Cage Match, Part Two


For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

Before I sat down to do up today’s column, I flipped back to Part One and found I’d written this about insert for my Makers’ Mercantile Cage Purse:

“I felt this piece ought to be as simple as possible.”

And I’d written this:

“This piece will be nothing but garter stripes.”

Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Nice Bottom

After I’d posted Options 1 and 2…



…of course Options 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 presented themselves at the darnedest moments. Walking Rosamund, waiting for the subway, showering, listening to upstairs neighbor’s kid practice her tap dancing at 4 a.m.

The more I turned over the ideas, the more I felt I’d like work the liner all in one piece. What about a bottom worked circularly? Could I do that?

It seemed to me I could.

This was my sketch.


The cast on you see referenced there is, of course, Judy’s Magic Cast on by the (let us now praise famous knitters) Judy Becker. She describes how to do better than I ever could, here at

Judy invented it as a gorgeous and fuss-free beginning for toe-up socks, but I’ve never used it for toe-up socks. I’ve used it countless times, though, as either the circular beginning of a piece I want to grow outwards from the center; or whenever I want a cast on to work first in one direction (from the bottom row of stitches), and then in the other (from the top row).

So I cast on, magically, with HiKoo Simpliworsted in 952 Peacock Tonal and begin to knit. You can imagine my delight when it worked.


(You may have noticed that the swatch, when it would no longer lie flat on one circular needle, got moved to two circular needles. A very slick designer would have put it on two identical addi® Olive Wood circulars so it would look pretty for the photograph. I, on the other hand, often make design decisions based on what’s closest to the couch. And this is a column about the realities of creativity. So here it is on one olive needle and one needle (of the same size, at least) from my set of addi® Click Interchangeables. Sue me.)

The above is what I think of as a proof-of-concept swatch–concrete evidence that the basic idea has merit. Even though I messed up the placement of my increases now and again (until I broke down and added the stitch markers), and even though I got an oval instead of a rectangle, the bottom is handsome and lies down as required.

I’m pretty sure I could move towards a rectangle by diddling the increase points, but I’m starting to groove on the idea of a curvy bag in a square cage.

Bonus: I don’t have to do a darn thing to get the sides going–just continue to work around on the live stitches, without further increases.

When I had swatched enough to convince myself this would be a suitable foundation, I decided to nail down a strategy for the sides.

Short Cut

Just garter stripes, right? That’s what I said. Just garter stripes.

Since these theoretical garter stripes would continue in the round, I’d have to purl every other row. I don’t mind purling. The bottom of the bag was purled on every other round.

But I’ve sometimes worked a “circular” piece of garter stitch with short rows. Usually I do it because my purl stitches and knit stitches are slightly different sizes. In some yarns, especially those with little stretch, that leads to “rowing out”–clearly visible differences in gauge from round to round. If I’m never purling, I’m never rowing out.

Short rows aren’t complicated. A short row is just a row you cease to knit before you reach the end. Instead, you turn the work and head back in the other direction. That’s all. Where you turn, you may form a gap in the fabric–but that, too is easily dealt with. More on that in a minute.

So, okay. I thought about using short rows in the bag to avoid rowing out. I hadn’t done it in multiple colors before. Feeling a little timid, I joined a new color to the bottom. Before I knew it, I was a bored with the idea of stripes.

I mean, stripes. Come on.


Even in all these different yarns and colors, stripes are just stripes.

What if I really pushed the short row idea, building up areas of each color before moving on to the next? Could I do something like this?


Only one way to find out.

Short ‘n’ Curvy

I decided to try this process for each new section of color/yarn.

1. On the right side, join in the new color (here, it’s HiKoo Simpliworsted in 033 Red Hat Purple) and knit some number of stitches. My first thought was to make it a pretty random number, since this a random jumble of leftover yarns I’m working with.


2. At the end of this first row, perform a wrap-and-turn to help prevent a gap at the turning point. A wrap and turn isn’t difficult. Just knit to the turning point, and slip the next (unworked) stitch from the left needle to the right needle as if to purl.


…then bring the working yarn between the needle tips to the near side of the work…


…then return the slipped stitch to the left needle….


Turn the work. Carry on knitting. Since we’re making garter stitch, the working yarn will already be where you need it to be, on what is now the far side of the work. That’s it. (Note: In most stockinette stitch short row techniques, there’s a maneuver for for picking up a wrap the next time you encounter it. In garter stitch, we don’t need to do that. Yay.)

3. Make each row one stitch shorter than the previous row. Wrap and turn at the end of every row. After you’ve done this for a little while, you’ll have built up a sweet little blob of color.


4. When you feel that the blob is just about the right size, or when you can’t get any shorter with your rows, finish a wrong side row and then knit part of the way across a right side row.

5. At this point, join in a new color for the next blob, on this same right side row. You’ll be back at Step 1.

Working in this fashion will gradually take you all the way around the live stitches at the edge of the bottom–and when you’re back to the beginning, just carry on with more short row blobs in different colors until the bag is as tall as it needs to be.

Such is my theory, anyhow. How did the swatch look?

After doing this with three different colors (and two different yarns) on my swatch…


…I decided to take the piece off the needles and see what I was getting.


I’m excited. I think the curvy top selvedge is something we might want to accentuate.


With a little more swatching to refine the details, I feel confident we’ll be on the way to a fun to knit (and fun to look at) liner for the purse.

So much for keeping it simple.

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

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 ( or his Facebook page.

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