Fridays with Franklin: Whither Shall I Wander?

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

For the first part of the granny blanket project, click here.

I decided to break open the fourth bun of HiKoo Concentric, and give the granny square blanket a border and edging. In for a penny, in for a pound.

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My first granny square blanket, as yet unadorned.

Maybe half a pound. I briefly entertained the idea of making the edging elaborate–even frilly. I have vintage crochet books stuffed with hilariously complex edging patterns that look like they’d be at home on Belle Watling’s underwear.

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Belle Watling, as played by the immortal Ona Munson in “Gone with the Wind.” Her simple, spare style was a revelation to my pre-teen self. Please note, and admire, the owl lamp.

Frills take time, though. I’m still not a quick or clever crocheter; and the calendar was pressing me to finish this project and move on with others. Sometimes a deadline is my best friend–it keeps me from going bananas with those tiny touches that, in sufficient numbers, can crush the life right out of a design.

So my border, at last, was no more than three rounds of double crochet triplets circumnavigating the assembled granny squares.

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And my edging was a single round of a simple scallop, worked into each open space, with slip stitches between.

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I wanted the edging stitch motif to have a bit of heft to it, to give the blanket (which was already drapey in excelsis) even more comforting heft. So the scallop, compared to the typical granny square triplet

 

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uses more yarn to fill in the same amount of space.

The swing of the blanket it delicious. But what happens when you cram so many additional stitches of the same gauge into an edging–any edging, knitted or crocheted? The edge will ruffle.

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I decided to call this a design feature. See my amazing ruffled edge? I meant to do that. Shut up.

I’m honestly awfully fond of this blanket. You can do up a less expensive granny square blanket, to be sure. If you are crocheting one that is going to be dragged around the house by the kids, and have soda pop and corn chips spilled on it, and require heavy laundering once a week, you might prefer to go with something more robust and economical, like HiKoo Simpliworsted.

However, if you are making a special gift; or if you have a reached that divine level of adulthood that allows you to spoil yourself silly with something plush and gorgeous while you nap or cuddle, I don’t think you’d be disappointed in HiKoo Concentric.

Certainly, my personal Blanket Quality Inspector, Rosamund, is taken with it. I was still shooting photographs when she decided to hop up on the worktable and make herself comfortable.

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It took some doing, including the rare promise of a spoonful of peanut butter, to get her to give up her seat. And if you think Rosamund is easily pleased by any old blanket, you have not met Rosamund.

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What’s Next?

With the border approaching completion I began to wonder what I ought to show you next. I’m still knitting the second Bee Sock, so that’s not much to see.

But then Makers’ Mercantile told me they’d brought in a new self-patterning yarn from Zitron called Art Deco. In fact, they’re the sole American retailer to offer it. They sent me a few balls to play with, and I’ve decided to use it in a challenge.

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I love the little basket they sent with the yarn–woven by an ethical collective in Bolgatanga, Ghana; and imported on fair trade terms by Big Blue Moma. Makers’ Mercantile has them in stock, along with larger shopping and project bags.

Zitron Art Deco is designed with self-patterning in mind; but I’m going to try it out in three techniques–knitting, crochet, and weaving on a Zoom Loom–and in every case do my darnedest to mess up the handsome pattern that the very clever and hard-working people at Zitron intended to appear.

I hope they won’t mind too much. I’ve always been contrary when given instructions. As a child I had a collection of Matchbox toy cars, as American boys of my generation were supposed to. But instead of zooming around racetracks and smashing into one another, my cars all had aristocratic titles and eccentric personalities, and gathered for tea and theater parties. (Lady Mathilde Heffington-Smythe was born a Studebaker.)

Remember, just because the label tells you how you should knit it, doesn’t mean you have to knit it the way they tell you. Or that you have to knit with it at all.

So, three two-ball projects with Zitron Art Deco.

One project in Color 01,

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Zitron Art Deco Yarn, Color 01

one project in Color 02,

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Zitron Art Deco Yarn, Color 02

one in project in Color 05.

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Zitron Art Deco Yarn, Color 05

Challenge one: knitting! 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).
Zitron Art Deco (80% Virgin Wool, 20% Nylon; 437 yards per 100 gram ball). Shown in Colors 01, 02, and 05.
Woven Pot Basket from Big Blue Moma
Schacht Zoom Loom
addi Color-Coded Crochet Hooks

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. He will lead his own knitting cruise to Bermuda in September, 2018.

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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2017 Holiday Wishlist

‘Tis the season for giving, and we have had so much fun collecting all kinds of neat items for presents. After asking the creative team at Makers’ Mercantile what one item they’d suggest as the ideal gift for the crafter in their life, here’s what they came up with:

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Kim LOVES our sheep bowls, and thinks they’d be a great gift filled with candy or yarn as a host/hostess gift! Also she likes the Zauberball sock yarn because of its fun color changing and also how this single-ply version works up so snuggly soft!

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Liz also couldn’t pick just one item. (and yes, she made that cardigan; isn’t it great!? She wants a few skeins of Oh! because it knits up so amazingly… and also another mug from Creative With Clay.

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Kathleen loves Zauberball as well… and she chose the line Starke 6 for her favorite thing. Even when worked in a simple pattern this yarn makes such a great finished object. Imagine a lovely garter stitch scarf or seed stitch wrap!

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Our colorful friend Kesten grabbed another squishy favorite, Sueno! It comes in full size hanks HERE, and mini-hanks HERE! It’s a super soft fiber that’s perfect for big cozy sweaters, wraps, or even cowls!

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Oh…and then there’s me. I have tons of favorite things in the shop. Of course I will say (and this is true from ALL of us) that our customers are our favorites. You’re so creative and fun and inspire us every day!

But I have to pick something too, so I choose our new leggings! They’re so comfy!! Also, of course the addi® needles are a much-loved favorite. I do believe that when we work with good quality materials it makes a large impact on the quality of our finished projects.

So that’s it from us for now. We hope you continue to stay safe, and that you’ll come hang out with us in the shop or online very soon!

 

Happy Holidays from all of us at Makers’ Mercantile!

–Kyle

Fridays with Franklin – It’s Play Time

It’s Play Time

Ten years ago, had you asked any of my coworkers to describe me they’d all have said the same thing: “He’s the weirdo who knits in meetings.” It’s true. I am a weirdo, and I did knit furiously through every meeting that didn’t require me to check my needles at the door.

I am sorry to say it was not a very nice place to work. Some days, the soothing influence of knitting was all that kept me on the side of perfect propriety. It is not easy to slap someone when both your hands are otherwise engaged.

Stuff I was knitting began to draw notice in the burgeoning online fiber arts community. I was asked to write articles. I was asked to write a book. I was asked to teach knitting classes. I was asked to design patterns. I said yes. Also yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Suddenly knitting was no longer the thing I did to survive meetings. Knitting was the reason I had meetings. Knitting became my work. Alice, having popped through the looking-glass and into an alternate reality, was not more startled at her new digs than I.

Like Alice, I was by turns delighted and frustrated. Knitting is all fun and games when it’s all fun and games. When it becomes work, the games are postponed indefinitely. Deadlines don’t leave much room for rambling. You have to pick a topic and stick to it.

That is a pity.

In my experience the best sort of creativity is the messiest. I have been asked a few times about the creative process, and all my answers have been lies.

To talk about creative process in an interview, you have to make up a story about it. You cannot speak plain truth. You are not, for example, allowed to say that you have no creative process, unless by “process” you mean lying on the couch watching cat videos and crying until the thing is due in forty-eight hours and, fueled entirely by Mallomars and Diet Coke, you squeeze out a new mitten pattern in much the same way one forces the last squirt of toothpaste from the tube.

Instead, you have to shake the Mallomar crumbs out of your beard, smile brightly and present a narrative something like this:

I had an Idea.

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Then I did some stuff. (This is the “creative arc.” In movies, it’s always a montage during which the artist maniacally paints/dances/types while the Pointer Sisters sing “I’m So Excited.”)

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And then I had made my Idea into a Thing.

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The end.

And to be honest, sometimes it does work like that. The tight deadlines of a competitive business can force you to lock your focus on Point Z and scoot towards it with little to no deviation.

But that, too, is a pity.

Because I find the best work comes often from a creative path that looks a little more like this.

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Start here…

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…but then…

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…and then…

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…whereupon…

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…and then suddenly…

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Those loops and switchbacks and zigzags–those are the moments when you mess around. Those are the times you let go of Point Z and just play. Me, I find my very best work happens when I never make it to Z at all, and when my final product is wildly different from my original idea.

That’s what this project with Makers’ Mercantile will be all about: playing. All sorts of playing, too. Knitting, yes–but also crochet, weaving, felting, embroidery, rug making, and anything else we can dream up. We are going to let go, move forward, and see where we end up.

We are going to have adventures.

And here is what I promise you:

I will show you the good stuff that we find.

I will show you how we got to the good stuff.

I will never pretend to be perfect.

When we run off the road and into a ditch, I will show you that, too.

Are you ready?

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I am. Let’s go.