Monthly Archives: February 2019

Fridays with Franklin: Nineteenth Century Knit-Along, Part Three

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

For the previous installment (Week Two) of the knit-along, click here.

Here we are in Week Four, the final week of our Nineteenth Century Knit-Along. We need to cap our project with its final edging.

Before that, though, let me tell you some more about what you’ve been working on.

The designer of the piece is Jane Gaugain, one of the most important figures in the history of knitting. She has often been called, and with reason, the mother of fiber arts publishing. Okay, I’ve called her that a lot.

Here’s why.

Jane Gaugain (born Jane Alison, in the early 19th century) was a Scotswoman who was born into a tailoring family and married an Edinburgh haberdasher.

After her marriage, she went to work in the family firm, and was instrumental in turning it into a thriving operation. Among the lines sold from the Gaugains’ premises were needlework supplies, including fine, gorgeously dyed merino yarns from Germany that became known in the English speaking world as “Berlin wools.”

Jane realized that to sell more wool yarns, she needed to provide her customers with knitting patterns–and so in the 1830s she began to distribute them. A subscription volume (a sort of forerunner of the Kickstarter) of mixed patterns in the late 1830s proved so popular that in 1840 she published an expanded version of it entitled, The Lady’s Assistant in Knitting, Netting, and Crochet.

For more about Jane, I highly recommend Kate Davies’ excellent article “In the Steps of Jane Gaugain.

It’s The Lady’s Assistant from which our pattern was taken, albeit in an adapted form. I was thrilled to tears (no exaggeration–I cried) to find my copy (the later edition of 1846) on a trip to Cambridge, England, in a shop that let it go for a reasonable price because it was outside their specialty.

gaugain-book-cover.jpg
gaugain-book-titlepage.jpg

The original name of the pattern was “Pyrenees Knit Scarf,” and the original differed in several respects from our modern version.

• It was wider. The cast on was 125 stitches.

• It was done in multiple colors. Mrs. Gaugain specifies white and blue.

• It was longer. The suggested length was “about two yards and a half.”

• And it had tassels. The finishing included “drawing up at both ends, and attaching a tassel thereto.”

The pattern called for Berlin wool, but a note at the end suggests “glover’s silk” as an alternative–this being a yarn in a weight similar to that of the Berlin wool, but spun from (did you guess?) silk.

Jane was a pioneer in committing to the printed page what had most often before that been passed along directly from knitter to knitter, by spoken word and demonstration.

Her quick mind and gift for organization are evident from the first. She made handy use of abbreviations (using existing type–so that, for example, a symbol for a knitted decrease could be inverted to indicate the purl version of that decrease). She organized many of her more complex patterns row by row.

And although it certainly could not be said to be charted, there is a hint at charts to come in the way the Pyrenees Scarf pattern is laid out on the page.

Here it is, in full, as printed in my copy.

original-pattern-01

original-pattern-02

original-pattern-03.jpg

Finishing Your Scarf

Once you’ve finished the Final Edging, you’ll want to wet block your scarf. Otherwise, no matter how lovely your knitting has been the thing is going to look like a very large and elegantly dyed length of crumpled toilet paper.

Pretty much all knitted lace requires blocking, but lace with patterning on every row requires it especially. I wondered how much of a trial this was going to be. I love the results of blocking lace, but I won’t tell you the process makes me jump for joy.

Here’s what I did, and what I recommend you do.

1. Fill a perfectly clean receptacle (this may be a large bowl, a sink, a washtub, or any such thing) with tepid, clear water. If you like (I like) put in a dollop of a gentle soap like baby shampoo or a purpose made wash like Soak (available from Makers’ Mercantile).

2. Gently swish the soap into the water. You don’t need to make suds. Suds are annoying.

3.  Put your scarf gently into the water and press it down below the surface. Let it soak there for at least an hour. Two wouldn’t be amiss.

4. Once the scarf has had a nice bath, remove it from the water. Wet lace will stretch under its own weight, so support it as you lift. Imagine it’s a baby. Or a puppy. Whichever you’d rather hold.

5. Squeeze it gently to remove the excess water. It should be damp, but not sopping.

6. If you haven’t used a no-rinse product like Soak, rinse the piece in a bowl of clear water. Then remove and squeeze, as above. Otherwise, go right to the next step.

7. Now, here’s the beautiful thing. Most lace needs to be pinned out while damp. Jane Gaugain doesn’t specify pinning. In fact, she says nothing about blocking at all. What I found, to my delight, is that the wet Infinito expanded (as superwash wools like to do) under its own weight.

All I did was lay it out flat on a smooth surface, and gently smooth and pat it to the finished dimensions. I used a yardstick to make sure it was square from and even from end to end.

Had I pinned it, it would be a little longer and little wider, and a bit more open. But I was so happy with the un-pinned results that I didn’t bother. I just left it there (in my case, on a little-used kitchen island on a couple of clean towels) until it was mostly dry.

Then of course we needed to use the kitchen island, so while the knitting was still a little damp I draped it over the shower curtain rod in the guest bath.

If you aren’t using Infinito, you may want to pin your piece out. Soak it, lay it out without pins, and see what you think.

Given that we wanted to keep this project within the bounds of one skein, I didn’t elect to gather-and-tassel as prescribed. If you’d like to try that, and/or to try another scarf closer to Mrs. Gaugain’s original vision, I’d love to see what you do.

The Pattern

Enjoy the complete version of the Nineteenth Century Knit-Along scarf pattern by either updating to the latest version on Ravelry HERE, or by downloading the complete pattern via the Makers’ Mercantile website:

downloadnowbutton

Here ends our knit-along. I thank you for coming to play with us. Would you like to do this again? What shall we do next? Post your suggestions in the Ravelry group…

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Infinito (100% extra fine merino, 550 yards [500m] per 100g hank), shown in Colorway 2
Soak Wool Wash

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 Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist 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.

1 Fridays with Franklin: Nineteenth Century Knit-Along, Part Two

fwf-logo-columnsizeWelcome to Part Two of our Nineteenth Century Knit-Along!

I hope you’ve had fun with the Beginning Edging. If you’re just tuning it, you’ll find it here.

Your work in that section will have prepared you very well for our next stage: the center.

 

The center section contains by far the most knitting, so we’re allotting two full weeks to it.

kal-lace-center

Before you charge forward, I’d like to offer some tips for success.

Count Your Stitches

The number of stitches is the same in all rows. Get into the good habit of stopping every so often to count how many you have. It isn’t difficult to think you’re moving along perfectly, only to find that you’ve accidentally eliminated or added a stitch or two. Usually, the culprit is a missed decrease or a missed yarn over.

If you count, say, every ten rows or–better still–every five rows, you can catch the error in time to save yourself a great deal of ripping out.

Use Lifelines

It’s seldom advisable, when ripping out lace is necessary, to simply pull out the needle and rip. Especially in work like this, with yarn overs on every row, the fabric will collapse like a house of cards.

My advice?

Stop regularly, every ten rows or so, and put in a lifeline.

This is simple to do.

First, cut yourself a nice length (about 20 inches will do) of a smooth yarn that looks nothing like your Infinito colorway. As to weight, I prefer something pretty hefty–worsted or DK would be lovely. Fiber content doesn’t matter much, so long as the yarn isn’t sticky–so stay away from mohair, angora, and the like.Thread this scrap yarn onto a tapestry needle.

Once you have counted your stitches and made sure the row of live stitches currently on the needle is complete and correct, run the scrap yarn through every one of those live stitches (EVERY one) including yarn overs.

Make sure, once you’ve done that, that you have a nice amount of scrap yarn tail hanging on either side of the work, so the natural movement of the knitting won’t cause your lifeline to slip out. Some knitters like to tie the ends of their lifelines in a simple knot to secure them. I don’t. It’s up to you.

I demonstrate putting in a lifeline in this handy video:

What’s the lifeline for? Well, if you have to rip out a section, you can remove the needle and rip back to the lifeline row. It may save time, as opposed to un-knitting stitch by stitch.

Take Care in Un-Knitting

If (and when) you do need to un-knit, keep in mind how a decrease was made when you set about undoing it. You need to
reverse that process.

So, for example, to work a left purl decrease (lpd), we do this:

Purl the first stitch, move the yarn to the back of the work, and return (slipping as if to purl) the stitch to the left needle; pass the next stitch over the purled stitch, and return the stitch to right needle. 

To undo that lpd, we:

Move yarn to the back of the work; pass the decrease stitch to the left needle; pick up the passed-over stitch with the right needle tip and carry it right to left it over the purl stitch. Return the the purled stitch to the right needle, move the yarn to the front of the work, and un-purl the stitch.

I’ve prepared a video of this, for those who would like to see the process in action. Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it. You’ll need it at some point in this adventure.

It takes a bit of thought and practice. You can do it. Keep calm. 

And now, part two of the pattern: The Center. Since there is so much ground to cover with this portion, the final installment will be posted two weeks from today.

Get the latest version of the pattern HERE. You’ll find the instructions for the center on page two, under the heading “Center.” They’re quite concise. You’ll see…


Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Infinito (100% extra fine merino, 550 yards [500m] per 100g hank), shown in Colorway 2

Maker’s Mercantile Tapestry Needles (Set of Five)

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 Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist 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.

 

2 Speckled Hat

Speckled Hat

Fling Cowl

Fling Cowl

Each Kinky Yarn project is two projects in one. First, the fiber is dyed, and then it is knitted (or crocheted, or woven... the possibilities are endless! In this project, Kyle experimented with dyeing the yarn in its coil.

The Fling Cowl uses an easy knit/purl stitch that allows the color shifts to shine through. This project requires knitting knowledge including cast on, knit/purl, working in the round, and bind off; all on circular needles. Follow the links below to download the pattern and tutorial, and gather the supplies needed to make your own version of this cowl. Post 

2 Kinky Techniques

Kinky Techniques

Experimenting is part of the fun! Check out some of the different ways we have dyed Kinky Yarn!


Sharpie Marker Dyeing

  • Just the Facts
  • Longer, Bantier Version

Speckled Yarn Dyeing


The Kinky Yarn

What is "Kinky Yarn"

This super fun yarn is all kinky and ready for fun! It arrives to you like this: a 12-stitch knitted tube of superwash wool is rolled into a coil and is just begging to be dyed. Read our fun poem and be inspired. 

100% Superwash Wool
200g / 133 meters / 147 yards
12-16 sts and 20-22 rows = 4" on US 10-13
(6.0 - 9.0 mm) needles

We invite you to experiment! Add color with conventional dye.. or paint... OR get curious! What would happen if you soaked Kinky Yarn in a tray of red wine? Red wine stains, right? Does it dye yarn?

How about Easter egg dye tablets? Would they disperse color if poked between the coils? 

Hmmm. What happens if you use Sharpie markers and then soak the yarn with rubbing alcohol? 

Answer these questions and many more with us as we explore the possibilities with Kinky Yarn. 

Wait!
You may first uncoil it,
but premature unraveling
could definitely spoil it.

Speckle it with a brush,
or dip it in some dye,
have a little fun; don't be shy.

Now, it's time to unravel,
(no, it's not a sin),
just be sure you knit
those kinks right in.

Wear your finished attire
with confidence and sass,
knowing you and your custom
piece, are totally badass.

2 Fridays with Franklin: Nineteenth Century Knit-Along, Part One

fwf-logo-columnsizeWelcome, everyone, to the first “Fridays with Franklin” Knit-Along at Makers’ Mercantile.

I could not be more delighted at the number of you who have chosen to join us. Our journey will be into, and through, a pattern from the early days of knitting as we know it–knitting as a pastime.

The history of knitting is awfully sketchy. Our beloved craft has been very good at keeping out of both the written and visual records. Nor does as much of the work itself survive, certainly far less than we would wish.

That makes the occasional glimpse of it all the more tantalizing, but does mean our timeline is more full of holes than…well, than this thing we’re about to knit.

feb-kal-2019-websize (2)

What we do know is that the widespread adoption of knitting by hobbyists–people, mostly women with leisure time, who knit because they wished to rather than because they had to–emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century.

This woman, handsomely dressed and comfortably seated in her bourgeois drawing room, is emblematic of this new species of knitter.

lace-knitter
Prior to the late 1830s, we find no knitting books as we think of them today: collections of patterns aimed at instructing the amateur at home. Then…kaboom! They were everywhere. What happened to bring on this sudden flood? More on that in a later installment.


For now, here’s what I’d like you to know.

When I teach classes on working with nineteenth century patterns, one of the first obstacles I encounter is the physical appearance of the patterns themselves. They look horrible. Pages crammed full of cramped type, few illustrations (if any), and archaic terminology that befuddles the novice.

This isn’t our pattern, it’s not even from the book our pattern came from, but it’s pretty representative of what you get from the 1840s through about the 1870s.

old-pattern.jpgThe common impression is that because these patterns look primitive, the objects they generate must also be primitive, or at least clunky.

But they’re not.

One of the reasons I chose this particular pattern for our knit-along is that it is relatively simple while also being fabulously inventive.

As I rummaged through my collection looking for likely projects, I was able to envision (as you likely do with modern patterns) what was going on, even without the benefit of a photograph.

Reading through this piece, I could see that the structure wasn’t unusual. The basic unit of lace knitting is an open increase (a yarn over), and a corresponding decrease. Unless a yarn over is being used to shape the garment, it will always have a corresponding decrease somewhere in the fabric. It might be close by or far away, but it will be there.

A bit of scribbling on my graph paper confirmed what I suspected from reading. This stole used the standard unit of yarn over-plus-decrease to create lacy chevrons, like this.

chevrons-illo

That is the single most common arrangement in all of lace knitting. It’s day one of learning to design lace.

This wasn’t a novel prospect, but hey, it could be pretty.

Then I noticed how many different forms of single decrease (in which two stitches become one)  there are in the pattern. And the designer is very, very specific about them–she does not merely say to decrease, or narrow–which was quite common at the time. She tells you exactly which decrease to use where.

Now, that was intriguing. Why do that? There could be many reasons. It could be a fault of the designer–needlessly complicating what could have been quite simple. That happened then, just as it happens now.

So I cast on a swatch, and after one full repeat I was hopping up and down like a little kid at his birthday party. Because these decreases–one of which I had never seen before–didn’t merely keep the stitch count consistent. They actually changed, significantly changed, the appearance of the fabric. The chevron structure was there, but the finished lace looked remarkably different.

You’ll see.

Now, a couple of notes before you begin. I know, it’s more reading–but skip these at your peril.

Winding Your Infinito

Our official yarn for the project is Infinito, available in the United States exclusively from Makers’ Mercantile. The structure, colorways, and fiber of this yarn made it a perfect companion to the pattern, and one skein will give a about a five-foot long piece if your gauge (see below) is akin to mine.

Infinito is a yarn specially dyed to give a sloooooooooow transition from one color to the next. The beginning of the color repeat is marked by an undyed (white) passage which, depending upon where you start winding, will either be at the beginning or end of your wound ball.

This white yarn is not meant to be knit with. It may simply be cut off. It is not included in the listed yardage of your skein.

Swatching

Patterns for shawls and stoles often say “exact gauge is not vital,” and it’s true that you have more leeway in a non-fitted piece than you do in, say, a sweater. However, as this is a one-skein piece, I do urge that you swatch for gauge. (You’ll find the recommended gauge in the pattern link below–but hang on second before you scroll down, okay?)

We’ll keep it fuss-free. With needles that seem like they’re about the right size, cast on 24 stitches and work in garter stitch until your work is about 4 inches long. That’s not very much knitting, honestly.

When you’ve got that finished, take your gauge measurement. You don’t need to bind off the swatch, or block it. In fact, take care not to stretch it. Just measure. If you’re off, go up or down a needle size and try again until you get into the right neighborhood.

Then pull out your swatch, and cast on with those needles.

Casting On

Our cast on is the designer’s preferred method–the knitted cast on. Is it lovely and stretchy? No. Is it simple? Oh my, yes. Do you have to use it? I recommend that you do, as the appearance of the finished edge depends upon it, and it also allows you control how much of a yarn tail you’ve got left when you’ve finished casting on. Keep it to between six and eight inches.

If you have not done a knitted cast on before, please allow me to offer this instructional video.


The Decreases

No joke, please listen, it absolutely matters in this pattern what decreases you use. If you substitute decreases that you prefer, but the designer did not order, we cannot be responsible for what you end up with. It might be fine, it might not be. We dunno. So please use the prescribed decreases.

Some of them will be familiar, like dear old knit two together (k2tog) and purl two together (p2tog).

Others, like lpd–which I hadn’t encountered even with all my rooting around in the nineteenth century–are likely unfamiliar now, but will be old friends by the time we are through.

None of these decreases is particularly difficult to master, so don’t worry.

Here they are.

Slp-slk-k2tbl: Slip as if to purl, slip as if to knit, knit two together through the back.

Lpd: Left purl decrease.

Dbl dec: Double decrease.

The Pattern

Now, about the pattern. In order to make this knit-along as accessible as possible, the pattern will be posted as both line-by-line instructions and as charts.

Neither is a superior way of working the pattern.

The original version of the pattern–which you’ll see at the end of of the knit-along–was written line-by-line, as knitting charts are for the most part a twentieth century innovation.

Use whichever you prefer.

If you use the charts, please note that:

  • Patterning occurs on almost every row.
  • For this reason, you will see that almost all rows after Row 1 are charted.
  • Read and work every row in the chart beginning at the number for the row. If you do not do this, you will not get the correct result.

Without further ado, we now present the overture–our Beginning Edging. (Part Two of the pattern will appear in one week.)

fwf-81-kal-hem

Gather your yarn, needles, and notions, and head on over to the Ravelry group!

Get the pattern HERE(Note: all pattern updates will be delivered via Ravelry)

Join the discussion HERE.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Infinito (100% extra fine merino, 550 yards [500m] per 100g hank), shown in Colorway 2


 

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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