Fridays with Franklin: The Zitron Art Deco Challenge Part One, Get Shorty

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

My first idea is seldom my best idea.

I started my three-part Zitron Art Deco challenge with knitting. It felt good to be back on familiar ground again after so much crochet.

Mind you, I’m increasingly fascinated by crochet. But I’m in that Slough of Despond I reach whenever I’ve learned enough about a new craft to want to play with it, yet haven’t learned enough to get very far on my own.

My challenge is to take this self-patterning yarn…


…and use three techniques (knitting, crochet, ZoomLoom weaving) to mess around with the patterning that Zitron intended. Their pattern is very handsome; I’m just a congenital contrarian.

Now, commercial self-patterning yarns most often assume three things:

1) you’ll be knitting stockinette,
2) you’ll be knitting at an “average” gauge (not notably tight or loose),
3) you’ll be making rounds or rows of “average” length (not notably short or long).

So the first and easiest way to break the self-patterning is to choose a texture other than stockinette. Even switching to garter stitch will incite a metamorphosis.

I didn’t feel much like playing with very loose gauge, and only a die-hard masochist would undertake very tight gauge. I picked a needle I figured would give me decent garter stitch and cast on.

It’s also fun to see what happens to self-patterning yarns when you employ any method that pulls a stretch of yarn out of what would otherwise be its accustomed row. Knitting into the row below will do it; so will slip stitch knitting.

Slippy McSlipstitch is three rows high.

In all my years of knitting I’d not yet tried what you might call extreme slip stitch, in which the stitches to be slipped are given extra yarn (usually through double, or even triple, yarn overs); and then these stitches are slipped on three, four, five, or even six (or more) rows.

That’s where I started, and the result was okay.


It’s not unattractive. With some elaboration–changing the frequency of the slipping, or varying the lengths–it might become quite interesting. It didn’t grab me, though. I was mildly curious about what else to pursue along this line, but only mildly.

Is mildly enough?

There’s one other tactic you can take with self-patterning yarns. Rather than breaking up the pattern–which is really a carefully organized form of color pooling–you can keep the pooling, but change the way it shows up.

I was thinking about this as I set out to once again clean up the samples in my workroom. The ad-libbed short row purse liner from Cage Match came to light,

Cage Purse with Knitted liner in various Makers’ Mercantile yarns and fabric lining by Cotton + Steel.

and I wondered if I might not just use the same technique–building of up a fabric made of continuous short-rowed motifs–to alter the pooling and patterning in Art Deco.


I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of short rows here–if you’d like to know more, do click over to read the Cage Match series–but in brief, I decided I’d try knitting a fabric built up gradually from small short row lozenges like this.

Many turns make a lozenge.

The early stages were, as early stages in any repeating fabric often are, ungainly. When I teach motif design, a point I hammer home is that a repeating motif only begins to sing when you let it repeat.

One round of lozenges wasn’t much too look at. It wasn’t enough knitting to even bring every color in the color way into play.

You’ll notice there are also little passages of stockinette mixed in with the garter. At first, this was a mistake. It happened because I turned the work and knit in the wrong direction.

You may have heard, though, that a mistake repeated regularly becomes a design element. I thought, why not keep it and see what happens?

So the fabric grew.

And as it has grown larger, I have found myself very pleased indeed. The self patterning is there…it’s just not there in the way the maker intended.


I like this so much that when the challenge is complete, we will put the pattern together–it’s a cowl, worked in the round–and issue it right here on the Makers’ Mercantile blog.

Meanwhile, the second part of the challenge–crochet–is under way with Art Deco in Color 05. I’ll show you in two weeks.


Where Are They Now? – An Occasional Look at Past Projects

I am pleased to report that the embroidered Tunisian crochet pillow (in HiKoo CoBaSi Plus) is giving excellent service as a companion to loafing and napping. It still looks as crisp as the day it was finished. Please enjoy this action shot starring Rosamund.

We have plans to eliminate the remaining ugly green throw pillows as quickly as possible.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Art Deco (80% Virgin Wool, 20% Nylon; 437 yards per 100 gram ball). Shown in Colors 01, 02, and 03.

Makers’ Mercantile Leather Purse Cage (shown in Brown)

addi Click Turbo Interchangeable Needle

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. He will lead his own knitting cruise to Bermuda in September, 2018.

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.

7 thoughts on “Fridays with Franklin: The Zitron Art Deco Challenge Part One, Get Shorty

  1. Your designs are always fascinating and Fridays with Franklin are always better than plain Fridays.

  2. I love getting ‘hooked’ and never ‘needled’ reading your fantabulous Friday articles. Thank you! Love a fun and informative read…

  3. Love the resulting pooling and mistake stockinette! Why design a lovely new dress for the green pillow? That way an old friend can still be part of the family.

  4. What a lovely “accident” to happen upon your postings. You’re a delite. I’d like to subscribe to your blogs, etc, please. Thanks

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