Fridays with Franklin: Welcome Wagon

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As I mentioned last time, progress on the cross-stitch cushion has been temporarily halted due to the arrival of a new neighbor, to whom I shall refer in this space as Upstairs Baby. I haven’t got any photographs, but this is the general idea.

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Upstairs Baby is the second, newborn child of the same couple who brought us Rosamund’s best pal, Little Girl Upstairs.

They are a lovely family and we adore them. Rosamund has been particularly excited to have a baby to play with, even if so far all the baby does when presented with the finest of chewy rubber bones and slightly mauled stuffed otters is lie in his basket and coo.

Clearly, a child of such quality must be in need of knitted clothes. We have undertaken to address this with all due haste.

Not that all due haste is enough to satisfy Rosamund, who has been perched on my shoulders, supervising.

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“Is he done yet? Why isn’t he done yet? He needs to hurry up. That weird bald puppy upstairs must be so chilly. “

I don’t know how she puts up with me.

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“He’s still not finished. Why is this taking so long? I thought he was supposed to be good at this. That bald puppy is going to be grown up soon.”

Time is precious, and so my thought has been to turn out yet another Five Hour Baby Jacket, also known as the Five Hour Baby Sweater.

The best online information available, a preamble to the earliest version I could find, credits the design of this piece as follows:

“This pattern was received by Sue Hulbert, sent to her by Anne Stoddard, was typed in by Jo Azary, and attempted-to-be-posted to the KnitList by Samantha Garbers and finally posted by Jo as Samantha’s post got lost in cyberspace.

Anne Stoddard writes,

‘Here is the explanation that I gave Sue H[ulbert] when I sent her the pattern. In approximate[ly] the year of 1950, I was frequenting a small yarn shop in my town run by two elderly sisters, one of them was very kind to me as she loved that I both knitted and crocheted. She wrote out this pattern for me to knit for my new little sisters that my mother was ‘continuously’ having (VBG). There are 8 of us. The two sisters have since gone to the big Yarn Store in the Sky but I remember their kindnesses every time I knit the sweater. I also gave this pattern to the women in the BAKG that knit for Charity for me and we have produced over a hundred baby sweaters for the maternity home “Siena House” in the Bronx. I sincerely hope that the women knitting from this pattern give at least one sweater to charity as this is what I meant the pattern to be used for.'”

As you would expect of any pattern that has been passed from hand-to-hand-to-hand-to-hand-to-hand for nearly seventy years, variations abound. Most of them fiddle with the yoke, adding or subtracting design elements. Some add a hood. Others include companion booties or a hat. The wording varies, and with it the accuracy and clarity.

I have made five of these jackets, which truly can be worked (if you are a reasonably capable knitter) from start to finish in five hours. However, I had misplaced my printed copy. Then I found that the source I’d used four or so years ago had vanished from the Internet.

No matter, I thought. I’ll just get it from somewhere else.

After the fifth variation from somewhere else went off the rails before I could finish the yoke, I decided I’d work out and write up my own variation–and you’ll find it in this space in two weeks, in the very next column.

Will my variation be better? I’d hesitate to use the word “better.” I will try to make it something you can use without putting a(nother) permanent angry crease in your forehead.

The Yarns

The Five Hour Baby Sweater’s claim to fame is its speed of construction–top down, one piece, minimal seaming.

What I love about it is that it lends itself to alteration and personalization. Do it once, and you’ll start to imagine how you could switch it up with different borders, necklines, stitch patterns, trims, and so forth.

I settled on these yarns for Upstairs Baby’s sweater.

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The lavender is Zitron Gesa & Flo a German pure wool that is both soft and washable. It’s also on the fine side, so in order to meet the demands of the pattern’s gauge (again, more on that next time) I decided to use it doubled, knitting two strands as one.

The other ball–the one with the zillion colors–is Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6, in a colorway (2296, English Garden) that makes my heart sing and that plays well with the lavender. I want to use that to make the sweater a little different, and little more special.

The Basic Model

When knit up in most versions (including mine) the sweater is simplicity itself. Just a little stockinette cardigan collar and cuffs in something contrasting. The original uses garter stitch; I switched to seed stitch.

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For embellishment, I decided to indulge myself with more embroidery. Embroidering my knitting is my current obsession. You may have gathered as much, as I’ve used it on the cushion cover, on Rosamund’s most recent sweater, and on the freeform crochet scarf, and so forth.

Running and Running

I could have gone bananas with covered the whole body and yoke in flowers and swirls and dinosaurs and kitty cats and Latin mottoes. In the end, though, with an eye on the clock, I settled on the simplest embroidery I could think of: running stitch.

Running stitch is the first stitch most people learning to sew or embroider learn. Even people who have never held a needle recognize it as “sewing.”

There is no easier stitch to work. You come up at A, you go down at B.

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Then you continue, working right to left (unless you’re left handed) taking identical stitches until you have a dotted line as long as you like. Up at C, down at D.

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You can make your stitches (and the spaces between) even or uneven. In the interest of simplicity and speed, I elected to go with stitches and spaces all equal to the width of one stitch.

And I determined that I would work them in blocks made of staggered rows, moving up one row with each line of stitching.

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The Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 is one jolly, slow blend color after color, and I wanted some of each color in the sweater. In a piece this tiny, that meant unwinding the ball into a bunch of mini-balls. If I hadn’t done that, I doubt I’d have used all of the first color in the ball.

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With the palette ready, all I did was choose a color at whim and work it into a block that might be fat, skinny, tall, short–it didn’t much matter. There was no real plan, no thought of symmetry.

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I wanted the end to have some of the cuckoo joy of crazy quilting (another current obsession).

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Closure

I consulted Upstairs Baby’s parents about the question of closure–would they prefer buttonholes (as written in the original pattern), ties, or loops? They chose loops.

So next time–in two weeks–I’ll show you how I decided to make the loops, and give you my version of the pattern.

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I think I have enough time and yarn to add some additional embroidery (bringing the color up into the yoke) and make a matching hat, too. What do you think?

Dinner with Franklin at Makers’ Mercantile: February 20!

burien-caresI’m wildly excited to be making an in-person visit to Makers’ Mercantile on February 20, for a dinner to benefit the shop’s local animal rescue society and shelter, Burien C.A.R.E.S. . We will have merriment and frivolity and good food and piles of fun. Rumor has it we may even have a visit from some furry friends.

For information and tickets, click here!

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Gesa & Flo Yarn (100% Ultra Fine Merino. 98 yards per 25 gram ball) shown in Color 08, Pastel Lavender.

Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 Yarn (100% Merino extrafine Superwash wool; 328 yards per 50 gram ball) shown in Color 2296, English Garden)

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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