Fridays with Franklin: The Edge of Crazy

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

For the first part of this project, click here.

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

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

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

It’s seven inches wide and nine inches long.

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

fwf-76-embroideryprogress
In addition to the buttonhole stitch (open and closed) and the feather stitch, I went cuckoo and added French knots with little tails in a few places where it seemed additional frivolity would be welcome.

It was fun.

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

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

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

fwf-76-grains-matched

and never thus:

fwf-76-grains-perpendicular

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

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

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

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

fwf-76-buttonholes

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

fwf-76-garterwoman
Garter Woman! Na na NA nana na NAAAAA!

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

fwf-76-fourbuttons
Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons from Skacel Buttons

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

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

fwf-76-picotedgecrochet
and is worked like this (I quote the original verbatim–if I can make sense of it, so can you):

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

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

fwf-76-crochethook
You may notice that I found the purple HiKoo Sueño Worsted that had gone missing. I used an addi Olive Wood crochet hook in size US D/3.25 mm because it seemed like it would do and it was near the chair I was sitting in.

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

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

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

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

fwf-76-buttonholesmarked
Neat little buttons, all in a row. A pretty sight.

fwf-76-buttonson

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

I’m not that crazy.

Now I have this hilarious little pillow…

fwf-76-pillow-01.jpg
fwf-76-pillow-02

fwf-76-pillow-03
…and I don’t know what it’s for, though I am absolutely going to use it as a sample for a new class on knitting and embroidering crazy quilt squares. If I can’t stop the madness, I might as well spread it around.

Epilogue in HiKoo Sueño

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

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

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

fwf-76-rosamund-hikoosueno-cowl
She likes it. She likes to have clothes on, especially as the weather in Chicago turns nippy. The only thing I think I might do is line it with woven fabric to keep the floats on the inside from catching on her collar. But that’s for another column.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

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

About Franklin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fridays with Franklin: From Bun to Blanket

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

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

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

lost-bunny

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

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

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

granny-map

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

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

Concentric Buns

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

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

The construction is wild. Check this out.

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

yarn-01

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

yarn-02

A bit further along, a second ply changes color.

yarn-03

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

yarn-04

yarn-05

yarn-06

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

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

fwf-63-hikoo-concentric

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

KISS My Buns

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

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

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

gradient

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

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

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

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

granny-sketch

So Many Squares

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

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

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

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

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

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

tagged-bundle

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

E Pluribus Unum

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

I often wonder if I lack the moxie to crochet.

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

joining

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

And then there was one.

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

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

blackhole
But the fabric is cuddly beyond words.

finished-03

finished-02

finished-04

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

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

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

See you in two weeks…

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

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

addi Color-Coded Crochet Hooks

Boye Stitch Holder, Large 3-Inch

Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman

About Franklin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fridays with Franklin: 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.

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: 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.

Cage Match, Part Three

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

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

I was at a gathering once with a knitter who held up her shawl-in-progress and squealed, “This has been so much fun to knit! I’m actually slowing down because I don’t want it to end!”

I had no idea what she was talking about.

I am often sick to death of even a fun project weeks…months…years…before I bind off. This is nothing to boast of, and explains the shameful state of the dimmest corner of my workroom. There lie projects that it would be wrong to describe as “hibernating,” unless you would agree that the buried and fossilized remains of cretaceous reptiles are just having a nap down there.

You may therefore imagine my astonishment when the “leftovers” lining for the Makers’ Mercantile cage purse

fwf-47-cage-full
…was so much fun to work on that I had to force myself to stop and bind off.

There were no great departures from the plan I tested in the miniature version. I knit the oval(ish) bottom in HiKoo Simpliworsted 952 (Peacock Tonal), beginning at the center with Judy’s Magic Cast On…

fwf-49-ovalbottom
Please take a moment to admire my handsome bottom. Thank you.

…and was even more pleased with the results this time, since I used stitch markers right from the start and therefore didn’t misplace my increases quite so often.

When the bottom was big enough, I took stock of how many live stitches I had (answer: 108). This divides obligingly into four, which settled the question of how many stitches I’d use as the basis for each short-rowed blob of color (answer: 27). Since the bag would have no further shaping, it would always take me about four blobs* to go around once.

Given that I’d be using four different yarn bases in eight different colorways, I felt sure I could use a consistent base number without the blobs looking too much alike. I really wanted to avoid uniformity, to give this bag an organic feel, like layers of sediment** that had built up naturally atop one another.

fwf-48-sr-10

Here is the recipe for a blob:

Row 1 (RS): Join the new color, knit 27 stitches. Wrap and turn a stitch in the adjacent blob (see part two).

Row 2 (WS): Knit all stitches in the new color. Wrap and turn a stitch in the adjacent blob.

Row 3 (RS): Knit to penultimate stitch of blob (1 stitch less than previous row). Wrap and turn.

Row 4 (WS): As Row 3.

Repeat Rows 3 and 4 until blob reaches desired blobbiness, ending with a WS row. Break working yarn, leaving a tail of 5-6 inches to weave in later.

Turn work. Slip the live stitches of the just-completed blob from left needle to right needle as if to purl until your right needle tip is wherever you’d like the next blob to begin. Begin again from Row 1 for next blob.

For added verve, vary the length and/or starting point of some blobs by a stitch or two. Pretty much anything you do is going to look interesting and quite possibly beautiful.

Tiny tip: when joining in each new color, leave the tail hanging on the right side of the fabric like this:

fwf-49-tails
When you join a new yarn, let the tail hang on the right side of the work.

As you work, the tail gets pinched between the stitches on either side; and your first stitch won’t pull loose quite so readily as when you leave the tail hanging on the wrong side. (When it’s time to weave in ends, just bring the tail through to the wrong side and proceed as usual.)

From blob to blob, as the yarns changed so did the gauge. Blobs knit in HiKoo Kenzington and HiKoo Simpliworsted were quite firm…

fwf-49-kenzandsimpli
HiKoo Kenzington above, HiKoo Simpliworsted below.

…whereas HiKoo Rylie was so fine in comparison to Kenzington and the various forms of Simpliworsted that I decided to knit it with a strand of each colorway (086 Periwinkle and 087 Freesia) held double.

fwf-49-doublerylie

I was thrilled with the blend.

fwf-49-rylieblob

Good blobs, on the whole; but as they all came from the bright-blue-into-purple camp I was afraid the bag might tip over into something too sweetly candy-colored for my taste.

That’s where the Schoppel-Wolle Leinen Los

fwf-49-leinenlos.jpg

came in.

I decided to run a occasional stripe of this through the fabric to break things up. Since the two colors of Rylie had worked so well together, I decided to try a strand each of colorways 980 and 7653 together….

fwf-49-whiteleinen

…and you could see it from fifteen feet away. It screamed. So I ripped back and tried again with two strands of 7653 together.

fwf-49-ryliedarkbreak

Better. Rather than short-rowed blobs, these occasional bits of Leinen Los were short-rowed stripes. In other words, work all the way from the first stitch of the round to the last, wrap and turn, and knit back in the other direction. I could have knit a round and then purled a round–but I was having so much fun with the short rows I didn’t want to stop.

fwf-49-liningandbasket
In fact, my enthusiasm never flagged. When at length it struck me that I ought to take a measurement and see if I’d made the bag tall enough, I was an inch over the target.

You know what? I really like it.

fwf-49-bag-aerial

fwf-49-bag-closeup

Once the ends have been woven in, I’ll give it a wet block to settle it into to its final proportions.

Then, the final step before it goes into the cage: a woven fabric lining. I love a woven lining in a knit or crocheted bag. I plan to plunder with pleasure the Makers’ Mercantile lines of lovely cotton prints. Did you know Makers’ Mercantile carries deluxe cotton prints, among other fabrics and trims?

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Oh, but they do. They do! Cotton + Steel, Liberty of London, Seven Islands

See you in two weeks.

*I hope this isn’t getting too technical for you.
**Yeah, the sedimentary layers in this case are mainly purple. But still.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Makers’ Mercantile Leather Cage Purse available separately or as a kit
addi® Olive Wood Circular Needle available in fixed and interchangeable varieties
Schacht Cricket 15-inch Rigid Heddle Loom
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.

Cage Match, Part Two

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

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

Before I sat down to do up today’s column, I flipped back to Part One and found I’d written this about insert for my Makers’ Mercantile Cage Purse:

“I felt this piece ought to be as simple as possible.”

And I’d written this:

“This piece will be nothing but garter stripes.”

Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Nice Bottom

After I’d posted Options 1 and 2…

fwf-47-option-01

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…of course Options 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 presented themselves at the darnedest moments. Walking Rosamund, waiting for the subway, showering, listening to upstairs neighbor’s kid practice her tap dancing at 4 a.m.

The more I turned over the ideas, the more I felt I’d like work the liner all in one piece. What about a bottom worked circularly? Could I do that?

It seemed to me I could.

This was my sketch.

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The cast on you see referenced there is, of course, Judy’s Magic Cast on by the (let us now praise famous knitters) Judy Becker. She describes how to do better than I ever could, here at Knitty.com.

Judy invented it as a gorgeous and fuss-free beginning for toe-up socks, but I’ve never used it for toe-up socks. I’ve used it countless times, though, as either the circular beginning of a piece I want to grow outwards from the center; or whenever I want a cast on to work first in one direction (from the bottom row of stitches), and then in the other (from the top row).

So I cast on, magically, with HiKoo Simpliworsted in 952 Peacock Tonal and begin to knit. You can imagine my delight when it worked.

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(You may have noticed that the swatch, when it would no longer lie flat on one circular needle, got moved to two circular needles. A very slick designer would have put it on two identical addi® Olive Wood circulars so it would look pretty for the photograph. I, on the other hand, often make design decisions based on what’s closest to the couch. And this is a column about the realities of creativity. So here it is on one olive needle and one needle (of the same size, at least) from my set of addi® Click Interchangeables. Sue me.)

The above is what I think of as a proof-of-concept swatch–concrete evidence that the basic idea has merit. Even though I messed up the placement of my increases now and again (until I broke down and added the stitch markers), and even though I got an oval instead of a rectangle, the bottom is handsome and lies down as required.

I’m pretty sure I could move towards a rectangle by diddling the increase points, but I’m starting to groove on the idea of a curvy bag in a square cage.

Bonus: I don’t have to do a darn thing to get the sides going–just continue to work around on the live stitches, without further increases.

When I had swatched enough to convince myself this would be a suitable foundation, I decided to nail down a strategy for the sides.

Short Cut

Just garter stripes, right? That’s what I said. Just garter stripes.

Since these theoretical garter stripes would continue in the round, I’d have to purl every other row. I don’t mind purling. The bottom of the bag was purled on every other round.

But I’ve sometimes worked a “circular” piece of garter stitch with short rows. Usually I do it because my purl stitches and knit stitches are slightly different sizes. In some yarns, especially those with little stretch, that leads to “rowing out”–clearly visible differences in gauge from round to round. If I’m never purling, I’m never rowing out.

Short rows aren’t complicated. A short row is just a row you cease to knit before you reach the end. Instead, you turn the work and head back in the other direction. That’s all. Where you turn, you may form a gap in the fabric–but that, too is easily dealt with. More on that in a minute.

So, okay. I thought about using short rows in the bag to avoid rowing out. I hadn’t done it in multiple colors before. Feeling a little timid, I joined a new color to the bottom. Before I knew it, I was a bored with the idea of stripes.

I mean, stripes. Come on.

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Even in all these different yarns and colors, stripes are just stripes.

What if I really pushed the short row idea, building up areas of each color before moving on to the next? Could I do something like this?

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Only one way to find out.

Short ‘n’ Curvy

I decided to try this process for each new section of color/yarn.

1. On the right side, join in the new color (here, it’s HiKoo Simpliworsted in 033 Red Hat Purple) and knit some number of stitches. My first thought was to make it a pretty random number, since this a random jumble of leftover yarns I’m working with.

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2. At the end of this first row, perform a wrap-and-turn to help prevent a gap at the turning point. A wrap and turn isn’t difficult. Just knit to the turning point, and slip the next (unworked) stitch from the left needle to the right needle as if to purl.

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…then bring the working yarn between the needle tips to the near side of the work…

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…then return the slipped stitch to the left needle….

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Turn the work. Carry on knitting. Since we’re making garter stitch, the working yarn will already be where you need it to be, on what is now the far side of the work. That’s it. (Note: In most stockinette stitch short row techniques, there’s a maneuver for for picking up a wrap the next time you encounter it. In garter stitch, we don’t need to do that. Yay.)

3. Make each row one stitch shorter than the previous row. Wrap and turn at the end of every row. After you’ve done this for a little while, you’ll have built up a sweet little blob of color.

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4. When you feel that the blob is just about the right size, or when you can’t get any shorter with your rows, finish a wrong side row and then knit part of the way across a right side row.

5. At this point, join in a new color for the next blob, on this same right side row. You’ll be back at Step 1.

Working in this fashion will gradually take you all the way around the live stitches at the edge of the bottom–and when you’re back to the beginning, just carry on with more short row blobs in different colors until the bag is as tall as it needs to be.

Such is my theory, anyhow. How did the swatch look?

After doing this with three different colors (and two different yarns) on my swatch…

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…I decided to take the piece off the needles and see what I was getting.

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I’m excited. I think the curvy top selvedge is something we might want to accentuate.

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With a little more swatching to refine the details, I feel confident we’ll be on the way to a fun to knit (and fun to look at) liner for the purse.

So much for keeping it simple.

See you in two weeks

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Makers’ Mercantile Leather Cage Purse available separately or as a kit
addi® Olive Wood Circular Needle available in fixed and interchangeable varieties
Schacht Cricket 15-inch Rigid Heddle Loom
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.

Cage Match, Part One

fwf-logo-v11It scarcely seems possible, but by the close of this series we will have reached the fiftieth installment of Fridays with Franklin. Fifty! Can you imagine?

I was flipping through my binder of shade cards from Makers’ Mercantile looking for the next yarn to play with when my elbow knocked over a little basket of yarn that was sitting on the work table. Odd balls of yarn spilled all over the floor. Or they would have, if they’d hit the floor. Instead they spilled all over the four open boxes on the floor that were already full of other odd balls of yarn. You couldn’t actually see the floor.

It appears that nearly fifty columns full of knitting, crochet, and weaving have landed me with quite the buffet of leftovers.

That’s not something to cry about, I know; but please keep in mind that I live in a large city and do my work in a very small room. How small? Not much larger than the footprint of a king-sized bed. It is crammed, absolutely crammed, with things I need. Here, I’ve drawn you a little plan:

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Of course, what you don’t see in the plan are the things I have hanging from the walls and ceiling, including my Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, my card weaving loom from John Mullarkey, my swift, my project bags full of things in progress, and other hanging bags full of weaving, spinning, and embroidery tools. Every inch is spoken for.

I try to keep leftover yarns organized and sorted into the bins under the bed in the next room. That’s the place where, by mutual agreement, my stash lives. If it won’t fit under the bed it has to leave the apartment. Fortunately, it’s a big bed. Good intentions don’t sort skeins, though; so I have a perpetual backlog on the workroom floor. The prettiest little tripping hazard you ever saw.

Seeing as we’re celebrating a milestone of sorts with this adventure, I think it’d be fun (and prudent) to hold back from ordering new stuff and make use of what’s already to hand.

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Talk about memory lane.

There’s HiKoo Simpliworsted here from The Adventure on the Floor (the crocheted mat) and The Adventure of the Warm Puppy and The Adventure of the Transparent Excuse to Show You More Pictures of My Adorable Dog (sweaters for Rosamund).

There’s HiKoo Rylie from The Adventure of the Scarf That Ate the World (and the Into the Hoods interlude that followed).

There’s HiKoo Kenzie and also HiKoo Kenzington from The Adventure of the Stealth Blanket (the Ohio Star quilt-inspired afghan and pillow).

There’s Schoppel-Wolle Leinen Los from The Adventure of the Little Poser.

And that’s just the top layer.

These are wildly different yarns, in wildly different fiber blends, constructed in all manner of methods from chainette (Kenzington) to felted singles (Leinen Los).

Pushing the pile around didn’t give me fun ideas for using them all together. An obvious choice would have been some sort of scrap blanket, but one of the yarns (Leinen Los) isn’t really well suited to that. A scrappy shawl might be fun–but a shawl made with a significant quantity of hefty Kenzington might suffocate you.   

Then I got a note from one of my friends at Makers’ Mercantile in which she mentioned one of their most popular kits–the Cage Purse. You may well have seen a friend with one of these, or you may well have one yourself.

The cage bit…

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…comes ready to use. The fun is knitting (or crocheting) a liner for it. The open cage supports your work, which means you don’t have to resort to felting in order to get a bag that won’t droop and sag when you fill it. And because it’s a cage–well made from good leather and handsome, sturdy rivets…

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…whatever sort of liner you create is beautifully shown off.

Makers’ Mercantile sells the cages as part of several kits (like this Brown Kit, or the Red Kit shown below) – each with yarn, pattern, and fabric for a lining…

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…or you can buy just the cage (in a choice of colors such as Basil) and use your imagination. That’s what I decided to do.

The Amazon Arrows cowl in our last adventure

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…had so much going on (miters! shadow knitting! duplicate stitch! I-cord!) that I felt this piece ought to be as simple as possible. When you have four very different, eye-catching yarns in eight or ten colorways all smooshed together, I think it’s unwise to make the structure of the fabric complicated as well.

So, what’s the least complicated knit fabric? Probably garter stitch: when working flat, knit all stitches and all rows. I cast on for a small swatch…

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…and within a few inches I got that tingle in my chest that either means I’m onto something I like, or that I shouldn’t eat half a pan of brownies right before bed. I hadn’t been eating brownies.

This is nothing but garter stripes with changes from yarn to yarn at will. Most of the colors are fairly closely related (clearly I have a thing for purples and blues), but as we noted the yarns themselves are strange bedfellows. And I like that. The fabric was looking good, and the swatch was (brace yourself) fun to knit. Truly fun.

When you find yourself smiling at a swatch, that’s a good sign.

I sketched out what I needed to make. Pretty simple, really.

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All that remained before calculating my cast-on numbers was a plan for how to make that happen. There were two obvious options.

Option 1…

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…was flat construction. Knit panels and sew them together. That would make sense, as garter stitch is a natural result of flat knitting. I don’t mind sewing–it’s quite fun, really, once you know a little bit about what you are doing–and the side seams would give the bag some structure.

On the other hand, a seam sewn in a fabric with this many yarns would never be invisible. Not a deal-breaker, but a point to consider. It also might be tricky to sew a good seam when joining panels where two very different yarns are meant to align at the selvedges. In fact, just getting all four sides to be exactly the same length might be a challenge.

Option 2…

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…was primarily circular construction. Knit the bottom as a flat panel, then pick up and knit around the edges and work the body of the bag in the round. Without doing anything special at the corners, this bag would have softly contoured sides. It might be possible to give those corners a touch more definition using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s “phoney [sic] seams” technique–slipping the corner stitches every other round.  There would be no sewing. But every other round, in order to make garter stitch, would have to be purled.

Either way, we’re talking about a ton of ends to weave in. Happily, I like weaving in ends.

So, what to do?

See you in two weeks!

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Makers’ Mercantile Leather Cage Purse available separately or as a kit
addi® Olive Wood Circular Needle available in fixed and interchangeable varieties
Schacht Cricket 15-inch Rigid Heddle Loom
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.