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Makers’ Minute – Fix A Stitch Tool

Hello Makers! In this video we learn about the Fix-A-Stitch tool! It’s the perfect size to carry in your notions bag and will become the tool you won’t be able to leave the house without having!

For the video on repairing garter stitch with this tool, click below:

To purchase the Fix-A-Stitch 3-pack, click here.

To purchase the Fix-A-Stitch 2-pack lace set, click here.

Fridays with Franklin: The Adventure of the Stealth Blanket, Part Three

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

For the first installment of this series, click here.

The design process is, at bottom, a series of questions. The more honest your answers, the better your design.

Most of the questions are Am I happy with this?

Facing the Swatch

This sixteen patch Ohio Star block is probably the largest single swatch I’ve ever knit for a project.

Stealth 3.1.jpg

As I wrote in Part Two, I liked it well enough to begin an entire quilt-inspired blanket. But an even, good swatch suggests what you might do better.

I wanted a few changes.

First: more color. There’s not a shade of Kenzie I don’t like–it’s been a favorite of mine since it was introduced. The blue and grey are perfectly handsome, but too quiet for my current mood. This blanket is going to take a lot of time to knit, so I want it to make a statement. A bold statement. A really bold statement. If I could make it dance the hippy hippy shake while singing “Ain’t We Got Fun?” I would.

Second: more heft. The Kenzie fabric is soft, drapey, and sweet to cuddle. However, I live in Chicago, in a Victorian apartment house, and I don’t use blankets as decorative accents. Come February, I use them for survival. Heavier is better.

Kenzington Calling

The Hikoo line offers a yarn I think of as Kenzie’s bigger, fancier cousin: Kenzington. The two share similar fiber blends– both have New Zealand merino, nylon, alpaca, and silk noils.* Kenzington is thicker, though; and rather than being twisted, it’s held together by what the industry calls “chainette” construction. Look at it closely, and you’ll see the strand is, indeed, a teeny weeny little chain.

Stealth 3.2

When I first wrote about this yarn, someone asked me if it’s as soft as it looks. I told her it feels like an extremely stylish angel kissing you on the cheek.

Am I happy with this?

Oh, you bet I am.

The Unnatural Colorist

Now, which colors of Kenzington to use?

There was a time when this question would have sent me straight under the bed to shiver among the dust bunnies. I am not what you would call a natural-born colorist.

I lay this partly at the feet of my mother, who had a remarkable aversion to color. Our house and most things in it were a low-key mélange of brown, tan, ecru, beige, and rust. When she was in a carnival mood, she’d throw in a dash of hunter green.

How, you might ask, could such a person be a quilter? Well…in her all-too-brief lifetime she turned out a heap of beautifully made quilts in brown, tan, ecru, beige, and rust (with an occasional bit of hunter green). Such was her taste.

What’s more, as an American boy I was conditioned to limit myself to the so-called “masculine” palette of black, grey, blue, and khaki with a touch of moss green. Unless it was a color you could find on a battleship or a rotting log, I wasn’t allowed to wear it.

I overcame this to become a knitter who is in middle age perhaps almost too fond of mixing colors together in my work. In fact, these days I teach other knitters how to do it. It’s not–as I used to think–an arcane talent with which one must be born. You can learn, if you apply yourself a little and mess around a lot.

Coloring the Block

Here’s how I did it for this project.

I started with a color I really liked: Color 1015 Boysenberry, the purple.

Stealth 3.3

I chose it for no other reason than that: I liked it. I figured I would enjoy knitting with it.

I had an idea that this would be the dominant color in the star; but I didn’t want it to stand alone. I wanted a second, closely related color, and reached for Color 1027 Takahe, the blue.

Stealth 3.4

The two are similar enough (cool, dark in value, containing blue) that a star made of both would (or should) still read as a single unit of design.

For the background, I needed something that less intense that wouldn’t draw attention to itself. Grey had worked well in the Kenzie swatch block, so it was easy to choose a similar grey, Color 1018 Seal, in Kenzington.

Stealth 3.5

If the star has two colors, why not have the background in two colors as well? Kenzington offers a pale tan, Color 1000 Pavlova, that is similar in value (very light) to the grey, and so should read well as a continuation of the background.

Stealth 3.6

This is where, once upon a time, I would have stopped. All these colors sit nicely next to one another. Nothing jars. I have learned, though, that therein lies a problem. If everything goes together too well, the mix is inclined to be quiet. That can be soothing; but just as often can be dowdy or boring. I needed a jolt energy, and that comes from adding something very different.

So into the cool mix I dropped Color 1005 Bayberry, an orange-red. This would be primarily for the diamonds between the blue-and-purple stars. There would be less of it, and so I didn’t need to worry about it overwhelming the blanket–I hoped. You never know, do you?

Stealth 3.7

Am I happy with this?

Indeed I am.

Seeing Stars

Before knitting the new patches I drew a sketch of the block, so I would know how many of each patch I’d need.

Stealth 3.8

As the patches were finished, I laid them out to watch the blocks shape up.

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When I had finished the first block, I was happy enough with it to knit the second. Then the fun really started.

My original plan was these two blocks, repeated.

Stealth 3.10

Cute, right? I mean, fine. Yeah.

Am I happy with this?

Kinda. I mean, it was…fine. It wasn’t bad. It would work.

But as long as the squares were all laid out, I figured I’d not try some other arrangements. Like this.

Stealth 3.11

Or this.

Stealth 3.12

Or even set aside the Ohio Star entirely and try something else. Why not?

Stealth 3.13

And suddenly, in my head and stomach, the happy little vibrations that tell me, “That’s it. That’s the answer,** right there.”

Am I happy with this?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Never. Stop. Playing.

I have a whole lot of knitting and sewing to do. And I think we are going to need a border to finish this thing.

See you in two weeks.

*Kenzie also includes a touch of angora.

**The answer for me. Your answer may differ, and that’s as it should be.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Kenzie by Hikoo® (50% New Zealand Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Angora, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils; 160 yds per 50g skein). Colors 1002 (Grey Salt) and 1013 (Tekapo).

Kenzington by Hikoo (60% Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils; 208 yds per 100g skein). Colores

addi® Click Turbo Interchangeable Needles

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.

 

Makers’ Minute – Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder

 

This Jumbo sized ball winder from the Strauch Fiber Equipment Co. is the BEST ball winder on the market. It’s super sturdy, made in the US, and contains no plastic parts with exception of the band, which lasts for years – and if the band wears out we sell an inexpensive replacement band.

The Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder is made proudly in the US, so you can trust the quality of this product.

So, whether you’re rolling a giant skein, many skeins into one giant ball, or your own magic ball, this ball winder will be your go to for years to come.

Buy one here!

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Katie, and this is your Makers’ Minute. Today we are talking about the Strauch Fiber Equipment Company Jumbo Ball Winder. Proudly made in the USA!

The Strauch Ball Winder has a really big advantage, mainly because it comes in this jumbo size. So for yarns that come in a very large put up, such as HiKoo Zumie which has 200 grams per bulky hank, this will actually accommodate the entire hank with no problems. Woah! That’s a big cake! Let’s say you’re a person that travels a lot, or you don’t really like winding balls and you tend to go through them very quickly. Why not just wind them together all at once?

As we said before, this product is made in the US, and it’s also extremely sturdy because it’s made of wood. No plastic! Over the years the only part that could possibly need a replacement is the drive band and replacement parts for those are inexpensive and easily available.

And there you have it! Four total balls of SimpliNatural yarn and it’s still a perfect center-pull ball. To knit from for your entire lifetime. So really this is a great winder to wind any yarn from. Whether you’re making your own magic balls, rolling up a big skein of Rub-A-Dub, or putting your entire sweater’s quantity of yarn into one giant cake. Because who doesn’t want a big piece of cake? Get your Jumbo Ball Winder right now at makersmercantile.com.

Fridays with Franklin: The Adventure of the Stealth Blanket, Part Two

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

For the first installment of this series, click here.

Today, as we continue the quilt-inspired blanket, I’m going to talk an awful lot about the S word. Sewing.

Stealth 2.1

Don’t make that face at me. I wish I had a ball of Cashmere Queen for every knitter who has said, “Oh, I hate sewing,” after she has tried it once, for about half an armhole, then got frustrated and stuffed the project into a bag and shoved the bag into a closet and then moved to a new house without opening the closet again.

I’m not saying you have to love sewing. I’m not promising you ever will love sewing. I do believe that if you give basic sewing a fair shake, you’ll be glad to have it in your arsenal when a simple seam will get you the results that you want.

Why Sew?

You might well ask why a knitted blanket must involve sewing at all. Many of you have asked. More than a few have asked indignantly, suggesting in heated terms that alternate methods (from join-as-you-go squares to garter stitch intarsia) would allow me to work the whole project in a single piece and avoid…shudder…sewing.

Those alternate methods all have merit, and the question is a fair one. So here’s my answer.

If I try to work a blanket this size in one piece, I know I will never finish it.

This isn’t going to be a bedspread, just a little lap blanket; but even a lap blanket becomes a chore to haul around once you’re about a third finished. You can’t tuck it into a pouch or a pocket. You either knit it at home, stationary, confined to what I hope is a comfortable chair. Or you find a bag big enough to encompass it (along with the long, long needles and enough yarn to see you through the long, long rows) and you drag the bag from pillar to post until your shoulders give out.

If I can work on this only when I’m at home and at rest, I’ll never finish. I have to nibble away at it, square by square, wherever I happen to be–for example, in a taxi on the way to the airport–

Stealth 2.2

or on the back porch–

Stealth 2.3

until I’ve got enough squares to amount to something. Since the basic square is so simple, light, and small, it makes a perfect traveling project.

The sixteen I made to test this idea were worked at home, on the subway, in a few taxicabs, in four airports, in three hotels, on six airplanes, in the car, in a clutch of restaurants, and in seven states.

That’s why it’s a stealth blanket. If I’m going to knit it, I have to knit it almost without realizing I’m knitting it. If that means sewing–okay, fine. I’ll sew.

But First, I Block

My childhood needlework teacher, my late grandmother Pauline, beat it into me* that successful sewing owes much to proper preparation. We have here many small squares that we hope to join into one large square.

Stealth 2.4

 

To get the best results those small squares really need to be square and equal. That means blocking them all to the same size and shape.

I prefer wet blocking, so all the squares went into a nice bath of warm water with a touch of gentle baby shampoo and sat there for about forty minutes.

Stealth 2.5

While they relaxed, I set up an impromptu blocking frame. This idea isn’t original. In fact it’s been parroted so many times I finally gave up on trying to find the originator. Whoever you are, I salute you.

You need, first, a base of something firm but penetrable–it might be a couple layers of thick corrugated cardboard, a Styrofoam block, or–in my case–a piece of insulating foam left over from a home improvement project.

On this base, use a good straightedge (mine was one of Mom’s quilting rulers) to mark out a square the size that your finished knit squares need to be. Keep in mind that we are blocking gently–don’t expect to stretch a five-inch square to seven inches unless you’re knitting lace.

Stealth 2.6

Then get yourself eight metal (and rust-proof!) double-pointed knitting needles a few sizes smaller than the needles you used to knit your squares. (Mine are eight-inch addi® double-pointed aluminum needles.)

Insert the needles into the base, as perpendicular** as you can get them: one at each corner of the square, and one in the center of each side.

Stealth 2.7

After a thorough rinse, retrieve your squares from the bath and gently press out the excess water. They should still be damp, but not sopping.
One by one, stretch them over your uprights and slide them down to the base. Soon you will have a stack of clean squares blocked to match. The sight is immensely satisfying. Take a moment to enjoy it.

Stealth 2.8

The downside of this method is that the stack can take a long time*** to dry. To hurry it up a bit, I a) blow a fan on it and b) peel off the topmost squares as they finish drying.

Next, We Plan

In assembling the squares for a blanket, we would do well to follow the wise example of quilters everywhere, including my own, dear mother.

Step One. Squares are sewn together into strips.

Stealth 2.9

Step Two. Strips are sewn together into blocks.

Here’s the plan for sewing our block, which mimics the traditional pattern many quilters call Ohio Star.****

Stealth 2.10

The arrows in the top row indicate that we first sew the four squares into a strip.

Then we sew the squares in the three rows below into three strips.

Then we sew the strips together to form the block.

This orderly approach keeps us from making grave mistakes, and also means each piece of the blanket is handled as little as possible–handling can lead to stretching, which leads to un-square squares.

Clever people, those quilters.

Then, We Prepare

Sewing isn’t knitting, even when you’re sewing two pieces of knitting together. It has a few special requirements; and if you’ll just take care to meet those you’ll be well on your way to success.

Light. Sewing needs a lot of light–in general, more than you need to knit. You can feel your way along a row of knitting, even in a dim lecture hall or a dark theatre. In sewing, you must be able to see clearly where the next stitch is to be taken. The usual table lamp in the living room may be insufficient. Work in good daylight, or under the very best artificial lighting you can muster. This is especially vital when working with dark colors.

Surface. Most of us knit with the work–even when it’s large–in our laps. Very small bits of sewing might be that portable; but you’ll do best to sew a blanket with the aid of a work surface. Do what you can to clear a level, stable area of table or desk to hold your supplies and the piece in progress. As you begin to sew the strips together into the finished block, the table will support the fabric and keep it from stretching. You’ll be able to focus on your stitches, not managing the bulk.

Length. Don’t reel off 50 inches of yarn to sew a 40-inch seam. The maximum length of yarn or thread to work with is somewhere between 20 and 22 inches. Longer than that, and you will suffer snarls, knots, and kinks sufficient to make you wish you had never been born. What’s more, long strands of knitting yarn may well weaken or wear through from repeated pulling through the fabric, and your seam will break.

Now, We Whip

I like to sew yarn to yarn with yarn–in this case, the blue (Color 1013, Tekapo) of my two-color pairing of Kenzie. My needle is the same I use for weaving in ends.

The stitch is whip stitch. It has many virtues. It is quick, easy, strong, flexible, and the same on both sides. Pattern writers from the great flourishing of knitted counterpanes in the nineteenth century usually called for blocks to be whipped together, and they knew what they were about.

Read these notes first.

General Notes. You will work your seam from right to left–unless you are left handed, in which case you may prefer to work left to right.

If you knit your squares according to the recipe in the previous column, you’ll find you have created slipped-stitch edges that look like elongated stitches. I chose this edge in part because it will help you see where to sew. When you take your stitches, always take them under both legs of that slipped edge stitch.

Stealth 2.10

Don’t make your stitches too tight or too loose. You want an even tension that brings adjoining squares together with a firm but supple seam. Tight stitches will make the fabric pucker and stiffen. Loose stitches flop around shamelessly and leave gaps in the work. If after you work a seam you find your tension isn’t quite right, use the tip of your sewing needle to adjust the stitches. Nobody else needs to know.

Now, we sew.

Step One. Align your two pieces with wrong sides facing, and hold them in your non-dominant hand like a little sandwich. I work whip stitch while looking at the right sides, so I can really see what I’m doing.

Step Two. Insert your needle at the rightmost corner of the piece nearer to you, as shown. Pull the yarn through, leaving a five-inch tail hanging from the work.

Stealth 2.11

Step Three. Insert the needle at the rightmost corner of the further piece, from the right side to the wrong side. In the same motion, bring the needle under the edge stitch immediately to the left of your first stitch in the nearer piece. Note that you are pointing the needle directly at yourself as you do this. Pull the yarn through until the selvages of your pieces just kiss one another. Mwah!

Stealth 2.12

Step Four. Repeat Step Three, taking your next stitch in the further fabric under the edge stitch immediately to the left of your first sewing stitch. Proceed in this way to the end of the seam, taking one sewing stitch under every edge stitch your selvages.

Stealth 2.13

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Step Five. When you reach the end of the seam, cut the yarn leaving a five inch tail. Weave in both tails on the wrong side just as you weave in any loose ends on your knitting.

In Summary. *Insert needle from far side of work to near side under both slipped selvages and pull yarn through. Repeat from *, moving one slipped selvage stitch to the left to begin the next sewn stitch.

And At Last…

When the squares have become strips and the strips have been joined, we have a blanket.

Stealth 2.15

Well, we have a blanket square. Fairly large–mine measures 21 x 21 inches. Nice for a big pillow cover, or a mat for the new baby to lie on while it does neonatal yoga.

Stealth 2.16

I love the yarn. The design and construction have proven themselves worthy. But there’s one thing I’m not crazy about…the color. Rather, the lack thereof. This is fine. But I’m in a mood lately for lots of color. Not two colors, even two pretty colors like these.

I’m also thinking I’d like to try this in a slightly heavier yarn, to make the blanket really deluxe. But after sixteen squares, can I bear to start over?

Enter Kenzie’s beautiful big sister, Kenzington.

Stealth 2.17

Yeah, baby. Yeahhhhh. See you in two weeks.

*But don’t get crazy. If you find yourself using a square, level, and plumb, you are overthinking it.

**Not an exaggeration. I have a dent on my head where the yardstick landed.

***Eternity.

***Names of quilt blocks are like names of knitting stitches. They abound, they vary, they contradict. You might well call this block by another name, or you might well know a different block as Ohio Star. What a world, my friends. What a world.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Kenzie by HiKoo® (50% New Zealand Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Angora, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils; 160 yds per 50g skein). Colors 1002 (Grey Salt) and 1013 (Tekapo).

Kenzington by Hikoo® (60% Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils; 208 yds per 100g skein).

addi® Click Interchangeable Circular Needles

addi® 8″ Aluminum Double Pointed Needles

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.

Makers’ Minute – Neko Double Pointed Needles

These Neko Double Pointed Knitting Needles will blow your mind! Learn why these ground breaking DPNs are the perfect match for all your small circumference knitting in the round needs!

Browse Neko Needles!

Transcription

Welcome to the new Wednesday home of Your Maker’s Minute. As always, I’m Katie, and today we’re going to be talking about these super cool Neko thumb-pointed needles. They’re bent?

Unlike traditional double-pointed needle where it’s usually a set of five, small, straight needles, this is a set of three, longer, curved needles.

Are you more of a visual person? Not to worry. The back of the packaging has all the needles in action to demonstrate just how to use them. These needles are great for anything you need to in the round that’s small circumference. So, hats, socks, sleeves, small cowls, perfect.

This actually makes a circle. So while four double-pointed needles, or even three double-pointed needles will make a circular fabric, this is actually entirely circular, causing less stress on the fabric over-all. It’s also really easy to keep track of which needle you need to knit off of, because there’s only one needle where the yarn is knot. Now as we know, you always want to knit to where the yarn is knot. Neko, the name of the company, is actually a Japanese word for cat. Thanks college!

These needles are in a large range of sizes; from small for socks, and large for bulky hats and cowls, and even extra-long, just for those projects that call for a few extra stitches.

You can find the entire selection of these Neko needles right now at makersmercantile.com.

 

Fridays with Franklin: The Adventure of the Stealth Blanket, Part One

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

I often wonder that more knitters do not keep Life Lists in the way that ardent bird watchers do.

A birder’s Life List is (as the name implies) a tally of all birds s/he has definitively spotted. But many Life Lists are also aspirational; they include all the species that might be spotted in a neighborhood, in a country, on a continent, or (for the extremely ambitious) around the world.

Completing that kind of Life List could require a trip fraught with expense and discomfort solely to check one little box. Behold, at last I have seen the Speckle-Breasted Willie Warmer. Check.

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Me, I have a running tally–in the form of my Ravelry projects page. Yes, I have knit a square shawl, a triangular shawl, a circular shawl, cuff-down socks, toe-up socks…Check, check, check, check.

You probably have one, too. Ravelry project pages are common as corner houses. But what about a list of the things I haven’t knit? What’s missing? I started taking stock.

Would you believe it turns out I’ve never knit a blanket?

Again and Again and Again

I have knit bits of blanket. In other words, I have finished a piece here and there that, had I knit many more of that piece, and sewn them all together, I would have made a blanket.

My problem is that I am not by nature a knitter who thrives on repetition. I can finish a second sock, because my feet are small, my socks go quickly, and the idea of stopping after only one makes me feel abashed and ridiculous. But when I meet someone who tells me she’s making her eleventh shawl from the same pattern, all I can do is stand and blink. Eleven of the same thing? Eleven? How do you do that?

Mother Was a Quilter

My late mother, bless her memory, thrived on repetition. She often fixed early in the year on a single project–an electrified ceramic Christmas tree, a macramé hanging shelf, a suite of framed floral cross stitch miniatures–and would turn into a one-woman gift factory, turning out two dozen identical specimens for delivery to friends and relations well in time for December 25. She was always organized and she never sweated.

I did not inherit any of this from her.

Near the end of her life she discovered quilting and went into orbit. Precision! Repetition! Protocol! It was an art form she’d been born to explore. Sadly, after two years and a dozen perfect quilts, she was gone from us forever. Four uncompleted projects were still sitting, waiting, in her sewing room on the day she died. Along with her pin cushion, just as she’d left it.

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Knitting Patchwork

I got to thinking that I might like to make a patchwork-inspired blanket as an homage to Mom. I would knit it, but I’d take my design and construction cues from quilting.

One of the most common design units in quilting, often the first a new quilter is taught, is a square patch made of two identical triangles, like this:fwfw stealth 3.jpg

I’ve sewn a lot of these. I’d never knit one, but I knew it wouldn’t be difficult. Just do up a square on the bias, changing yarns halfway across. It’s such a simple idea I know I can’t be the first person to try it. I’m probably not even the twentieth. But I didn’t rush off to Ravelry to check. When I do something like this, I’d rather find my own way if I possibly can. Do I reinvent the wheel sometimes? Sure I do. I also learn a heck of a lot more about how stuff works.

Square Recipe

I sat down with one of my favorite tweedy yarns – Hikoo® Kenzie, and a size US 6 (4mm) addi® Click needle that I guessed would give me (your gauge may vary) the kind of garter stitch I like: firm. You want the fabric in a blanket to drape, but not droop. Loose garter stitch tends to stretch in a frowsy fashion I find extremely unattractive.

As to the yarn choice, the Kenzie has what I consider to be an ideal fiber mix for a luxurious blanket. The merino and alpaca are both soft and warm. The nylon is durable and resists stretching out of shape. The angora gives a hint of halo without obscuring the stitches. And the silk noils, which take dye so differently than the other fibers, give the yarn a shimmer that adds depth without glitz.

After a few attempts, I’d refined my two-triangle square to give it equal amounts of both colors (oddly enough, by using slightly more of the second color), and four nice sharp corners.fwf stealth 4.jpg

Since I was working in garter stitch, for increasing I used Elizabeth Zimmerman’s make one: create a backward loop with the working yarn over the right needle. When you encounter this loop on the following row, knit it through the back.

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It’s quick, it’s simple, and in garter stitch fabric it pretty much disappears.

Here’s my recipe for one 5.5 inch square.

Gauge: 4 sts / 8 rows = 1 inch

Yarn: Kenzie by Hikoo (50% New Zealand Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Angora, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils; 160 yds per 50g skein). Color 1: 1002 (Grey Salt), Color 2: 1013 (Tekapo).

First Triangle

With C1, cast on 3 sts.

Row 1 (RS) Knit.

Row 2 (WS) Slip first stitch as if to purl with yarn in front, make 1, knit 1, make 1, knit 1. (2 stitches increased.)

Row 3 (RS), Slip first stitch as above. Knit across, knitting the increases from the previous row through the back.

Row 4 (WS). Slip first stitch as above, make 1, knit to last stitch, make 1, knit 1. (2 stitches increased.)

Repeat rows 3 and 4 until you complete the WS row that gives you 35 stitches.

Break C1, leaving 5-inch tail.

Transition Rows

NOTE: Do not slip the first stitches of these rows.

Row 1 (RS). Join C2. Knit across, knitting the increases from the previous row through the back.

Row 2 (WS). Knit across.

Second Triangle

NOTE: Your shaping rows will now be right side rows.

Row 1 (RS). Slip first stitch as above, slip-slip-knit, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. (2 stitches decreased.)

Row 2 (WS). Slip first stitch as above, knit across.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you complete the WS row after decreasing to 5 sts.

End of Square

Row 1 (RS). Slip first stitch as above, slip 2 stitches together as if to knit, knit the next stitch, pass the slipped stitches over the knit stitch. Knit the final stitch. (2 stitches decreased; 3 stitches remain.)

Row 2 (WS). Bind off as follows: slip first stitch as above, knit the following stitch, pass slipped stitch over–2 stitches. Knit the next stitch, pass the previous stitch over–1 stitch. Break C2 and pull end through.

Block and weave in ends.

Play With Your Blocks

This patch is wildly versatile. It can be arranged in so many different ways that entire books have been devoted to it. I knit sixteen–which was, in itself, a milestone for me–and spent a pleasant afternoon arranging them in different ways.fwf stealth 6.jpg

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These aren’t nearly all the possible combinations–just some I that I tried. I love a project that allows you experiment with changes in direction as you move along. The first thing you try out is so seldom the thing that works best.

Mind you, this is still not a blanket. It’s just a pile of squares. They need to be sewn together, and there needs to be more of them. Many more. Many, many more.

We’ll talk about that in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Kenzie by Hikoo (50% New Zealand Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Angora, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils; 160 yds per 50g skein). Colors 1002 (Grey Salt) and 1013 (Tekapo).

addi® Click Turbo Interchangeable Needle Set

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.

 

Makers’ Minute – Dye Kits by Botanical Colors

Katie talks about the amazing dye kits from Botanical Colors, a Seattle based company! This dye is great for yarn, fabric and more! They’re all natural and come in a range of kit options, and are the perfect way to dip your toes into the world of dyeing!

To purchase kits, click here

To see available classes, click here

Transcription

Hi, I’m Katie with Your Makers’ Minute and this week we’re talking about our own natural dye kits and classes that we have to support your learning experience. This natural dye extract kit by Botanical Colors is a really great way to introduce yourself to dyeing. This will dye approximately 3 to 4 pounds of fabric, so you’ll have lots of practice. Open up the kit and you’ll find powders to make:

  • Rich purple logwood
  • Lac
  • Cutch

And bottles of liquid dye like:

  • Saxon blue (it’s in the indigo family)
  • Fustic. Fustic is used to make the khaki uniforms of all of our favorite military people (at ease soldier)

You’ll also find a packet of aluminum sulphate and cream of tartar. But the best thing is this very helpful sheet of paper. The front side tells you all about fiber preparation. The backside gives you approximations on how to mix colors which you might want. If taking on this challenge by yourself seems a little overwhelming, not to worry.

 

Our very own Rhonda teaches a class on this very kit. To find when this class may next be offered, go to makersmercantile.com and search for hand-painting fabric class with Rhonda. If you need help finding one of our dye kits for signing up for one of our classes, feel free to call this number below and one of our Makers’ Mercantile employees will be happy to help. Thanks for joining me on this Makers’ Minute and I’ll see you next time.

Fridays with Franklin: The Adventure of the Warp with Two Brains, Part Four

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

For the first part of this adventure, and to find out who the heck Mary and Sylvia are, click here.

You’ve seen the fabrics I created for Mary and for Sylvia, and you’ve seen how they were made. You haven’t yet seen what happened once those fabrics came off the loom.

Spaced Out

This was my first shot at two projects on a single warp, so as part of my project planning, I checked out different ways to deal with the transition from one to the next.

I chose the one that seemed easiest: I cut a piece of typing paper to twice the desired depth of my fringe–a number I’d worked out as part of my warp calculations–and slipped it into the warp when Mary’s fabric was finished.

Brains 4.1

When the whole megillah came off the loom, here’s what I was left with between scarf one and scarf two.

Brains 4.2

All I had to do was slice that unwoven passage right down the center and blammo, two scarves, plus fringe.

Except I hadn’t left enough space.

The unwoven stretch was exactly, precisely, beautifully twice the desired length of my finished fringe. My finished fringe. Finished after knotting.

Knotting requires extra yarn. Moreover, this fringe was so short that no amount of sweating, swearing, wishing, and hoping would allow even my doll-like fingers to tie it up.

I gave up and went to bed, hoping that perhaps tiny mice might come in the night and take care of it for me. I even left my copy of The Tailor of Gloucester on the work table as a hint.

Brains 4.3

And the next morning, as if by magic…

Nothing.

Stupid mice.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Okay, fine. No fringe. If no fringe, then what? Throw it all out and start over? I won’t pretend the thought didn’t cross my mind.

After about an hour of Cookie-Assisted Meditation (CAT), I settled on the idea of making both lengths into what these days are commonly called “infinity scarves”–closed loops of material, usually long enough to be doubled around the neck. If I sewed the ends together, I wouldn’t need fringe.

But I’d still need to secure those cut selvedges, or the fabric would unravel in finishing. That was the first order of business.

In weaving, there’s a popular alternative to knotted fringe called hemstitching. Now, hemstitching tutorials always tell you to that you must do it while the fabric is still on the loom. As my fabric was lying in a forlorn heap on the work table, that ship had sailed.

However, I realized after reading through a bunch of different accounts that hemstitching is closely related to one of the first hand sewing stitches I’d ever learned–blanket stitch, which is a sibling of buttonhole stitch. Both blanket and buttonhole stitch share a common purpose: they keep cut edges from unraveling.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Here’s how blanket stitch works, in two steps. Really, there’s no difference between Step One and Step Two except that the former begins by tacking the sewing thread to the fabric. (Tacking is taking a series of very small stitches all in one place. It’s preferable to a knot–far more secure.)

You’ll notice I worked from left to right, which is the usual direction. If you are left-handed, you will probably want to work from right to left.

Brains 4.4

When I was finished–it didn’t even take that long*–I had a reasonably secure selvedge,

Brains 4.5

and a quick but careful pass with my rotary cutter reduced the ends to a minimum.

Brains 4.6

I did this on both cut edges of both scarves. This gave me fabric stable enough to wet finish (soaked and agitated in hot, soapy water in the sink; rinsed; and pressed flat with an iron through a cloth to dry).

I pressed “Sylvia” gently, from the flat side, on top of two layers of fluffy towels, which helped to avoid flattening the loop pile too much.

Closing the Loop

To sew the long rectangle into a loop, I wanted a seam that would be as strong and as unobtrusive as possible. I also wanted those cut selvedges to be protected from abrasion.

There are a few seams that will do this; I chose the one that seemed the best bet for working by hand* with this fabric: the flat felled seam.

Step One

The first step in our flat felled seam is to align the ends of the scarf as you’ll see below: wrong sides together, with the selvedge of the end closer to you one half-inch below the selvedge of the other end. Pin your ends in place.

Sew yourself a nice, strong seam (I used backstitch) just below the selvedge on top, and press your seam** with an iron.

Brains 4.7

Step Two

Fold that back selvedge–the one sticking up–towards you and down so it meets the lower selvedge. Now you’ll have a folded flap 1/4 of an inch high. Press** this fold.

Brains 4.8

Step Three

Fold that flap down again (it will now be resting on the surface of the scarf) and use back stitch quite close to the folded edge to sew the flap down. Press** the seam.

Brains 4.9

What you end up with is a strong, small and (how delightful) reversible seam that encloses both selvedges completely.

My seams weren’t absolutely perfect, but you know what? I think they look pretty presentable.

Brains 4.10

Action Shots

And now, a moment of unadulterated honesty.

I sat looking at the finished pieces

Brains 4.11

and thinking that I still, after all this work, didn’t like “Sylvia.” Of course, Sylvia liked “Sylvia,” but I thought it looked…weird. And not fun weird, just weird. That’s not a nice feeling.

Sylvia stopped by in the afternoon on the way to her Esperanto poetry workshop for a fitting. I had her put on “Mary,” first.

Brains 4.12

“I’ll take this one, for sure,” she said, stroking it the appreciatively.

“That’s spoken for,” I said. “But this one has your name on it.”

She tried it on, and I’ll be darned…

Brains 4.13

That’s what it needed. A person inside it. Looped and draped, the fabric came roaring to life–and frankly, was a little more interesting than “Mary.” A complete reversal of opinion on my part. The scarf I’d hated became the scarf I preferred.

There’s a little lesson in there, I suppose. Knowing your own taste is very good. But allowing yourself to experiment and be surprised is even better.

We start a new adventure–a knitting adventure–in two weeks

Brains 4.14

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

*If you’re wondering about options for securing the selvedge with a machine stitch, there are many. Many weavers like a zigzag or short straight stitch. However, I prefer to work by hand when it’s practical; and a lot of you who are reading this don’t have access to a sewing machine. Always keep in mind–what’s done by machine now was done by hand for centuries. The machine may be a marvelous convenience, but the hands are no less useful for all that. Don’t let the lack of a machine stop you from doing anything.

**Perhaps you are wondering if you really, really must press the seams. Not at all. If you would like to end up doing twice the work with twice the trouble for results half as satisfactory, you may skip the pressing.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Trekking (75% New Wool, 25% Nylon; 3.5 oz/100g per 459 yds/420m). Colors: 210 (Buff) and 240 (Red).

Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom (15 inch) with optional 12-dent reed, by Schacht Spindle Company

11-inch Slim Closed-Bottom Boat Shuttle by Schacht Spindle Company

The Women (1939). For information on sources, visit the official IMDB page .

About Franklin Habit

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.