Do you wanna build a snowman…or maybe knit some hats?

I almost always do a charity project of some sort for my birthday and this year I chose  Linda’s Hats for Hope Initiative. When I was younger I collected lots of hand knit toys for charity and every year Linda would knit my age in donated toys. She’s sweet and generous  and has helped me with so many projects so many times so this year I’m helping her by knitting my age in hats! It’s only January 15th when I’m writing this (I have to turn it in early for approval and stuff) and I’m already at 15 hats and a couple of scarves… So I think I’m going to send her a few extra if I keep knitting until January 27th.

Kenzie yarn makes a nice soft drapey hat and the colors are lovely too. But my favorite thing is Makers’ gives you yarn when you get a knitting machine. It’s soft and squishy and two balls makes a great hat.

Are you a process person or a product person? Mom is process person but I am a product person.  Having a knitting machine is awesome because I can make so many hats in a short amount of time. I just have to be careful not to go too fast and drop stitches.

First off you need to watch the video Karin Skacel has for how to use a knitting machine. I watched the video and in an hour I had my first hat. Mom still helped with finishing, but a hat in an hour and it was so much fun to watch the knitting machine go around and around. Karin had some really important tips that helped me set the machine up successfully so that it wasn’t frustrating, like how to start and how to watch the counter.

Most of my hats are two colors and reversible. Sometimes if I have smaller amounts of yarn I add more stripes, but it is important for these hats to hold up well, so I try not to cut the yarn for no reason.

I do a total of 108 rounds on a hat. So its pretty easy…just 54 rounds of each color.  I can divide by 3 to get even sections of 3 stripes.

I gather each end up tightly and carefully finish each end.

Then I turn one end inside the other. Make sure you leave a tail of yarn to join the inside so it will turn inside out without coming apart. The video I suggested has the cute topknot finish.

I hear weather reports about how cold it is up north and I hope these hats keep people warm this winter and that they know people care.

Next month I’m making an “unbearably” cute kit….it reminds me of a craft project my Grandmother did. I’ve been excited about making it ever since I got it and I can’t wait to show you guys. My Grandmother and Great -Grandmother were both really good at sewing, so I’m looking forward to more of that.

Mom is getting ready to start a knit a long over in the Makers‘ group on Ravelry…I love the scarf pattern. It’s called Holey scarf  and it’s a free pattern. She’d love it if she had some friends to knit with.

And then! We’ve been snowed in for two days… probably tomorrow too because it just keeps snowing…Mom said “hey! I bet we could make a snowman.” She made the nose and I did the rest….we made a knitting machine snowman! I don’t have a pattern for him yet, but we’re working on it so you can make one too!

And p.s. if you want to join in the fun and get your own knitting machine, this is the one I have. I just love it!

 I will see you in February! Post in the comments and tell me about projects you like to do when you are snowed in.

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This Is Not Going to Be Pretty, Part III: Actually Kind of Pretty

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

For the beginning of this project, click here.

I knew if I hesitated before setting the uneven warp to rights, I’d never finish this piece of weaving. I had to take the tide of madness at the flood.

The bunny who represents my Better Judgment had given up on me for the time being and was posting Instagram selfies from various scenic locations in central Ohio.

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After a fitful night’s sleep, I carried the loom back down to the cellar, clamped it to the table, and set about unrolling the warp. In anticipation, had already cut a long strip of freezer paper to the proper width, carefully, using a rotary cutter and self-healing mat.

In theory I would unwind the warp and re-wind it with proper separation (the freezer paper) between the layers. This isn’t a fun thing to do, but it can be done.

I got about three feet of yarn free of the loom. Then it refused to budge. Refused.

I investigated and found my previous sloppiness had allowed about forty strands at the left edge to slide so far off course that they were now tangled around the warp beam, around the cords that hold the bar to the warp beam, around the bar itself, and around each other.

This meant I couldn’t unroll the warp. I’d need to untangle it–one strand at a time. Then tie the untangled ends to the warp beam. Then re-sley the reed. Then re-wind the warp.

Now ensued a dark, dark moment of the soul in which I considered ripping it all to shreds. Not just the warp. Also the loom. And then setting the house on fire, and changing my name, and moving to Mexico, and beginning life anew as one of those people who sells decorated coconuts outside Señor Frog’s in Cozumel.

If you think I’m kidding, you’ve never stood and contemplated how long it will take you to separate two hundred sticky alpaca warp threads, enmeshed together more tightly than an entire subdivision of suburban swingers throwing themselves into the last orgy before school lets out.

I would show you photographs, but I haven’t any. I was so utterly demoralized I couldn’t pick up the camera.

The only thing that got me through the dark moment was you, dear reader. Also you, and you, and those other readers over there.

It turns out the fear of total failure in front of thousands of people is, for me, motivational.

It took me two days to get the warp back on the loom.

Then I had to weave the damn thing.

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Gettin’ Sticky With It

The re-wound warp was evenly tensioned, but still sticky as an entire subdivision of suburban swingers who have just finished throwing themselves into the last orgy before school lets out.

Baby llama likes to cling to itself. It may become stickier still if you paint it.

This extra-sticky yarn will be even more inclined to stick if you sley it close together. That’s what I had done by putting the Delilah Undyed DK Yarn into in the 12-dent reed that would normally hold fingering or lace weight yarns.

Why do this? Because when you want a warp-dominant fabric–which was my original goal–you will tend to pack the warp threads closer together.

The result of all this stickiness? My sheds wouldn’t open. I’d move my reed up or down, and the warp would just kinda sit there and laugh.

I was able to take care of the worse of the two sheds–the down shed–with a pick-up stick. I put the reed into the down position, then carefully opened the shed with the stick. Once it was open, I put the stick into the shed behind the heddle and kept it there.

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When it was time for a down shed, I brought it forward to just behind the reed and pressed it downward. Ta-daaa, open shed. It was an extra step, but it was still faster than having to open the down shed bit by bit.

When it was time for an up shed, I slid the stick to the back of the loom.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t insert a corresponding pick-up stick for the up shed. The two sticks wouldn’t slide past each other behind the heddle as they went into and out of service.

The up sheds took a long time to open. The fabric was creeping along.

I was having renewed visions of selling souvenir coconuts when one of the finest weaving teachers I know–Susan, the owner of Yarnorama in Paige, Texas–stepped in with some advice:

1) Crank up the tension on the warp. Crank it as high as it will go without snapping threads.

2) Spray the warp, as it comes off the warp beam, with a bit of hair spray.

The latter suggestion sounded a little Out There, frankly; but at this point I was desperate. If she had told me to dip the entire loom in honey mustard I would have tried it.

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It worked. The sheds began to separate. Not always perfectly, but near enough to make me happy.

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Reader, I Finished It

How to describe the feeling of pulling the woven fabric off the loom? My thesaurus fails me. A fizzy cocktail of relief, joy, pride, excitement.

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I secured the ends with hemstitching (which is discussed at length in our previous undertaking, The Warp with Two Brains). Because both the warp and weft (HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light) yarns were–have I mentioned this?–sticky, I worked the hemstitching with pure cotton sewing thread in a pale ecru that matched the warp.

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A wet finish was essential. There are different ways of doing it. Here’s what I did for this project:

1) I tossed the fabric into hot water with some Soak,

2) smacked the heck out of it with a couple of hefty wooden spoons for a good fifteen minutes (therapeutic),

3) plunged it into cold water, then

4) threw it into my washing machine’s normal spin cycle to remove the excess moisture.

Some folks iron their damp woven fabrics dry at that point. I had other things to do, so I laid mine flat in a space where I was reasonably confident it would be left alone. I took care to make sure it was flat, because there is a danger at this point that wrinkles you leave in place may, in fact, become permanent.

When it was dry, I trimmed the ends

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and then brushed them with a hairbrush to make them a little looser and bushier. Not a complete frizz, mind you. And that was purely a design choice. I just thought it looked nicer that way.

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Warp a Lot, Weave a Little

I planned a large wrap with a painted lotus pattern. I put on nine feet of warp.

In the end, I created a scarf 13 inches wide and five feet long. The painted warp is dominant and clearly visible, but the lotus pattern is just a shadowy memory.

During the final spin, some of the twist in the warp let go, so and created interesting little passages of looser, fluffier fabric.

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The fabric is buttery soft. The drape is FAB. U. LOUS.

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This is, without question, the most luxurious and interesting textile I have yet woven. I learned a lot, most of it the hard way. I am excited to try a painted, patterned warp again–knowing what I know now.

I’m glad I did it. Even the Bunny admits that, in the end, the destination was worth the journey. Right? Right?

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Next Time…

I cannot wait to show you what I’ve been doing to these skeins of HiKoo CoBaSi Plus

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with these things…

fwf-58-addi-hook-addi-heartstopper

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)
Schacht Cricket 15-inch Pick-Up Stick (also available in 10-inch length)
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)
HiKoo CoBaSi Plus (55% Cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk, 21% Elastic Nylon; 220 yards per 50 gram hank)
Addi HeartStopper
Addi Click Crochet Hook Interchangeable Set
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.

This Is Not Going to Be Pretty, Part II: The Warpening

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

I don’t want for a moment to give the impression that the idea I started messing with last time–painting a pattern on a warp-dominant fabric–is original to me.

fwf-56-finishedlotus
The experiment begun. For full details, see the previous installment of “Fridays with Franklin.”

There are many forms of weaving that paint or dye the warp to create a pattern in the finished cloth.

My inspiration was a fabric, not terribly well known these days, called chiné. Now, chiné (shee-NAY) is not the same as crèpe de chine or China silk. The name means “Chinese” and it may well have originated in China; though the examples of it that inspired me are not, in fact, Chinese, but French. Are you with me so far?

Chiné probably hit its all-time peak of popularity in France in the latter part of the 18th century. There is a tradition (not terribly well founded) that Madame de Pompadour liked to wear it, so on occasion you’ll find it called “Pompadour Taffeta.”

It’s expensive to produce. Christian Dior used it in the heyday of the New Look; and more recently designer Raf Simons (the now-former Creative Director of Dior) put it into his first collection for the house.

The fundamental aspect of chiné is the pattern painted upon the stretched warp threads before weaving–just as I painted my lotuses. The pattern persists in the finished fabric.

Here is a spectacular example from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: a silk and linen evening overdress from the tail end of the eighteenth century. (For full details, see the dossier on the Met’s Web site.)

Picture 029
Evening Overdress in Chiné Weave. British, 1797-99. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.2198a, b. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

That repeating sprig motif is woven right into the fabric. You can see it clearly in this view of the back.

Picture 008
Detail of Evening Overdress in Chiné Weave. British, 1797-99. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.2198a, b. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The hallmark of chiné, which you either like or you don’t, is patterns that have lost their hard edges and become either dreamy as watercolor (if you like them); or blurry and out-of-focus (if you don’t).

I like them.

The softness is in part a result of painting upon those parallel strands of warp. During the painting process, they’re close together and held in place at both ends. They can support motifs with a fair amount of detail, like (or so I hoped) my lotus:

lotus-whole-orange

When the warp is wound onto the loom so weaving can begin, those painted parallel strands will inevitably shift a bit vertically in relation to one another. This result is a visual shimmer, sort of like this.

lotus-shiftedRe-Enter the Bunny of Better Judgment

You remember this fellow from last week? The Bunny of my Better Judgment?

bun-hitired

Direct-warping a rigid heddle loom like my Schacht Cricket isn’t difficult or terribly time-consuming. I can usually put a plain warp on in an hour or less.

But this warp, because it was going to be painted, couldn’t be done in the comfort of my dining room. No, I had to work in the unheated cellar of the Chicago Victorian in which I live–in November. It’s dark and chilly down there, and it kinda smells like the fall of the house of Usher.

The stretched, nine-foot warp had to be stenciled. I’d never done that before. It took ages to finish each motif, especially before I got a feel for the process about halfway through.

fwf-56-paintedwarp

By the time all the paint had dried to the touch, it was late and getting dark (or maybe my vision was going black). My feet hurt and my neck hurt and my knees hurt and my toes were numb and Rosamund needed to go for a walk and I was hungry and…

Project - Sketch 1_5

Yes. It would have been perfectly reasonable to call a halt, run around the neighborhood with Rosamund, and enjoy a celebratory fizzy water.

Instead, I decided to rush forward and wind on the warp. It would feel so good, I thought, to know I could start cranking out fabric the next morning.

Project - Sketch 1_8

How Not to Wind on Your Warp

I have never had trouble winding on a warp before. Not once. Not even though I am still a rank novice of a weaver.

I clipped the peg-end of the strands and started to crank, and immediately had issues at both ends of the process.

At the peg end, I had done nothing to keep the threads under tension. They began to shift, and continued to shift, and never stopped shifting until they were tied on. If you can’t guess that happened because of that, you’ll see in a moment.

At the loom end, I decided to use the roll of freezer paper (the paper I’d used to make my stencil) as a warp separator.

You can’t just crank your unwoven warp onto the naked back beam. You need to separate the layers, as they build up on the beam, with something sturdy–stout paper, slats of wood, slats from a window blind. Otherwise the yarns sink into one another and your tension is uneven. When your tension is uneven, your finished fabric is correspondingly uneven.

I had always used sliced-up brown paper bags to separate my warp, and I reuse the same paper repeatedly. But my brown paper stash was insufficient for this project–it wasn’t long enough and it wasn’t wide enough. The freezer paper was wider than the beam, but I figured I could just fold it up and stuff it in.

I should have measured it carefully and sliced precisely it to make a single layer of paper just wide enough. I didn’t.

I just rolled and folded. Usually my folding wasn’t very good. The paper shifted and bunched. I just kinda scrunched it down and kept winding.

Project - Sketch 1_6

Garbage In…

At length, the warp was wound, and so was my bobbin of quite gorgeous HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light.

filled-bobbin
HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light, ready to become weft. It’s so good that it has re-awakened my long-dormant fine lace mojo. That’s another column, though.

I don’t even have time this week to tell you about everything that went wrong with the weaving–I’m saving some of that for the next column.

I’ll tell you this. The devil-may-care folding and scrunching of the separating paper caused the tension of my warp threads to vary so widely that every shot of weft was an adventure. Would it pack in? Would it not? Heck, would the shed even open for me?

At great length, and only with much swearing and sweating and salty tears of frustration, I had woven a whopping five inches of fabric in the amount of time it would usually take to weave fifteen. This warp was, may I remind you, nine feet long.

Press Rewind

A sane person would have declared the warp a “dog” (weaving slang for a warp that just won’t work), cut it off, and thrown it out. I was tempted.

I was at least going to need to re-wind it with proper tension and a proper spacer. I decided to think it over, and meanwhile cut off the five woven inches and wet finish them.

This is what came out.

sample-02

I wish you could feel it. It’s dreamy. Weightless. Soft as Rosamund’s tummy. Drapes like mad.

sample-01
I have to admit that I even like the way the uneven weft (the result of the lousy winding job) wiggles back and forth, spreading in some places and bunching in others. Thanks in part to the sticky alpaca and llama fibers, no part of the fabric is unstable.

sample-03

Mind you there’s no pattern at all. Nothing but now-random scatters of paint. It’s pretty, but it’s not the lotus I drew. That part of the experiment is a complete flop–this time. I will try it again.

The fabric, though…I loved the sample fabric. I had to see how it would turn out. I had to keep going.

See you in two weeks.

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.

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