For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.
In my life there is (and always has been) a constant battle between the useful and the beautiful, the aesthetic and the ergonomic.
It’s no use going all Corbusier on me, either, and suggesting that I learn to appreciate household goods that are meant to be cogs in a machine for living.
I grew up in military houses decorated by a mother who used beige as an accent color, and once rejected a bedspread of pale gray striped with white as Too Busy. Carved details on furniture gave her headaches. Antiques gave her the heebie-jeebies. She was sure they were either haunted or harboring lice.
Naturally, I have grown up to become the sort of person who uses old bits of china and silver–the more floral, the better–to hold tools in my workroom. I love color. Lots of color, as you may have gathered from the beginnings of my excursion to crazy quilt knitting last time.
My intent this week was to show you the next stage of the crazy quilt project, but two things happened. First, the dear postman who was entrusted with the stage two yarns threw them, so far as we can tell, into Lake Michigan. I hope the fish enjoy them. Perhaps they can knit themselves little fish mittens.
Second, my workroom chair threw my butt out of whack.
Here’s the chair. Cute, right? That’s why I chose it. It’s cute.
My workroom is in a building my mother probably would have admired. It was built as an automotive garage, and includes such charming features as cinderblock walls, rubber industrial flooring, and dropped ceilings.
That’s Chicago, baby. You get what you can get. If I want a skylit studio in a sweet vintage building, I’ll have to give up knitting for a living in order to afford it.
I figured I could warm up the space with furnishings and décor, sparse as they presently are. The chair is a key part of that. Not for me, some rolling plastic and rubber grotesquerie from an office supply chain. Heavens, no.
It was all fine until I spent a long day in the chair, pushing out work to meet a draconian deadline–then stood up and fell right down again.
Wouldn’t you know, wood slats and a rush seat don’t offer the last word in lumbar support; nor do they cradle my aging buttocks in a manner sufficiently ergonomic to keep them happy. The sweet little chair just about crippled me.
I appealed to a local friend who is an expert in these matters, and she told me to turn the chair into a plant stand and go buy something sensible. I got all quivery and weepy.
She sighed and said, fine– if I must insist upon using it, at least pad the damn thing. That might help.
So I warped my trusty Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, because I wanted to weave the fabric for my new cushion. Because of course I did.
The yarn had been in my “Fridays with Franklin” stash since the last time I played with shadow knitting in these pages. I adore shadow knitting, in fact it’s a subject I teach with the zeal of an evangelist. But that project failed to make me happy–the theory of the mitered shadowing didn’t turn out as I’d hoped.
I kept all the leftover yarns, though, because the yarn did make me happy. It’s gorgeous stuff–HiKoo Llamor, 100% baby llama.
Those colors would punch the industrial gloom of the workspace right in the nose. There are echoes of them in some of my painted china. That shocking pink may well set the drop ceiling on fire.
I couldn’t keep my butt waiting forever, so I made the warp (almost) as simple as I could: stripes, symmetrical, tied on without any real planning. I followed my nose, putting some of each color into the mix.
Except I forgot the purple, because it fell off the table.
A warp like this takes a newbie like me about two hours to finish. I love the look of a fresh warp. It’s so orderly. Full of potential.
For the weft pattern, I settled on more simplicity: eight shots of each color, forming broad stripes. To prepare, I wound a bobbin of each color (including, this time, the purple). Using a boat shuttle meant changing from one to the next was as easy as clicking out the old bobbin and clicking in the new.
Then, I wove.
It took about four hours–maybe it would have been three if I hadn’t been watching The Crown–to whip up this.
The fabric is off the loom, but not finished. I need to:
• stabilize the cut ends with two quick lines of machine sewing,
• repair three or four skips (places where the shuttle went over or under a wrong warp thread),
• wet finish the fabric so it will be ready to sew into a cushion.
I’ll show you the finishing next time, though I’m just about to get down to it. This project has a certain urgency. Happy butt, happy me.
Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
HiKoo Llamor Yarn (100% Baby Llama, 109 yards per 50g ball)
Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom, 15-Inch
Aumuller Korbwaren Large Cantilevered Sewing Box (one style of the many carried by Makers’ Mercantile)
Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.
He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat. He will lead his own knitting cruise to Bermuda in September, 2018.
Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.
He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).
Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.
Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.