Fridays with Franklin: The Zitron Art Deco Challenge Part Two, Poppin’ Wheelies

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

To see the first part of this Zitron Art Deco challenge, click here.

This week, we’re back to crochet. I love having multiple forms of craft in play all at once. I find that I get more finished when I do. It’s refreshing to set aside knitting and play with crochet; or do a bit of weaving and then change over to embroidery.

A change, as my grandmother often reminded me when I had finished washing the woodwork and was set about weeding the garden, is as good as a rest.

Ye Ollde Crochette

Once again, my current challenge is to take Zitron Art Deco (a USA exclusive to Makers’ Mercantile, shown here in Color 03)…

Zitron Art Deco, Color 03

…and work it so that the planned self-patterning is all mixed up; but gives a result that’s pleasing.

I am still miles away from knowing enough about crochet to design anything interesting. So I turned to my shelf of antique and vintage patterns in search of something fun.

In the twenty-eighth series of Weldon’s Practical Crochet, published in London in the last quarter of the nineteenth century (pinning down more exact dates for individual issues of Weldon’s Practical Needlework is tricky), I found this tantalizing little number.


This was intended to be worked in white Number 10 or Number 12 cotton as an antimacassar–a decorative but practical cover for the back of chair, meant to protect the upholstery from the macassar oil used by men to dress their hair.

I wanted to see it with Zitron Art Deco–a heavier gauge, and splashed with color. While I was waiting for the Art Deco to arrive in the mail, I grabbed some of the Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 left over from the Five Hour Baby Jacket embroidery and had a go.

Test wheel in Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6

This was enough to get me excited. I worked it straight from the original pattern, albeit with the usual pause to check the differences between British and American crochet terms. Of course, I paused only after I had already done it wrong. I always guess, and guess incorrectly, when I can’t recall whether British single crochet is bigger or smaller than American single crochet.

Here, translated into modern American crochet language, is the pattern.

Antimacassar Worked in Wheels
originally published in Weldons’ Practical Crochet, Twenty-Eighth Series (1880s)

Note on gauge: with the Zitron Art Deco yarn used in the sample and an addi® Colours crochet hook size US B (2.5mm), the author created large motifs measuring about 3.5 inches in diameter.

Beginning. Chain 8, join into a ring.

Round 1. Work 16 single crochet into ring.

Round 2. Chain 7 (counts as first treble crochet and chain 2). *Treble crochet under both threads of next single crochet, chain 2. Repeat from * until you have 16 treble crochet (including beginning chain). Join final chain 2 to fifth stitch in beginning chain.

Round 3. Work 3 single crochet into each chain 2 space of previous round. (Total of 48 single crochet.) Join to close round.

Round 4. Chain 7 (counts as first double treble crochet). Work 3 double treble crochet under both threads of next three single crochet, chain 5. **Work 4 double treble crochet into next 4 single crochet, chain 5. Repeat from ** until you have 12 groups of 4 double treble, all separated by chain 5. Join to close round.

Round 5. Work 1 single crochet between the second and third double trebles of the first group of the previous round. Work 8 single crochet around the following chain 5. Continue in this way, working 1 single crochet between the second and third stitches of each group of 4, and 8 single crochet around each chain 5.

Subsequent wheels are joined in the fifth round by uniting*** fourth and firth single crochet stitches of two successive outer loops to the corresponding stitches of previous wheels (see illustrations).

The space between a group of four wheels is filled with a small circle (the original pattern charmingly calls it a “circlet”) formed by working the wheel motif through Round 3. In working Round 3, unite*** the center stitch of every fourth space to the outer loop of an adjacent wheel.

***I used a flat join for these.

Wheels on Fire

Turns out the dang wheels are addictive – and easy to memorize. After wheeling twice, in the privacy of my own home…

…I took to wheeling in public. Without a pattern. Without caring who saw me. I HAD NO SHAME. I HAD TO MAKE MORE WHEELS.


When I eventually regained full control over my faculties, I found I had a little garland of wheels.


I liked it very much. It made me smile. It made me giggle. It made want to flip up my kilt and run barefoot through a meadow.

The garland was a little wrinkly, so I soaked and blocked it. No pins. Just soaked in clean water, patted into shape, and laid flat to dry.

Then I liked it even more.

The way the self-patterning colors break up, the individual wheels look a little odd and unbalanced–but connected as a large piece, they look vibrant. And the motifs are bold enough to stand out in through the color changes.

I want to keep adding to the garland until it becomes a scarf or a shawl. I know I will, since I am unable to stop making these wheels and they all have to go somewhere. In the meantime, with the work at about 17 inches long, Little Girl Upstairs (Rosamund’s dear friend, and big sister to Upstairs Baby) was kind enough to model it for me.

She told me she expects to get it when it’s finished.

Update on the Part One of the  Zitron Art Deco Challenge: Knitting

The knitting part of the challenge is complete. I made the short-rowed cowl in Color 01 about as high as I figured it ought to be and bound off. Decent little thing. Cute fabric, good drape. Amusing to knit.

As I’ve said before, my customary practice with all knitting is to wet finish. It smooths out the stitches, cleans the fabric, and lends a more professional appearance.

This cowl is an object lesson in the benefits of wet blocking. I soaked it for a couple hours in plain, tepid water; then removed it from the water, rolled it up in old towels, and jumped up and down on it until it was still damp, but not sopping.

Then I laid it flat to dry. Look what happened.

Before Blocking
After Blocking

Not only is it (much) larger, with better drape; but the fabric itself is handsomer. The short-row lozenges have opened up beautifully as the stitches relaxed.

And all that comes from about half a ball. Yes, that will do.


We’re going to make the complete pattern for this available as a free Makers’ Mercantile download. Watch this space.

Coming Up Next…

For the third part of the Zitron Art Deco challenge, I’ll be weaving this…

Get over here, you cute little thing, you.

…on a Schacht Zoom Loom. Self-patterning yarns usually do crazy cool stuff when you weave with them. I expect shenanigans of the very best kind.

New in the Shop

Makers’ Mercantile was so pleased with the demand for my “Yarn Sheep” leggings that they asked me to do another yarn-themed design for them. The result is “Endless Yarn”–cats and balls entangled forever. Available in sizes XS to 6XL–full details are here.

“Endless Yarn,” a new design for leggings for Makers’ Mercantile.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Art Deco (80% Virgin Wool, 20% Nylon; 437 yards per 100 gram ball). Shown in Colors 01, 02, and 03.

addi® Colours Crochet Hook Set

Schacht Zoom Loom

“Endless Yarn” Leggings designed by Franklin Habit

“Yarn Sheep” Leggings designed by Franklin Habit

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. 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 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

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 ( or his Facebook page.