Fridays with Franklin: From Bun to Blanket

fwf-logo-columnsize

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

The last time I wrote about granny squares in this column it was to exult over having finally figured out how to do them.

Those who learned to crochet at mama’s knee are welcome to snicker, but they were a tough nut for me to crack. I was brand new to crochet. I knew nothing. And so often, the answers I got from crocheters to whom I appealed for help were, shall we say, opaque.

lost-bunny

One authority’s response was, “Granny squares? Oh, they’re easy. Just a ring and then double crochet and make sure to work four corners. You can do more corners or fewer if you want a different shape. Okay? Bye.”

I was reminded of a Victorian knitting pattern in my collection that instructs you to make a baby’s jacket by first casting on “stitches sufficient to reach around the baby.”

In any case, after poring over a pile of crochet books, and going so far as to draw maps for myself,

granny-map

I did finish six granny squares and assemble them into a multi-purpose accessory for the bath. You can see it here.

But I still hadn’t made myself the sine qua non of granny-based fabrics: a blanket.

Concentric Buns

Since this space is supposed to be the place where I try new stuff while people watch, it made sense to ask Makers’ Mercantile if I could use one of the newer HiKoo yarns, Concentric, for my blanket.

HiKoo Concentric is interesting stuff. It’s spun from 100% Baby Alpaca, so it’s soft and drapey–two qualities highly desirable in a blanket.

The construction is wild. Check this out.

The strand is made up of what are, essentially, four strands of two-ply lace weight. These four strands aren’t twisted together–they just lie next to one another.

yarn-01

There’s more. Every so often, one of the plies in one of the strands changes color.

yarn-02

A bit further along, a second ply changes color.

yarn-03

Then another, then another, and so forth until they have all changed.

yarn-04

yarn-05

yarn-06

The result is a slow gradient yarn, but the shifts from one color to the next are attractively speckled or flecked.

The yarn is put up into a bullseye bun from which you can work without prior winding.

fwf-63-hikoo-concentric

I picked this colorway, Trixie, and planned a simple experiment.

KISS My Buns

Emphasis on simple. I had a boss once who was entirely useless except as a dispenser of clichéd workplace acronyms, of which his favorite was KISS, or Keep It Simple, Stupid. He used to write it all over my project proposals.

I was still feeling a little scarred from my bout with the stenciled warp, and at the top of my notes for this project I scrawled KISS.

So, what do we do with gradients? Well, one of the things we do with gradients is play them off against one another like so:

gradient

I thought I’d like to do that, too, but rather than work in stripes, I’d do this:

squares-sketch
To join the squares, I considered join-as-you-go (JAYGO); but as is so often is the case, I had to consider portability. A JAYGO blanket very quickly becomes too large to haul around in a carry-on bag, and January through May is the time of year when my teaching schedule keeps me almost constantly away from home.

In Edie Eckman’s excellent book, Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs, she lays out a method for joining granny squares that gives every square an additional round of double crochet, so the finished effect is side-by-side squares with minimal interruption from the join.

I decided to try it, since I imagined it would allow me to use a new bun of Concentric and run the gradient in the direction opposite the gradient used in the squares.

granny-sketch

So Many Squares

How big would this blanket be? I decided that through the highly scientific process of choosing a size of square that seemed reasonable to work while sitting in an airplane seat (three rounds), then working an entire bun to see how many I got.

With a US Size 4 (3.5 mm) hook, I got fifty. I kept them in strict gradient order by slipping them onto a stitch holder as they were finished.

gathered-squares
Then I did another bun’s worth, and got fifty-one. Great. I’d do a 100-square blanket. I like easy math.

In another mood, or in another month with less travel, I might have devoted a few hours to figuring out whether to keep the squares in the order they were made, or shuffle them together to make a longer gradient. Perhaps I might thrown them into the air to make them random. But sometimes you just need to make a choice. I decided to keep them in order.

To make the next step as portable as possible, I tied each strip of squares into a separate bundle.

bundles-tied
Because I have a brain like a sieve, I also added numbered tags so I’d know in what order I should attach the bundles.

tagged-bundle

It’s never a waste of time to protect your future self from the silly things it is prone to do.

E Pluribus Unum

Edie’s book is a model of clarity. Still, I was nervous. Even with a couple projects under my belt, I find crochet charts daunting. I asked some of the crochet authorities in my address book for tips, and the replies ranged from “Oh, I never use charts. Just ignore them.” to “You don’t follow them like you do knitting charts. Just sort of look at the chart, and get an idea of what you should do, then go.”

I often wonder if I lack the moxie to crochet.

Happily, Edie offers crystal-clear written instructions. As I compared them to the chart, for the first time the fog began to clear. And the little squares began to become a big square.

joining

After the second strip had been joined, I picked up speed and the process became–dare I say it?–fun.

And then there was one.

unblocked
Now, I know people who say they don’t block crochet. I do. And I always wet block, because when I think about all the places where these squares were made, the idea of not washing the fabric thoroughly makes me green in the gills.

After blocking, I was almost perfectly happy with the project. There’s a patch where the joining rows and the squares are both the darkest grey, and thats reads to me as a black hole in the work. I’m not sure I like it.

blackhole
But the fabric is cuddly beyond words.

finished-03

finished-02

finished-04

Aside from that, three buns gave me a lap blanket (the finished dimensions are 33 inches x 33 inches) that is handsome and comforting.

Yet I do have a fourth bun sitting here. A border, perhaps?

edging
Or something to dress up the black hole? I’m gonna go cuddle up under this and think about it.

See you in two weeks…

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Concentric (100% Baby Alpaca; 437 yards per 200 gram cake). Shown in Color 1027 (Trixie).

addi Color-Coded Crochet Hooks

Boye Stitch Holder, Large 3-Inch

Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Advertisements

Fridays with Franklin: Fluff My Cushions, Concluded

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

For the first part of this series, click here.

For me, part of the attraction of an envelope-style cushion cover is the ease of assembly. It’s all straight seams, and not many of them.

You will most often have, as I had, three pieces. The front,

cushion-aerialshot-fridayswithfranklin-crochet-tunisian

the lower part of the back, and the upper part of the back (which has the buttonholes in it).

You make them into neat little three-layer stack like this, with the right sides of the back panel pieces facing the right side of the front panel.

fwf-63-pieces-diagram

And then you sew the edges together. Well, I sewed, using backstitch and a strand of HiKoo CoBaSi Plus. If you absolutely detest sewing, then you can crochet the seams together. I’d use slip stitch, I think. Purely a matter of personal choice.

fwf-stitching-markedup
Of course, this assumes (as sewing diagrams usually do) that you are right-handed. Left-handed persons will likely find it more comfortable and efficient to reverse the direction of seaming. In the end, the result is the same.

What’s important is that you stack your layers as shown above, so that when you turn the piece right side out, the top of the envelope (with the buttonholes) will be on the outside.

To mark the locations of the buttons on a piece like this, I like to insert the pillow form first. Then, after pulling the upper flap over the lower to the desired position, I slip a locking-ring stitch marker through the buttonhole and into the fabric.

fwf-63-buttonsmarked

Take the pillow form out again, and sew on your buttons.

As in attaching the buttons to my Five-Hour Baby Jacket, I used small buttons to back the “public buttons”–it makes them stronger and more stable, and keeps the button shanks from just sinking into the fabric as you sew them on.

fwf-63-buttonback
All in a neat row, like obedient little ducklings. The heart, it leaps.

fwf-63-buttonrow
Looking at the finished cushion cover, I feel even more convinced of the special joy in using your handwork to outfit your living space.

fwf-63-cushionfront

The hideous cushion is gone, replaced by something I will enjoy looking at; and that I can expect to last for a long, long time.

fwf-63-finished-front-shot

fwf-63-closeup-angle

fwf-63-newsletter

It’s an investment in the comfort of my home, plus I’ve had the pleasure of making it.

Now, of course, I’m looking at every other run-of-the-mill throw pillow around here with a crazy gleam in my eye.

Coming Up…

I’m not sure. Because while I’ve been playing with cushion cover and the Five-Hour Baby Jacket, I’ve had two other projects on the go as well.

One is crochet: a lap blanket using this intriguing gradient yarn, HiKoo Concentric. I’m giggly with anticipation to see how this is going to turn out.

fwf-63-hikoo-concentric
The other is knitting: a pair of socks in dear old Zitron Trekking XXL Sport, to be embellished after the knitting is complete. I really want to finish these so I can wear them.

IMG_20180314_064940_259
Knitting merrily on the train from Rome to Naples.

So, which? Come back in two weeks, and I guess we’ll all find out.

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). Shown in Color 063 (Amber Waves) and Color 047 (Really Red).

Size D (3.25mm) Color Coded Crochet Hook by addi.

Enamel “Elegant Flowers” Buttons by Skacel Buttons in Black, size 22mm.

Clover Small Locking Ring Stitch Markers 353

HiKoo Concentric (100% Baby Alpaca; 437 yards per 200 gram cake). Shown in Color 1027 (Trixie).

Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock Yarn (75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Nylon. 459 yards per 100 gram skein.) Shown in Color 1407.

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Fridays with Franklin: Fluff My Cushions, Part Three

fwf-logo-columnsize

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

For the first part of this series, click here.

With Upstairs Baby nicely clad in his Five Hour Baby Jacket, I returned to the crochet cushion cover.

I’d hoped this edition would show it to you completed, but I’ve been very much on the run for weeks and weeks. February and March are busy months for those of us who teach at shows and shops and festivals, and the cushion had to be fit in between flights and classes and banquets and chatting with students and readers at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat and Stitches West, not to mention a lovely dinner with fellow makers at Makers’ Mercantile itself.

That being said, I’ve made considerable progress and I’m excited about how the project is shaping up.

I finished the cross stitching over the Tunisian crochet front panel on my flight home from Stitches West.

28336985_10215683213537968_1175092489739333512_o
Cross stitch at 35,000 feet.

There was more cross stitching than I had intended, because I failed to follow my own advice. I told you to take the time to carefully baste in your thread guidelines before starting the embroidery, right? And told you I’d done it every ten squares, right?

I did. But what I couldn’t admit to you until now is that I’d begun with only the horizontal and vertical center guidelines basted–the bare minimum. My excuse, my feeble excuse, is that I did it in a rush just before leaving for a trip to London; and I persuaded myself that just those two lines would be fine.

I was wrong. I miscounted, you see, and ended up placing the horizontal guideline several squares off the true center. Only after ripping out a major mistake, and putting it my proper grid of guidelines to avoid more such mistakes, did I discover this monumental goof. Well more than half of the center motif had been stitched.

If I’d put in the proper number of guidelines, I’d have found the error right away. Rushing never saves time in the end, does it?

I had a choice. Rip out all the cross stitch, and start over. Or keep going, and hope for a way to fudge things later on.

No matter how virtuous a needleworker you are, this is going to happen from time to time.

So the completed motif had gaps–significant gaps–on three sides. On four sides, it would have been a border. On three sides, it just looked weird.

I decided to go for broke and fill in the gaps with a simple motif, and move on with my life.

cushion-cover-chart-bordered
Testing the border motif on the chart, to make sure it not only looked well, but also fit into the space available.
cushion-bordershot
The border was inspired by a filling motif from the same Edwardian filet crochet book that gave me the main motif.

Those of you who must have absolute symmetry at all times will grind your teeth. But I like it–I often enjoy asymmetry–and I’m keeping it.

cushion-aerialshot-fridayswithfranklin-crochet-tunisian

With the stitching on the front complete, I subjected the fabric to a wet block. As usual, I’m happy that I did.

cushion-soakblock
Crochet soup.

A wet block truly settles the stitches and gives the work a more professional, finished appearance–quite aside from cleaning the yarns, which will have acquired a shocking amount of grime during the transformation from fiber to skein to fabric.

blocked-corner-closeup

cushion-cover-crochet-lowangle-tunisian

On the Flip Side

I thought I’d use double crochet, but even at a firm gauge it just didn’t work for me–too loose, too likely to allow the pillow form (which is white) to show through the gaps.

So I swatched a bit of single crochet

singleanddoubleswatch

and felt better about that. It’s strikingly handsome, especially when worked in the stripes with some of the leftover Color 063 (Amber Waves) that was used for the front.

Both sides look nice, but I decided this side

cushion-backpanel-rightside-crochet

was preferable to this side

cushion-cover-crochet-stripes-wrongside

because it’s slightly neater–no color blips at all where the yarns change. I also like the jazzy zigzag effect.

The fabric curls at the left and right selvedges, but as those will be sewn down in the finished cover that’s not an issue.

cushion-cover-back-panel

You can do an envelope back on a cushion cover without buttons, but I think they give you a neater closure. Plus it’s an excuse to play with buttons. I chose these Skacel buttons from their enamel line.

cushion-buttons-skacel-enamel

I think the style carries some of the florid beauty of the front over to the back.

This means I that I’ll be able to try crochet buttonholes for the first time when I work the top flap. Quite exciting, really. Who could ever be bored, when there’s yarn in the world?

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). Shown in Color 063 (Amber Waves) and Color 047 (Really Red).

Size D (3.25mm) Color Coded Crochet Hook by addi.

Enamel “Elegant Flowers” Buttons by Skacel Buttons in Black, size 22mm.

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 Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Fridays with Franklin: Fluff My Cushions, Part 2

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

For the first part of this series, click here.

Somebody call the Vatican, because we’ve had a miracle.

Before I set out to make this pillow cover I measured the pillow. Of course.

My trusty tape measure said (and still says) it is 16 inches square. Measure twice, crochet once.

I worked the Tunisian crochet bit of it to be a bit smaller than that, so I could add a contrasting border in single crochet. That made for a fun change, and was quite simple.

fwf-59-edging-chart

I’m very pleased with the effect. Crochet borders are, as the kids on my lawn say, da bomb.

fwf-59-edge-corner
The finished dimensions of the front panel after wet blocking were almost identical to finished dimensions of the pillow itself, because what I like in pillow cover is zero ease. I want the cover to fit snugly. A loose cover, to me, resembles a sagging diaper or ill-fitting skirt.

Then something extraordinary happened. The moment I began the next stage–cross stitch embroidery of the center panel–the work expanded to cover 400 square miles.

fwf-59-relative-sizes
It’s all fun and games until your crochet blots out the sun.

Or so it has felt at times.

Cross Stitch Over Tunisian Crochet

There are so many excellent guides to cross stitch readily available that I will forbear for the moment to write one here. I do want to talk a bit about what I’ve encountered working cross stitch over a foundation Tunisian crochet.

What makes this crochet fabric so ideal for cross stitch are the nearly perfect little squares that are its hallmark.

If you have only worked cross stitch before on even-weave fabrics like Aida canvas, it can seem confusing at first as to where exactly you ought to take your stitches. There’s some wiggle room here; but you do want to make sure that once you establish your choice with the first stitches, you stick with it throughout

Here’s where I chose to make my stitches–in and out of the four orange dots. The orange cross to the right of them shows the size and shape of the typical resulting stitch.
fwf-59-stitching-holes

Since this is a crocheted fabric, the grain of it is not perfectly square like a true even-weave. The individual cross stitches will show variation.

To keep them as consistent as possible, I’ve worked with the fabric always oriented in the same direction (that is, the same edge always at the bottom while I stitched).

The Importance of Guidelines

When I teach cross stitch, I hammer home the importance of first laying out your guidelines with running stitches in thread. Don’t skimp on your guidelines! The larger your design, the more guidelines you put in.

This is the chart I’m using. My guidelines are marked with dashed lines. You’ll note they’re every tenth stitch, in both directions.
fwf-59-cushion-cover-chart

Why so many? Why not just the customary two, to pinpoint the center?

Because in large designs–especially large abstract (non-representational) designs like this, it can be too easy to make a mistake and not realize you’ve done so. The design looks fine, at a glance. You move along, and count from a bit of finished work to establish your next row of stitching–and then, only after doing a bunch more work, you realize your error.

Nobody enjoys ripping out. Put in a bunch of guidelines; and when you count, count from them first. Use stitches you know to be correct as a secondary reference point.

fwf-59-fabric-guidelines
To mark my guidelines, I used regular old sewing thread.

These guidelines also allowed me to look at the design as manageable blocks instead of a large and potentially confusing whole. So I could focus on working one 11×11 square, like this.

fwf-59-cushion-chart-excerpt
That’s  harder to goof up and, frankly, less daunting psychologically.

Keeping Your Twist

I got a very alarmed e-mail from a reader who told me you cannot, simply cannot, embroider with yarns designed for knitting and crochet.

I beg to differ, seeing as I and many others have done so for years. In fact, the booklet I referenced last time, from the early 20th century, was quite gung-ho about it. If it were impossible, someone would have twigged it by now.

I will say that any yarn or thread you choose for embroidery must be strong enough to withstand the repeated abrasion that comes from being pulled through the fabric. Most lightly spun and all unspun yarns are unsuitable–they will fall apart as you work.

Yarns with lots of texture (like coils) won’t pull readily through the small hole made by your needle, nor will yarns with additives like sequins. Beaded yarns may work, if the beads are quite small, but beaded embroidery is a topic I’ll leave for another time.

fwf-58-hikoo-cobasi-plus
HiKoo CoBaSi Plus

HiKoo CoBaSi Plus has worked very well, with one caveat. Like any embroidery strand made from fibers that do not stick together (this includes purpose-made embroidery cottons with multiple plies), the yarn will tend to untwist as you work.

Just pause every so often and twiddle the needle to put the twist back in. That’s all.

Some Now, Some Later

I began working the central motif as I’ve always worked cross stitch: row by row, laying in the first part of the cross from left to right, then completing the row by working back from right to left.

Then, after realizing how much of this piece would be done on the road while teaching or in company when I was liable to mis-read my chart, I decided to take a different tack.

When I’ve been in a situation that allowed me to focus–at home, in my workroom, or alone in a hotel room–I’ve worked only the first part of each cross stitch, filling out the design.

fwf-59-embroidery-progress-shot

Then, when I’ve been in distracting situations like airplanes and airport lounges and cafés, I’ve worked over those established stitches–in other words, that’s when I’ve done the mindless work that requires no counting.

Where Am I?

It’s gone well, though I have not as I hoped finished all the embroidery yet. As I said at the beginning of this installment, what began as a cover for a tiny little pillow keeps growing larger, and larger and larger. Still–I’m pleased. The entire first layer is in, so now I merely fill in the second layer. (I may add borders in the blank areas to the right and left, but I’m not sure yet.)

fwf-59-firstlayer

We’re going to have to pause this project for a bit, anyhow–because a newborn baby in the apartment upstairs needs a warm sweater, quickly, and I have just the thing waiting to be knit up: Zitron Gesa & Flo, with a dash of Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 Light Fingering.

fwf-59-newballs

I’ll show 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)
Zitron Gesa & Flo (100% Ultra Fine Merino. 98 yards per 25 gram ball; shown in Color 8: Lavender)
Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 (100% Merino Extrafine Superwash Wool. 328 yards per 50 gram ball; shown in Color 2296: English Garden)
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.

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.

 

Fridays with Franklin- Adventure On the Floor, Part One

fwf-logo-v1For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here.

Hey, kids–remember when I promised that I’d show you what happens in these adventures even if they end with a crash, an explosion, and tears? Buckle up, because this one may well be heading that way. I truly have no idea if it will work.

More than a year ago, a very kind person who knows I have a weakness for vintage needlework books passed along a sheaf of patterns from the 1930s and 1940s. Among them was a curious specimen from a now-defunct yarn company. The subject? Making rugs.

1

I had never made a rug before, but the concept wasn’t entirely foreign. My early childhood in rural Pennsylvania overlapped by a whisker with the end of the rag-rug era. In one or two kitchens you could still find grandmothers or great-aunts sorting, braiding, weaving, and stitching the remains of old clothes into immense coils that protected bare feet from bare linoleum, and bare linoleum from wet boots.

They were products of poverty and necessity, made from textiles too exhausted for any other use. They lacked the romantic appeal of patchwork quilts. I liked them, though.

I’d thought about learning the skill myself, if I could find a teacher. The notion of making something as large, tough, and useful as a rug holds a certain exotic appeal for a guy who knits a lot of little lace shawls. Knitting needles are not much use in rug making. Sure, I’ve seen patterns for knitted rugs. I’ve walked upon knitted rugs. They all–at best–seemed like misplaced afghans or very, very large washcloths that had landed on the floor.

I don’t like knitted rugs. Sorry. No craft is good at everything.

This little booklet from 1939 pictured, what appeared at first glance, to be the rag rug of my childhood. Closer inspection, however, revealed it to be a new-to-me combination of crochet and clothesline.

You heard me. Clothesline. This:

2

According to the author, the combination allows one to create attractive rugs “in a jiffy.” It says so right on the cover. Jiffy, it says.

These rugs were clearly intended to compliment a certain widely popular take on American Colonial style; without the fuss of collecting, cutting, sorting, sewing, and braiding rags.

And it wasn’t only rugs you could make, wrote the author. You could also make lamp mats

3

and place mats

4

and pot holders

5

which look to me like extremely small rugs that are not on the floor.

I had doubts about all this, which meant I had to drop everything and try it out.

The Materials

I’ve already mentioned clothesline

2

as the foundation for these projects. I went to the hardware store around the corner and spent about fifteen minutes casing the different brands and varieties. This is far more time than most folks spend looking at clothesline, so the store owner came over to check on me.

He (cordially, if cautiously): Can I help you with something?

Me: No, thank you. Just looking at clothesline.

He (jovially): Gonna do your wash the old-fashioned way, eh?

Me: No, I’m going to make a rug.

He: I’m sorry, what?

Me: It’s…I’m going…there’s this old technique for making crocheted rugs with clothesline. And yarn.

He: Crochet?

Me: Yes.

He: Well, I’m afraid I don’t know anything about that.

Me: Oh. Well, that’s okay. Neither do I, really.

He (leaving, quickly): Huh. Okay then. Good luck.

I can never go back there, of course.

The booklet called for pure cotton yarn, because that’s what the now-defunct yarn company made. I wondered if I might substitute something else. For instance, Simpliworsted from HiKoo.

7

Judging by the size of the crochet hook the booklet calls for (equivalent, roughly, to a 3.5 mm or US size E) I had it in two variegated colorways, either of which would work as a rug in the apartment.  It’s a good mix of fibers too–wool for warmth and softness, acrylic and nylon for durability; and all of it washable.

The Technique

Some vintage pattern books do a remarkable job of illuminating obscure techniques within the confines of the format. Others do not. This booklet is one of the others.

The method for covering the clothesline in yarn is relegated to the end of the booklet, after the patterns but before the advertisement for Lux soap flakes. (“Precious heirlooms are the handsome crochets clever women are making. Protect their beauty with Lux!”).

As to how the method works, you get a set of diagrams

8

which tell you absolutely nothing. That’s all she wrote.

I figured out what I think you’re supposed to do by reading the patterns (more on that in the next installment); squinting furiously at the diagrams, messing around with the hook, yarn, and rope; and swearing at all of the above.

The basic idea is that you take a piece of clothesline and you use single crochet to entirely cover it with yarn. As the rug grows, you join successive rounds to one another as part of the crochet process.

Here we go.

Oval rugs begin with a central spine that’s merely a foundation chain.

9

Of course a foundation chain has a bumpy side and a smooth side (shown). We will address ourselves to the smooth side.

Each stitch in the chain has a right leg and a left leg.

10

We begin the rug proper by laying the clothesline along the top of the chain, adjacent to the left legs, leaving about an inch hanging free to the right. The working yarn should be behind the clothesline.

11

Make your first single crochet thus:

  1. Insert your crochet hook through the left leg of the second chain from the hook, then under the clothesline. Grab the working yarn with the hook.

12

  1. Pull the working yarn under the clothesline and back through the chain. You’ll have two loops on your hook.

13

  1. Reach over the clothesline with the hook and grab the working yarn. Pull it through both loops on the hook. You’ll have one loop on your hook, and the single crochet is complete.

14

To progress, put the hook into the left leg of the next chain and follow the steps exactly as before.

Your single crochets will begin to form a covering for the clothesline; but note that you’re looking at the wrong side of the rug as you work. Flip it over and you’ll see this on the right side.

15

That’s it–that’s the way the clothesline is covered. The rest of the pattern is nothing but small variations on those three steps to increase, turn corners, and join rounds together. Simplicity itself.

But will it all end in a useful, attractive rug?

I confess that I remain unconvinced. We’ll see what happens…in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Simpliworsted: 55% Merino Superwash, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon; 140 yd per 100g skein.

AddiColours Crochet Hook (from set of nine color-coded, comfort grip hooks), size 3.5 mm.

Wellington Light Load Economy Clothesline: Nylon core, braided cotton exterior.

About Franklin Habit

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Knitty.com, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

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, Squam Arts Workshops, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.