The Adventure of the Little Poser, Part Three
For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.
For the first part of this adventure, click here.
Today I’m setting aside the bag part of the yoga mat bag, the one we’ve been making from Schoppel-Wolle Lenien Los (on sale through April 15, 2017 at 20% off for 2 or more balls), so that we can focus on the strap.
Homemade straps are a Dirty Little Secret of the knit and crochet world. It’s fun to knit your own bag. It’s fun to crochet your own bag. But most bags need straps or handles, and neither knitting nor crochet is particularly good at meeting the challenges of life as a strap.
You may well have been, as I once was, the victim of one of the ten million knitted beginner bag patterns that blithely instructs you to knit and attach a skinny yard of garter stitch. And what does garter stitch famously do? Garter stitch stretches.
Somehow, the patterns never get around to mentioning that.
In the same yarn and worked in an equivalent gauge, crochet usually stretches less than knitting–but still it stretches. Ask anyone who wore a crochet bikini in the 1960s.
What are we to do?
You can purchase a ready-made strap or handle, or even a whole support system. Lots of folks take this route. (The leather and plush caged purse kits offered by Makers’ Mercantile have been flying off the shelf.)
But what if you would like the entire piece in the same yarn? What if you want to make it all yourself?
When I first started collaborating with John Mullarkey––a fiber artist known particularly for his work with card weaving––this question came up immediately, because card weaving most often produces long, slim straps. And they’re strong. And guess what else? They don’t #@$%! stretch.
Our first experiment with this was a bag made from Hikoo CoBaSi. I knit the body in a mosaic design, and John wove the coordinating strap.
I’ve been using it ever since as a model in my mosaic knitting class, and students always coo over the strap and ask if they could do something like that.
Yep. Because card weaving is a very, very accessible form of weaving.
A Few Words About Card Weaving
I can’t possibly give you a full-length introduction to card weaving (also known as tablet weaving), but here’s a tiny bit about how it works. (If you’d like to dive in on your own, check out John’s DVD.)
First, the loom. The loom is a deck of cards.
No, I’m not kidding. The loom, shown here…
…is a deck of cards.
Cards come in different shapes, but the square is the most common.
You’ll note that each corner of the card has a hole, and the holes are lettered A, B, C, D.
To warp the loom–that is, to put on the threads that allow us to begin weaving–we follow a draft that tells us what color thread is put through each hole in each card, and whether they are put through the card front-to-back or back-to-front.
Here, for example, we have a card threaded front-to-back as follows: A, light; B, dark; C, dark; D, light.
The warped deck of cards then only needs something to hold each end of the warp threads taut. This could be (among the many possibilities) two sticks in the ground; two poles; the weaver’s own belt and a tree; or clamps attached to a table.
A more portable solution is an inkle-style loom pressed into service with the beginning and end of the warp tied together, which creates a circular warp.
(This particular small loom from my collection is one John Mullarkey produces for use in his classes, but others–such as the Schacht Inkle Loom, available by special order through Makers’ Mercantile–would serve the same purpose.)
Card weaving is usually warp-faced, meaning these warp threads are going to dominate the appearance of the finished fabric.
To weave our pattern, we follow our draft to turn the cards either forward (away from the weaver) or backward (toward the weaver) so that a different hole comes into the top position.
And as we do this, different combinations of threads are brought to the top of the shed, as you can see here. These are two of the sheds used to make the strap design.
The shed, for those new to weaving, is the space between the raised and lowered warp threads that our cute little shuttle
passes through, carrying the weft thread that locks the fabric together.
So we turn the cards, pass the shuttle, turn the cards, pass the shuttle, and–if all goes well–out comes a beautiful, strong patterned band.
Will all go well?
How about we talk about that in two weeks, when we bring this adventure to a close?
Tools and Materials Appearing in this Issue
Schoppel-Wolle Leinen Los (70% Virgin Wool, 30% Linen • 328 yards per 100 gram ball). Colors: 0908 (White) and 8495 (Gray-Brown) – On sale through April 15, 2017 at 20% off for 2 or more balls!
Hikoo CoBaSi (55% Cotton 16% Bamboo 8% Silk 21% Elastic Nylon • 220 yards per 50 gram ball).
Leather and Plush Caged Purse Kit (shown in Ripe Plum–other colors available)
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, 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 Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and 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.