All Posts by Makers' Mercantile

1 Fridays with Franklin: Hotter, Wetter, Bigger

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

For the first part of this series, click here.

Those two weird little scraps of artfelt were encouraging, if less than beautiful.

 

fwf-79-piece01-finished

One of the two test scraps. It’s a start.

You ought never to allow wobbly first attempts at anything discourage you from doing more. The first question to ask is, “Did I enjoy myself? Or, at least, do I think with practice I might enjoy myself?”

If the answer is yes, the next question is, “What shall I do now?”

I already had a goal, of course, which was to felt some yardage to reupholster this little footstool.

fwf-79-footstool

Taking it apart wasn’t difficult. The outer fabric was tacked down, and not very elegantly.

stool-01

Beneath that was what may have been the original fabric–a funereal floral brocade in ratty shape, smelling distinctly of nicotine. It’s probably haunted.

stool-02

Beneath that, happily, was the padding–in fine condition, and not smelling of anything nasty. I let it air outdoors for a few hours, which my grandmother always recommended for any textile that had been covered or boxed up for a long time.

stool-03

While that was going on, I considered the new fabric. What should it look like? This stool will be next to my knitting chair in the living room. Here are some vignettes of the décor as it is.

montage
As you can see, my tastes run to the slick, the radical, the avant garde.

Ha ha ha. No. My house looks like it was decorated by someone’s prissy-yet-mildly-adventurous Great-Great-Great-Aunt Tillie, who had the largest collection of doilies in the tri-county area.

Why not try to felt a design reminiscent of those arabesques and curlicues and fantastic flowers in the carpet?

So I sketched (roughly) something of the sort on the artfelt paper. Nobody told me a I couldn’t, so I did. If you had a light box, or even just window, you could trace designs on the paper.

drawing
The dimensions of the artfelt paper, by the way, were based on the dimensions of the original upholstery fabric–about 17 inches by 14 inches.

measure-paper
Based on the shrinkage I’d measured in my test swatches,  I added an additional two inches either way so the finished fabric would be large enough for the stool.

I wasn’t sure exactly how to build the design, so I decided to start by outlining the motif with the background color. This is the way I was taught to hook rugs. Rug hooking and felting are not the same thing at all, but it seemed like a logical place to start.

felt-outline

I jabbed my fingertip once with that felting needle. I shall try very hard never to do it again.

That went fine, so I got down to filling in the flowers (?) and leaves (?) and buds (?). I used the sketch as a rough guide, while also allowing the wool to go where it wanted to.

felting-01

felting-02
Please don’t go nuts trying to figure out the botanical name of this plant, because it’s an utter fantasy.

felting-03

felting-04

In case you’re wondering, this didn’t take long at all. I allowed myself breaks, and left the house to do errands and walk Rosamund, and still it was finished in an easy afternoon.

felting-05

At this point, I wobbled. I was pleased with bits of it. The curves came out better than I’d expected. I liked the colors. It even resembled, somewhat, a flower.

But it was so furry. Unpleasantly so. Like someone had done terrible things to a beloved pet with hair dye.

I soaked it, wrapped it, and popped it into the dryer for thirty minutes (see the previous installment for more detail on the artfelt process).

Then I forgot about it.

It would have been sensible to put it into one of the dryer’s timed settings, so that the dryer would buzz after, say, the first fifteen minutes. Then I could unroll it and check the progress.

No. No, I didn’t do that. For reasons I cannot begin to explain (that will be the title of both my autobiography and the miniseries based upon it) I put the dryer on a setting that just keeps on chugging until you tell it to stop.

That’s not a great idea when you have, as I do, the persistence of memory of a goldfish.

So, one hour and twenty minutes later…

finished-01

I cannot say I was displeased. In fact, I was so pleased I did a dance. I am beginning to understand why so many people love felting.

finished-02

I try like the dickens not to use the word “magic,” as we fibery types fling it around way too much. But this change in the material did feel–alchemical. The bizarre patch of wet fuzz had become rather a pretty piece of fabric, looking somewhat like watercolor. And all I had done was spin it in the tumble dryer.

finished-03
It was also two inches two short in both directions to cover the frigging footstool.

finished-04
On the one hand, this is immensely frustrating.

On the other hand, I get to do some more artfelt.  I’ll show it to you next time we meet. See you in two weeks!

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Makers’ Mercantile Felter’s Wool Roving (50g hanks)
Bryson Felting Needle #38 gauge, 3 1/2 inch
artfelt Paper
artfelt Tackboard

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.

2 Fridays with Franklin: Hot and Wet

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

“Fridays with Franklin” is all about experimentation, but this latest project–this is way out on the edge for me. I’m going to be playing with “artfelt” (the lowercase is official), a felting process that–so I have been told–allows even a novice to make interesting and possibly even beautiful felted fabrics with a minimum of fuss and botheration.

I have never felted anything before–not even, though I may be tempting fate by saying this–not even by accident. But I have a project in mind.

Ages ago, I found this little footstool at vintage shop near my apartment.

fwf-79-footstool

It needs some love. There are minor joinery issues to address, which I can handle. Then there is the upholstery, which is neither original nor attractive nor well done.

I’d like to make this a piece of furniture I can use, and in fact I need it–I’m so short that when I sit back in my favorite knitting chair, my feet don’t touch the floor. I want to reupholster it with handmade fabric.

Knitting and crochet don’t make the right sort of fabric for upholstery. I could weave, but I’ve only just done some weaving and I want to try something new.  Karin Skacel (yup, THAT Skacel) has done an entire armchair and ottoman in artfelt…

f271c1f5def31561a72def675c03c2f4--upholstered-furniture-art-furniture

What an odd place to put an armchair.

…so I figure that even I, who have no clue about this stuff, should be able to do something about a tiny footstool.

We’ll see.

Testing, Testing

Now, I’m not going to give you a complete artfelt how-to tutorial here. First–have I mentioned this?–I’m a newbie. Second, Karin Skacel (yup, THAT Skacel) has a complete tutorial on video:

I am going to tell you, this week, what I did to test the process and begin to get a feel for it.

First, something about the tools. The artfelt process is all about wool, and I used Makers’ Mercantile’s own line of felter’s wool roving.

fwf-79-woolroving

It’s lovely stuff–equal in quality to any decent roving I’ve bought to spin with. In fact I was tempted to spin with it. But no, one must focus. One must not flit off to another craft.

fwf-79-bunny

No. NO.

The other tools you need for artfelt are these freaky looking needles with barbs on the shaft…
fwf-79-bunny02
I SAID THE OTHER TOOLS YOU NEED FOR ARTFELT ARE THESE FREAKY LOOKING NEEDLES WITH BARBS ON THE SHAFT…

fwf-79-feltingneedle

…and artfelt paper. The paper is the key to whole thing–it holds your fibers in place before the actual felting begins. You can buy it many sizes, and in fact you can buy it by the yard. I cut out two small (four by six inch) sheets for my test.

fwf-79-artfeltpaper
It was important for me to know the starting size of my pieces, because even I knew that the felting process means shrinkage. To make enough felt to cover the stool, I had to know how much paper at the beginning would give me sufficient yardage in the end.

In addition to the wool, the needle, and the paper, you also need a surface to support the work. Ideally, this ought to be an artfelt Tackboard, but I didn’t have one. What I did have was a piece of upholstery foam that’s intended to become a cushion for the back porch next summer. I decided to try it while waiting for my Tackboard to arrive.

I put the paper on the foam. I pulled off a bit of roving…

fwf-79-paperonfoam

…and put it on the paper…

fwf-79-felting-01

…then I stabbed the roving into the paper with repeated jabs of the needle. Jab jab jab. Stab stab stab! STAB! This was, I must admit, both fun and therapeutic.

The needle pushes the fiber through the paper, and the paper holds it in place. Here’s what it looks like on the reverse.

fwf-79-felting-02.jpg

I was surprised at how little stabbing it took to hold the wool in place. This wasn’t exhausting, nor did it take very long–a mere minute, maybe less.

I kept adding more wool. I was curious about things like blending colors, so I laid one over the other. I changed the direction of the fibers. I added a curlicue. In other words, I messed around.

fwf-79-felting-03

fwf-79-felting-04

fwf-79-felting-05.jpg
Here’s the reverse side.

fwf-79-felting-06
It’s nice to be able to mess around the first time you try something. In fact, I’d say it’s vital to be able to mess around. There were no stakes with this test fabric. It could be beautiful, it could be disgusting.

The point was to get a feel for the materials and the process. Until you know something about those–no matter what your craft–anything good you make will be a happy accident.

My first piece of paper ended up like this.

fwf-79-piece01-prefelt

I trimmed the wispy edges. Not sure it was necessary, but it pleased my inner neatnik.

The layer of wool was on the thin side (about a sixteenth of an inch), and I wasn’t sure if it was enough to give a stable fabric. For the second piece…

fwf-79-piece02-prefelt
…I deliberately added about twice as much wool. It was about an eighth of an inch deep where I piled it on most heavily.

To this point, you’ll note that artfelt is a completely dry process. I appreciated that. One thing I disliked about wet felting when I’d seen it done was the slopping around with wet wool. A purely personal reaction–just not my cup of tea.

artfelt, by contrast, let me work on a dry table with dry hands. It was all very tidy. Nice. Pleasant.

After you’ve got the wool in place, a piece of artfelt is soaked thoroughly and then rolled in plastic. In her tutorial, Karin says something thicker than plastic cling wrap is advisable, so I cut up two old sandwich bags (having first washed out the crumbs) and secured the ends with rubber bands.

fwf-79-rolledfelt

Two rolls ready for the dryer.

I love Karin’s suggestion of using a nylon trouser sock to hold the rolled-up pieces; but in this house nylon stockings are not much in evidence. So for this test I popped them into a cotton project bag and tied it shut.

Then, into the dryer. I used a medium heat, and checked the progress every ten minutes. I haven’t got a shot of the first two checks because I got wildly overexcited and forgot to take pictures.

But here are the pieces after thirty minutes.

fwf-79-piece01-30mins

Piece One, still wet, after 30 minutes in the dryer.

fwf-79-piece02-30mins

Piece Two, still wet, after 30 minutes in the dryer.

At thirty minutes, I felt (ha ha) the fabric looked ready. The loose fuzz was gone from the surface. The fibers felt thoroughly melded. The paper was nearly dissolved.

So I completely removed what remained of the paper with boiling water (again, see Karin’s video demonstration) and left the pieces to dry.

Here’s what I got.

fwf-79-piece01-finished

I didn’t roll Piece One quite right, so that left edge flopped over and felted to itself. A good lesson to learn now, on a test scrap.

fwf-79-piece02-finished

Now, neither of these is going to win a beauty contest. To my eye, “blending” the fibers takes one rather in the direction of dryer lint. Not pretty. I’ll aim to keep colors separate in my next attempt to give a clearer, neater result.

The first piece, with the thinner layer of fiber, resulted in a fabric stout enough to be durable but flexible enough to be cut into a garment (it would make a decent scarf) or wrapped around a cushion.

The second, thicker piece would be better for something like a hat or felted bowl. Good to know.

As to shrinkage, both pieces ended up at about 3 inches by about 4 3/4 inches–a significant change from 4 inches by 6 inches. I’ll use that information in the future to estimate how much paper I need to cover in order to end up with a sufficiently large finished fabric.

Verdict so far: This artfelt stuff is fun. It’s (amazingly) quick. And it’s wonderfully easy to learn.

So…shall we try it for realsies?

See you in two weeks!

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Makers’ Mercantile Felter’s Wool Roving (50g hanks)
Bryson Felting Needle #38 gauge, 3 1/2 inch
artfelt Paper
artfelt Tackboard

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.

Fridays with Franklin: Wandering Star

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

As I write this, I’m packing for the final leg of a marathon teaching travel that began in May. With less than 36 hours between getting home from an engagement in California (Stitches SoCal in Pasadena) and departing for an engagement in Minnesota (Vogue Knitting Live! in Minneapolis), I’ve been focusing on a small, light project that I can pick up and put down easily, and that fits neatly in a corner of a crowded shoulder bag.

Socks must be the most popular travel project in all of knitting, and my obsession with embroidered socks continues.

Not long ago I worked a pair of socks with duplicate stitch bees in Zitron Trekking XXL Sport

bee-sock

…and liked the effect so much that I immediately started knitting a second pair in the same yarn, this time in color 1496, on the same set of Addi FlexFlips.

I didn’t even know what I’d embroider on them, I just knew that I would embroider on them. These plain, solid socks just seem to be asking for it.

The bee socks were worked in duplicate stitch (described in detail here). The result was extremely satisfactory. For this blue pair, it seemed a shame–what with this being a column about trying new things–to just repeat the technique.

Instead, I reached for waste canvas.

canvas-sheet

Ah! An uncut sheet of waste canvas! So many possibilities.

The last heyday for waste canvas, so far as I know, was in the 1980s. My mother used sheets and sheets of it to embroider sweatshirts. I remember ducks with gingham bandannas, teddy bears, hearts, daisies, and other exponents of le style country kitchen.

She used to wear these dainty, whimsical creations with an old pair of jeans while she was using her favorite chainsaw to prune the trees in the backyard. My mother was a complex woman.

Waste canvas is an evenweave fabric that allows you easily to work even cross stitch on any fabric you can embroider. Unlike duplicate stitch, cross stitch over waste canvas isn’t tied to the gauge of the knitted fabric–or even the grain of it. Nor do you have to use an embroidery yarn of the same weight as the yarn in the knitting.

That was an attractive idea, given the number of Edwardian cross stitch motifs I’d love to have swirling around my ankles. (Gryphons and cupids, anyone?)

You can see in this close-up how the stuff is structured.

canvas-close

Waste canvas close up. The warp (vertical) includes a blue thread in every fifth pair of threads. Stitches are taken at the intersections of warp and weft pairs.

The warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) have the same number of threads per inch (therefore, evenweave). In the weft, every fifth pair of threads includes one blue thread, as an aid to your counting.

I decided to test a small cross stitch design on one of the blue socks. This motif came from a 1905 filet crochet book, in which it was a tiny part of a large and flamboyant border.

sock-star-02
The sock wasn’t a swatch, but this design was. I didn’t want to commit to anything large and fancy without a test.

I cut out a piece of waste canvas slightly larger than the motif and marked the horizontal vertical and center lines with sewing thread.

center-mark

I used more sewing thread to baste the canvas to the sock over the ankle.

basting
And when you’re embroidering on a tubular piece of work like a sock, it’s sound practice to put something inside the tube to prevent your stitching through the opposite side of the work. Had I been at home, I’d have used one of my mushroom-shaped darners. Since I wasn’t I reached for a convenient piece of cardboard provided by the hotel.

cardboard
Then I stitched.

first-half
The cross stitch here is no different than cross stitch on Aida cloth–the fabric most modern embroiderers use for the technique. You make your stitches over the intersections in the waste canvas, using a sharp needle. For a fingering weight yarn like the Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock, my favorite is a size 18 chenille needle. It has a large eye through which the yarn fits readily, and a sharp point that slices neatly through the knitting without abrading it unduly.

second-half
Of course, it was at this moment that I realized the stitches along the horizontal center of the motif are crossed in a direction different than that of all the other crosses. A major no-no in good cross stitch.

I keep telling myself, This is just a test. It’s just a test. It’s just a test.

When your cross stitch is finished, for good or ill, you pull the canvas out of the work. I usually start by removing the basting and marking threads, and clipping away some of the excess canvas.

trimmed

Then, with a tweezer, I begin to pull the canvas threads. It usually seems to work best if I start at the right or left edge and pull vertical (warp) threads first.

first-pull
Then the horizontal (weft) threads get pulled.

second-pull

Until at last your stitching stands on its own. This is very psychologically satisfying. I always get a shiver of delight. Even if you must admit that your stitches could be more even, and perhaps you should not do this ever again on a plane flying over mountains.

fwf-78-newsletter-photo

Working over waste canvas is a straightforward and pleasant process, one I highly recommend. By no means should you limit it to handknits. I often use it to fancy up (for example) store-bought or hand-me-down baby and children’s clothes that need that little extra something.

finished-starsock.jpg
I think this little star is just fine, but I’m encouraged to dream bigger. And weirder. The old pattern books are beckoning. There’s a cherub in a chariot. A peacock in a spray of acanthus leaves. A head of Pan in a Greek key border. These are not the sort of things you find in off-the-rack men’s socks, and that’s exactly what I want.

And so the experiment continues.

See you in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock Yarn (75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Nylon. 459 yards per 100 gram skein.) Shown in Color 1476 (bee and star) and Color 1496 (sock).

Waste Canvas, 8.5 count from Charles Craft

Size 18 Chenille Needles

addi FlexiFlips flexible knitting needles (length 8 inches, shown in size US 0)

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.

 

 

Fridays with Franklin: Butthurt No More

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

For the first part of this project, click here.

It’s been months since I used my Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom and a pile of HiKoo Llamor to weave this…

yardage-folded

…which was intended to cover a cushion to sit on the chair that stands by the desk that Jack built. I mean that I built. I mean that is in my workroom.

The delay would have been far more inconvenient had I not spent most of this time away from home, teaching. A chair you cannot sit in cannot make your butt ache.

When my butt and I returned home for a spell, I readdressed myself to the task at hand. At butt?

Which Button?

I like cushion covers to be removable so that they can be laundered easily. Some like zipper closures, I like buttons, in part because buttons are cute.

Makers’ Mercantile offers every one of the hundreds of styles of Skacel buttons. I chose these square sweeties from the Corozo line.

fwf-77-newsletter-photo

The turquoise calls to one of the minor colors in the fabric, and the square silhouette and holes echo the spare structure of the chair.

chair
You might well say that I put too much thought into choosing a button. I say that asking questions like, “What is the perfect button for this cushion?” keeps me from asking less pleasant questions like, “Hey, was that mole on the back of my arm there yesterday?” and “What is my purpose in life?”

What Size?

The seat of the chair is about 13 inches by 12 inches, and the fabric was 13 1/2 inches by 37 inches. That made the layout for cutting straightforward, since all I wanted was a dead simple cushion. I snipped 10 inches off the length of the fabric, and sewed up the cushion like this.

fwf-77-howtosew

Three steps. No rigmarole. Fold, fold, sew. The proportions in the drawing are off, I know. That’s not the point. But thanks all the same for pointing it out, you pedantic busybody.

That’s it.

fwf-77-sewing-finished
Sometimes, that’s enough.

Buttonholes

What I want to focus on today is buttonholes. I have a sewing machine, and the sewing machine makes perfectly good buttonholes. With an attachment. An attachment that is kept in a drawer. A drawer Over There, not Over Here where I am sitting.

I have used the buttonhole attachment. It works well. When I have a lot of buttonholes to make, the sewing machine’s buttonhole attachment is a jolly convenience. Before I use it, I have to fetch it from the drawer (Over There) and then dig out the sewing machine manual (which is Elsewhere) and refresh my memory as to how the attachment fits on the machine and how it works.

When I have a measly five buttonholes to sew, and I don’t want to get out of my chair and unveil the sewing machine, then go get the attachment and the manual, I’d rather do the dang things by hand.

I don’t know why, but buttonholes give some folks the heebie-jeebies–like they’re wildly complicated, or frightening, or prone to attain sentience and challenge you to a duel.

They’re not even slightly tricky. Try two or three on a small scrap of fabric and you’ll never again think twice about making a buttonhole by hand.

Here’s how you do it.

First, you need to mark your buttonhole’s location and length. On more typical piece of fabric–say, a woven cotton I’m making into a shirt–I’d either a pencil or tailor’s chalk to do this. Or, if I need to carry the project around for a while, I might mark them with thread so there’s no worry about the marks rubbing off.

This fabric, though, is very thick and fuzzy and none of those would work. So I marked each buttonhole with a pair of pins each, like so.

fwf-77-pinmarks
Okay, so you’ve got your buttonhole-to-be marked.

fwf-77-step-01

The pins mark the left and right end of the buttonhole-to-be.

Next, you’re going to make some tack stitches (simple, straight stitches–don’t worry) around the boundaries of the buttonhole. Long ones at the top and bottom, short ones at the right and left.

Check this out:

fwf-77-step-02
The numbers give you the order of the stitches. Bring your threaded needle up from the wrong side of the fabric at Point 1, then down at Point 2. Then up at 3, and down at 4. Up at 5, down at 6. Up at 7, down at 8. Up again at 1. Your tacks are complete, and you’ll have matching rectangles on the right and wrong sides of the fabric. Don’t cut your thread–you’re going to use it to finish sewing the buttonhole.

Stage two is working buttonhole stitch over the tacks, all the way around. You’ll be using the same thread, of course, but in the drawing I used purple so you can see how the buttonhole stitches sit over the tack stitches.

fwf-77-step-03

Don’t know how to work buttonhole stitch? Not a problem. It’s really easy. One step. I used it, decoratively, on the crazy quilt pillow. There’s a diagram with instructions here.

Now, a word on proportions. To make this drawing easy to understand, I’ve set the top and bottom lines pretty far apart. In a perfect buttonhole–the sort my grandmother expected me to make–inside edges of those lines of stitching would be about a thread apart.

fwf-77-buttonhole=closeup

Grandma was very particular about this. Grandma was very particular about most things. My buttonholes had to straddle one thread in the muslin (her practice fabric of choice) or they had to be ripped out and done over. Oh, what larks we had!

But you know what? The idea that a buttonhole must be made perfect, or not be made at all, keeps a lot of otherwise fine people from experiencing the joy of buttonholes.

So you know what? Forget perfect. Just try it. Make it the best you can, with those lines as close as you can comfortably get them. Then move on to this next step: cutting.

Get a sharp, small pair of scissors–embroidery scissors like these or these work well–cut in the space between the top and bottom lines of buttonhole stitches. Cut all the way across. Just don’t cut the buttonhole stitches.

fwf-77-step-04
That’s it. If you do that, you get a buttonhole. It’s a rush, let me tell you. So do it. Get a scrap of fabric and try a couple. Don’t worry about making them perfect. Never mind what my grandma said.

Because making a cruddy buttonhole teaches you more about making buttonholes than reading about making buttonholes. And the more you make, the better you’ll get.

So I had buttonholes. Here is one.

fwf-77-buttonhole

Imperfect, but probably good enough to keep grandma from haunting my dreams.

Then I sewed on the buttons.

fwf-77-buttons-sewn
I slid the form into the cover and buttoned it all up. Wow, that felt good.

fwf-77-cushiondone

I might put ties on it, using leftover fabric. Honestly, though, I’m quite pleased.

And then I had to leave home again before I could photograph the !$%*@ cushion on the !$%*@ chair.

See you, with a new project, in two weeks. Wherever my butt and I may happen to be.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Llamor Yarn (100% Baby Llama, 109 yards per 50g ball)
Square Corozo Buttons from Skacel Buttons
Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, 15-Inch

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.

1 Fridays with Franklin: The Edge of Crazy

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

For the first part of this project, click here.

It’s not often that I wish a project were larger. This one has been an exception. Every stage has been more fun than I anticipated–and the result makes me smile.

This is a small piece. I thought it would be a swatch.

I’ve carried it with me during the busiest teaching travel season I’ve ever had. It has been worked on in eleven states; in big cities and in the middle of nowhere; on land, on sea, and in the air; in view of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; next to one Great Lake, two small lakes, and a medium-sized pond with a frog in it.

It’s seven inches wide and nine inches long.

When last we met, I was working on the decorative embroidery between the patches.

fwf-76-embroideryprogress
In addition to the buttonhole stitch (open and closed) and the feather stitch, I went cuckoo and added French knots with little tails in a few places where it seemed additional frivolity would be welcome.

It was fun.

At no point did this project require me to be serious or restrained. At no point did I have to ask myself whether more embellishment would be too much, or whether I ought to tread within the bounds of good taste. This project is crazy. It says so right there in the name.

When I had finished the lion’s share of the embroidery I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to leave the swatch a swatch. I didn’t have the time (or yarn) to do an entire blanket. But I had enough to make it up into a tiny, unserious cushion cover.

Since it was an unserious cushion cover, I kept dicking around with stuff I had been told never to do. For example, a very serious knitter once warned me that in cushion covers, one must always be sure the grain of the front fabric matched the grain of the fabric. In other words, you must always arrange the panels thus:

fwf-76-grains-matched

and never thus:

fwf-76-grains-perpendicular

If one broke this rule, she insisted, one’s cushion would…I don’t know what. Explode? I mean, the horizontal grain (rows) and the vertical grain (columns) of any knitted fabric do stretch at different rates; but why would this be a catastrophe in a cover over a stable (if squishy) center?

Anyway, she’s dead now, and she was mean while she was alive. So I decided to stick my tongue out at her, posthumously, and mix the grains up like a madman with nothing left to lose:

I striped the back panel at random with every color from the front except the purple, because for about a week I couldn’t find it.

I put one-row buttonholes into the upper back panel.

fwf-76-buttonholes

Wait. That sort of looks like a superhero mask, doesn’t it?

fwf-76-garterwoman

Garter Woman! Na na NA nana na NAAAAA!

This was, of course, an excuse to play with more buttons from Skacel buttons; so I lost a pleasant hour wandering among the hundreds on offer and settled on the Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons because I was feeling both fancy and iridescent.

fwf-76-fourbuttons

Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons from Skacel Buttons

I sewed the panels together with mattress stitch, and found that the joins were fine–clean, straight, unobtrusive–but altogether too sober. Insufficiently bonkers. So I pulled out my vintage needlework books in search of a mildly bonkers edging.

A pattern collection from 1905 turned up just the very thing, a picot edge, which looks like this:

fwf-76-picotedgecrochet
and is worked like this (I quote the original verbatim–if I can make sense of it, so can you):

Make a chain of the length required, work Sg. C [single crochet] or DC [double crochet] on this, then fasten yarn with a Sg. C in the top of a stitch; chain 3, insert the hook through the top of the first chain stitch, throw yarn over the hook and draw through both loops; fasten with a Sg. C in top of next stitch, or skip one stitch and fasten whichever way makes the picot lie flat.

I wanted to crochet the edging directly to the cushion cover; so rather than make a chain, I worked slip stitches all the way around the seam line between the front and back panels and worked the rest of the edging stitches into that.

fwf-76-crochethook
You may notice that I found the purple HiKoo Sueño Worsted that had gone missing. I used an addi Olive Wood crochet hook in size US D/3.25 mm because it seemed like it would do and it was near the chair I was sitting in.

The result was a very unserious ruffled edge–ruffled because instead of obeying the instructions about making the edge lie flat, I crammed the picots in. Jamming lots and lots of fabric into a smallish space gives you ruffles. Annoying when you don’t want them, delightful when you do.

fwf-ruffle-edge
It’s kinda like the edge of the petticoats on a cancan dancer. O, là-là! La plume da ma crayon! Défense de fumer!

Then on went the buttons, one-two-three-four. In four different colors. Because in crazy patchwork, more is more.

I have heard more than one knitter say that button placement makes him nervous. This is all I do–put the upper band over the lower and insert locking stitch markers through the buttonholes to mark the place each button needs to go. Boom.

fwf-76-buttonholesmarked
Neat little buttons, all in a row. A pretty sight.

fwf-76-buttonson

In case you’re wondering where I got a pillow form of the correct size (7 inches by 9 inches), I didn’t. I cut up an old cotton sheet that was in the rag bag and sewed one, stuffing it neatly with some clean, hand-dyed wool roving that I bought ages ago at a fiber fair, and have never been able to understand why I bought it, because the colors are hideous. No, I am not going to show it to you; and no, I’m not going to tell you who dyed it.

I’m not that crazy.

Now I have this hilarious little pillow…

fwf-76-pillow-01.jpg
fwf-76-pillow-02

fwf-76-pillow-03
…and I don’t know what it’s for, though I am absolutely going to use it as a sample for a new class on knitting and embroidering crazy quilt squares. If I can’t stop the madness, I might as well spread it around.

Epilogue in HiKoo Sueño

This is was my first encounter with HiKoo Sueño Worsted and I can’t say enough good things about it.

It’s so crisp and smooth, and the colors show off brilliantly. There’s been no sign of pilling, even though the balls of yarn and the knitting itself has been dragged around the country.

Even after the cushion cover was finished I didn’t want to stop knitting the stuff, so I whipped up an impromptu cowl for Rosamund without a pattern.

fwf-76-rosamund-hikoosueno-cowl
She likes it. She likes to have clothes on, especially as the weather in Chicago turns nippy. The only thing I think I might do is line it with woven fabric to keep the floats on the inside from catching on her collar. But that’s for another column.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)
HiKoo Sueño (80% Merino Wool 20% Viscose; 255 Yards per 100g hank.)
Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons (18mm) by Skacel Buttons
addi Olive Wood Crochet Hook
Clover Small Locking Stitch Markers

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.

1 Fridays with Franklin: Still Crazy

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

For the first part of this project, click here.

The more I worked on the knitted crazy quilt square, the more I began to appreciate why crazy quilting had become a craze in the nineteenth century.

There is a freedom of invention in the work you simply don’t find in pieced quilting that commits you to, for example, create identical multiples of a half-square triangle (as I did in the Floralia Blanket). Beyond that, the decorative embroidery along the seams is a holiday of invention.

You don’t have to commit to much of anything when you’re embroidering the seams on a crazy quilt. If you have, say, fifty seams to embroider, you can embroider them fifty different ways. You can combine as many different stitches along a seam as you can fit. You can change your colors as you will. You can use floss, thread, yarn, or ribbon.

The square was looking pretty good with its combination of open and closed buttonhole stitches…

fwf-74-squareprogress
…and even on such a small piece there was still room for more experimentation.

I switched to a color of HiKoo Sueño that I’d ordered, but had rejected out of hand as being probably too stark to look well on the patches: 1111 Cream, which isn’t bone white, but would (I felt sure) appear unpleasantly cold against the intarsia patchwork.

The stitch I chose is an old favorite–and another I learned from my grandmother. It’s common name is feather stitch, and my grandmother said it was her mother’s quick decoration of choice for the collars of little girls’ blouses.

Project - Sketch 1_20

Following buttonhole and closed buttonhole (see the previous installment of this saga) with feather stitch shows us once again how often small changes in how a stitch is made turns it into something with a surprisingly different appearance. Feather stitch is really just a variation on buttonhole. Here’s how you do it.

You’ll want to imagine (or draw in, or trace with basting stitches in contrasting thread) three parallel guidelines, like so:

fwf-75-feather-guidelinesThe stitches will be worked from the top down.

At Point 1, bring the needle up on B (the center line).  Take it down at Point 2, on C (the right line). Immediately bring it up again at B, with–this is important!–the working yarn under the needle tip as shown below.

fwf-75-feather-01.jpg
If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll notice that this is quite similar to the creation of a buttonhole stitch. You create a loop of yarn on the right side of the fabric by coming up at 1 and going down at 2; and by keeping that loop under the needle as you come up at 3, you catch the loop on the working yarn and create the first stitch.

Next, you’ll do pretty much the same thing, but in mirror image.

Go down at Point 1 on A, the left line. Come up at 2 on B, the center line–keeping the loop of working yarn under the needle as you pull through.

Project - Sketch 1_19
Then do the same from C to B. Then the same from A to B. Then C to B. Then A to B. Then C to B. Then A to B. And so forth, until you have the length of stitching you desire. To end a line of feather stitch, take a final small stitch down into B to secure the last loop.

Project - Sketch 1_20

Feather stitch is lots of fun and–as my great-grandmother understood–it gives you a lot of bang for your buck, because it is quick to work and yet looks far more complicated than it actually is.

My big surprise at this stage was finding that the color of HiKoo Sueño I’d considered unsuited for this project actually worked better, in my eyes, than the others.

fwf-75-hikoosuenocream
I thought it wouldn’t do enough to tone down the unintentional 1980s Colors of Benetton brightness of the patchwork. I have to admit, it shows up beautifully.

fwf-75-featherstitched-square
In fact, I may take out all the embroidery and rework it in Color 1111.

fwf-75-featherstitch-closeup

The more of this crazy work I do, the happier I am to be going crazy.

Next time we’ll finish up the embroidery and decide what exactly to do with this piece.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)
HiKoo Sueño (80% Merino Wool 20% Viscose; 255 Yards per 100g hank.)

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.

Fridays with Franklin: Gone Sailin’

fwf-logo-columnsize

My friends, I’ve been at sea leading a knitting cruise; and we have landed in Bermuda after across seas as smooth as glass and blue beyond blue.

But as you can see below, I’ve brought Maker’s Mercantile with me.

fwf-bermuda

Hamilton, Bermuda. #placesyoucanknit

The color of Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock that I’m using, Number 1406, has proven to be an uncannily perfect match to the blue of the water and more than a few of the beautiful buildings here in Hamilton.

I’m working these as plain socks in a solid color on addi FlexiFlips, and I’m going to embroider them with duplicate stitch motifs as a sort of companion/sequel to the Bee Socks–which were also knit in Trekking XXL Sport. Yeah…I love this yarn. It’s the not just the clear colors that get me, it’s the quality. The strength. It lasts. I know I can trust it not to wear out in a month.

 

I’ll be back home soon, and see you next Friday with the latest on the knitted crazy quilt project.

3 Fridays with Franklin: More Crazy

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

For the first part of this project, click here.

The first shipment of yarns intended for the embroidery on my knitted crazy quilt square is still out there, somewhere, possibly at the bottom of Lake Michigan. The second shipment arrived intact. It’s a beauty.

fwf-74-suenodk

HiKoo Sueño from Skacel.

The square was knit in HiKoo Sueño Worsted, so I chose its little (DK weight) sister, HiKoo Sueño, for the finishing touches.

A great deal of the beauty in traditional crazy quilting lies, of course, in the purely ornamental “seams” that run along the borders between patches. The earliest guides in my collection (from the  1880s) are wildly inventive in this regard. Seams were often made from combinations of two, three, or more stitches. The effect was dazzling and rich.

inspiration

In later crazy quilts, especially those from the 1920s and 1930s, these decorations are usually far simpler, even crude.

On the one hand, this may well be because twentieth century women had more outlets for their creativity, and were less confined to the home. And that’s wonderful.

On the other hand, the quilts (in my opinion) became far less interesting and far less beautiful.

Fancy seams would be my choice for the knitted square, but as I contemplated the reality of the test piece a few things became clear.

quilt-with-hand
I am very happy with the appearance of the garter stitch fabric. When I roll all these techniques into a class, we’ll be working garter stitch intarsia. But the bumps of garter fabric present a challenge to the embroiderer–they will tend to obscure very fine details. Embroidery floss, for example, is going to sink into the crevices and disappear.

To combat that, I chose a dk weight yarn. Heavy enough to show up on the fabric, light enough (I hoped) to allow a modest amount of intricacy.

The sizes of my “patches,” though, meant I’d given myself very little room to play with. For future experiments, I’m planning on larger patches–and fewer of them.

Meanwhile, I needed to work with the fabric I’d made.

For a bold effect I chose a favorite stitch that is so easily varied that its forms can (and do) fill entire chapters in embroidery guides: buttonhole/blanket stitch.

If you’re wondering about the slash, it’s because these two stitches–buttonhole and blanket–are worked almost identically. The chief difference is spacing and scale.

Blanket stitches are usually larger, and stand a bit apart from one another.

fwf-74-blanket-st

Buttonhole stitches are usually finer, and by definition are taken so close together that no fabric shows between them.
fwf-74-buttonhole-st
In embroidery, however–as opposed to plain sewing–the term “buttonhole stitch” often designates the stitch made as an embellishment, even if the uprights of the individual stitches do not touch.

Before I go any further, I will mention that an online debate has been raging over whether what I am about to describe is truly buttonhole stitch or whether that name is more properly applied to a similar stitch worked somewhat differently. And that’s all I’m going to say about the debate, because I think it’s uninteresting and I don’t care.

Anyway, here’s buttonhole/blanket stitch as taught to me by my late grandmother, Pauline. She began sewing buttonholes for money when she was seven years old, and continued to work as a professional tailor and seamstress until she was 93.

fwf-74-pauline

Pauline as a seven-year-old schoolgirl in Smock, Pennsylvania, in the 1920s.

The plain vanilla version of the stitch asks you to imagine two parallel guidelines, like so.

fwf-74-guidelines

The upper and lower guidelines, in blue.

If you are right-handed, you will work the seam from left to right. If you are left-handed, you will work right to left. These diagrams are drawn from the right-handed point of view, because the world is unfair and left-handed people know that.

Begin by bring the needle up through the lower guideline, at the spot marked START HERE.

fwf-74-buttonhole-diagram

From there, all stitches are made in the same way. Take the needle down through the upper guideline at Point A. Bring it up at Point B, on the lower guideline.

As you bring the needle up–this is IMPORTANT, so PAY ATTENTION–make sure the loop of working yarn on the right side of the fabric is under the needle, as shown. Pull through until the the loop gently but firmly catches on the working yarn.

Repeat for length of seam. To finish, take a final stitch downward at Point C, to the right on the lower guideline.

Buttonhole stitch looked nice on the knitted square. Not spectacular, but you gotta start somewhere.

fwf-74-buttonhole-photo

Now, as I mentioned above, buttonhole’s variations are many and lovely. One of my favorites is closed buttonhole stitch, which makes tiny triangles along the seam.

fwf-74-closed-butt
In my embroidery classes, some students see these as a fleet of sailboats. Others see them as a school of shark fins. This probably says something about them, psychologically, but I’d rather not know what it is.

fwf-74-sharkfin

Please do not ever tell me your innermost thoughts.

Closed buttonhole stitch takes two steps. The first step, simply enough, is to make a buttonhole stitch.

fwf-74-closed-step-02

Closed buttonhole, step one.

Now we close the buttonhole stitch. Take the needle down again at Point A (yes, the same hole), and bring it up at Point C, on the lower guideline, a little further along to the right.

fwf-74-closed-buttonhole

Closed buttonhole, step two.

Repeat as desired. Make a buttonhole stitch, close it. That’s all.

On the knitted square, closed buttonhole looked pretty darn cute.

fwf-74-closedphoto
My favorite crazy quilt seams combine multiple stitches to make the embroidery really sing, so the experimentation will continue. I need to play with all the colors, too. Never be satisfied with your first attempt at anything.

More about that next time.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)
HiKoo Sueño (80% Merino Wool 20% Viscose; 255 Yards per 100g hank.)

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.

 

 

1 Fridays with Franklin: Butthurt

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

In my life there is (and always has been) a constant battle between the useful and the beautiful, the aesthetic and the ergonomic.

It’s no use going all Corbusier on me, either, and suggesting that I learn to appreciate household goods that are meant to be cogs in a machine for living.

I grew up in military houses decorated by a mother who used beige as an accent color, and once rejected a bedspread of pale gray striped with white as Too Busy. Carved details on furniture gave her headaches. Antiques gave her the heebie-jeebies. She was sure they were either haunted or harboring lice.

Naturally, I have grown up to become the sort of person who uses old bits of china and silver–the more floral, the better–to hold tools in my workroom. I love color. Lots of color, as you may have gathered from the beginnings of my excursion to crazy quilt knitting last time.

workroom-china

The piece with the fans and sunflowers is a British-made Aesthetic Movement toothbrush holder. Somewhere up there, my mother is gagging.

My intent this week was to show you the next stage of the crazy quilt project, but two things happened. First, the dear postman who was entrusted with the stage two yarns threw them, so far as we can tell, into Lake Michigan. I hope the fish enjoy them. Perhaps they can knit themselves little fish mittens.

Second, my workroom chair threw my butt out of whack.

Here’s the chair. Cute, right? That’s why I chose it. It’s cute.

chair

In the background is my trust Schacht Wolf Pup 8.10, nakedly awaiting our next adventure.

My workroom is in a building my mother probably would have admired. It was built as an automotive garage, and includes such charming features as cinderblock walls, rubber industrial flooring, and dropped ceilings.

That’s Chicago, baby. You get what you can get. If I want a skylit studio in a sweet vintage building, I’ll have to give up knitting for a living in order to afford it.

I figured I could warm up the space with furnishings and décor, sparse as they presently are. The chair is a key part of that. Not for me, some rolling plastic and rubber grotesquerie from an office supply chain. Heavens, no.

It was all fine until I spent a  long day in the chair, pushing out work to meet a draconian deadline–then stood up and fell right down again.

Wouldn’t you know, wood slats and a rush seat don’t offer the last word in lumbar support; nor do they cradle my aging buttocks in a manner sufficiently ergonomic to keep them happy. The sweet little chair just about crippled me.

I appealed to a local friend who is an expert in these matters, and she told me to turn the chair into a plant stand and go buy something sensible. I got all quivery and weepy.

She sighed and said, fine– if I must insist upon using it, at least pad the damn thing. That might help.

So I warped my trusty Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, because I wanted to weave the fabric for my new cushion. Because of course I did.

The yarn had been in my “Fridays with Franklin” stash since the last time I played with shadow knitting in these pages. I adore shadow knitting, in fact it’s a subject I teach with the zeal of an evangelist. But that project failed to make me happy–the theory of the mitered shadowing didn’t turn out as I’d hoped.

I kept all the leftover yarns, though, because the yarn did make me happy. It’s gorgeous stuff–HiKoo Llamor, 100% baby llama.

leftover-llamor-yarn

The sewing box isn’t an heirloom–it came from the Aumuller Korbwaren line carried by Makers’ Mercantile. There’s a link at the end of this entry.

Those colors  would punch the industrial gloom of the workspace right in the nose. There are echoes of them in some of my painted china. That shocking pink may well set the drop ceiling on fire.

I couldn’t keep my butt waiting forever, so I made the warp (almost) as simple as I could: stripes, symmetrical, tied on without any real planning. I followed my nose, putting some of each color into the mix.

warp-ties
Except I forgot the purple, because it fell off the table.

A warp like this takes a newbie like me about two hours to finish. I love the look of a fresh warp. It’s so orderly. Full of potential.

warp-backbeam
spreaders
For the weft pattern, I settled on more simplicity: eight shots of each color, forming broad stripes. To prepare, I wound a bobbin of each color (including, this time, the purple). Using a boat shuttle meant changing from one to the next was as easy as clicking out the old bobbin and clicking in the new.

bobbins
Then, I wove.

weaveinprogress

It took about four hours–maybe it would have been three if I hadn’t been watching The Crown–to whip up this.

yardage-folded

yardage-flat

The fabric is off the loom, but not finished. I need to:

• stabilize the cut ends with two quick lines of machine sewing,
• repair three or four skips (places where the shuttle went over or under a wrong warp thread),
• wet finish the fabric so it will be ready to sew into a cushion.

I’ll show you the finishing next time, though I’m just about to get down to it. This project has a certain urgency. Happy butt, happy me.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Llamor Yarn (100% Baby Llama, 109 yards per 50g ball)
Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, 15-Inch
Aumuller Korbwaren Large Cantilevered Sewing Box (one style of the many carried by Makers’ Mercantile)

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 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.

5 Fridays with Franklin: Crazed

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

All of us who make things are prone to funny little peeves and preferences.

One of mine–one that I have in fact shared with students who bring up the question of inspiration–is an aversion to pieces of needlework in which one technique tries to ape another. Knitting pretending to be crochet. Crochet pretending to be knitting. Knitted or crocheted versions of things usually (and for good reason) sewn with woven fabrics. I don’t care for it.

There’s no rhyme or reason to this aversion of mine. It’s purely personal. Instinctive.

So imagine my surprise when I was leafing through a much-loved copy of Weldon’s Practical Needlework (a late Victorian publication from England, available in facsimile reprints) and stopped at this, one of my favorite illustrations…

inspiration

…and found myself thinking, It would be fun to knit a crazy quilt.

I’m not supposed to think that. If you want to make a crazy quilt, I said to myself, then get out the rag bag and sew one.

My naughty brain would not leave the idea alone. It had been some time since I’d indulged myself in intarsia–a technique too maligned, too often considered unwieldy. This would be a golden opportunity to play with it.

Crazy quilting, if you are not familiar with it, became something of a Craft Madness in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Unlike the workaday cotton or wool pieced quilts meant as bedcovers, crazy quilts most often recycled odds and ends of luxury fabrics like silk and velvet. But any fabric could be used. The combinations found in extant pieces are astonishing. This example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is representative.

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Aletta Whitehouse Davis (1830?–1925), Crazy Quilt (c. 1885). Made in New England from silk, silk velvet, cotton, and chenille. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Reverend and Mrs. Karl Nielsen, 1962.

The scraps could be any shape. Colors, textures, and fibers were mixed at the pleasure of the maker.

The result–sometimes called an “art quilt”–was often used as a stylish throw for the parlor sofa, or might be draped over the furniture in a fashionable “Turkish corner” filled with artsy exotica.

And because a crazy quilt isn’t only about the joining of colorful bits with odd shapes, I’d get to decorate the piece with embellishments. Embellishments were fundamental to crazy quilting–the place for the needlewoman to really flaunt her creativity.

The Davis quilt is covered with embroidery and appliqué in cheerful profusion.

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Embellishment meant I could look forward not merely to intarsia, but to intarsia with stuff on it. And, as you will have noticed if you tune in regularly, I am in love with projects that allow me to combine techniques.

When I realized that after two months of daydreaming I still wanted to try this, I gave in and asked Makers’ Mercantile for a mess of HiKoo Sueño Worsted in a jumble of pretty colors.

sueno-basket

The pot basket from Big Blue Moma (you can get one from Makers’ Mercantile) is so cute I want to carry it everywhere.

This is a favorite workhorse worsted of mine. It’s warm. It’s soft, but tough. The color range is wide enough to allow craziness. It makes a handsome finished fabric.

I chose colors that I remembered seeing in old crazy quilts, especially my favorite 1880s-1890s examples.

The late Victorian crazy quilters were the most exuberant and profuse in their decorating, even including things like appliquéd paper scraps and photographs, beads and buttons, tassels and fringes, and even paint.

I didn’t know if I’d go that far, but I figured my experimental base ought to at least admit the possibility.

Crazy Knitting Without Going Crazy

Now, intarsia (if we set aside extreme examples) is not the frenetic waltz with an octopus that it is often imagined to be.

Yes, it can get kinda stringy with multiple ends hanging off the work-in-progress. But  a little advance planning keeps them nicely managed.

Me, I love intarsia; but I choose my projects carefully. The technique is wonderful for bold patterns constructed from large areas of flat color. It is less wonderful (from the standpoint of the knitter) for fussy patterns constructed from fifty billion wee bits of color.

My crazy square,* therefore, was laid out with enough shapes and colors to evoke patchwork. But the shapes were mostly on the large side, and almost no row in my chart ever had more than four strands of color in play.

Here’s my chart. There was no plan to it. I just filled in shapes until it looked like I thought it ought to.

crazy-garter-chart-v01

The collision of the star symbol and the dot symbol is unfortunate, but I was in a hurry. After I printed out a working copy to take on the road, I shaded the star squares lightly with a pencil to make them easier to read.

I also decided to work this experiment as intarsia in garter stitch. For those of you who are new to the party (welcome!) that means that in my flat-knit fabric, all stitches would be knit stitches. No purling (until the final row, but more on that later).

My reasons for this were as follows:

• The gauge of garter stitch is roughly square–the number of stitches per inch is usually about the same as the number of rows per inch.

So I could lay out my chart on a plain ol’ square grid and not worry about differences between stitch gauge and row gauge. Yes, I have access to “knitter’s graph paper” with a non-square grid; but this was easier. And it was right at hand. And as you know, if you read this column regularly, I am LAZY.

• The primary visual feature of garter stitch is the ridge formed by two consecutive rows of knitting: once across the right side, once across the wrong side.

Working my chart in garter stitch meant that the order of the colors in any wrong side row would be identical to the order of the colors in the preceding right side row. So on all wrong side rows, I could ignore the chart and just work the colors as they presented themselves. If the next stitch on the left needle was blue, I would knit into it with the same blue. Ditto for all the colors. No need to look at the chart. Simple. Easy. See, “I am LAZY,” above.

• Garter stitch lies flat.

• Garter stitch looks pretty.

• I like garter stitch.

Using garter stitch meant numbering my chart rows appropriately, like so:

crazy-garter-chart-v02

Right side rows are odd numbers, worked right to left. Wrong side rows are even numbers, worked left to right. Each row of squares in the chart is worked twice: once right to left, then once left to right.

Yes, every row of squares in the chart is knit twice. Once across for the right side, once across for the wrong side.

Now, as to the stringy bit.

Intarsia requires a separate strand of working yarn for every block of color in a given row. If you’re not familiar with intarsia at all, you might like to check out this installment of an earlier Fridays with Franklin adventure for a decent introduction.

To keep dangling ends to a minimum, one of the things I like to do is estimate how much yarn a given block of color will require, then reel off that much of it. I don’t wind these strands onto intarsia bobbins, or wrap them into butterflies. I just let them hang.

How do I estimate the amount of yarn I need for a block of color? It’s pretty simple. Takes a bit of time and counting, but it’s worth it to me in terms of time saved (in the end) and annoyance avoided.

Estimating Yarn for One Block of Intarsia

Step One. Take the yarn you’ll be using, and wrap it gently but firmly ten times around the needle you’ll be using.

needle-wrapped

Wrap that needle.

Step Two. Remove the yarn from the needle and measure how much you used for those ten wraps. That’s how much you need for ten stitches. (Let’s say, for demonstration purposes, you got a result of 6 inches.)

ruler

Measure the yarn you wrapped.

Step Three. Count up the number of stitches in that block of your intarsia design. (Let’s say, for demonstration purposes, you have 108 stitches in the block.)

Step Four. The math bit.

If you’re working in stockinette stitch (each row in the chart is worked one time), do this:

Divide the number of stitches in the block by 10. (We get 10, with a remainder of 8.)

Multiply the resulting whole number (ignore the remainder for the moment) by the number of inches you needed for 10 wraps. (We multiply 10 by 6, and get 60).

To this number, add additional length for the remainder. (Since eight is pretty near 10, I’ll add in the full six inches needed for 10 wraps. Our total is now 70.)

Add in an additional 12 inches for tails at the beginning and end.

So our hypothetical strand would be measured out to 78 inches.

If you are working in garter stitch, do as above; but multiply your total by 2 before you add in the 12 inches for your tails. (We do this because every square in our chart represents two knit stitches, not one.)

This is a loosey-goosey way to estimate, yet I’ll be darned if it doesn’t get me the right length almost every time.

The Naked Square

Once I had done up a chart, and counted the squares in each block, the knitting clicked along with refreshing ease.

I cast on using the long tail method, following the color order given in row 1.

caston

Since the long tail cast on not only casts on, but also works your first row of knit stitches, I followed it by knitting row 2 of the chart. In the photo above, I’ve just finished row six. I think it’s row six. I’m pretty sure it’s row six. Where are my glasses?

From there, it was shockingly quick work to finish the entire chart. I ended by binding off in purl, following the order of the colors, on the right side after completing wrong side row 80.

See?
quilt-with-hand
It’s not perfectly square, but it’s close enough that it could be easily blocked to square; or I could adjust the chart to make it knit up square. All part of the experimentation process.

Also, please admire my tidy backside.

crazy-quilt-reverse

If this side is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Just for fun, I put a photo of the finished square into Photoshop and multiplied it. I do this a lot, by the way, to see how a small sample of a repeating motif will look across a larger field.
crazy-quilt-repeat

It’s encouraging. This is the same square repeated, of course; but if you used the same chart, and knitted it in different colors each time; then rotated the squares as you put them together; you could achieve a finished knitted quilt with something of the non-repeating verve the original quilts offer.

I kinda hoped that would be the case.

The greatest surprise was finding that my colors were strongly evocative of the “paint spatter” Trapper Keeper I carried to school in the 1980s. This was not, I admit to you, an entirely pleasant surprise.

But now comes the embellishment, and we’ll see if we can temper the Valley Girl vibe with that. Fer shure.

See you in two weeks.

*Note that the Davis crazy quilt, like many from the time, is formed from small squares later joined into a single large square. This kept the work as portable as possible for as long as possible, and allowed for flexibility and adjustment in laying out the final design. A sensible method indeed.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

 

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)

Woven Pot Basket from Big Blue Moma

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 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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