Category Archives for "Fridays with Franklin"

Fridays with Franklin: Hot, Wet, and Kinky

Fridays with Franklin logo

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

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

And so I undertook to do something further with my second cake of Kinky Yarn, which didn’t look to be too interesting since the painted bits that were so cute on the cake…

…didn’t penetrate past the exterior. Most of the strand remained untouched, as was immediately apparent when I uncoiled the cake.

strip of uncoiled kinky yarn showing limits of painting
Too much white.

Keep in mind that I am neither an experienced nor an enthusiastic dyer. My next move, therefore, was based on convenience rather than wisdom. I had used up my supplies of Textil Marabu fabric paint and Fashion Spray Marabu. So I bought the least expensive, most readily available dye I knew of.

Kool-Aid.

Oh yeahhhhhhh.

You’ve probably heard about Kool-Aid’s potential use as a dye; but in case you haven’t, here are some of points in its favor:

• It’s non-toxic.
• It’s cheap.
• It’s easy to find.
• It’s easy to use.
• It doesn’t require the use of additional acids.

And some points against it:

• It’s neither very strong nor very brilliant.
• It works only with animal fibers (it will not dye cotton, linen, or synthetics).
• Others may drink it before you can use it.
• It may tempt an enormous, anthropomorphic jug to bust through your kitchen wall.

As I stood in line at the supermarket, I realized I hadn’t made or consumed Kool-Aid since leaving home to go to college. Prior to that, I must have drunk hundreds of millions of gallons during a childhood that straddled the 1970s and 1980s.

Ours was not a progressive household where food was concerned. My mother thought whole wheat bread was un-American and my father refused to eat it. He still does. We had dinner with the kitchen television on. All our vegetables–such as there were–came from cans. My school lunches always included a gooey, unnatural cake of some kind from Hostess, and on fancy days the standard entrée of a peanut butter sandwich was replaced by the ultimate culinary luxury–a thermos full of Spaghetti-Os.

We were not, in short, the sort of family in which one turned up one’s nose at Kool-Aid. We drank it by the gallon. It was the first thing I ever made in the kitchen, and there was a violently orange Tupperware pitcher devoted to it. It was the only beverage to which we children had free access, the only thing we could take from the fridge without permission. Thirsty? Drink some Kool-Aid. Drink as much Kool-Aid as you want, was my mother’s policy–just please stay outside during all daylight hours and don’t bother me unless somebody is broken or bleeding.

This may shock younger readers. I hasten to reassure them that my mother was not uncaring or unfeeling–quite the opposite. This is just how it used to be in America, especially during the summer. Every house in our neighborhood had a Kool-Aid pitcher, and every house had a mother who wanted to be left alone from June to September.

Out of loyalty to my longtime favorite flavor, I bought two packs of Orange. I always preferred Orange. Grape was a distant second. Fruit Punch was tolerated but never loved; to me it tasted like birthday parties. The more exotic options like Lime and Apple weren’t even on my radar. I didn’t know anyone who drank those. Maybe people who ate whole wheat bread.

Enough about drinking Kool-Aid. How do you dye with it?

Kool Aid Dyeing: A Brief and Inexpert Guide

First, if your yarn is brand new, I’d give it a wash. Nothing fancy, just wash the skein–following the manufacturer’s guidelines for fiber content–with a little soap. Then rinse out absolutely all the soap. Your water should run clear.

Then soak the yarn in clean water while you prepare your dye pot.

If you are going to work with “real” chemical dyes, that’s a big undertaking and among many other precautions, you need to use pots and spoons dedicated solely to dyeing.

With Kool-Aid, however, just grab a deepish pot that looks like it will comfortably hold your yarn.

(You can do Kool-Aid dyeing in the microwave, but my microwave is on the blink and so I’m only going to talk about the stove top.)

Dump your Kool-Aid powder into the pot. The general principle, which is not difficult to grasp, is that more powder gives deeper color. There’s a practical limit, though, so don’t go nuts. That’s all I got for you. If you’d like an extended treatise on the subject, I refer you to this splendid article from Knitty.

Pour in some water–don’t fill the pot–and stir until the powder dissolves.

Put in your yarn.

Add enough water to cover the yarn.

Put the pot over the flame and heat it until the water is just shy of boiling. Then turn off the flame, cover the pot, and let it sit for a good half hour. Stir it from time to time, if you can remember. I forgot.

In a half hour, maybe a bit more, you should hope to see that the water is clear–that means your yarn has absorbed the dye.

If the water isn’t clear, try heating up the pot again, and letting the yarn sit until the water cools.

Then rinse the yarn thoroughly and let it dry. Use warm water to rinse, as shocking hot wool with cold water may encourage felting.

I was deeply alarmed to see that when removed from the bath, my yarn was a dead ringer for Cheetohs. I hate Cheetohs.

Oh, dear.

Kinky is knit into a tight strip, which inevitably prevents dye from reaching every spot on the strand equally. So I hoped the lurid glow of the exterior fiber would probably be moderated by some paleness in the interior.

I wound my Kinky into a hank on my niddy noddy so that it would dry more quickly…

…and then hung the tied hank in the shower to let it dry.

You do not, of course, want to wind yarn that is even a little wet into a ball.

Sure enough, the wound yarn was only moderately Cheetoh-esque. It was actually rather closer to Spaghetti-Os, of which I have only fond memories Quite a relief. And in spite of the thorough soakings and washings, much of the kink remained as gentle waves.

Gently kinky.

Now, as to what to make with it? I can’t decide. I’m still swatching.

But I’ve have had fun playing with dye, and I plan to do it again. That Kinky has encouraged me to try dyeing (not a favorite thing) and knit with bulky (also not a favorite thing) and helped me to enjoy both is nothing short of remarkable.

Next time, we’ll revisit a project I’ve set aside for a while–and talk about an exciting new direction for “Fridays with Franklin.” See you in two weeks!

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Kinky Yarn (100% superwash wool)
addi Click Turbo Interchangeable Needle Set
Textil Marabu fabric paint
Fashion Spray Marabu textile spray paint

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 Bookwas brought out by Soho Publishing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Fridays with Franklin: Very Kinky, Indeed

Fridays with Franklin logo

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

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

If you want your Kinky Yarn to be kinky, you have to let it dry thoroughly before you unravel it. After I’d finished my dye jobs, I went away for a week. Probably a good thing, or I’d have been poking and prodding it to see if it was still damp. To speed it along, of course, you can uncoil the cake.

I was happy to see that the extra soak on the sprayed cake (dyed with Fashion Spray Marabu) had done some interesting things to the interior.

Oooh.

When I uncoiled the cake, I was even more excited by the effect.

Ooooooooooooh!

I was less thrilled with the painted cake (decorated with Textil Marabu) because of course the decoration was limited only to the outer surface. The inside was still blank.

Not quite ready.

If I were to use the paints again (and I would–they were a pleasure to work with) I think I’d just paint the unrolled coil. For the moment, I set aside this cake of Kinky (that is never not going to sound weird) for further manipulation.

The sprayed cake was begging to be knit up. I unraveled it from the end, rolling it into a ball as I went. Very easy. The strand was undeniably kinky.

Sure is kinky!

I wasn’t really sure what to knit with it. I decided not to decide until I’d messed around with it a little bit.

I knew I’d need a large needle, not only because Kinky is bulky but also because it’s lightly spun and lofty. If you knit a lofty yarn of any weight with a relatively small needle, you’ll squeeze the life right out of it.

I worked from plain garter stitch into moss stitch and then double moss stitch, increasing my needle size a few times to see which would give me a fabric that made me happy.

What’s more exciting than swatch photos?

Ultimately I settled on US 10 (6 mm) addi Clicks. For hands used to working with nothing much above a US 4 (3.5 mm), that took some getting used to.

Curiosity drove me onward. I really wanted to see what would happen with this stuff. I didn’t want to work only in garter stitch–too familiar. Moss stitch wasn’t much of an improvement. Double moss looked a bit better.

It made sense. This yarn was
• bulky,
• kinky, and
• variegated.

The combination calls for a bold, simple repeating stitch pattern if you’re going to use one. Anything delicate or finely detailed will just be lost.

On a hunch, I pulled out a Victorian pattern from my collection, suggested in the nineteenth century publication Weldon’s Practical Knitter as the center for a knitted coverlet.

It’s bold, simple to knit, and makes a non-curling fabric that’s the same on both sides. Here it is, translated into modern knitting terminology.

Wedge Pattern (1880s)

Multiple of 8 sts plus 3

Row 1. Slip 1, knit 4. [Purl 1, knit 7] to last 6 sts. Purl 1, knit 5.
Row 2. Slip 1, purl 4. [Knit 1, purl 7] to last 6 sts. Knit 1, purl 5.
Row 3. Slip 1, knit 3. [Purl 3, knit 5] to last 7 sts. Purl 3, knit 4.
Row 4. Slip 1, purl 3. [Knit 3, purl 5] to last 7 sts. Knit 3, purl 4.
Row 5. Slip 1, knit 2. [Purl 5, knit 3] across.
Row 6. Slip 1, purl 2. [Knit 5, purl 3] across.
Row 7. Slip 1, knit 1. [Purl 7, knit 1] to last st. Knit 1.
Row 8. Slip 1, purl 1. [Knit 7, purl 1] to last st. Purl 1.
Row 9. Slip 1, purl 1. [Knit 7, purl 1] to last st. Knit 1.
Row 10. Slip 1, knit 1. [Purl 7, knit 1] to last st. Purl 1.
Row 11. Slip 1, purl 2. [Knit 5, purl 3] across.
Row 12. Slip 1, knit 2. [Purl 5, knit 3] across.
Row 13. Slip 1, purl 3. [Knit 3, purl 5] to last 7 sts. Knit 3, purl 4.
Row 14. Slip 1, knit 3. [Purl 3, knit 5] to last 7 sts. Purl 3, knit 4.
Row 15. Slip 1, purl 4. [Knit 1, purl 7] to last 6 sts. Knit 1, purl 5.
Row 16. Slip 1, knit 4. [Purl 1, knit 7] to last 6 sts. Purl 1, knit 5.

How do you know which was to slip? Here’s a general tip to carry with you. Always as if to purl, unless otherwise stated; and also–if the last stitch of the previous row was a knit, slip with the working yarn in front, but if the last stitch of the previous row was a purl, slip with the working yarn in back.

The Wedge Pattern played nicely with the yarn. You can’t see the precise shapes of the wedges, but the regular changes from knit to purl gives the fabric a very interesting and pleasant faceted effect.

Happy and kinky.

I knit on 27 stitches until the yarn was almost used up, ending with Row 16. After binding off, I had a long rectangle about four feet by 18 inches.

That would be a frustratingly short scarf. But all I had to do was give a half twist in the middle and whip stitch the ends to gather to make it into a very luxurious, cozy moebius cowl.

Finished moebius cowl.

However, as I was unable to find a willing model I must present it to you on an unwilling model: me.

Zowie!
Mysterious!
Cozy!

Okay, okay–I kid. Here it is on one of my most loyal models. As we were in a hurry she didn’t have time to put her face on.

The other cake (well–now it’s a strip) of Kinky remains to be used up after a bit of further decoration, and that’s what I’ll show you when we meet again in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Kinky Yarn (100% superwash wool)
addi Click Turbo Interchangeable Needle Set
Textil Marabu fabric paint
Fashion Spray Marabu textile spray paint

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 Bookwas brought out by Soho Publishing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

1 Fridays with Franklin: I Get Kinky

Fridays with Franklin Logo

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

I get the darnedest stuff in the mail from Makers’ Mercantile. The latest box was preceded by a note that said, “I’m send you something kinky.”

I’m not a prude, but that did give me pause.

What arrived in the mail was yarn. Oddly packaged yarn. I’ve had yarn in skeins and balls; but this arrived as two neat little cakes.

Two new cakes of Kinky Yarn.
The only yarn I’ve ever seen that includes the word “badass” on the tag.

Cute, right? Turns out this is a new yarn, and it’s called Kinky. And you buy it in a cake. It looks like this.

The cake is plain, and that’s the point. The note enclosed said that decorating a cake of Kinky is step one before using it. Decorate it with what? Just about anything, apparently. Dye, paint, markers–whatever will leave permanent mark on the fiber–it’s 100% superwash wool.

Which explained why these were also in the box.

Marabu Textil and Marabu Fashion Spray
Interesting…

I’m not a dyer, and I admit that on the list of things you can do with yarn, dyeing it is way down my list. We all have our limits; that’s one of mine.

I’ve dabbled in dyeing, and the process reminds me of the fishing trips I was forced to endure as a child. You drop in the string, and you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. Then you pull the string out and see what you got.

Just not my cup of tea.

But this was different. The Kinky Yarn cake is made up of a knitted tube, rolled and tied. The instructions suggested that I could unroll and decorate it, or not.

I decided to leave the cake intact. That way it would feel less like dyeing, and more like putting the finishing touches on a fancy dessert.

For cake one, I pulled out a paint brush and a couple bottles of Textil Marabu textile paint. This stuff looks like poster paint and acts like it, too–it’s got the same consistency. But instead of using it to announce a bake sale or the drama club’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross, you use it to paint fiber or fabric.

This was, wonder of wonders, fun. It didn’t take long for me to have this little cutie sitting on my work table.

Kinky Yarn cake painted with Textil Marabu paints.
Note the foil-covered surface. Also, I was wearing one of daddy’s old shirts as a paint smock.

This would be neat way of getting the kiddies involved in your fiber work, if you can trust the kiddies with paint or markers. Put on the smocks, cover the table, and let them go to town. Keeping an eye on them, of course. Then knit, weave or crochet with what they’ve created.

Sort of be a fun gift to a knitter or crocheter, too. Paint it up for them with Bon Voyage, Happy Birthday, or a portrait of the cat. Or put out one for each guest at yarn lover’s party, with markers and paints for decorating in the center of the table.

For the other Kinky cake, I used Fashion Spray Marabu, which comes in a little spritz bottle. Unlike Textil Marabu, which is pretty thick, Fashion Spray Marabu is what the name suggests–a spray.

Word to the wise: when you press the nozzle the first time to test it, aim it a scrap of paper or cloth. Like this.

Test spray on paper towel.
Pfffffffffffffffft…

Do not, I repeat do not, accidentally aim the nozzle at your face. I learned that the hard way. There is no photograph, because I was busy going ack ack gah cough ack while wondering if I were now Permanently Smurfed.

The spray was super fun. Spritz here, spritz there. I used two colors, and had a good time applying them over each other and watching how they blended where they touched.

Kinky Yarn cake sprayed with Fashion Spray Marabu.
Good enough to eat.

I let both cakes dry thoroughly, which is also recommend for Kinky. Only after it’s dry do you undo the cake, unravel the tube, and wind the dyed yarn into a ball. The yarn will be kinked–therefore the name. The kinks can be left in, to add interest to your fabric. Or, if you don’t like the kinks, block the finished piece and they disappear.

After drying, I was pleased with the appearance of both cakes, but checked the spray version and noted that of course the spray liquid hadn’t penetrated far beyond the surface.

The untouched interior of the yarn cake.

That’s part of the fun of the knitted cake structure; it means some parts of the fiber are likely to remain untouched and produce unexpected effects–sort of like the game you play whentie-dyeing t-shirts. But I didn’t want this much of my cake to stay white. So I did one more thing.

I took what was left of my blue fashion spray and diluted it with enough water to allow me to dip half the cake into it. There I let it stand for a few hours.

Then I took out the cake, and prepared a similar bath with the remains of the purple spray. I dipped the other half and let it stand for a few hours.

Kinky Yarn cake half submerged in dye bath.
Exciting action shot.

Next time, I’ll show you what sort of yarn I got from each cake, and knit some up to check out the results.

See you in two weeks…

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Kinky Yarn (100% superwash wool)
Textil Marabu fabric paint
Fashion Spray Marabu textile spray paint

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.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

original-pattern-01

original-pattern-02

original-pattern-03.jpg

Finishing Your Scarf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pattern

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

downloadnowbutton

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

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

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

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

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

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

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

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

 

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

kal-lace-center

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

Count Your Stitches

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

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

Use Lifelines

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

My advice?

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

This is simple to do.

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

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

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

I demonstrate putting in a lifeline in this handy video:

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

Take Care in Un-Knitting

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

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

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

To undo that lpd, we:

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

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

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

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

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


Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

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

Maker’s Mercantile Tapestry Needles (Set of Five)

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

 

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

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

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

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

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

feb-kal-2019-websize (2)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

But they’re not.

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

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

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

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

chevrons-illo

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll see.

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

Winding Your Infinito

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

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

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

Swatching

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

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

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

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

Casting On

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

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


The Decreases

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

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

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

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

Here they are.

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

Lpd: Left purl decrease.

Dbl dec: Double decrease.

The Pattern

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

Neither is a superior way of working the pattern.

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

Use whichever you prefer.

If you use the charts, please note that:

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

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

fwf-81-kal-hem

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

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

Join the discussion HERE.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

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


 

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Fridays with Franklin: More Fun with Felt

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

With preparations for our February 2019 Victorian Knit-Along running at full steam, this is going to be a brief (but breathless) edition of “Fridays with Franklin.”

I found some time to continue work on the artfelt upholstery project that began here.

If you’re not familiar with artfelt, there’s a whole lot of information (and a link to Karin Skacel’s how-to video) in that column.

This time, I was determined to avoid ending up with too little fabric to cover the cushion. I cut out a piece of artfelt paper the full size of my felting mat–nearly two-and-half feet square.

Out came the artfelt roving, and I started laying it out with no particular pattern in mind. Last time, I tried a floral and was extremely taken with the results. This time, I started with sort-of stripes.

stripe-roving

The roving naturally pulled apart into what you might call wedges, sections with a fat end and a tapered end. So as I worked across the paper I started to let the shape of the wedge determine the shape of the next splash of color.

wedges-roving
The visual energy in the piece grew.

wedge-progress

Once I’d finished covering the paper, I stepped back and was absolutely gobsmacked by the result.

paper-covered
It’s not that it was a flash of genius. Not but any means.

It just didn’t look like what I think of as my style.

I have many shortcomings as a designer, and near the top of the list is a certain timidity. This was so bold, I would have sworn someone else had done it. Surprising. Exciting.

paper-covered-closeup
I often say, and I’ll say it again, that when a medium is new to you, it’s a good idea to let the medium tell you what it likes to do before you try to tell it what to do.

About 45 minutes of tumbling in a low-heat dryer gave me a beautiful fabric which was–again!–smaller than estimated, but large enough to be useful.

artfelt-felted

I try not to use the word “magic” in here. But that’s how the transformation feels. I love the way all those separate fibers on a sheet of paper become a length of fabric. I love the way the process reactivates the natural crimp (waviness) of the wool.

I could have gone ahead with the upholstery after the felt was dry…but no. A friend sent me some snapshots of a cushion her great-grandmother had embroidered with silks in the early 20th century. The cushion was ragged, badly in need of conservation, but still undeniably gorgeous.

And I was conceived of an irresistible desire to embroider the felt with silk.

Happily, Makers’ Mercantile has a line of hand-dyed embroidery silks that you can buy in small, reasonably priced bundles. So I went nuts and ordered a dozen different colorways.

silk-embroidery-floss
The pure mulberry silk itself is so divine that I’ve started working it into the swirls and wedges in small running stitch, about the simplest embroidery stitch there is.

embroidery-01
Where is this going? What’s it going to look like when it’s complete? I…um…I don’t know.

emb-progress
Right now, I’m about the furthest out I’ve ever been, doing something wholly unlike me. It’s not just fun, it’s exhilarating. I don’t want to stop. So I’m not going to.

For better or worse, I’ll show the results next time we meet.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet bought your skein of Infinito to join in our merry knit-along, there’s still time. We set out on February 1, 2019. It’s going to be grand. Full details are here.

feb-kal-2019-websize

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

artfelt paper
artfelt wool roving
Makers’  Mercantile Pure Mulberry Silk for Embroidery
Zitron Infinito (100% extra fine merino, 550 yards [500m] per 100g hank), sample is shown in Colorway 2

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

1 Fridays with Franklin: Time Travel with Me

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

I haven’t finished messing around with artfelt–in fact, I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been up to. But I’m going to have to wait, because today another project needs the spotlight.

We’ve been wanting to do a knit-along in this column for ages. We’ve waited, though, until the perfect yarn appeared for the idea we had in mind.

This is the yarn.

fwf-81-zitron-infinito

It’s called Infinito, from Zitron, and it’s a 100% extra fine, fingering weight merino–and it’s a Makers’ Mercantile exclusive.

Infinito is a gradient yarn, and what I love about it is the sllllllllllloooooooooowwwwww nature of the color change. In this colorway (Number 2), the skein begins with a deep purple and shifts, almost imperceptibly, to a handsome lavender as the strand progresses. (Note: The white bit that makes it look like the Bride of Frankenstein isn’t actually knit–it shows you where the color repeat begins. Very useful for multiple-skein projects!)

Because the shift is so gradual, I knew I could use this for lace without any risk of the color obscuring the patterning. And with the generous yardage (550 yards, or 500 meters, in a single 100 gram hank), I suspected I could also do something really impressive with one skein.

I also had a hankering to dip into waters where I love to swim–my collection of knitting manuals from the 19th century.

So that’s going to be our knit-along. We’re going to work, together, through a 19th century pattern. Here is our goal:

feb-kal-2019-websize

It’s a scarf, quite a luxurious one, worked in one piece from beginning to end. It’s about five feet long by about nine inches wide. As you’ll see however, the basic pattern is easily adapted to change both the length and the width. At this size, it requires one skein of Zitron Infinito.

Where did this pattern come from? I’m not going to reveal all just yet, but I’ll tell you this much: it’s a (very) light adaptation by a nineteenth century master of our craft; and as the knit-along progresses, you’ll learn much more about her.

On four successive Fridays in February, I’ll be releasing another piece of the pattern. Along the way, there will be historic information and tips about knitting lace, including a look at how and why this design works.

New lace knitters with an appetite for adventure will find it a fun challenge and skill-builder; veteran lace knitters may be surprised by some of the unusual maneuvers employed in fabric. There will be both charts and written directions, so you may take your pick.

This isn’t a superfine lace, you’ll note. The yarn is a fingering weight, and I used a US size 4 needle to work it. Your needle size may vary, of course, based upon your swatch (ahem). More on swatching to come.

All the while, participants will be able to interact with each other and the supportive Makers’ Mercantile hosts in the KAL forum. The exact location will be announced; in the meantime, watch the Makers’ Mercantile blog and join the shop’s mailing list.

At the end, as a finale, I will publish a facsimile of the original printed pattern, along with notes about how to read it, and how our modern version differs from the designer’s vision.

No registration is required. Supplies of Zitron Infinito are (how ironic) finite, so do go and buy your skein as soon as possible to be sure you get the colorway you like best.

I do hope you’ll join us. To tempt you, here are a few more photographs.

We’ve got plenty of room in the Time Machine. You can add the project to your Ravelry queue right here.

fwf-81-kal-hem

fwf-81-kal-fold

fwf-81-kal-half

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

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

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

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.

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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.

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