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…

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was a Makers’ Mercantile sheep bowl

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…stuffed with…

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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…

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…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,

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.)

 

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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.

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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.

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I’m calling it a success.

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I’m calling it groovy, baby.

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I’m calling it…the Tricolor Muffin.

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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.

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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.

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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

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…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…

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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.

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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:

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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…

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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.

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I was thrilled with the blend.

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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

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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….

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.