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.

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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

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….

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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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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.

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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:

fwf-47-workroom

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…

fwf-47-cage-full

…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…

fwf-47-cage-detail

…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

fwf-46-a-after-button-detail

…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…

fwf-47-aerialswatch

…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.

fwf-47-bagsketch

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…

fwf-47-option-01

…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…

fwf-47-option-02

…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.