who have just finished throwing themselves into the last orgy before school lets out.

Baby llama likes to cling to itself. It may become stickier still if you paint it.

This extra-sticky yarn will be even more inclined to stick if you sley it close together. That’s what I had done by putting the Delilah Undyed DK Yarn into in the 12-dent reed that would normally hold fingering or lace weight yarns.

Why do this? Because when you want a warp-dominant fabric–which was my original goal–you will tend to pack the warp threads closer together.

The result of all this stickiness? My sheds wouldn’t open. I’d move my reed up or down, and the warp would just kinda sit there and laugh.

I was able to take care of the worse of the two sheds–the down shed–with a pick-up stick. I put the reed into the down position, then carefully opened the shed with the stick. Once it was open, I put the stick into the shed behind the heddle and kept it there.

fwf-58-stickplacement
When it was time for a down shed, I brought it forward to just behind the reed and pressed it downward. Ta-daaa, open shed. It was an extra step, but it was still faster than having to open the down shed bit by bit.

When it was time for an up shed, I slid the stick to the back of the loom.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t insert a corresponding pick-up stick for the up shed. The two sticks wouldn’t slide past each other behind the heddle as they went into and out of service.

The up sheds took a long time to open. The fabric was creeping along.

I was having renewed visions of selling souvenir coconuts when one of the finest weaving teachers I know–Susan, the owner of Yarnorama in Paige, Texas–stepped in with some advice:

1) Crank up the tension on the warp. Crank it as high as it will go without snapping threads.

2) Spray the warp, as it comes off the warp beam, with a bit of hair spray.

The latter suggestion sounded a little Out There, frankly; but at this point I was desperate. If she had told me to dip the entire loom in honey mustard I would have tried it.

6a00d83451ccbc69e20134852ba7f2970c-600wi

It worked. The sheds began to separate. Not always perfectly, but near enough to make me happy.

fwf-58-weavingitoff

Reader, I Finished It

How to describe the feeling of pulling the woven fabric off the loom? My thesaurus fails me. A fizzy cocktail of relief, joy, pride, excitement.

fwf-58-offdaloom
I secured the ends with hemstitching (which is discussed at length in our previous undertaking, The Warp with Two Brains). Because both the warp and weft (HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light) yarns were–have I mentioned this?–sticky, I worked the hemstitching with pure cotton sewing thread in a pale ecru that matched the warp.

fwf-58-newsletter-shot
A wet finish was essential. There are different ways of doing it. Here’s what I did for this project:

1) I tossed the fabric into hot water with some Soak,

2) smacked the heck out of it with a couple of hefty wooden spoons for a good fifteen minutes (therapeutic),

3) plunged it into cold water, then

4) threw it into my washing machine’s normal spin cycle to remove the excess moisture.

Some folks iron their damp woven fabrics dry at that point. I had other things to do, so I laid mine flat in a space where I was reasonably confident it would be left alone. I took care to make sure it was flat, because there is a danger at this point that wrinkles you leave in place may, in fact, become permanent.

When it was dry, I trimmed the ends

fwf-58-edgetrim

and then brushed them with a hairbrush to make them a little looser and bushier. Not a complete frizz, mind you. And that was purely a design choice. I just thought it looked nicer that way.

fwf-58-fringe

Warp a Lot, Weave a Little

I planned a large wrap with a painted lotus pattern. I put on nine feet of warp.

In the end, I created a scarf 13 inches wide and five feet long. The painted warp is dominant and clearly visible, but the lotus pattern is just a shadowy memory.

During the final spin, some of the twist in the warp let go, so and created interesting little passages of looser, fluffier fabric.

fwf-58-untwist
The fabric is buttery soft. The drape is FAB. U. LOUS.

fwf-58-finished-wrap

This is, without question, the most luxurious and interesting textile I have yet woven. I learned a lot, most of it the hard way. I am excited to try a painted, patterned warp again–knowing what I know now.

I’m glad I did it. Even the Bunny admits that, in the end, the destination was worth the journey. Right? Right?

fwf-58-bun-tired
Next Time…

I cannot wait to show you what I’ve been doing to these skeins of HiKoo CoBaSi Plus

fwf-58-hikoo-cobasi-plus
with these things…

fwf-58-addi-hook-addi-heartstopper

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom (15-inch version shown)
Schacht Cricket 12-Dent Reed (for 15-inch loom)
Schacht Cricket 15-inch Pick-Up Stick (also available in 10-inch length)
Delilah Undyed DK Yarn (100% Baby Llama, De-Haired)
HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light (shown in 1006 Smoke, 100% Baby Alpaca, 1540 yards per 100 gram hank)
HiKoo CoBaSi Plus (55% Cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk, 21% Elastic Nylon; 220 yards per 50 gram hank)
Addi HeartStopper
Addi Click Crochet Hook Interchangeable Set
Createx Acrylics Fabric Paint

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.

This Is Not Going to Be Pretty, Part II: The Warpening

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

I don’t want for a moment to give the impression that the idea I started messing with last time–painting a pattern on a warp-dominant fabric–is original to me.

fwf-56-finishedlotus
The experiment begun. For full details, see the previous installment of “Fridays with Franklin.”

There are many forms of weaving that paint or dye the warp to create a pattern in the finished cloth.

My inspiration was a fabric, not terribly well known these days, called chiné. Now, chiné (shee-NAY) is not the same as crèpe de chine or China silk. The name means “Chinese” and it may well have originated in China; though the examples of it that inspired me are not, in fact, Chinese, but French. Are you with me so far?

Chiné probably hit its all-time peak of popularity in France in the latter part of the 18th century. There is a tradition (not terribly well founded) that Madame de Pompadour liked to wear it, so on occasion you’ll find it called “Pompadour Taffeta.”

It’s expensive to produce. Christian Dior used it in the heyday of the New Look; and more recently designer Raf Simons (the now-former Creative Director of Dior) put it into his first collection for the house.

The fundamental aspect of chiné is the pattern painted upon the stretched warp threads before weaving–just as I painted my lotuses. The pattern persists in the finished fabric.

Here is a spectacular example from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: a silk and linen evening overdress from the tail end of the eighteenth century. (For full details, see the dossier on the Met’s Web site.)

Picture 029
Evening Overdress in Chiné Weave. British, 1797-99. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.2198a, b. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

That repeating sprig motif is woven right into the fabric. You can see it clearly in this view of the back.

Picture 008
Detail of Evening Overdress in Chiné Weave. British, 1797-99. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.2198a, b. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The hallmark of chiné, which you either like or you don’t, is patterns that have lost their hard edges and become either dreamy as watercolor (if you like them); or blurry and out-of-focus (if you don’t).

I like them.

The softness is in part a result of painting upon those parallel strands of warp. During the painting process, they’re close together and held in place at both ends. They can support motifs with a fair amount of detail, like (or so I hoped) my lotus:

lotus-whole-orange

When the warp is wound onto the loom so weaving can begin, those painted parallel strands will inevitably shift a bit vertically in relation to one another. This result is a visual shimmer, sort of like this.

lotus-shiftedRe-Enter the Bunny of Better Judgment

You remember this fellow from last week? The Bunny of my Better Judgment?

bun-hitired

Direct-warping a rigid heddle loom like my Schacht Cricket isn’t difficult or terribly time-consuming. I can usually put a plain warp on in an hour or less.

But this warp, because it was going to be painted, couldn’t be done in the comfort of my dining room. No, I had to work in the unheated cellar of the Chicago Victorian in which I live–in November. It’s dark and chilly down there, and it kinda smells like the fall of the house of Usher.

The stretched, nine-foot warp had to be stenciled. I’d never done that before. It took ages to finish each motif, especially before I got a feel for the process about halfway through.

fwf-56-paintedwarp

By the time all the paint had dried to the touch, it was late and getting dark (or maybe my vision was going black). My feet hurt and my neck hurt and my knees hurt and my toes were numb and Rosamund needed to go for a walk and I was hungry and…

Project - Sketch 1_5

Yes. It would have been perfectly reasonable to call a halt, run around the neighborhood with Rosamund, and enjoy a celebratory fizzy water.

Instead, I decided to rush forward and wind on the warp. It would feel so good, I thought, to know I could start cranking out fabric the next morning.

Project - Sketch 1_8

How Not to Wind on Your Warp

I have never had trouble winding on a warp before. Not once. Not even though I am still a rank novice of a weaver.

I clipped the peg-end of the strands and started to crank, and immediately had issues at both ends of the process.

At the peg end, I had done nothing to keep the threads under tension. They began to shift, and continued to shift, and never stopped shifting until they were tied on. If you can’t guess that happened because of that, you’ll see in a moment.

At the loom end, I decided to use the roll of freezer paper (the paper I’d used to make my stencil) as a warp separator.

You can’t just crank your unwoven warp onto the naked back beam. You need to separate the layers, as they build up on the beam, with something sturdy–stout paper, slats of wood, slats from a window blind. Otherwise the yarns sink into one another and your tension is uneven. When your tension is uneven, your finished fabric is correspondingly uneven.

I had always used sliced-up brown paper bags to separate my warp, and I reuse the same paper repeatedly. But my brown paper stash was insufficient for this project–it wasn’t long enough and it wasn’t wide enough. The freezer paper was wider than the beam, but I figured I could just fold it up and stuff it in.

I should have measured it carefully and sliced precisely it to make a single layer of paper just wide enough. I didn’t.

I just rolled and folded. Usually my folding wasn’t very good. The paper shifted and bunched. I just kinda scrunched it down and kept winding.

Project - Sketch 1_6

Garbage In…

At length, the warp was wound, and so was my bobbin of quite gorgeous HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light.

filled-bobbin
HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light, ready to become weft. It’s so good that it has re-awakened my long-dormant fine lace mojo. That’s another column, though.

I don’t even have time this week to tell you about everything that went wrong with the weaving–I’m saving some of that for the next column.

I’ll tell you this. The devil-may-care folding and scrunching of the separating paper caused the tension of my warp threads to vary so widely that every shot of weft was an adventure. Would it pack in? Would it not? Heck, would the shed even open for me?

At great length, and only with much swearing and sweating and salty tears of frustration, I had woven a whopping five inches of fabric in the amount of time it would usually take to weave fifteen. This warp was, may I remind you, nine feet long.

Press Rewind

A sane person would have declared the warp a “dog” (weaving slang for a warp that just won’t work), cut it off, and thrown it out. I was tempted.

I was at least going to need to re-wind it with proper tension and a proper spacer. I decided to think it over, and meanwhile cut off the five woven inches and wet finish them.

This is what came out.

sample-02

I wish you could feel it. It’s dreamy. Weightless. Soft as Rosamund’s tummy. Drapes like mad.

sample-01
I have to admit that I even like the way the uneven weft (the result of the lousy winding job) wiggles back and forth, spreading in some places and bunching in others. Thanks in part to the sticky alpaca and llama fibers, no part of the fabric is unstable.

sample-03

Mind you there’s no pattern at all. Nothing but now-random scatters of paint. It’s pretty, but it’s not the lotus I drew. That part of the experiment is a complete flop–this time. I will try it again.

The fabric, though…I loved the sample fabric. I had to see how it would turn out. I had to keep going.

See you in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom (15-inch version shown)
Schacht Cricket 12-Dent Reed (for 15-inch loom)
Delilah Undyed DK Yarn (100% Baby Llama, De-Haired)
HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light (shown in 1006 Smoke, 100% Baby Alpaca, 1540 yards per 100 gram hank)
Createx Acrylics Fabric Paint

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.

This Is Not Going to Be Pretty

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

I am unabashedly in love with rigid heddle weaving. I’ve written about it repeatedly, in “Fridays with Franklin” and elsewhere.

My Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom was reasonably priced and is sturdy, portable, reliable, and easy to use. I love what I make with it. I love the way it helps me to burn through stash and see new possibilities in old yarns.

I have crowed so much about it that shops and guilds have begun asking me to come over and teach rigid heddle weaving. I’d love to, but have said over and over that I don’t feel I’m quite ready yet to do that.

I’ve said over and over that I won’t feel qualified to teach it until I’ve done enough to have made lots more mistakes.

But this project, the project I will be writing about today, has moved me miles closer to be ready to teach rigid heddle weaving. Yeah. Let’s look at it that way.

Before we begin, I’d like to introduce the little bunny who will be playing the part of my Better Judgment.

fwf-56-firstbunny
We’ll be hearing a lot from him.

The Idea

This past summer I was privileged to attend a weaving conference for the first time. I took a bunch of excellent classes from some legendary teachers. I saw techniques in the fashion show and the gallery that set my brain on fire, including methods for decorating the fibers before weaving (i.e., painted warps) and after weaving (i.e., felted decorations, embroidery, shibori).

The painted warps especially grabbed my attention because of the possibility adding pattern to plain-woven fabric. Most of the painted warps were utterly abstract–bold splashes of color running into one another. Pretty, but it seemed to me that many yarns (like our own, dear HiKoo Concentric) could give much the same effect right off the ball.

What I wondered was whether I could paint a repeating pattern on a warp, then weave a warp-dominant (see next section) fabric with it. The finished piece would be boldly patterned and full of curves–large-repeat patterns and curves being the preserve, generally, of multi-shaft looms–but also be made simply on my Schacht Cricket.

I asked a pack of the experienced weavers I know if they had any advice about this, and they all said no, in their collective 600 years of weaving they hadn’t seen it done before quite as I proposed to do it.

fwf-56-toldyoubunny
Yes, perhaps.

The Canvas

A warp-dominant fabric is one in which the warp threads enjoy greater visual prominence than the weft threads that cross them. This may be a result of a difference in warp and weft yarn weights; or the result of packing of the warp yarns closer together than would be called for in a balanced weave.* Or it may be a combination of the two.

I wanted a big thick warp to paint on, and a delicate little weft to hold the warp together but not grab the spotlight.

So for warp I chose Delilah Undyed DK Yarn.

undyed-alpaca

And for weft I chose HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light.

fwf-56-alpacalacelight

My weaving friends said those fibers would be prone to stick together, so I might want to think twice. But they’re almost always weaving slippery stuff–tencel, silk, cotton, rayon. Whereas I have almost always worked in wool, and that is practically alpaca which is practically llama, if you squint. So what did they know?

fwf-56-bunnyeyescovered

Pegging It Out

One of the reasons I wanted to use the Schacht Cricket for this is that I’d always seen warp painting done (“always” being, you know–twice, from a distance) with the parallel strands of the warp stretched out on a framework. And of course if you use the direct-warp method on a rigid heddle loom, before winding on that’s exactly what you get.

The only change I needed to make, it seemed to me, was the orientation of the warping peg. The warping peg is usually vertical, and this causes the yarns to tilt as they approach it.

fwf-56-vertpeg
Standard vertical warping peg.

To keep my yarns horizontal all the way from loom to peg, I did this–which I’ll draw, since a drawing will be easier to understand than a photograph.

 

fwf-56-horziontal-warping-peg

You want to use a sturdy dowel, of course, or a length of smooth metal pipe or a metal rod. Your peg shouldn’t bend under the tension of all those wrapped yarns. If it bends, your yarn ends will be different lengths, and there your troubles will begin.

I hoped this theory would work in practice. You can imagine my delight when I stood looking at this.

fwf-56-stretchedwarp
The heddle is at the far end, to keep the it out of the way of the painting. This seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Motif

I knew perfectly well that no matter how much I care I took to preserve the lengths and alignments of my warp threads, they were going to wiggle and slip some during the process. So I told myself:

1) Do something large and abstract, rather than figural or representational.

2) Don’t put any fine, or even medium, detail into it. It’ll just get lost.

Then I started sketching. Within ten minutes I had forgot both 1 and 2. Ultimately I devised an Art Nouveau(ish) lotus with lots of detail.

lotus-cutout

The little bunny, in case you’re wondering, was out having a smoke at the time.

fwf-56-bunnycloset

The Stencil

I hadn’t done any stenciling in years, and never on yarn. In “Fridays with Franklin” I always use supplies from Makers’ Mercantile, so I asked them to send me two colors of their Createx Fabric Paint. This is a paint, not a dye. You apply it to the fiber and it sticks, and can be set permanently by putting the fabric in a hot dryer for 40 minutes after the paint is dry to the touch, or by ironing it. Nice.

I cut my stencil out of freezer paper, bought at the grocery store. It was inexpensive, a good size, and I was able to trace the design through it onto the shiny side of the paper.

fwf-56-tracelotus
Yeah, I added leaves. The flower looked so lonely without them.

and cut it out neatly with an X-Acto Knife.

fwf-56-cutstencil
Like buttah.

The Painting

I smugly made certain my warp was long enough to allow me some space to experiment. That was good thing, because my first lotus was a mushy mess.

I soon realized that I needed to support the warp on a smooth, flat surface while I stenciled. In my case, a couple of box lids stacked on the table underneath worked fine.

fwf-56-boxlids

 

Dabbing from the top with little vertical jabs worked well to apply the paint only where I wanted it, disturbing the threads as little as possible.

fwf-56-paintingstencil

But the wet stencil was pain to handle, even when I held it with one hand while dabbing with the other. (You can see it buckling in the photo above.) So I taped it (with strong packing tape) into an improvised, stiff frame made of cardboard strips. It worked!

With each repeat, my pace picked up and soon the lotuses were looking good, but ghostly.

fwf-56-silverlotus
The paint was dark in the bottle, but the yarn sucked it up and diluted it to a pale pearl. I was happy to have the gold to hand for reinforcements. With the silver dry to the touch, I offset the stencil and dabbed on the gold to turn the silver into a pretty, smoky shadow.

fwf-56-finishedlotus
Not half bad, if you ask me.

It wasn’t a quick process, but so what? This was starting look, dare I say it, I amazing.

 

fwf-56-paintedwarp
Dang, I’m good.

The rest was just weaving. And I know how to weave. What could possibly go wrong?

fwf-56-bunny-ring
See you in two weeks.

*A balanced weave has the same number of threads per inch in both its horizontal and vertical grains.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom (15-inch version shown)
Schacht Cricket 12-Dent Reed (for 15-inch loom)
Delilah Undyed DK Yarn (100% Baby Llama, De-Haired)
HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light (shown in 1006 Smoke, 100% Baby Alpaca, 1540 yards per 100 gram hank)
Createx Acrylics Fabric Paint

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.

 

 

 

 

Wonder Woofin III: Starry Starry Butt

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

I thought at first that I’d use duplicate stitch for the stars on Rosamund’s costume, but duplicate stitch has one great weakness. You are limited to embroidered stitches the size and shape of your knit stitches.

That means her stars would have looked something like this.

fwf-55-starchart
Not even in my most wishful state of mind is that a five-pointed star. That looks like a Space Invader doing front squats. Unacceptable.

In the dim recesses of my memory lurked an image of my late grandmother, the tailor, embroidering perfect five- and six-pointed stars on a client’s fancy party outfit. I dug through every embroidery guide on my shelf–about two dozen books, from the eighteenth century to the present–and found nothing. The entries for “Stars, embroidered” led to this kind of thing…

fwf-55-starstitch

which is fine for folksy work, but not what I needed; or this kind of thing

fwf-55-lazydaisy

which is a Lazy Daisy, not a star. Don’t try to tell me otherwise.

I began to wonder if past-life regression therapy might get me where I needed to go. Or perhaps I ought to hire a medium? Would my grandmother be annoyed if I contacted her in the great beyond to ask how she put the stars on Mary Ellen Zemicki’s bicentennial hostess pajamas? Was there a good time to call? When do they air Lawrence Welk in heaven?

48c10e0fa5a7045215c008455723c21b
“Hush now,” said my grandmother’s ghost. “I’m trying to watch the Lawrence Welk program.”

Star Map

Meanwhile, I went ahead and mapped out the placement of the stars on the tail of the costume. I used contrasting yarn and basting to give myself a set of guidelines, just as I’d done for the eagle.

fwf-55-starfield
In the first and third rows, the stars are centered on the lines. In the second row, the stars are centered between the lines.

Oh Say Can You Sew

In the end, a séance was just too much work to throw together quickly and I had to rely on experimentation and blind luck. I could remember this: you began by embroidering something that looked just like a child’s drawing of a five-pointed star. And I half-remembered a chant that started, “One and three, and two and four…”.

I cracked it. Here it is.

This is not a complicated stitch. I’m going to break it down very, very carefully so you can do it on your own without getting lost.

Our star will be based on an underlying shape: a pentagon. The five points of the pentagon will become the five points of our star, and we number them like so for reference:

star-diagrams-01

We begin with a base layer, worked once, like this:

Needle up at 1, needle down at 3.

star-diagrams-02

Needle up at 2, needle down at 4.

star-diagrams-03

Needle up at 3, needle down at 5.

star-diagrams-04

Needle up at 4, needle down at 1.

star-diagrams-05

Needle up at 5, needle down at 2.

star-diagrams-06

The base layer is now complete.

From here, we continue ’round and ’round the points of the star in rounds that grow smaller and smaller until the center of the star is filled in. All of these rounds follow the same rules, and here they are.

Needle up just below and to the left of  point 1.
Needle down just below and to the right of point 3.

star-diagrams-07

Needle up just below and to the left of point 2.
Needle down just below and to the right of point 4.

star-diagrams-08

Needle up just below and to the left of point 3.
Needle down just below and to the right of point 5.

star-diagrams-09
Needle up just below and to the left of point 4.
Needle down just below and to the right of point 1.

star-diagrams-10.jpg

Needle up just below and to the left of point 5.
Needle down just below and to the right of point 2.

star-diagrams-11

Round complete.

Continue in this manner, with the stitches of each round being taken a little closer to the center of the star. This diagram shows (in blue) what the next round will look like after it has been worked. The star is complete when the center is filled in, ending with a stitch from 5 to 2.

star-diagrams-12
The key is:

“Up at the left.
Skip a point.
Down at the right.
Back a point.”

If you remember that, you’ll remember the stitch.

Tips…

When you’re learning this stitch, rotate the work as you go so that the point you are dealing with is pointing UP. This will help you keep your “rights” and “lefts” clear.

Each round of stitching moves a little closer to the center of the star. How much closer? About the thickness of your embroidery yarn is a good bet.

Tip your needle so that you taking all stitches after the base layer from just under the threads laid down in the previous layer.

The number of round you’ll require to fill in the center of the star will depend upon the dimensions of the star and the size of your embroidery yarn.

Perfect and Uniform

One perfect star is a fine thing to achieve, but a field of many looks best if all are uniform in size and spacing. I’d laid out my guidelines, but I knew I couldn’t freehand twelve matching stars. Variation is fine for a folksy look, but not for this project.

So I printed out a plain pentagon of the proper size, and traced the points twelve times onto a sheet of medium weight water-soluble stabilizer with a fine-tipped permanent marker.

fwf-55-sharpietrace

fwf-55-penttraced
I cut out the pentagons as I needed them, one at a time, and pinned them to the sweater.

fwf-55-pinnedstabilizer
Using a sharp chenille needle with an eye large enough to accommodate my yarn (a size 18, in this case), I embroidered the stars over the stabilizer and the knitted fabric. A blunt tapestry needle won’t work well with stabilizer.

fwf-55-allembroidered
When they were all complete, I immersed the sweater in plain, cold water to remove the stabilizer. Voilà.

fwf-55-tryon
Rosamund, suited up and ready to fight injustice.

Do allow the piece to dry completely, of course, before trying it on.

Tricolor Muffin Hat Pattern Now Arriving on Runway Four

Meanwhile, we’ve put together the pattern for the Tricolor Muffin Hat. It’s free–just click HERE.

fwf-52-side-wideshot
The Tricolor Muffin Hat.

It may be, of course, that red, white, and blue is not your cuppa tea this winter; so here are some possible alternate color sets in HiKoo Simplicity (with coordinating LOVaFUR pompoms) for your consideration.

With Pompom: Fox–Scarlet 399032-0015

trio-01
Turkish Coffee, Really Red, Silver Hair

With Pompom: Raccoon–White 399028-0001

trio-02
Nile Blue, Still Waters Multi, Seattle Sky

With Pompom: Luxury Raccoon–Black 

trio-03.jpg
Black, Purple Reign Multi, Edgy Eggplant

With Pompom: Luxury Raccoon–Royal 

trio-04
Royal Blue, Indigo, Grape Soda

With Pompom: Kids Gold–Leopard

trio-05
Brown Bear, Make Me Blush, Edgy Eggplant


What’s up next?

Well, if you stop by in two weeks I’ll show you what I’m doing with these…

undyed-alpaca
…and a couple bottles of paint.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Simpliworsted (55% Merino Wool, 25% Acrylic, 17% Nylon. 140 yards per 100 gram hank)
HiKoo Simplicity (55% Merino Wool, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon. 117 yards per 50 gram hank)
Delilah Undyed DK Yarn (100% Baby Llama, De-Haired. 109 yards per 50 gram hank)
LOVaFUR Handmade Vegan Fur Pompoms
addi® Click Turbo Interchangeable Needle

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonder Woofin II: Ply Like an Eagle

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

Another Halloween has come and gone.

I happily observed several of my own favorite seasonal customs, including re-reading The Turn of the Screw, watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” twice, and re-watching Sally Brown’s spectacular concluding tirade a dozen times.

greatpumpkin08
“YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!” Image from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”courtesy and © Warner Home Video.

Then I wandered over to Walgreens at midnight and waited for them to put all the leftover candy on sale for half price.

Since last Thursday’s sneak preview, Rosamund has made the rounds in her new costume, knit from HiKoo Simpliworsted.

fwf-53-roz-ww-sweater-front
Her heroic efforts to return the rabbits, squirrels, and pigeons of our Chicago neighborhood to the side of peace and justice earned her many cookies and pats on the head.

roz-patrol
“Come out here! It’s not too late–we can live in peace and harmony!”

She posed for souvenir photos with tourists visiting Wrigley Field. And she was quite the toast of our favorite hangout, Murphy’s Bleachers, when we paused for refreshment during a long patrol.

 

22829752_10214616193183126_3213446761524812307_o
Making the world safe is thirsty work.

We will call this a success.

I plan to raise the neckline about three inches to make it more suitable for long-term wear as part of Rosamund’s wardrobe of winter sweaters. She loves wearing clothes (except hats–therefore no tiara with the costume). And in our neck of the woods, no domesticated animal with a coat as fine as hers is safe outdoors in midwinter without extra warmth.

I’ve had many requests for the pattern, which is immensely flattering. Patterns for dog sweaters are notoriously problematic, though.

Dogs vary in shape and size to an extent that makes the grading system used to re-size human garments almost useless. A chihuahua, a dachshund, and a mastiff are the not same figure scaled upwards; you cannot just add stitches and rows to a chihuahua sweater to fit it on a mastiff. And that’s to say nothing at all of mixed breeds.

The best way to knit a sweater for a dog is to tailor the sweater to THAT dog. This is not particularly difficult, and in fact is a great way to dip your toe into the shallow end of the knit-to-fit pool.

Rosamund’s knit-to-fit Halloween sweater is the same basic shape I knit for her in this series and this series, with changes to color, ease, and detail.

If you wish to knit for your dog, the best thing to do is:

  • become familiar with the method of measuring and calculating I laid out in the first series and refined a bit in the second series,
  • sketch out some ideas for what shape, fit, and details you want,
  • take your dog’s measurements,
  • knit and measure an ample gauge swatch,
  • do a bit of math, and
  • cast on, knitting to fit as you go along.

That’s why I’m not going to take you through the whole process of making this sweater from start to finish. It’s ground we’ve covered before.

I was already familiar with the yarn–HiKoo Simpliworsted is fantastic for pet sweaters, being both tough and washable. I took a new set of measurements to see if Rosamund had changed shape appreciably. (She hadn’t.)

And I sketched, because sketching pushes me to think out those all-important transition points in a project. For example, should the costume’s waistband sit a Rosamund’s own natural waist, just behind her ribs? (Yes.) Should I attempt some sort of trompe l’oeil effect near the shoulders to suggest a strapless bustier? (No.) (NO.)

fwf-54-roz-hallow-sketch
After that, I knit to the measurements–simple. Well, simple except when my math was wrong and my rate of decrease at the neckline was so slow that by the time I sensed a problem, the neck of the sweater was long enough to accommodate a baby giraffe.

Big Yellow Birdie

A gold eagle across the chest was a must, as we were paying homage to the 1940s/50s vision of the superhero in question.

I thought I might do the eagle in intarsia, but ultimately settled on duplicate stitch–a form of embroidery also sometimes called Swiss darning. (I don’t know why it’s supposed to be Swiss. I couldn’t find a truly plausible explanation anywhere. Switzerland isn’t the only place it’s found, and in fact doesn’t seem to be any more proprietary about it than any other country full of knitters.)

Why duplicate stitch?

Partly for ease of working. I wanted to knit the upper part of the sweater in the round, with steeks for the legs. Intarsia can be done in the round, most happily with Anne Berk’s “Annetarsia” method–as we saw in this series. But intarsia is best for large, solid shapes; the eagle, as I first charted it out, had rather a lot of detail.

I thought of knitting the gold and afterwards using duplicate stitch to embroider the red details. That would have been silly, though–duplicate stitch will (especially at a worsted gauge) stand out a bit from the base fabric. We wouldn’t want the background overshadowing the foreground. So why not knit with red and duplicate stitch in gold?

The other advantage to duplicate stitch: I could look at the finished chest, count the available stitches and rows, and figure out exactly where to place the eagle.

Eagle Charting

If you’re going to work a motif in duplicate stitch, most likely you’ll want to follow a chart. If you make your own, on ready-made graph paper with a square grid, beware of the distortion this will cause. Your knit stitches are unlikely to be square, unless you achieve a plain stockinette gauge in which your stitch and row counts are identical.

So in plotting a duplicate stitch chart, take advantage of so-called “knitter’s” graph paper, in which the grid is made up of rectangles that mimic the proportions of your stitches. A little Web searching will uncover multiple sources of printable papers, some of which will allow you to type in numbers from your swatch and get a custom grid. (I hesitate to link to any, because the addresses of such sites change constantly.)

Knitter’s graph paper will allow you to create a design with the confidence that your finished motif will not be distorted. I began by sketching mine with a pencil, then moved over (in the interest of saving time) to a computer program. About an hour of messing around got me to this point.

chest-eagle-knit-v1
The working draft, jiggles and all.

The rough-and-ready cut-and-paste method I used in Adobe Illustrator to move the gold stitches around makes it rather jiggly, but it was enough to get a nod of approval from a friend whose comic book expertise I trust. I knew how many stitches and rows I had to work with because I was able to count them on the finished chest. (I counted three times, to make sure.)

With the chart ready and the sweater ready, I could start stitching.

Eagle Placement

Now, if you’ve never embroidered something like this before, you may well wonder how you know where to begin. The answer is that most embroidery (not all, most) will begin near the center of the design.

First, find the center of your chart and mark it with a line. Most often, you’ll mark the center horizontally and vertically. But you don’t have to do only that. You can mark whatever parts of the design you feel will help you keep track of where you are. On large designs like this, I often add guidelines either at regular intervals or (as with the eagle) along key points of the motif like the top and bottom of the body.

Here’s the chart with my guidelines added in white.

chest-eagle-knit-v2

Next, you mark those same guidelines on your fabric. There are many ways to do it, but on knitted or crochet fabrics I prefer thread tracing.

Grab a highly contrasting yarn or thread, one that does not appear anywhere in the embroidery. In this case I’m using some spare white Simpliworsted.  Thread it on your needle and sew a running/basting stitch lines in exactly the places your guidelines appear on the chart.

fwf-54-threadtrace
(I had to use my phone camera in the available lousy light on an airplane–therefore the lousy picture. I think it will, at least, show you the idea.)

Usually I’d prefer to use something finer to trace the lines, like a doubled strand of sewing thread. But as I was working away from home, on an airplane, without recourse to stash, I used what I had. That’s what you do. That’s life.

Once your fabric is marked, it’s merely a question of counting out from a guideline to your starting point of choice and beginning to embroider. As your thread-traced lines gradually grow superfluous, it’s okay to take them out.

fwf-54-eagle-progress
So let’s talk about how duplicate stitch is worked.

Eagle Stitching

Duplicate stitch is one of the simplest forms of embroidery, and is so called because the embroidery stitches mimic the shapes of the knit stitches underneath. Ideally, once duplicate stitch is complete it looks as though the embroidery is part of the knitting. Often, it’s used to add small details to intarsia projects when just a stitch or two of a certain color is needed.

It can be done on stockinette, ribbing, and garter stitch; but it’s easiest to learn on stockinette.

You’ll want to use a blunt needle–the sort you use for weaving in ends is fine–and a yarn the same weight as the yarn you used to knit the fabric.

The basic stitch is no more than this:

  1. Come up from the wrong side, at the base of the stitch to be duplicated–the point marked A in the diagram.
  2. Insert the needle beneath the “shoulders” of the stitch as shown in the diagram and pull the yarn through.
  3. Send the needle down to the wrong side again at point A, pulling the yarn through until the tension of the embroidered stitch matches the tension of the knitted stitch.
fwf-54-dup-step-01
Come up at A, behind the shoulders of the stitch, and go down at A.

To duplicate a block of stitches, you’ll generally want to work in rows from the bottom to the top, right to left. (Left-handed embroiderers may prefer to work bottom to top, left to right.) So, our next stitch in the row begun above would start at the asterisk (see diagram below), and proceed as directed above.

 

fwf-54-dup-step-02
Come up at the asterisk, which now serves as hole A, and repeat the directions above.

With every other row in a block of duplicate stitches, turn the work 180 degrees so that your first row is worked with the motif right-side up, the next with the motif upside-down. This isn’t strictly necessary, but may be less taxing on your fingers, and means you will always be working right-to-left or left-to-right. The stitching will be identical, though hole A will be above the stitch you’re duplicating rather than below it (see diagram below).

Basic RGB
The first row of three stitches having been completed, the work is rotated 180 degrees. The first stitch of the new row begins at A.

For single columns of duplicate stitches (there are lots of those in the eagle), work from the bottom to the top.

Tips:

 

If you want to work different parts of the design with the same length of yarn, take care not to carry the embroidery yarn more than a scant inch across the wrong side. It gets messy, causing lumps that distort the right side of the work.

Start and end each length of yarn by leaving 6-inch tails on the wrong side of the fabric. When that group is complete, weave the tails under the stitches on the wrong side to secure them and trim the tail short.

That’s all there is to it. Stop and examine your work-in-progress frequently. Not only will this help you catch and fix errors before you are very far gone; but it may also help you improve your design.

I found as I worked that a lot of the stitches I’d charted to shape the top of the wings were overkill–I only needed about two blocks across the top to get a perfectly fine effect. Since tons and tons of duplicate stitching can interfere with the stretch and drape of a piece of knitting, paring it down to just what’s essential is always advisable.

The finished eagle:

fwf-54-eaglefinished

Coming Up: Star Booty and Muffin Top

The costume also needed decoration at the other end: five-pointed stars across the tush. I could have used duplicate stitch for those, as well; but instead went with an embroidery stitch that gave me a far better result and was fun to work, too. In two weeks, I’ll give you the full details in glorious color.

fwf-54-starstush
The lasso is made from lucet cord–but that’s a topic for another day.

And speaking of glorious color, we’ll also be releasing a free pattern for the Tricolor Muffin hat, with suggestions for alternate color trios in HiKoo Simplicity and coordinating LOVaFur Pompoms. Red, white, and blue will be far from your only options. Both Simplicity yarns and the LOVaFur pompoms are presently on sale…

fwf-52-newsletter-teaser
The Tricolor Muffin:Free Pattern Arriving Soon

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Simpliworsted (55% Merino Wool, 25% Acrylic, 17% Nylon. 140 yards per 100 gram hank)
HiKoo Simplicity (55% Merino Wool, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon. 117 yards per 50 gram hank)
LOVaFUR Handmade Vegan Fur Pompom (shown in red/white/blue)
addi® Click Turbo Interchangeable Needle

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.

Wonder Woofin: A Fridays with Franklin Preview of Coming Attractions

“Fridays with Franklin” is supposed to appear on Fridays. The clue is in the name. And today is Thursday.

But if I waited my turn, I wouldn’t have a chance to show you Rosamund’s Halloween costume before Halloween. So Makers’ Mercantile has graciously agreed to allow me to offer you this sneak peek.

In the pantheon of superheroes, there’s only one whose adventures I enjoyed as a child. The others bored me. Rosamund likes her, too; and is a princess, a protector, and a survivor in her own way.

fwf-53-roz-ww-sweater-front
She’s my little princess, anyhow.

fwf-53-roz-ww-sweater-back
The yarn is HiKoo Simpliworsted, and in these pictures it has already been once through the washer and dryer. Good stuff, for things that need to be washed and dried frequently.

In the next two installments of “Fridays with Franklin,” I’ll tell you more about how this was designed and worked–including an in-depth tutorials on the duplicate stitch eagle, and the embroidery of those stars. I’m rather proud of the stars. I’m also proud of the fit across the butt. Rosamund has such a curvaceous posterior. She gets it from my side.

(By the way, if you’re tuning in for the first time, you can jump back to the first “Fridays with Franklin” to learn what this column’s all about.)

See you next Friday!

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.

Muffintop

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

A few weeks ago, I came home to find a box from Makers’ Mercantile on the doorstep.

That’s one of the perks of this gig. I don’t have to go out and hunt for wild yarn with my net and spear. Yarn comes to me.

Usually it’s yarn I’ve asked for. But not this time. Not in this box.

No, in this box…

fwf-52makersmercantilebox
was a Makers’ Mercantile sheep bowl

fwf-52-sheepbowl

…stuffed with…

fwf-52-yarntrio

HiKoo Simplicity (DK weight, 55% Merino Wool, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon) in red (054 Vavava Voom), white (001 White), and blue (051 Raffi), along with…

399031_20170531154825

…one LOVaFUR Vegan Pompom, also in red, white, and blue.

At the bottom was a note suggesting that I take the contents (the yarn and pompom, that is–not the sheep bowl) and make them into something. A challenge. A dare!

I’m as patriotic as the next knitter, but those colors were a curveball. Red, white, and blue is a charged combination for lots of folks–not only Americans–and it’s not often associated with chilly weather. To me, it shouts fireworks, barbecues, and swimming pools.

I briefly considered crocheting a 1970s Yankee Doodle bikini,

fwf-52-bikini

but

a) HiKoo Simplicity streeeeeeeeeeetches when soaking wet, and
b) I couldn’t think of any place to stick the pompom that wouldn’t be either ridiculous or indecent.

With three skeins of wool blend and a pompom, clearly I ought to make a hat. Alrighty, then.

Swing Time

The pompom was the key. I have in my albums a few photographs of my mother in full 1960s regalia: Mary Quant knock-offs meant to give Detroit teenagers some of the verve and spark of swinging Londoners.

I saw that in the winter of 1969 she had gone to Niagara Falls in an oversized newsboy cap topped with just such a big, fluffy faux fur pompom. It perfectly matched her dressy short overcoat, with equally fluffy faux fur collar and cuffs.

The effect was goofy, but fun–an ensemble for a party girl who didn’t mind if her clothes shouted a bit.

There was my answer–let the pompom be the crowning touch on a hat that was boldly graphic, happy, even silly. A hat with some swing, in Union Jack colors. You can accessorize with red, white, and blue in the winter. Sure you can. James Bond did, while parachuting off a precipice in the Alps.

spywho-parachuste-xlarge
Still from The Spy Who Loved Me. © 2008 Danjaq, United Artists, CPII. 007 TM and related James Bond Trademarks, TM Danjaq.

It didn’t take long to realize that the effect I wanted didn’t come across in conventional, concentric stockinette stripes running ’round and ’round from the band to the crown. I’d seen that a million times. It wasn’t surprising enough to support the pompom.

fwf-52-stripey

I toyed with a few other ideas, like an asymmetrical Mondrian-inspired take on stranded colorwork.

fwf-52-modernhat

That didn’t get far. It’s not a bad idea, though structurally it’s more suited to intarsia than stranding. I might come back to this one another time. But no matter what I did, in these colors I couldn’t get it to look anything other than an Uncle Sam hat gone horribly awry.

Over the Top

I’d ripped back to just the band for the fourth time when I thought about the garter stitch short rows in the cage purse. Those had been so much fun to knit. I could do the hat in garter stitch, right? No law against that. And I could also build it in successive short rows. Like this:

fwf-52-method

Each stripe would “eat up” two of the live stitches at the top of the band. The stripes would run across the top of the hat, instead of around the circumference. And there would be none of the usual decreases in the crown to interference with the progression of red, white, blue, red, white, blue.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Nothing gets me overexcited like trying out a new way to knit a familiar shape. I hate stopping to eat, or pee, or answer e-mails, or see people. I just want to go go go go go go until I find out whether it’s going to work or not.

I figured before I began that I’d need to increase in each stripe or the hat would be very short and fit like a teeny-weenie beanie. I planned the placement and rate of increases and zoomed along until in a gratifyingly short time the hat was almost off the needle. So I stuck it on my head.

fwf-52-firstproto
I think the stitch markers really add to the je ne sais quoi.

Oh, yeah. Fetching. Yeah.

Those two weird outcroppings at the right and left would have to go–or the whole idea would have to go.

The diagnosis? The bulges were the fault of the constant, violent increasing–clearly I needed to slow it down a bit. I’d been so worried about the hat being too small that I made it too big. Too big at each side. It sprouted saddlebags.

The next version, with increases tapering off about halfway through, was better.

fwf-52-secondproto
This better #@$!* work the second time, he thought.

I figured I could eliminate the remaining oddity in the shape with judicious blocking. HiKoo Simplicity is very malleable when wet.

As is my custom with any tam, I stretched the unblocked piece over a dinner plate.
Rather than soak it, I pulled out my steam iron and shot the top and (especially) the turned edge with jets and more jets of very hot steam, until everything except the band was quite damp. (If your iron doesn’t have a steam jet option, you can do this over a boiling tea kettle if you promise to be careful with your fingers.)

 

fwf-52-steamblock
Hover the hot iron near the fabric as you steam, but don’t touch the iron to the fabric.


I avoided steaming the band, because wet Simplicity stretches and a sopping wet band would have grown too large to fit properly. (Simplicity returns to its original dimensions after a spin in the tumble dryer–but then the entire hat would have come unblocked.)

Leaving the steamed hat on the plate, I set it aside to dry thoroughly overnight.

Drying things overnight is wonderful, because at some point exhaustion kicks in and I fall asleep and stop poking the piece every five minutes to see if it’s ready yet.

Crowning Touch

To find the exact center of the dry crown, I measured with the hat still on the plate and marked the spot with a locking ring stitch marker.

fwf-52-measuretop
I tied on the pompom. (LOVaFUR poms tie on, so you can change them out and move them around if you like.)

I called over a friend who has the perfect look for a hat like this.

I held my breath. I put it on her.

fwf-52-newsletter-teaser

I’m calling it a success.

fwf-front-wideshot

I’m calling it groovy, baby.

fwf-52-side-wideshot

I’m calling it…the Tricolor Muffin.

fwf-52-front-close
Coming Up…

Wouldn’t you know it, the yarn for the next project arrived while this hat was in progress. And wouldn’t you know, it’s also heavy on red, white, and blue–though this time in HiKoo Simpliworsted and with the addition of gold.

When I opened the box, somehow Rosamund (whom you may remember from The Adventure of the Warm Puppy and More Excuses to Show You Pictures of My Adorable Dog) knew the contents were intended for her. Smart girl.

fwf-52-rozandyarn
Stop by in two weeks and I’ll show you what’s up.

In the meantime, we’ll be putting together a free pattern for the Tricolor Muffin. And if you don’t think you’re feeling quite up to the patriotic combo, we’ll have suggestions about other trios, other yarns, and other coordinating pompoms in the LOVaFUR line.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Simplicity (55% Merino Wool, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon. 117 yards per 50 gram hank)
Sheep Bowl (exclusive to Makers’ Mercantile!)
LOVaFUR Handmade Vegan Fur Pompom (shown in red/white/blue)
HiKoo Simpliworsted (55% Merino Wool, 25% Acrylic, 17% Nylon. 140 yards per 100 gram hank)
addi® Click Turbo Interchangeable Needle
Makers’ Mercantile Tape Measure (shown in Orange)

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.

All in the Wrist: A Handy Guide to Making and Giving Button Cuff Links

fwf-logo-v11For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

I grew up in a family of Jewelry Guys. Guys like my grandfather. He wore dark, conservative suits to work; but at leisure, he treated each finger to a fat, gold ring and fastened thick ropes and chains of gold around his neck and wrists. The term “bling daddy” was not then in common usage, so my grandfather was described by Marv, his favorite jeweler, as being “a connoisseur of the finer men’s accessories.”

I inherited one of my grandfather’s signet rings. It’s a lump of solid gold with his initials engraved in a script so florid that it’s totally illegible. I never wear it. First, because my grandfather’s hands were so plump that this (a pinky ring) is too large to wear on my thumb. Second, it’s so heavy that if I hung it around my neck (as a friend suggested) I would be unable to stand upright.

I did not care for my grandfather’s aesthetic. He was, in my hotheaded teenaged opinion, far too shiny far too much of the time. What with the gold decorations, the rayon camp shirts, and the Brilliantine that glued his remaining hair to his skull, he sparkled like the top of the Chrysler Building at dawn. A bit much, I thought, for a quiet, middle-class life in the Detroit suburbs.

Then I grew to manhood. And though my own gold chains and charms (all childhood gifts from grandpa’s side of the family) sit untouched next to that enormous ring, I have discovered that I, the little bauble, have not fallen far from the gewgaw tree.

The only difference is where I put the decorations.

My weakness? Cuff links.

Oh, sweet sainted Harry Winston how I do love cuff links. My collection is ridiculous.

fwf-51-cufflinks-box
No, that’s not all of them. Not even close.

I wear them, yes. I but I don’t wear them absolutely every day; and even if I did, no person needs this many cuff links. It’s not as though they wear out frequently. And most cuffed shirts come with, you know, buttons. Buttons are far more convenient. Buttons are practical. Buttons make sense.

Yet I keep on buying cuff links.

The Perfect Motif

Not that I buy indiscriminately. Heavens, no. Aside from the potentially catastrophic drain on my bank balance, the most frustrating thing about the cuff link obsession is that modern jewelers assume men want links reflecting one of these lifestyles:

• golfing,
• horse racing,
• duck hunting,
• yachting,
• private aviation,
• high-stakes poker,
• drug trafficking.

These do not appeal to me, but the cuff link world tips heavily to designs incorporating golf tees, horseshoes, mallards, anchors, propellers, aces and spades, and huge weird agglomerations of colored rhinestones stuck in large chunks of all that glitters but is not gold.

No, thank you.

When I do find a set that expresses Who I Am as a Cuff Link Wearer, I snatch it right up. For example, florals. I love flowers. These anonymous Art Nouveau snowdrops were in a jar in a Seattle antiques mall. I got ’em for less than twenty bucks.

fwf-51-snowdrops
And these beanies? A gift, from a friend whose husband wore them for years on the bench as a judge. I may ask to be buried in them.

fwf-51-beanies

Those are propellers I can dig. (And they spin!)

Do It Yourself

I am delighted to find that some of the paraphernalia of traditional American and European menswear is making a comeback. There are burgeoning cuff link collectors groups, and groups for men who like suits, and what-have-you.

Most manufacturers have yet to catch up with the modern diversity of tastes, though. So it’s a relief and a pleasure to learn that if you have access to a supplier like Makers’ Mercantile, which carries the full line of Skacel Buttons, you can quite easily make handsome, fun cuff links that speak to those outside the horsie-duckie-boaty set.

There are many ways to go about making cufflinks from buttons. I’m going to show two in this column. Both methods are accessible to people who are not otherwise deeply into making jewelry, and who haven’t got any special jewelry-making equipment at home.

First, though, let’s have a look at a few buttons.

The Button Line-Up

Makers’ Mercantile’s button selection is famously rich; they carry all the lines of Skacel Buttons, as well as other fine makers. The materials are as varied as glass, antler, coconut, enamel, horn, plastic, shell, and wood.

For these cuff links, we want shank buttons–buttons which attach to fabric by integral loops on the back…

fwf-51-shanksshowing

… rather than holes through the body of the button.

It took me hours, but I narrowed my choices to these:

fwf-51-beauty-glass
Glass: Circling Flowers, 18 mm

Available Here.

fwf-51-beauty-zapsplat
Picture Buttons: Comic, 18mm

Available Here.

fwf-51-beauty-kitty
Enamel: Yin & Yang Cats, 18mm

Available Here.

fwf-51-beauty-oak
Metal: Acorn and Leaves, Antique Silver finish, 15 mm

Available Here.

fwf-51-beauty-skulls
Enamel: Skull, Black Gun Metal Shank, 15mm

Available Here.

Method One: Two-Button (Double-Sided) Links

Two-button links require, as the name suggests, two buttons for each cuff. They are double-sided, meaning the finished link is decorative on both sides. They are not only extra handsome, they’re also best for shank buttons whose shanks are difficult or impossible to remove.

fwf-51-toolsandbuttons
Pliers (left) and Nippers (right)

To make them, you’ll need:

• four shank buttons, matching or coordinating
• two four-inch lengths of 18-gauge craft wire
• wire nippers
• needle nose pliers

The buttons I chose for this method are from Skacel’s line of European glass. I could have ground or filed off the shanks (more about that in the next section), but there’s a risk of breakage. Also, I am deeply enamored of this design and wanted to multiply it by four.

 

Step 1. Slide the wire through the shank of the first button and, using the pliers, bend back half an inch of the wire.The first button is now loosely secured in place.

Note: 18-gauge wire is sturdy enough not to snap from normal use, but flexible enough that you won’t need brute strength to work with it. Most folks can easily bend and twist it with fingers, but pliers will make it easier to be precise.

fwf-51-dbl-step01

Step 2. Slide the other end of the wire through the shank of the second button, until the button rests against the cut end of the first bend.

fwf-51-dbl-step02

Step 3. Bend back the free end of the wire to loosely secure the second button.

fwf-51-dbl-step03
Step 4. With the pliers, gently coil the free end of the wire around and around the length of wire connecting the buttons, starting just past the shank of the second button. Continue to coil until you reach the shank of the first button.

fwf-51-dbl-step03b
Step 5. With the nippers, snip off the remainder of the wire.

Step 6. With the pliers, press the cut end of the wire into the coil to secure.

And there you have a double-sided cufflink.

fwf-51-dbl-complete
IMPORTANT NOTE. In this case, I am using four of the same button. But here’s a caveat: some buttons may be the right diameter to serve as links, but may also be too thick to easily fit through a ready-made buttonhole. That is, in fact, the case with these glass buttons.

Does it mean I can’t use these? Not at all. My preferred shirt brand is extra-generous with the buttonholes, so these will squeak through. But what I will likely do for ease of dressing is replace the second button with a smaller, coordinating button like this one, BR0971G14, which is 14mm rather than 18mm:

fwf-51-smallglassbutton
Then only the smaller button need pass through the holes. Combining a smaller button and a larger button looks perfectly fine, and does allow you (if you so desire) to use quite large and flashy buttons for the outside of your two-button link. That’s an especially fun way to dress up a plain blouse, by the way.

Method Two: Lever-Back Links

This is even simpler than method one. ‘

fwf-51-cufflinkblanks
cuff link blanks

You will need:

 

• two buttons, matching or coordinating
• two good-quality cuff link blanks, available from Makers’ Mercantile
• a metal file or a motorized grinding tool
• a hot glue gun
• safety glasses or goggles
• a small vise (if using motorized grinder)

First, we want to get rid of the button shanks.

Before we do that, keep in mind that we’re dealing with metal. Bits of it tend to fly off as we work. This isn’t difficult, and it’s nothing to be scared of. However, reasonable safety precautions are vital. First, eye protection: safety goggles or safety glasses.

fwf-51-safetygoggles
Second, do this only in area where you will not endanger others–keep pets, kids, nosy partners, etcetera, well away. A workshop, garage, or outdoor space is a best bet; and always do a thorough sweep/vacuum afterwards to remove all metal debris you create.

On all the metal-back buttons I selected, I was able to easily snip off the shanks…

fwf-51-snipshank
…using a pair of standard, inexpensive wire nippers–easily procured from a hardware dealer, and likely already sitting in your toolbox if you have one.

Post clipping, all the buttons still had vestigial nubbins on the back.

fwf-51-nubbins
To make a really nice set of links, we want to remove the nubbins and create a completely flat surface.

There are two options. The first works perfectly well, but takes a little longer. Use a metal file…

fwf-51-handheld
…and file away by hand until the nubbins are gone. It takes less time than you think.

Or, if you have a little motorized helper like a Dremel, you can pop in a metal-grinding attachment (this is Dremel Head 8193)…

fwf-51-dremelhead

…and use it to grind off the nubs after you have placed the button securely in a vise…

fwf-51-vise

…which I like to drape with a piece of scrap cloth or (better) a thin rubber pad to avoid scraping the finish on the public side of the button.

fwf-51-drapedvise
After grinding, give the button a minute to cool down completely before you take it out of the vise.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Do not ever attempt to grind the back of a button with a motorized tool while holding the button in your hand. 

With the back of your buttons nice and smooth, fetch your cuff link blanks and your hot glue gun.

fwf-51-gluegun
pew pew pew

Apply a nice blob of hot glue to the pad on the blank, spreading it out a bit but keeping away from the edges…

fwf-51-hotglue

…and immediately press it against the center back of the button.

The glue will set quickly, but let the piece sit and harden for a good 30 minutes before you try to put it on. If you find any stray “hairs” of glue showing, they’re easy to pick off before you give the link a final buff with a clean cloth.

Should you mess up, by the way–say, you don’t put the two surfaces together quite quickly enough and they won’t stick–it’s possible to pick off the dry glue and try again. Ask me how I know.

 

Cuff Link Giving Guide

In less than an hour, I found myself with multiple new, cute sets of cuff links–all of them slick enough for me to wear in a dressy setting. I can’t keep them all, sadly, so I’ve been thinking about who else might like to have them.

Zap! Splat!

fwf-51-zapsplatlinks
Suited To: Comic Book Fans, Gamers, Superheroes, Illustrators, Stylish Street Fighters

Skulls

fwf-51-skulllinks
Suited To: Undertakers, Horror Fans, Bikers, Anatomy Professors, Goth Bankers, The Undead

Kitties

fwf-51-kittycufflinks
Suited To: Cat People, People with Cats, Cat Fanciers, Most Knitters You Will Ever Know, Veterinarians

Oak Leaf and Acorns

fwf-51-acornlinks
Suited To: Academics, Botanists, Lumberjacks, Tree Surgeons, Squirrels, Piglet

Next Time…

I put away the glue gun, roll up my sleeves, and try to figure out what to do when Makers’ Mercantile sends me this.

fwf-51-rwb-teaser
See you in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Glass Shiny Black Circling Flowers Buttons, 14 and 18 mm
Skacel Buttons Enamel Yin & Yang Cats, Black and White, 18mm
Skacel Buttons Enamel Skull, Black Gun Metal Shank, 15mm
Skacel Buttons Metal Acorn and Leaves, 15mm
Skacel Buttons Picture Comic Buttons, 18mm (shown in Zap! and Splat!; also available in Bang!, Bonk!, Kapow!, and Thwack!)
Cuff Link Blanks

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.

Cage Match, Concluded

fwf-logo-v11

For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

I almost feel as though this week I should begin with an apology for the lack of drama in what follows.

I try to give you a good read, truly I do, with laughs and thrills and the occasional car chase; but you can’t, as my grandmother famously said while on a date with Mick Jagger, always get what you want.

To get the Makers’ Mercantile cage purse across the finish line, I had two things left to do:

  1. Attach the woven lining to the knitted liner.
  2. Attach the liner to the leather cage.

There are knitters who steer clear of making purses and bags on principle, just to avoid woven linings. This is a great pity. A knit or crochet bag with a woven lining will be stronger and more durable, less inclined to droop and pull out of shape, and less liable to catch and snag everything you put into it.

And sewing is not (or at least, need not be) the trauma some think it is. A simple bag lining is about as simple as sewing gets. More about that in a minute.

Make It Snappy

Now, the “official” pattern that comes with cage purse kits is available as a free download from Makers’ Mercantile. I used it as my guide for designing a lining of my own, and as usual I decided to make some adjustments. I don’t think I’ve ever followed anyone’s pattern exactly as written.

I decided to install the snaps, which are included with the cage,

fwf-50-snaps
before sewing in the lining, whereas the pattern suggests you do the reverse. On your purse, you choose.

If you’ve never put in a snap before, rest assured these are a breeze. Since my bag was quite freeform at the top, I put it into the cage to see exactly where the male* halves of my snaps (pictured above) needed to be in order to line up with the female* halves of the snaps on the cage (which come already installed). I marked these spots on the liner with locking ring stitch markers.

fwf-50-stitchmarkers

Then you make a little sandwich with each snap, one by one, like this…

fwf-50-snapsandwich

…with the post on the back of the snap stuck right through the knitted fabric.

Then you place the cylinder tool…

fwf-50-cylcircled

over the nubbin on the front of the snap, and tap the cylinder with a hammer. I do mean tap. Brute force is not required. It took me two modest taps to get each snap set firmly. Boom.

fwf-50-snapset
I’ve never felt more butch.

The knitted portion of my liner being thus completed, it was time to add the woven lining.

Line It Up

The official pattern for the cage purse gives full instructions for this part of the project, so I’ll confine myself to a few notes about linings generally.

First. Use the best woven (as opposed to commercial knit/jersey) fabric you can afford. It need not be expensive; but if you have the choice, buy from a reputable retailer who carries reputable lines.

If you buy in person, give the fabric a good fondle and a few firm tugs. If it looks flimsy and feels sleazy, if the printing is muddy, if it seems inclined stretch out of shape easily, if you can read a comic book through it, it probably won’t stand up well to the demands placed on a handbag. It may, in fact, fall apart as you sew with it. Fabrics whose standard retail prices are super cheap are usually super cheap for good reason.

I went with a print from Cotton + Steel called “Cat Lady,” …

500002_20170531160050

…because in my social circle, it’s inevitable that whoever gets this purse is going to stuff it with balls of yarn. She will probably also have at least one cat.

fwf-50-fabricshot
Note: The lighting in this shot tipped the blue quite a bit. It’s really far closer to the navy in the previous photograph.

Second. Don’t skimp on the preparatory steps.

Sewing has a different flow than either knitting or crochet. Both knitting and crochet consist, in the main, of knitting and crocheting. Other stuff–seaming, blocking, weaving in–comes in at the end. We front-load the fun. Sewing insists that you begin with planning, measuring, cutting, pinning. It takes time to get to the sewing part of sewing.

This feels ass-backwards somewhat odd to those of us who knit and crochet.

Listen. If you hate the preliminary steps, that’s okay. Acknowledge that. Embrace that. Then take a breath and do them anyway. It may help to have a good friend supervise you.

fwf-50-supervisor
“After you weave in all those ends and take your measurements, you may have a cookie.”

Since my liner pattern was something I cooked up myself, I measured the end product to be certain it would accommodate the lining described in the official pattern. Turns out my liner was a smidge taller and a smidge narrower. I adjusted my cut pieces accordingly.

fwf-tape-measure
Measure twice, cut once. Maybe measure three times.

Third. Don’t let unfamiliar techniques frighten you.

When I teach Introduction to Hand Sewing, we end our class project with slip stitch–the same stitch that joins the woven lining to the knitting liner. Students often approach slip stitch with trepidation because it looks like a magic trick. You sew and sew, and when you’re finished you can’t see the sewing. You just have two fabrics that are now joined, invisibly.

fwf-50-lining-closeup

Cool, right?

And you can do it. Yes, you can. Most of what used to be called plain sewing–the toolkit of handmade stitches necessary to turn out everyday items–was taught as a matter of course to little girls for centuries.

Are you going to let some little Dickensian imp in a dirty pinafore sew circles around you?

fwf-50-sewkid
Heck no.

Here is all there is behind the “magic” of slip stitch.

After the lining pieces have been sewn together, turn and press the lining fabric to the wrong side as directed in the pattern.

 

fwf-lining-prepped
Kindly note my new, adorable fire engine red Bohin embroidery scissors in background.


Place the liner inside the lining…

 

fwf-50-lining-in-liner
…and secure it with a generous number of straight pins so that you can focus on your stitching.

Step One.

Thread your sewing needle with a coordinating thread, and tie a stout knot at the end.

Bring the needle up through the fabric at point A, which you will notice is right on the fold of the lining. (Alternatively, especially if the ghost of my late grandmother is watching you, instead of using a knot you may secure the beginning with a series of tiny stitches at point A. This is called a “tack.”)

fwf-50-slip-01.jpg

Step Two.

Take a small stitch in the liner (knitted) fabric at Point B (directly above Point A, near the top edge of the woven lining). Note: My stitches into the liner all went around–rather than through–strands of yarn, as this felt more secure than splitting strands with the sewing needle.

fwf-50-slip-02

Step Three.

Take a horizontal stitch into the fold+ of the woven lining by putting the needle in at Point C and out at Point D.

fwf-50-slip-03

Step Four.

Take a horizontal stitch into the knitted liner from Point E to Point F, near to and parallel to the top edge of the woven lining.

fwf-50-slip-04.jpg

Repeat Steps Three and Four all the way around the liner. Every few stitches, gently pull the thread to even out the tension of the sewing stitches. You want the lining to lie smooth against the liner– don’t pull so hard that puckers begin to form. When the seam is complete, fasten off with a discreet, small tack in the woven lining.

That’s it.

+Some say just behind the fold. Your choice. In sewing, as in knitting and crochet, there are many paths to the same destination.

In the Bag

What else can I say? I’m really pleased with it. I wanted the sinuous lines of the short rows to wiggle and play against the straight edges of the cage, and they do.

fwf-50-finished-cage-purse-01
It could be about an inch bigger all around at the base, to really fill up the cage; but that’s about all I’d change.

fwf-50-finished-closeup
What’s more: as the liner is held to the cage with snaps, it can be removed and replaced with any number of other linings whenever inspiration strikes or your mood changes.

It didn’t even take long to knit–comparable to a hat. I’m already thinking of other liners–crocheted, embroidered, woven. And other yarns, too. These were all left over from previous Fridays with Franklin projects, but they could have been:

assorted lengths of handspun

souvenir yarns collected on a memorable trip…

the leftover yarn from a favorite sweater for a matching sweater/purse combo

bits of yarn (and blobs of knitting) contributed by a members of a group to make a special farewell or birthday gift

And the yarns you put into a cage liner are right there, with you, visible and useful. A souvenir afghan is lovely, but it usually has to stay at home. Not to mention that the usual everybody-knit-a-square afghan requires a lot of work and a mountain of yarn. A souvenir/commemorative cage purse is well within the grasp of knitters or knitting groups who are short on cash, pressed for time, or just plain lazy.

Coming Up

The next Fridays with Franklin will be the first in which I get to use a vise and power tools. That’s all I’m telling you right now. Nope, sorry. My lips are buttoned.

*I’m not trying to be cute. That’s what they’re called.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Makers’ Mercantile Leather Cage Purse available separately or as a kit
Bohin Embroidery Scissors (shown in Red, available in six colors)
Makers’ Mercantile Tape Measure (shown in Orange, available in seven colors)
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.