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–

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or on the back porch–

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.****

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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

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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 .

Of the two scarves, Sylvia’s was the tougher nut to crack. Her taste is miles from mine. Though I love the way she puts herself together, the individual pieces themselves usually leave me, at best, puzzled.

“What is this?” I’ll say, picking up one of what appears to be (maybe?) a collection of vintage teething rings from her dresser.

She, fluffing her hair in the adjacent bathroom, peeks out and says, “Oh, yeah! Aren’t those great? I found them at a plumbing supply place that was going out of business.”

“Are they…for plumbing?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I’m going to pile them on like a bunch of bangle bracelets.”

So she does, and I silently swear she has really gone too far this time. Then I spend the rest of the evening listening to people scream compliments at her amazingly cool choice of bracelets.

It makes you feel stuffy and hidebound for not thinking to trim your spring hat with a U-bend and a couple of old faucets.

Something for Sylvia

My challenge was to weave something on the Zitron Trekking XXL warp that would play well in the sartorial Halloween fun-house that is my friend Sylvia’s wardrobe.

Sylvia Fowler, of course, is the kookiest dresser of all the women in The Women,

Brains 3.1

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

but not because her clothes are wildly eccentric. They’re not. But they do take risks that set her apart as someone who likes to be noticed. Insists upon being noticed.

In a world full of tall hats, Sylvia’s are the tallest.

Brains 3.2

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Also the fluffiest, the flounciest, the fruitiest.

Brains 3.3

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

When I imagined Sylvia’s scarf, I figured it had to somehow call attention to itself through texture. But how, exactly?

Testing the Ground

When I sampled for the color-and-weave portion of Sylvia (if you don’t know what color-and-weave is, do see the last installment) something happened that almost never happens.

I liked the first thing I tried.

My starting point, of course, was the “two red, two buff” warp that formed the basis of Mary’s houndstooth. I knew by changing the order of the colors in the weft, I could get a bunch of different fabrics.

Thinking to start simple, I wove a few inches with nothing but buff.

Brains 3.4

That was it. You know it when you see it, and I saw it. The little dotty stripes reminded me of one of my favorite Sylvia costumes–the pinstriped dress she wears to the fashion show.

Brains 3.5

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

This fabric, I realized, could serve as a simple foil for some really eye-catching textural effect–much as the relative restraint of Sylvia’s dress allows her to go completely cuckoo with that flouncy headgear and still appear elegant.

Flouncing

What kind of textural effect?

There was a technique I had been wanting to try out, which I’d seen written up in any number of books and Web sites, for a loop pile weave.

There are quite a few ways of getting loop pile. This method was supposed to be easy and relatively quick, but not suitable for fabrics liable to be tugged and pulled a great deal.

I sent Sylvia a text.

ME: DO YOU TUG AND PULL AT YOUR CLOTHES A LOT?

SYL: WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

I decided that was a “no.”

Simple Loop Pile Weave

So here’s what you do.

Step 1. Throw a pick with your pile color (in my case, red). Keep it nice and loose, and do not beat it or change the shed.

Step 2. Get yourself a knitting needle, a wooden dowel, a long pencil–something of a cylindrical nature, in other words. The bigger around it is, the bigger your loops will be, and it needs to be a longer than your weaving is wide. I used an eight-inch US 11 (8 mm) addi®FlipStix™ double-pointed needle, which proved ideal.

Reach between the first two raised strands of the warp with your fingers and pull up a loop of your weft pick. Place this loop over the knitting needle (or whatever).

Repeat this step, making a loop for every pair of raised warp threads in the shed. It’ll look something like this.

Brains 3.6

Step 3. Without removing the knitting needle (or whatever), beat. You won’t be able to beat completely, of course; just do what you can.

Brains 3.7

Step 4. Gently remove the knitting needle (or whatever) and beat again, firmly.

Step 5. Change shed and throw a plain pick (in this scarf, that’s another pick of red). Beat firmly. Because this type of loop pile isn’t perfectly stable, this plain pick between all looped picks is vital. Without it, your fabric will just sort of fall apart.

Repeat from Step 1 if you want to make another row of loops.

Well…

Off I went, working two inches of color-and-weave (using the buff only, but carrying the unused red yarn up the right selvedge all the while).

Then, four picks in red: a looped pick, a plain pick, another looped pick, another plain pick.

Brains 3.8

That was my repeat, ending the scarf with two inches of color-and-weave.

The fabric certainly didn’t look like anything I’d made before.

Brains 3.9

Brains 3.10

It was so different, I didn’t know if I liked it or not. I honestly could not tell.

So I sent a picture of it to Sylvia in a text message.

ME: WOULD YOU WEAR THIS?

SYL: YES. LOVE IT. WHEN CAN I PICK UP.

ME: IT’S STILL ON THE LOOM.

SYL: GET YOUR [REDACTED] IN GEAR. I KNOW WHAT I WANT TO PAIR IT WITH. BY NEXT THURSDAY WOULD BE NICE. KISSES.

Brains 3.11

Or…is it?

Because in two weeks, we have to talk about the finishing.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Trekking  XXL (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

addi® FlipStix™ 8-inch double-pointed knitting needle, size US 11 (8mm)

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.

 

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

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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.

Lots of weave structures could be used to produce two different scarves on one warp, but I wanted to play with an effect called color-and-weave.

Simply put, color-and-weave means a pattern that emerges because of a combination of light and dark threads alternating in a particular order in the warp and in the weft. Make sense? No? Don’t worry. We’ll go deeper into that in a bit.

Something for Mary

One of the most famous varieties of color-and-weave happens to be a fabric I’ve always wanted to make, and a fabric eminently suited (no pun intended) for our first recipient, Mary.

Brains 2.1

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

We noted last time that Mary’s style is simple and tailored, frequently influenced by menswear. A classic menswear fabric might make the perfect scarf for her; and in her first scene, one appears. Not on Mary, but on her daughter–the uncreatively named Little Mary.

Brains 2.2

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Little Mary was played by Virginia Weidler, who had an absolutely inexplicable career as a child actress in the 1930s and 40s. She is the only person in the cast who turns in a more wooden performance than Norma Shearer, which perhaps makes her presence somewhat more explicable.

Little Mary’s riding coat is made of houndstooth…

Brains 2.3

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

…more specifically, of the small variation of houndstooth that is sometimes called puppytooth.

Brains 2.4

How to Make Houndstooth: Choosing Colors

When I first tip-toed into weaving, I got very fizzy and bubbly when I found out a legendary pattern like this was, in fact, simple enough to be readily made by a beginner. Here’s how it works.

First, we pick colors. I chose Zitron Trekking XXL in color 240 (Red) and color 210 (Buff) for two reasons.

Brains 2.5

Reason One: I really wanted the pattern to pop, which meant I needed my colors to have high value contrast. One needed to be very dark in value, the other very light. To see if the difference was strong enough, I looked at the yarns using the black-and-white setting on my camera. For a bold look, they need to appear distinctly different. The greater the difference, the more legible the pattern.

Brains 2.6

Yup. That’ll work.

Reason Two: That luscious red reminded me of reds as they showed up in glorious Technicolor, and even though The Women is in black and white (except for the famous fashion show sequence), the entire plot is set in motion by a shade of nail polish called Jungle Red.

Brains 2.7

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

How to Make Houndstooth: The Warp

To get a balanced weave* with a fingering weight yarn like Trekking, I needed to outfit my Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom with a 12-dent reed; it allows the strands of the warp to sit closer together than the 8-dent reed that comes with the loom when you buy it.

The warp plan itself? Ridiculously simple: two red strands, two buff strands. Repeat. That’s it.

Brains 2.8

Mind you, for two scarves on one warp, my warp had to be very long. And this time, I did my advance calculations like a good boy to figure out how long.

Brains 2.9

The length I needed just barely fit into the longest room available to me. Any longer, and I wouldn’t have been able to use the direct warping method – which would have been fine, but that’s another column.

I did a lot of walking that morning.

Brains 2.10

It’s probably a good thing I don’t have cats.

How to Make Houndstooth: The Weft

Once your warp is in place, you weave the colors in the same order they appear in the warp: two picks (passes) with the red, two picks with the buff. Repeat.

The structure of my fabric is plain weave–the warp goes over one thread, under the next–which on my Cricket loom means simply moving the heddle up and down, up and down.

It seems like there ought to be more to it, but there isn’t. *Over and back with the red, over and back with the buff. Repeat from *.

When changing colors at the right selvedge, I kept things neat by always picking up the new color under the old color–rather like carrying yarns up the side of a piece of striped knitting. In the photograph below of an early sample for the scarves (yes, I sampled!) the buff (which is in use) is catching the red (which is not).

Brains 2.11

A small detail, but in weaving as in all things, little details can make a big difference.

For this project, I graduated to a pair of Schacht 11-inch slim open-bottom boat shuttles, which worked beautifully with the Cricket. You could absolutely do this weaving with the same stick shuttles I used here, but boat shuttles are smoother and faster. Note that they carry the yarn on bobbins–so if you decide to use them you’ll also need a bobbin winder.

Brains 2.12

And look! Look!

Brains 2.13

You know those moments in your life when you’re excited to try something new, but you really worry it won’t work, and then it does work? And you can’t believe you did it? This was one of those moments.

Brains 2.14

How Long Is Long Enough?

Since I needed to get two scarves out of this warp, for the first time I couldn’t blithely weave to the end and then call it quits. I had to make sure Mary’s scarf was long enough, but not too long.

There are many methods for doing that, but the one I chose was simply to place a stitch marker (I like the safety pin or locking ring types–they’re readily available from good yarn shops) in the right-hand selvedge every six inches. At any time, to figure out how much you’ve woven you count your markers.

Brains 2.15

Coming Up…

In two weeks, we’ll look at the weaving of Sylvia’s scarf.

Brains 2.16

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

She doesn’t like waiting, but she’ll just have to deal with it.

*A balanced weave has the same number of threads per inch in the warp and in the weft.

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 Open-Bottom Boat Shuttle by Schacht Spindle Company

The Women (1939). For information on sources, visit the official IMDB page. Yes, there was a remake in 2008, but please don’t ever bring that up in front of me again.

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.

 

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

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

Today, we start a new adventure!

Brains 1.1

In weaving!

Brains 1.2

If you hadn’t missed the staff meeting you would have known that.

Brains 1.3

We’re going to use a rigid heddle loom. If you’ve not yet encountered a rigid heddle loom, click back to The Adventure of the Scarf that Ate the World for a simple, brief description of how they work.

A biggish rigid heddle like my fifteen-inch Schacht Cricket doesn’t limit you to scarves; but I have scarves in mind because it’s spring, and for so many of us who do a lot of handwork, the return of spring means one thing: planning our winter holiday gift-giving. I’m thinking scarves. Lots of scarves. Scarves all around.

Scarves make fantastic gifts, so long as your friends have necks. A knitted scarf is a beautiful, bouncy, cuddly thing. It can also take a long time to finish, even if it’s perfectly plain. For a guy like me, who will never set a speed record, promising more than one person a knitted holiday scarf inevitably leads to an ugly moment in which I hurl delirious invective at the little chocolate elf who pops out of the Advent calendar on December 20.

That is no way to treat chocolate.

Warp Once, Weave Twice–Or More

When speed is of essence, weaving is almost always* going to beat the daylights out of knitting. If I’m to turn out multiple scarves, speed is key.

It’s true that before you can weave you first must warp–we talked about that here. But when you want to weave multiple similar somethings–dish towels, placemats, or (ding ding ding) scarves­–more often than not you’ll warp only once.

All you do is wind on enough length to accommodate your multiples, or at least as many as your loom can handle. Then weave the first item, leave a bit of space, weave the second item, leave a bit of space…and onward in this manner until you come to the end of the warp.

Brilliant.

And while you might think multiple projects on one warp would mean a series of identical projects­–nope. Depending upon what sort of warp and weft you choose, you’ll find a variety of options for making each different from the next.

This is extremely useful if you have friends with highly different tastes, and I do.

The Yarn

I’m going to need two scarves off this warp, and here’s the yarn I plan to use.

Brains 1.4

This is Zitron Trekking XXL, and I chose it for a few different reasons:

  • It’s strong enough to use as a warp–meaning it can withstand firm tension and abrasion without falling to pieces.

Brains 1.5

  • I’ve used it for socks and I really like those socks.
  • It’s machine-washable. Neither friend is going to hand-wash anything. Believe me, I’ve tried to teach them. They won’t budge.
  • It’s finer weight (fingering) than the yarns I’ve woven with previously, and I’m excited to try a fabric that will be light and decorative.
  • The high wool content means the appearance and hand are pretty close to that of pure wool, which suits the scarves I have in mind.
  • I love these two colorways. Though they read as primarily solid, each has tweedy flecks of the other in it, plus flecks of other happy colors sprinkled around as well.

Brains 1.6

The Friends

Now, about the recipients. In the interest of protecting their privacy, I’ve been asked not to give you their actual names and likenesses. But like so (and I mean SO) many of my friends, they closely resemble in many ways characters from George Cukor’s immortal film The Women, released in 1939.

Brains 1.7

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

It has an enormous, glittering cast of 130–all women. Even the animals in the film are female. No men appear, though they’re almost the only thing talked about. Do not attempt to apply the Bechdel Test to this film; your lab will blow up.

The screenplay was written by two women (Anita Loos and Jane Murfin) after a play by another woman (Claire Boothe Luce), yet manages to be breathtakingly sexist.

That said, it is a hoot. A scream. A gooey masterful camp fruitcake of sobby soggy romantic drama, knock-down slapstick, acid wit, and style. I have watched it so many times that even when the sound is off, I know exactly what is being said. Don’t believe it? TRY ME.

Brains 1.8

We are primarily interested in the costumes, which were by the legendary Adrian–not a woman, but a genius at telegraphing a woman’s inner life through hats, gloves, and dresses. Also, making her look taller. (Norma Shearer was five foot one.)

Friend One: Mary

Now, in terms of style, Friend One is a perfect match to the heroine, Mrs. Stephen (Mary) Haynes.

Brains 1.9

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Mary was played by Norma Shearer, who began in silent films and continued to reign in the sound era as the Queen of MGM, grabbing plummy, starring roles from Juliet Capulet to Marie Antoinette and never once letting a near-complete lack of acting talent stand in her way.**

Mary’s style reflects her personality. She’s honest (one of the few truly honest characters out of the 130), loyal, strong, and prefers the quiet, simple, horsey life in her Connecticut country house to the enervating social whirl of Park Avenue.

Unsurprisingly, her clothes tend to the tailored.

Brains 1.10

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Brains 1.11

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Brains 1.12

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

They’re not mousy or frumpy–she’s very chic, even in a cardigan–

Brains 1.13

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

but they have simple lines, quiet details, and classic fabrics. Even her dressing gown, though it has chiffon bell sleeves, has echoes of a men’s camp shirt.

Brains 1.14

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Mary is disgustingly rich, yes; but her clothes tell you that if you take away the horses and the country estate and the Park Avenue apartment and the maid and the cook and the impulse trips to Bermuda she’s just the same as you or I, picking up light bulbs from Target.

Friend One–from now on, we’ll call her Mary–needs a scarf that goes with a wardrobe like that, and I think I know just the thing. A timeless fabric, no fussy trims, rugged enough for the country but amenable to the occasional city foray.

Friend Two: Sylvia

Friend Two is closer in style to Mary’s cousin, Mrs. Howard (Sylvia) Fowler, played by the legendary Rosalind Russell.

Brains 1.15

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Happily, Friend Two’s resemblance to Sylvia ends with her sense of style, because Sylvia is horrible. HORRIBLE. Gossip is the air the Sylvia breathes. It’s also in pretty much every breath she exhales. She’s a liar, a coward, and a bully.

Brains 1.16

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

She’ll abandon a friend, even her own cousin, at the first sign of trouble–even if she did her best to fan the flames.

The only thing you can admire about Sylvia is that she knits.

Brains 1.17

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Sylvia’s dress sense is as theatrical as you can get without buying your clothes from the Cirque du Soleil garage sale. I think Adrian meant to reveal her as a woman consumed with appearances and dying for attention.

Her wardrobe isn’t terribly avant garde, except perhaps for this three-eyed homage to Elsa Schiaparelli,

Brains 1.18

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

but it’s impossible to ignore. Most of the pieces she wears play with scale (making things bigger or taller) or texture (making things fuller or fluffier).

Brains 1.19

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Brains 1.20

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Brains 1.21

The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Friend Two also loves to wear things that push boundaries and get noticed. She joyfully uses her body as the framework for an art project that’s created new every morning. Her closetseses (that’s not a typo–she has too many to express with “closets”) are her paintbox, and she paints with a surrealist’s brush.

This is going to be the greater challenge, because my own taste is closer to Mary’s. My wardrobe looks like it was last rejuvenated in 1922. I like sock garters. I have been known to put on a necktie just for fun. I think creative black tie is fine…for other people.

But I want to try, and I’m going to do them both on one warp. A gift for a friend should make that friend’s heart beat faster, even if it has the same effect on your stomach.

If you’ll please stop by in two weeks, I’ll be excited to show you what happens next.

*Exceptions would be forms of weaving requiring intense, frequent manipulation of the warp or weft threads; but that’s another adventure for another day. Maybe.

**Shearer did marry the studio boss, Irving Thalberg. It might have helped her a tiny bit. Just throwin’ it out there. That does not make me a Sylvia! Shut up.

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) by Schacht Spindle Company

The Women (1939). For information on sources, visit the official IMDB page . Yes, there was a remake in 2008, but please don’t ever bring that up in front of me again.

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.

Fridays with Franklin: Adventure in an Old Book, Conclusion

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For the first part of this adventure, click here.

When I finished the collar I realized I was not quite finished with Elvina Corbould’s “Wheat-ear Pattern” from The Lady’s Knitting-Book, Second Series. You know how it goes. You think you’ve got hold of an idea, but really it has got hold of you.

Old Book Conclusion 1

Up In Your Face with Knitted Lace

I am absolutely fascinated by the basic structure of knitted lace fabric and can talk about it for hours, which is one reason people stay away from me at parties.

It’s so simple, yet so infinitely variable. Look closely. You have solid bits

Old Book Conclusion 2

and you have holes.

Old Book Conclusion 3

The holes are most often yarn overs, and a yarn over is more than a design element; it’s also an increase. Yarn over, and your stitch count grows by one.

Unless the eyelets in a lace pattern are being used to shape the knitting, each yarn over is balanced by a corresponding decrease somewhere in the neighborhood.

Old Book Conclusion 4

If this were not so, things could get out of hand very quickly.

Old Book Conclusion 5

As we saw in part one of this adventure, decreases placed well away from their yarn overs can make fun stuff happen within the motif. In the case of the Wheat-ear Pattern, that means rippled rows and scalloped edges.

Old Book Conclusion 6

It follows that if we move the decreases to other parts of the fabric, there will be corresponding changes. And from those changes we can learn more about how lace fabric works, and possibly even derive new lace motifs.

This excites me.

Old Book Conclusion 7

Dream of Wheat

Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to start with the original pattern

Old Book Conclusion 8

and leave the yarn overs exactly where they are, but remove all the decreases.

Old Book Conclusion 9

Then we’re going to put the decreases back again–but in different places. And we’ll see what, if anything, happens.

So that we can focus entirely on changes that come from the chart, we’ll be using the same yarn (Hikoo® Simplicity) and the same needles (addi® Click Interchangeables, size US 4/3.5 mm) as in the past two installments.

This is a wonderful way to learn how to design your own motifs. It also makes a terrific party game, if you’re at the sort of party where you’re home all by yourself because nobody wants to be in the room with you when you’re talking about knitted lace.

Variation One

Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed that the lace pattern for Frumentum had diverged from Corbould’s original.

Old Book Conclusion 10

I removed line 9 of the chart, which had no patterning, to maximize the amount of swerve going on in the fabric.

I also replaced Corbould’s left-leaning single decrease–

Slip 1 stitch as if to purl. Knit the following stitch. Pass the slipped stitch over it.

with a modern left-leaning decrease, the slip-slip-knit (ssk). Slip-slip-knit is our gift from the legendary Barbara Walker, who developed it as a more perfect mirror image of the right-leaning knit two together (k2tog) single decrease.

I most often use the variation of slip-slip-knit developed by two other knitting legends, mother-daughter yarn titans Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen:

Slip 1 stitch as if to knit. Slip the next stitch as if to purl. Return both stitches to the left needle and knit them together through the back.

These changes are small, and don’t result in a pattern much different from the original. If you weren’t looking for differences you probably wouldn’t notice any.

Old Book Conclusion 11

Variation Two

Now we’re going to shift the decreases in rounds 1–7 so that they’re closer to the yarn overs, but still not adjacent. And for the ducks of it, we’re going to replace the single decreases in the middle of rounds 9-15 with a single line of double decreases right down the center.

Old Book Conclusion 12

Here’s my favorite double decrease. It gives a symmetrical, upright cluster of three stitches rather than the right-leaning bundle you get with knit three together (k3tog). In fine or slippery yarns, it’s also easier to work without dropping stitches.

One at a time, slip 2 stitches from the left to the right needle as if to knit. Knit the next stitch. Slip the first 2 stitches (separately or together) over the knitted stitch.

The result is a fabric in which biased areas now alternate with unbiased–an interesting textural effect.

Old Book Conclusion 13

And the edge is still scalloped, but not quite so deeply.

Old Book Conclusion 14

Variation Three

Can we get rid of the scallop entirely? I think we can. All we need to do is eliminate all early and delayed decreases, like this.

Old Book Conclusion 15

Now every decrease occurs immediately before or after a corresponding yarn over. The result:

Old Book Conclusion 16

Huh. Well, it doesn’t knock my socks off; but it’s certainly different. It might be cool to fill in those blank stretches between the upright motifs with smaller, perhaps floral, motifs.

Variation Four

And if we want to try that, why not give ourselves as many stitches as possible between the upright motifs. How could we do that? Like this.

Old Book Conclusion 17

Now each pair of yarn overs is balanced with a double decrease between.

This gives us something very similar to the previous swatch, though the stitches up the center of each motif now stand up (being bundles of three). That might be a nice textural touch (especially in heavier yarns) or you might hate it.

Old Book Conclusion 18

The lovely thing about designing your own lace variations is that you decide what works or doesn’t.

Variation Five

Let’s get really wild. We’re going almost back to the original chart, but we’re going to make one sneaky change. See it?

Old Book Conclusion 19

Note the row numbers. Until now, the uncharted even rows have all been worked in plain old purl.

Now we’ve eliminated those plain rows completely. We’re going to work only the patterned rows–a technique known to knitters of Shetland lace as “close working.”

To do this, you must work every row in the chart beginning where you see the number–soodd rows are read and worked right to left, and even rows are read and worked left to right.

Also, to keep the fabric in stockinette, we need wrong-side purl versions of our left- and right-leaning decreases. Therefore…

For k2tog, use purl two together (p2tog).

For ssk, do this:

One at a time, slip 2 stitches as if to knit from the left needle to the right needle. Return these 2 stitches to the left needle and then, after making sure the working yarn is on the near side of your work, purl the two slipped stitches through the back.

It sounds a bit awkward, and it is at first; but with some practice it becomes quite simple.

We’ve seen that early and delayed decreases cause bias in the fabric. We’ve seen that the closer they are to one another, the more pronounced the bias. Now, working them on every row, we should being seeing that effect amped up to max volume.

Old Book Conclusion 20

Old Book Conclusion 21

Wowee!

I got so into knitting this version that it would have been well on its way to a finished scarf if I hadn’t forced myself to bind it off and block it so you could see it today.

I could, and probably will, go on…but our next adventure is already under way. In fact, it’s right here on the work table at my elbow, screaming for attention.

See you in two weeks.

Old Book Conclusion 22

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Hikoo Simplicity (55% Merino Superwash, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon, 117 yards per 50 gram hank). Colors: 001 White, 024 Bluebell, 036 Silver Hair, 049 Grass Slipper.

addi® Click interchangeable needles, size US 4/3.5mm.

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.

Fridays with Franklin: Adventure in an Old Book, Part Two

fwf-logo-v11For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here.

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

This was my idea: to make Elvina Corbould’s “Wheat-ear Pattern,” published in 1878 in The Lady’s Knitting-Book, Second Series, into a knitted collar. Many of you had the same idea. When Part One of this excursion hit the streets, in came a trickle of messages all saying, “Land sakes, what a lovely collar that would make!”

I felt encouraged, as we could not possibly all be wrong.

I imagined something like this,

Old Book 2.1

and selected two colors of Hikoo Simplicity inspired by watery locales.

Old Book 2.2

Singularly appropriate for a wavy, ripply fabric. The bulk of the knitting would be vivid blue, shot with occasional rounds of dark grey to show off the undulations.

As I (literally) took off on a teaching trip, I cast on with the first ball of Fijian Waters. A few inches and 37,000 feet later,

Old Book 2.3

I was bored to tears.

It wasn’t bad. Just dull. Predictable. Similar to a dozen lacy collars I’d seen before. A few rounds in a different color wasn’t going to change that.

This is adventure? Stripes? Meh. Back to the drawing board.

What about working the collar in bold blocks of color, rather like squares on a chess board–but bigger?

Old Book 2.4

That could work.

The I-Word

Bold, solid blocks of different colors in a single piece of knitting are most often created with a technique known as intarsia.

If you just shivered, I understand. Intarsia awakens strong feelings in the bosom of the knitter. In the latter part of the twentieth century it was employed, notoriously, to create some of the most misbegotten sweaters the world has ever known.

But we must remember that this is not intarsia’s fault. Like any other technique, it can be used for good or ill. The choice is yours.

I haven’t the time or space for a comprehensive discussion, but here is a nutshell account.

In an intarsia fabric, every discrete area of color requires its own supply of yarn. This drawing shows us a hypothetical piece in green and orange.

Old Book 2.5

We are looking at the right side. We begin by knitting across from right to left with the orange yarn. When we reach the point at which a change to green is called for, we twist the old (orange) and new (green) yarns together once to interlock the sections.

This interlocking is repeated every time one color gives way to the next, on both sides of the work. Skip the interlocking and you will end up with a fluttering miasma of unattached scraps of fabric, which makes for a very odd, drafty sweater.

Only one color is ever active at any given time. Unused colors just hang out, waiting for their turn. This is why elaborate intarsia works-in-progress often grow to resemble mating season in a dark stash closet.

There is more to intarsia than this but, frankly, not a whole lot more.

Intarsia creates a single-layered fabric with no floats (strands of unused color), ideal for lace. It was clearly the way to go for the collar, but there was an issue. I wanted to work in the round. Intarsia has traditionally been worked flat–even when used to make argyle socks, often considered the apotheosis of the method.

Here is why.

This drawing is an aerial view of an attempt at circular intarsia, just starting out.

Old Book 2.6

We begin at START HERE and merrily knit our way around, interlocking at the color changes as we go. All is well.

But then we come to Round Two,

Old Book 2.7

and immediately hit a brick wall. We are back at START HERE and need the green yarn. Instead of being where it ought, however, the green is now sitting at the far end of the orange section, utterly ignoring our fevered entreaties to Come Here at Once. If you have cats or teenagers, you know this feeling.

I could have surmounted the problem by working the collar as a flat strip and sewing it closed with a seam. This is, in fact, how argyle socks are traditionally finished. I immediately rejected this idea on the grounds that I did not feel like doing that.

There is a convoluted, long-standing method for working circular intarsia that I also rejected; because I tried it once and hated it so, so much that after six rounds I grew convinced of the pointlessness of human existence and ate an entire chocolate cheesecake in the bathtub while listening to a worn out mix tape of The Smiths given to me by the college boyfriend who broke my heart.

Paging Dr. Anne

This might have meant a radical reconfiguration of the design were it not for a fairly recent innovation in intarsia, conceived by intarsia master Anne Berk.

Anne feels about intarsia the way I feel about shadow knitting–that it’s a good egg, really, and just needs some love and understanding. She tackled the thorny issue of working this stuff in the round without recourse to cheesecake, and compiled the results in this book, Annetarsia Knits: A New Link to Intarsia.

Old Book 2.8

Her solution is so simple, yet so marvelously effective, that when I read it I grew absolutely furious that I hadn’t thought it up myself. That’s probably for the best, as nobody would want to buy a book called Franklintarsia.

In particular Anne’s way of dealing with the beginning of the rounds, which present special problems, is so perfect it makes me giddy. I couldn’t remember exactly what she does and didn’t have my book handy when the collar began, so I bunted.

My result is below. Anne’s is above. Hers wins, obviously. What with it being perfect and all.

Old Book 2.9

And so the collar was worked in fits and starts on four airplanes and a ship, yet popped off the needle almost before I knew what was happening. So pleasant.

Old Book 2.10

I was half tempted to leave it unblocked, to preserve the rippling…

Old Book 2.11

…but gave it a good soak to settle it down, and laid it out to dry. I pulled the points out to make sure they were all even…

Old Book 2.12

…but didn’t need to pin them.

Old Book 2.13

Old Book 2.14

I am quite pleased.

The Recipe: Frumentum

This collar began with the Wheat-ear pattern, so I’m calling it “Frumentum,” the Latin for “grain.” If you’d like to make one, here’s what to do.

Materials

Two balls each of two colors Hikoo Simplicity. I used Seattle Sky (C1) and Fijian Waters (C2).

A circular needle size US 4/3.5mm, or the size you need to achieve a gauge you like. Maximum cable length will be 24 inches, but shorter will likely be more comfortable. I used my beloved Addi Short Lace Clicks with a 16-inch cable.

A copy of Annetarsia Knits, or instruction in the method through one of Anne’s classes. I can’t present it to you here, alas, but both Anne and her book are readily available everywhere these days.

1 stitch marker

Instructions

Wind all four skeins of Simplicity into balls; you’ll have them all in play at one time once the intarsia begins.

With C1, cast on 136 sts using the method of your choice. Join to work in the round, taking care not to twist. Place marker to indicate beginning of round.

*Knit 1 round, purl 1 round

Repeat from * 1x.

Work the first intarsia passage as follows:

With C1, work 2 repeats of Round 1 of the revised Wheat-ear chart (see below) across the first 34 sts. Join the first ball of C2 and work 2 repeats of Round 1 on the next 34 sts. Follow this with a 2 more repeats in C1, joining the second ball of that color; and then begin 2 more repeats of C2, ditto. You should now be at the beginning of the round, with all four balls of yarn attached to the work.

Work the entire Wheat-ear Pattern chart through Round 16, interlocking sections and rounds using Anne Berk’s circular intarsia method. When the chart is complete, break the working yarns, leaving 8-inch tails.

Work a second full repeat of the chart, alternating the colors of the sections (grey atop blue, and vice versa). When complete, break working yarns.

Work a third repeat of the chart through Round 8 only, once again alternating the colors of the sections.

Old Book 2.15

Work the upper selvedge entirely in C1 as follows, breaking the other working yarns as you reach them:

*Knit 1 round, purl 1 round

Repeat from * 1x.

Bind off in purl.

Break working yarn and weave in ends. Soak and gently block on flat surface, shaping top and bottom points into even scallops. Allow to dry completely before wearing.

For the Next Adventure…

No, wait. Wait. I don’t think I’m quite finished with this yet. See you in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Hikoo Simplicity (55% Merino Superwash, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon, 117 yards per 50 gram hank). Colors: Fijian Waters (Blue) and Seattle Sky (Grey).

addi® Click Interchangeable needles, size US 4/3.5mm.

Annetarsia Knits: A New Link to Intarsia by Anne Berk (Double Vision Press, 2014).

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.

 

Fridays with Franklin – Adventure in an Old Book, Part One

fwf-logo-v11

For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here.

When I have the luxury of knitting without a deadline, one of my favorite things to do is knit swatches.

I admit that I have odd ideas about what constitutes a good time. Most knitters I have met say they would prefer to give a cat a bikini wax rather than knit a swatch. I, however, have learned most of what I know about yarn by turning out hundreds and hundreds of itty bitty scraps of fabric.

Sometimes I knit swatches for mundane reasons: to check gauge, test drape, or plan a design. Other times, as in this adventure, I knit them just to see what happens. I get a kick out of that. And in the long run, it’s productive. Just as most of my best ideas for cartoons bubble up after hours of aimless doodling, so my best knitting designs follow miles and miles of stitching with no special goal in mind.

I have a particular goofy passion for working from nineteenth century patterns. I won’t go into all the reasons why here; but chief among them is the mystery. It’s not uncommon for pattern books from the 1840s through the 1890s to offer you either only a rudimentary or misleading illustration of what you’re making, or–most often–no illustration at all. You get a rather bald title–“For a Gent’s Patterned Glove, with Fingers” and that’s it.

To work from these is to participate in the original mystery knit-alongs.

I’d been wanting to play with The Lady’s Knitting-Book (1878) for some time. The author, credited on the title page only as E.M.C., has been revealed as Elvina M. Corbould. She was quite prolific. For this adventure, we’ll dip into the second series of The Lady’s Knitting-Book, which ran to at least four volumes; she also produced (or at least put her initials upon) multiple works on crochet, netting, and needlework.

Old Book 1.1

One of the things I like about Elvina’s knitting books is that she is liberal in her dispensation of stitch motifs. I wasn’t in the mood to knit a Whole Thing, just little bits. If one of those little bits were to give me a bigger idea, I could see about turning it into a project.

I ran down the alphabetical table of contents

Old Book 1.2

and chose three, based entirely on how interesting their names were.

First up was “Talisman Pattern,” because how on earth can you not be curious about something that calls itself that?

Old Book 1.3

It revealed itself to be a variation of basket weave. Hmm. Well, okay.

Old Book 1.4

A perfectly nice variation, but not something I felt like doing more of. Not now, anyway.

Old Book 1.5

But here is the chart, in case you would like to try it. (Note: Corbould includes a garter stitch border for all her motifs; I put them on my swatches, but have omitted them in this article.)

Old Book 1.6

Next I took a crack at “Lorne Pattern.”

Old Book 1.7

This was intriguing because it was short–just three rows–and appeared to be lacy, as the instruction to “wool forward” (meaning yarn over, an instruction still to be found in some British publications) was frequent.

The result was extremely interesting: a fully reversible fabric displaying the characteristics of lace and those of ribbing.

Old Book 1.8

Old Book 1.9

Definitely worth another look. Here, if you would like to try it yourself, is the chart.

Old Book 1.10

And then “Wheat-ear Pattern,” the most elaborate (or at least the longest) of the three.

Old Book 1.11

Now this was interesting.

Old Book 1.12

I like lace generally, but I particularly enjoy lace motifs that mess around with early and delayed decreases. What does that mean? It means that the openings in the lace–created with yarn overs–are separated by one or more stitches from the decreases that compensate for them. As here:

Old Book 1.13

Used repeatedly and systematically, these do fun things to the grain of the fabric. It can cause the rows to ripple in curves, as here:

Old Book 1.14

It can also, when taken to an extreme, cause a scalloped selvage:

Old Book 1.15

This was a motif to explore further. After a few repeats I found I wanted to knit a bunch more, which is always a good sign.

Of the three I tried, this was the only one of Elvina’s patterns to include errors. I’ve corrected them for the chart.

Now, what to do with it? I have an idea. See you in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Hikoo® Simplicity (55% Merino Superwash, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon, 117 yards per 50 gram hank). Colors: 013 Violette (Talisman), 026 Pale Yellow (Lorne), 036 Silver Hair (Wheat Ear).

Pages from The Lady’s Knitting-Book, Second Series by Elvina M. Corbould. Available in digital form here from the University of Southampton, as part of the Richard Rutt Collection.

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.

Fridays with Franklin – Adventure on the Floor, Part Three

fwf-logo-v1Adventure on the Floor, Conclusion

For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here.

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

When last we met, I was considering giving up all fiber arts forever after four bloody rounds with a vintage pattern from this booklet…

On the Floor Conclusion 1

…which purports to instruct one in the method for making rugs and mats from crochet-covered clothesline.

It did not, as you know, go well.

The technique, previously outlined in detail, is simple and easily mastered. The shaping of the oval, however, could most kindly be described as an exercise in surrealism.

After giving the pattern every opportunity to prove itself, I tossed it aside. That it landed in the fireplace on top of a burning log is no coincidence.

All I needed to do was crochet an oval. I suspected that possibly–just possibly–I was not the first person in history to have this in mind.

Let’s Make An Oval

Indeed. I’d only typed “C-R-O-C-H-E-T-O-V” when Google vomited a cascade of related articles, most offering close variations on the same formula.

In a nutshell:

  1. Determine the desired length of your straight sides. This length will remain constant.

On the Floor Conclusion 2

2. Create a chain stitch “spine” of this length as a foundation

On the Floor Conclusion 2

3. Work your increases at the ends of this spine.

 

On the Floor Conclusion 3

4. The rate of increase is either three or six stitches per end, regularly spaced.

On the Floor Conclusion 4

5. Increase in every round at these three (or six) points. Note that the number of stitches between the increases will increase by one each time.

On the Floor Conclusion 6

That’s it.

Would it work for the rug?

It Worked for the Rug

Yep. I see no point in keeping you in suspense. You’ve suffered enough.

Experienced crochet types can probably sit down and wing it. Newbies might like to follow this rambling recipe.

You’ll need:

42 yards (38.5m) of clothesline (more, if you want a larger rug)

two skeins Hikoo Simpliworsted(more, if you want a larger rug)

locking-ring stitch markers (minimum of 4)

1 crochet hook, size 3.5mm

Do this:

Build the Foundation

  1. Work 67 chain stitches as the central spine of the rug. If, like me, you are a new crocheter who has trouble keeping count, shove a stitch marker into every tenth stitch.

On the Floor Conclusion 7

Remove them after you’re sure you have the proper number in your chain.

NOTA BENE: From this point, absolutely all stitches will be worked over clothesline as described in Part One. You will be looking at the wrong side (bottom) of the rug as you work.

Work Round 1

  1. Beginning with second chain from hook, 1 single crochet into the left edge of each chain stitch to within 1 chain from end. (Review this installment for more information.)
  2. Place marker by slipping it around the neck of the stitch you’ve just made. (That’s how you’ll place all markers in this piece.)

On the Floor Conclusion 8

3. First increase! Woooo! Single crochet 6 into the last chain. Go on, shove ’em all in there. (Savor the moment. This is as exciting as it gets.)

4. Still with the wrong side facing you, single crochet 65 into the right edge of the foundation chain stitches, placing markers around the necks of the first and last of these.

5. Single crochet 6 into the last chain stitch.

Get Ready for Rounds 2 and Higher

As discussed in our last installment, from this point you’ll work stitches over the clothesline and into the hole under both threads of the stitch in the round below.

On the Floor Conclusion 9

To increase, work 2 single crochet into the hole in question.

When beginning Round 2, place a marker around the neck of the first stitch immediately after you work it. This marker will indicate the beginning of your rounds, so I like to make sure it differs in appearance from the other three markers. On my rug, the beginning-of-round marker was green; the others were orange.

You’ll have four markers in place, and your increases will occur between these markers on every round.

Work Round 2

Single crochet 1 into every stitch up to and including next marker. This is your first straight side.

You’ll be at the first place where you increased six in the previous round.

(Increase 1, single crochet 1) up to next marker. You’ll have an increase of six stitches between the two markers at this end of your rug.

Beginning with the next marked stitch, single crochet 1 in every stitch up to and including next marker.

(Increase 1, single crochet 1) up to next marker–which you’ll find is the beginning-of-round marker. This end of your rug will have increased by six stitches.

You’re off to a fine start. The rest will be more of the same.

All Subsequent Rounds

Along your straight edges, 1 single crochet into every stitch. Your straight edges will not increase.

Between the markers at each rounded end, work 6 evenly-spaced single increases in every round. The distance between the increases will grow by 1 in every round.

For example:

Round Three: (Increase 1, single crochet 1) between the markers.

Round Four: (Increase 1, single crochet 2) between the markers.

Round Five: (Increase 1, single crochet 3) between the markers.

And so forth, until your rug has as many rounds as you require, or until you run out of either yarn or clothesline.

Finishing

Fasten off your yarn, and cut the loose ends of your clothesline near the crochet.

On the Floor Conclusion 10

It seems like there should be more to it, but there isn’t.

The Finished Rug

I declare, I am quite pleased with it. Cheerful, but stout and heavy enough to be useful–like the braided rag rugs that inspired me to give this technique a try.

On the Floor Conclusion 11

The semi-solid HiKoo Simpliworsted (this is colorway 665) shows off beautifully, making occasional shadowy rings of slightly lighter and darker blue.

On the Floor Conclusion 12

The only thing I’m not thrilled with is the size. I used the entire length of my clothesline. Even so, the dimensions are a slightly stingy 23 inches (58.5cm) long by 10.5 inches (26.5cm) wide. To serve as a doormat, it could use another two inches of width–which would mean adding only another three rounds.

I’d need to join in more clothesline, and that’s not difficult. Just place the new length on the work where needed, with about inch of excess hanging on the wrong side. Work on. When you’re finished, trim the excess at the beginning and end.

The only other thing to keep in mind is that the larger your rug gets, the heavier it gets. This rapidly becomes a piece that’ll hurt your wrists and back if you try to lug it around like a doily. After about ten rounds, support it on a table.

Final Thoughts for Further Rugging

When I picked up the vintage booklet, this idea of crocheting a rug over clothesline was, to me, entirely unfamiliar. As this adventure began to unfurl, I was immensely pleased to hear from several “Fridays with Franklin” readers who knew it well, and kindly wrote to me about their own experiences.

The practice was apparently quite common in the days when most households hung laundry to dry, and most clotheslines were pure cotton that frayed, discolored, and weakened fairly quickly. When it could no longer support socks and underwear, was it thrown out? No! It became a rug. Wonderfully thrifty and sensible.

As our throwaway culture gradually, painfully begins to rediscover the necessity of making things last, I hope we’ll see more and more techniques like this creep back into the spotlight. I know I’ll be doing this again.

Just not with Kenny’s pattern. Kenny can go to hell.

(The next adventure begins in two weeks.)

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Hikoo Simpliworsted: 55% Merino Superwash, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon; 140 yd per 100g skein. Colors: 611 (gray/light blue) and 665 (blue).

AddiColours Crochet Hook (from set of nine color-coded, comfort grip hooks), size 3.5 mm.

Wellington Light Load Economy Clothesline: Nylon core, braided cotton exterior; 42 yards.

About Franklin Habit

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep.

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 Knitty.com, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

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, Squam Arts Workshops, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

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