With preparations for our February 2019 Victorian Knit-Along running at full steam, this is going to be a brief (but breathless) edition of “Fridays with Franklin.”
I found some time to continue work on the artfelt upholstery project that began here.
If you’re not familiar with artfelt, there’s a whole lot of information (and a link to Karin Skacel’s how-to video) in that column.
This time, I was determined to avoid ending up with too little fabric to cover the cushion. I cut out a piece of artfelt paper the full size of my felting mat–nearly two-and-half feet square.
Out came the artfelt roving, and I started laying it out with no particular pattern in mind. Last time, I tried a floral and was extremely taken with the results. This time, I started with sort-of stripes.
The roving naturally pulled apart into what you might call wedges, sections with a fat end and a tapered end. So as I worked across the paper I started to let the shape of the wedge determine the shape of the next splash of color.
The visual energy in the piece grew.
Once I’d finished covering the paper, I stepped back and was absolutely gobsmacked by the result.
It’s not that it was a flash of genius. Not but any means.
It just didn’t look like what I think of as my style.
I have many shortcomings as a designer, and near the top of the list is a certain timidity. This was so bold, I would have sworn someone else had done it. Surprising. Exciting.
I often say, and I’ll say it again, that when a medium is new to you, it’s a good idea to let the medium tell you what it likes to do before you try to tell it what to do.
About 45 minutes of tumbling in a low-heat dryer gave me a beautiful fabric which was–again!–smaller than estimated, but large enough to be useful.
I try not to use the word “magic” in here. But that’s how the transformation feels. I love the way all those separate fibers on a sheet of paper become a length of fabric. I love the way the process reactivates the natural crimp (waviness) of the wool.
I could have gone ahead with the upholstery after the felt was dry…but no. A friend sent me some snapshots of a cushion her great-grandmother had embroidered with silks in the early 20th century. The cushion was ragged, badly in need of conservation, but still undeniably gorgeous.
And I was conceived of an irresistible desire to embroider the felt with silk.
Happily, Makers’ Mercantile has a line of hand-dyed embroidery silks that you can buy in small, reasonably priced bundles. So I went nuts and ordered a dozen different colorways.
The pure mulberry silk itself is so divine that I’ve started working it into the swirls and wedges in small running stitch, about the simplest embroidery stitch there is.
Where is this going? What’s it going to look like when it’s complete? I…um…I don’t know.
Right now, I’m about the furthest out I’ve ever been, doing something wholly unlike me. It’s not just fun, it’s exhilarating. I don’t want to stop. So I’m not going to.
For better or worse, I’ll show the results next time we meet.
Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
artfelt wool roving
Makers’ Mercantile Pure Mulberry Silk for Embroidery
Zitron Infinito (100% extra fine merino, 550 yards [500m] per 100g hank), sample is shown in Colorway 2
Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.
He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.
Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.
He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).
Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.