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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

original-pattern-01

original-pattern-02

original-pattern-03.jpg

Finishing Your Scarf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pattern

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

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

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

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

About Franklin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

feb-kal-2019-websize (2)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

But they’re not.

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

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

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

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

chevrons-illo

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll see.

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

Winding Your Infinito

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

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

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

Swatching

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

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

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

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

Casting On

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

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


The Decreases

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

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

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

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

Here they are.

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

Lpd: Left purl decrease.

Dbl dec: Double decrease.

The Pattern

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

Neither is a superior way of working the pattern.

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

Use whichever you prefer.

If you use the charts, please note that:

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

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

fwf-81-kal-hem

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

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

Join the discussion HERE.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

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


 

About Franklin

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Fridays with Franklin: Time Travel with Me

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

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

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

This is the yarn.

fwf-81-zitron-infinito

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

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

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

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

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

feb-kal-2019-websize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fwf-81-kal-hem

fwf-81-kal-fold

fwf-81-kal-half

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

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

About Franklin

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Fridays with Franklin: The Edge of Crazy

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

For the first part of this project, click here.

It’s not often that I wish a project were larger. This one has been an exception. Every stage has been more fun than I anticipated–and the result makes me smile.

This is a small piece. I thought it would be a swatch.

I’ve carried it with me during the busiest teaching travel season I’ve ever had. It has been worked on in eleven states; in big cities and in the middle of nowhere; on land, on sea, and in the air; in view of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; next to one Great Lake, two small lakes, and a medium-sized pond with a frog in it.

It’s seven inches wide and nine inches long.

When last we met, I was working on the decorative embroidery between the patches.

fwf-76-embroideryprogress
In addition to the buttonhole stitch (open and closed) and the feather stitch, I went cuckoo and added French knots with little tails in a few places where it seemed additional frivolity would be welcome.

It was fun.

At no point did this project require me to be serious or restrained. At no point did I have to ask myself whether more embellishment would be too much, or whether I ought to tread within the bounds of good taste. This project is crazy. It says so right there in the name.

When I had finished the lion’s share of the embroidery I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to leave the swatch a swatch. I didn’t have the time (or yarn) to do an entire blanket. But I had enough to make it up into a tiny, unserious cushion cover.

Since it was an unserious cushion cover, I kept dicking around with stuff I had been told never to do. For example, a very serious knitter once warned me that in cushion covers, one must always be sure the grain of the front fabric matched the grain of the fabric. In other words, you must always arrange the panels thus:

fwf-76-grains-matched

and never thus:

fwf-76-grains-perpendicular

If one broke this rule, she insisted, one’s cushion would…I don’t know what. Explode? I mean, the horizontal grain (rows) and the vertical grain (columns) of any knitted fabric do stretch at different rates; but why would this be a catastrophe in a cover over a stable (if squishy) center?

Anyway, she’s dead now, and she was mean while she was alive. So I decided to stick my tongue out at her, posthumously, and mix the grains up like a madman with nothing left to lose:

I striped the back panel at random with every color from the front except the purple, because for about a week I couldn’t find it.

I put one-row buttonholes into the upper back panel.

fwf-76-buttonholes

Wait. That sort of looks like a superhero mask, doesn’t it?

fwf-76-garterwoman

Garter Woman! Na na NA nana na NAAAAA!

This was, of course, an excuse to play with more buttons from Skacel buttons; so I lost a pleasant hour wandering among the hundreds on offer and settled on the Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons because I was feeling both fancy and iridescent.

fwf-76-fourbuttons

Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons from Skacel Buttons

I sewed the panels together with mattress stitch, and found that the joins were fine–clean, straight, unobtrusive–but altogether too sober. Insufficiently bonkers. So I pulled out my vintage needlework books in search of a mildly bonkers edging.

A pattern collection from 1905 turned up just the very thing, a picot edge, which looks like this:

fwf-76-picotedgecrochet
and is worked like this (I quote the original verbatim–if I can make sense of it, so can you):

Make a chain of the length required, work Sg. C [single crochet] or DC [double crochet] on this, then fasten yarn with a Sg. C in the top of a stitch; chain 3, insert the hook through the top of the first chain stitch, throw yarn over the hook and draw through both loops; fasten with a Sg. C in top of next stitch, or skip one stitch and fasten whichever way makes the picot lie flat.

I wanted to crochet the edging directly to the cushion cover; so rather than make a chain, I worked slip stitches all the way around the seam line between the front and back panels and worked the rest of the edging stitches into that.

fwf-76-crochethook
You may notice that I found the purple HiKoo Sueño Worsted that had gone missing. I used an addi Olive Wood crochet hook in size US D/3.25 mm because it seemed like it would do and it was near the chair I was sitting in.

The result was a very unserious ruffled edge–ruffled because instead of obeying the instructions about making the edge lie flat, I crammed the picots in. Jamming lots and lots of fabric into a smallish space gives you ruffles. Annoying when you don’t want them, delightful when you do.

fwf-ruffle-edge
It’s kinda like the edge of the petticoats on a cancan dancer. O, là-là! La plume da ma crayon! Défense de fumer!

Then on went the buttons, one-two-three-four. In four different colors. Because in crazy patchwork, more is more.

I have heard more than one knitter say that button placement makes him nervous. This is all I do–put the upper band over the lower and insert locking stitch markers through the buttonholes to mark the place each button needs to go. Boom.

fwf-76-buttonholesmarked
Neat little buttons, all in a row. A pretty sight.

fwf-76-buttonson

In case you’re wondering where I got a pillow form of the correct size (7 inches by 9 inches), I didn’t. I cut up an old cotton sheet that was in the rag bag and sewed one, stuffing it neatly with some clean, hand-dyed wool roving that I bought ages ago at a fiber fair, and have never been able to understand why I bought it, because the colors are hideous. No, I am not going to show it to you; and no, I’m not going to tell you who dyed it.

I’m not that crazy.

Now I have this hilarious little pillow…

fwf-76-pillow-01.jpg
fwf-76-pillow-02

fwf-76-pillow-03
…and I don’t know what it’s for, though I am absolutely going to use it as a sample for a new class on knitting and embroidering crazy quilt squares. If I can’t stop the madness, I might as well spread it around.

Epilogue in HiKoo Sueño

This is was my first encounter with HiKoo Sueño Worsted and I can’t say enough good things about it.

It’s so crisp and smooth, and the colors show off brilliantly. There’s been no sign of pilling, even though the balls of yarn and the knitting itself has been dragged around the country.

Even after the cushion cover was finished I didn’t want to stop knitting the stuff, so I whipped up an impromptu cowl for Rosamund without a pattern.

fwf-76-rosamund-hikoosueno-cowl
She likes it. She likes to have clothes on, especially as the weather in Chicago turns nippy. The only thing I think I might do is line it with woven fabric to keep the floats on the inside from catching on her collar. But that’s for another column.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)
HiKoo Sueño (80% Merino Wool 20% Viscose; 255 Yards per 100g hank.)
Fancy Iridescent Glass Buttons (18mm) by Skacel Buttons
addi Olive Wood Crochet Hook
Clover Small Locking Stitch Markers

About Franklin

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Fridays with Franklin: Still Crazy

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

For the first part of this project, click here.

The more I worked on the knitted crazy quilt square, the more I began to appreciate why crazy quilting had become a craze in the nineteenth century.

There is a freedom of invention in the work you simply don’t find in pieced quilting that commits you to, for example, create identical multiples of a half-square triangle (as I did in the Floralia Blanket). Beyond that, the decorative embroidery along the seams is a holiday of invention.

You don’t have to commit to much of anything when you’re embroidering the seams on a crazy quilt. If you have, say, fifty seams to embroider, you can embroider them fifty different ways. You can combine as many different stitches along a seam as you can fit. You can change your colors as you will. You can use floss, thread, yarn, or ribbon.

The square was looking pretty good with its combination of open and closed buttonhole stitches…

fwf-74-squareprogress
…and even on such a small piece there was still room for more experimentation.

I switched to a color of HiKoo Sueño that I’d ordered, but had rejected out of hand as being probably too stark to look well on the patches: 1111 Cream, which isn’t bone white, but would (I felt sure) appear unpleasantly cold against the intarsia patchwork.

The stitch I chose is an old favorite–and another I learned from my grandmother. It’s common name is feather stitch, and my grandmother said it was her mother’s quick decoration of choice for the collars of little girls’ blouses.

Project - Sketch 1_20

Following buttonhole and closed buttonhole (see the previous installment of this saga) with feather stitch shows us once again how often small changes in how a stitch is made turns it into something with a surprisingly different appearance. Feather stitch is really just a variation on buttonhole. Here’s how you do it.

You’ll want to imagine (or draw in, or trace with basting stitches in contrasting thread) three parallel guidelines, like so:

fwf-75-feather-guidelinesThe stitches will be worked from the top down.

At Point 1, bring the needle up on B (the center line).  Take it down at Point 2, on C (the right line). Immediately bring it up again at B, with–this is important!–the working yarn under the needle tip as shown below.

fwf-75-feather-01.jpg
If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll notice that this is quite similar to the creation of a buttonhole stitch. You create a loop of yarn on the right side of the fabric by coming up at 1 and going down at 2; and by keeping that loop under the needle as you come up at 3, you catch the loop on the working yarn and create the first stitch.

Next, you’ll do pretty much the same thing, but in mirror image.

Go down at Point 1 on A, the left line. Come up at 2 on B, the center line–keeping the loop of working yarn under the needle as you pull through.

Project - Sketch 1_19
Then do the same from C to B. Then the same from A to B. Then C to B. Then A to B. Then C to B. Then A to B. And so forth, until you have the length of stitching you desire. To end a line of feather stitch, take a final small stitch down into B to secure the last loop.

Project - Sketch 1_20

Feather stitch is lots of fun and–as my great-grandmother understood–it gives you a lot of bang for your buck, because it is quick to work and yet looks far more complicated than it actually is.

My big surprise at this stage was finding that the color of HiKoo Sueño I’d considered unsuited for this project actually worked better, in my eyes, than the others.

fwf-75-hikoosuenocream
I thought it wouldn’t do enough to tone down the unintentional 1980s Colors of Benetton brightness of the patchwork. I have to admit, it shows up beautifully.

fwf-75-featherstitched-square
In fact, I may take out all the embroidery and rework it in Color 1111.

fwf-75-featherstitch-closeup

The more of this crazy work I do, the happier I am to be going crazy.

Next time we’ll finish up the embroidery and decide what exactly to do with this piece.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)
HiKoo Sueño (80% Merino Wool 20% Viscose; 255 Yards per 100g hank.)

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: Gone Sailin’

fwf-logo-columnsize

My friends, I’ve been at sea leading a knitting cruise; and we have landed in Bermuda after across seas as smooth as glass and blue beyond blue.

But as you can see below, I’ve brought Maker’s Mercantile with me.

fwf-bermuda

Hamilton, Bermuda. #placesyoucanknit

The color of Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock that I’m using, Number 1406, has proven to be an uncannily perfect match to the blue of the water and more than a few of the beautiful buildings here in Hamilton.

I’m working these as plain socks in a solid color on addi FlexiFlips, and I’m going to embroider them with duplicate stitch motifs as a sort of companion/sequel to the Bee Socks–which were also knit in Trekking XXL Sport. Yeah…I love this yarn. It’s the not just the clear colors that get me, it’s the quality. The strength. It lasts. I know I can trust it not to wear out in a month.

 

I’ll be back home soon, and see you next Friday with the latest on the knitted crazy quilt project.

3 Fridays with Franklin: More Crazy

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

For the first part of this project, click here.

The first shipment of yarns intended for the embroidery on my knitted crazy quilt square is still out there, somewhere, possibly at the bottom of Lake Michigan. The second shipment arrived intact. It’s a beauty.

fwf-74-suenodk

HiKoo Sueño from Skacel.

The square was knit in HiKoo Sueño Worsted, so I chose its little (DK weight) sister, HiKoo Sueño, for the finishing touches.

A great deal of the beauty in traditional crazy quilting lies, of course, in the purely ornamental “seams” that run along the borders between patches. The earliest guides in my collection (from the  1880s) are wildly inventive in this regard. Seams were often made from combinations of two, three, or more stitches. The effect was dazzling and rich.

inspiration

In later crazy quilts, especially those from the 1920s and 1930s, these decorations are usually far simpler, even crude.

On the one hand, this may well be because twentieth century women had more outlets for their creativity, and were less confined to the home. And that’s wonderful.

On the other hand, the quilts (in my opinion) became far less interesting and far less beautiful.

Fancy seams would be my choice for the knitted square, but as I contemplated the reality of the test piece a few things became clear.

quilt-with-hand
I am very happy with the appearance of the garter stitch fabric. When I roll all these techniques into a class, we’ll be working garter stitch intarsia. But the bumps of garter fabric present a challenge to the embroiderer–they will tend to obscure very fine details. Embroidery floss, for example, is going to sink into the crevices and disappear.

To combat that, I chose a dk weight yarn. Heavy enough to show up on the fabric, light enough (I hoped) to allow a modest amount of intricacy.

The sizes of my “patches,” though, meant I’d given myself very little room to play with. For future experiments, I’m planning on larger patches–and fewer of them.

Meanwhile, I needed to work with the fabric I’d made.

For a bold effect I chose a favorite stitch that is so easily varied that its forms can (and do) fill entire chapters in embroidery guides: buttonhole/blanket stitch.

If you’re wondering about the slash, it’s because these two stitches–buttonhole and blanket–are worked almost identically. The chief difference is spacing and scale.

Blanket stitches are usually larger, and stand a bit apart from one another.

fwf-74-blanket-st

Buttonhole stitches are usually finer, and by definition are taken so close together that no fabric shows between them.
fwf-74-buttonhole-st
In embroidery, however–as opposed to plain sewing–the term “buttonhole stitch” often designates the stitch made as an embellishment, even if the uprights of the individual stitches do not touch.

Before I go any further, I will mention that an online debate has been raging over whether what I am about to describe is truly buttonhole stitch or whether that name is more properly applied to a similar stitch worked somewhat differently. And that’s all I’m going to say about the debate, because I think it’s uninteresting and I don’t care.

Anyway, here’s buttonhole/blanket stitch as taught to me by my late grandmother, Pauline. She began sewing buttonholes for money when she was seven years old, and continued to work as a professional tailor and seamstress until she was 93.

fwf-74-pauline

Pauline as a seven-year-old schoolgirl in Smock, Pennsylvania, in the 1920s.

The plain vanilla version of the stitch asks you to imagine two parallel guidelines, like so.

fwf-74-guidelines

The upper and lower guidelines, in blue.

If you are right-handed, you will work the seam from left to right. If you are left-handed, you will work right to left. These diagrams are drawn from the right-handed point of view, because the world is unfair and left-handed people know that.

Begin by bring the needle up through the lower guideline, at the spot marked START HERE.

fwf-74-buttonhole-diagram

From there, all stitches are made in the same way. Take the needle down through the upper guideline at Point A. Bring it up at Point B, on the lower guideline.

As you bring the needle up–this is IMPORTANT, so PAY ATTENTION–make sure the loop of working yarn on the right side of the fabric is under the needle, as shown. Pull through until the the loop gently but firmly catches on the working yarn.

Repeat for length of seam. To finish, take a final stitch downward at Point C, to the right on the lower guideline.

Buttonhole stitch looked nice on the knitted square. Not spectacular, but you gotta start somewhere.

fwf-74-buttonhole-photo

Now, as I mentioned above, buttonhole’s variations are many and lovely. One of my favorites is closed buttonhole stitch, which makes tiny triangles along the seam.

fwf-74-closed-butt
In my embroidery classes, some students see these as a fleet of sailboats. Others see them as a school of shark fins. This probably says something about them, psychologically, but I’d rather not know what it is.

fwf-74-sharkfin

Please do not ever tell me your innermost thoughts.

Closed buttonhole stitch takes two steps. The first step, simply enough, is to make a buttonhole stitch.

fwf-74-closed-step-02

Closed buttonhole, step one.

Now we close the buttonhole stitch. Take the needle down again at Point A (yes, the same hole), and bring it up at Point C, on the lower guideline, a little further along to the right.

fwf-74-closed-buttonhole

Closed buttonhole, step two.

Repeat as desired. Make a buttonhole stitch, close it. That’s all.

On the knitted square, closed buttonhole looked pretty darn cute.

fwf-74-closedphoto
My favorite crazy quilt seams combine multiple stitches to make the embroidery really sing, so the experimentation will continue. I need to play with all the colors, too. Never be satisfied with your first attempt at anything.

More about that next time.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)
HiKoo Sueño (80% Merino Wool 20% Viscose; 255 Yards per 100g hank.)

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.

 

 

5 Fridays with Franklin: Crazed

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

All of us who make things are prone to funny little peeves and preferences.

One of mine–one that I have in fact shared with students who bring up the question of inspiration–is an aversion to pieces of needlework in which one technique tries to ape another. Knitting pretending to be crochet. Crochet pretending to be knitting. Knitted or crocheted versions of things usually (and for good reason) sewn with woven fabrics. I don’t care for it.

There’s no rhyme or reason to this aversion of mine. It’s purely personal. Instinctive.

So imagine my surprise when I was leafing through a much-loved copy of Weldon’s Practical Needlework (a late Victorian publication from England, available in facsimile reprints) and stopped at this, one of my favorite illustrations…

inspiration

…and found myself thinking, It would be fun to knit a crazy quilt.

I’m not supposed to think that. If you want to make a crazy quilt, I said to myself, then get out the rag bag and sew one.

My naughty brain would not leave the idea alone. It had been some time since I’d indulged myself in intarsia–a technique too maligned, too often considered unwieldy. This would be a golden opportunity to play with it.

Crazy quilting, if you are not familiar with it, became something of a Craft Madness in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Unlike the workaday cotton or wool pieced quilts meant as bedcovers, crazy quilts most often recycled odds and ends of luxury fabrics like silk and velvet. But any fabric could be used. The combinations found in extant pieces are astonishing. This example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is representative.

62.143

Aletta Whitehouse Davis (1830?–1925), Crazy Quilt (c. 1885). Made in New England from silk, silk velvet, cotton, and chenille. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Reverend and Mrs. Karl Nielsen, 1962.

The scraps could be any shape. Colors, textures, and fibers were mixed at the pleasure of the maker.

The result–sometimes called an “art quilt”–was often used as a stylish throw for the parlor sofa, or might be draped over the furniture in a fashionable “Turkish corner” filled with artsy exotica.

And because a crazy quilt isn’t only about the joining of colorful bits with odd shapes, I’d get to decorate the piece with embellishments. Embellishments were fundamental to crazy quilting–the place for the needlewoman to really flaunt her creativity.

The Davis quilt is covered with embroidery and appliqué in cheerful profusion.

62.143
Embellishment meant I could look forward not merely to intarsia, but to intarsia with stuff on it. And, as you will have noticed if you tune in regularly, I am in love with projects that allow me to combine techniques.

When I realized that after two months of daydreaming I still wanted to try this, I gave in and asked Makers’ Mercantile for a mess of HiKoo Sueño Worsted in a jumble of pretty colors.

sueno-basket

The pot basket from Big Blue Moma (you can get one from Makers’ Mercantile) is so cute I want to carry it everywhere.

This is a favorite workhorse worsted of mine. It’s warm. It’s soft, but tough. The color range is wide enough to allow craziness. It makes a handsome finished fabric.

I chose colors that I remembered seeing in old crazy quilts, especially my favorite 1880s-1890s examples.

The late Victorian crazy quilters were the most exuberant and profuse in their decorating, even including things like appliquéd paper scraps and photographs, beads and buttons, tassels and fringes, and even paint.

I didn’t know if I’d go that far, but I figured my experimental base ought to at least admit the possibility.

Crazy Knitting Without Going Crazy

Now, intarsia (if we set aside extreme examples) is not the frenetic waltz with an octopus that it is often imagined to be.

Yes, it can get kinda stringy with multiple ends hanging off the work-in-progress. But  a little advance planning keeps them nicely managed.

Me, I love intarsia; but I choose my projects carefully. The technique is wonderful for bold patterns constructed from large areas of flat color. It is less wonderful (from the standpoint of the knitter) for fussy patterns constructed from fifty billion wee bits of color.

My crazy square,* therefore, was laid out with enough shapes and colors to evoke patchwork. But the shapes were mostly on the large side, and almost no row in my chart ever had more than four strands of color in play.

Here’s my chart. There was no plan to it. I just filled in shapes until it looked like I thought it ought to.

crazy-garter-chart-v01

The collision of the star symbol and the dot symbol is unfortunate, but I was in a hurry. After I printed out a working copy to take on the road, I shaded the star squares lightly with a pencil to make them easier to read.

I also decided to work this experiment as intarsia in garter stitch. For those of you who are new to the party (welcome!) that means that in my flat-knit fabric, all stitches would be knit stitches. No purling (until the final row, but more on that later).

My reasons for this were as follows:

• The gauge of garter stitch is roughly square–the number of stitches per inch is usually about the same as the number of rows per inch.

So I could lay out my chart on a plain ol’ square grid and not worry about differences between stitch gauge and row gauge. Yes, I have access to “knitter’s graph paper” with a non-square grid; but this was easier. And it was right at hand. And as you know, if you read this column regularly, I am LAZY.

• The primary visual feature of garter stitch is the ridge formed by two consecutive rows of knitting: once across the right side, once across the wrong side.

Working my chart in garter stitch meant that the order of the colors in any wrong side row would be identical to the order of the colors in the preceding right side row. So on all wrong side rows, I could ignore the chart and just work the colors as they presented themselves. If the next stitch on the left needle was blue, I would knit into it with the same blue. Ditto for all the colors. No need to look at the chart. Simple. Easy. See, “I am LAZY,” above.

• Garter stitch lies flat.

• Garter stitch looks pretty.

• I like garter stitch.

Using garter stitch meant numbering my chart rows appropriately, like so:

crazy-garter-chart-v02

Right side rows are odd numbers, worked right to left. Wrong side rows are even numbers, worked left to right. Each row of squares in the chart is worked twice: once right to left, then once left to right.

Yes, every row of squares in the chart is knit twice. Once across for the right side, once across for the wrong side.

Now, as to the stringy bit.

Intarsia requires a separate strand of working yarn for every block of color in a given row. If you’re not familiar with intarsia at all, you might like to check out this installment of an earlier Fridays with Franklin adventure for a decent introduction.

To keep dangling ends to a minimum, one of the things I like to do is estimate how much yarn a given block of color will require, then reel off that much of it. I don’t wind these strands onto intarsia bobbins, or wrap them into butterflies. I just let them hang.

How do I estimate the amount of yarn I need for a block of color? It’s pretty simple. Takes a bit of time and counting, but it’s worth it to me in terms of time saved (in the end) and annoyance avoided.

Estimating Yarn for One Block of Intarsia

Step One. Take the yarn you’ll be using, and wrap it gently but firmly ten times around the needle you’ll be using.

needle-wrapped

Wrap that needle.

Step Two. Remove the yarn from the needle and measure how much you used for those ten wraps. That’s how much you need for ten stitches. (Let’s say, for demonstration purposes, you got a result of 6 inches.)

ruler

Measure the yarn you wrapped.

Step Three. Count up the number of stitches in that block of your intarsia design. (Let’s say, for demonstration purposes, you have 108 stitches in the block.)

Step Four. The math bit.

If you’re working in stockinette stitch (each row in the chart is worked one time), do this:

Divide the number of stitches in the block by 10. (We get 10, with a remainder of 8.)

Multiply the resulting whole number (ignore the remainder for the moment) by the number of inches you needed for 10 wraps. (We multiply 10 by 6, and get 60).

To this number, add additional length for the remainder. (Since eight is pretty near 10, I’ll add in the full six inches needed for 10 wraps. Our total is now 70.)

Add in an additional 12 inches for tails at the beginning and end.

So our hypothetical strand would be measured out to 78 inches.

If you are working in garter stitch, do as above; but multiply your total by 2 before you add in the 12 inches for your tails. (We do this because every square in our chart represents two knit stitches, not one.)

This is a loosey-goosey way to estimate, yet I’ll be darned if it doesn’t get me the right length almost every time.

The Naked Square

Once I had done up a chart, and counted the squares in each block, the knitting clicked along with refreshing ease.

I cast on using the long tail method, following the color order given in row 1.

caston

Since the long tail cast on not only casts on, but also works your first row of knit stitches, I followed it by knitting row 2 of the chart. In the photo above, I’ve just finished row six. I think it’s row six. I’m pretty sure it’s row six. Where are my glasses?

From there, it was shockingly quick work to finish the entire chart. I ended by binding off in purl, following the order of the colors, on the right side after completing wrong side row 80.

See?
quilt-with-hand
It’s not perfectly square, but it’s close enough that it could be easily blocked to square; or I could adjust the chart to make it knit up square. All part of the experimentation process.

Also, please admire my tidy backside.

crazy-quilt-reverse

If this side is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Just for fun, I put a photo of the finished square into Photoshop and multiplied it. I do this a lot, by the way, to see how a small sample of a repeating motif will look across a larger field.
crazy-quilt-repeat

It’s encouraging. This is the same square repeated, of course; but if you used the same chart, and knitted it in different colors each time; then rotated the squares as you put them together; you could achieve a finished knitted quilt with something of the non-repeating verve the original quilts offer.

I kinda hoped that would be the case.

The greatest surprise was finding that my colors were strongly evocative of the “paint spatter” Trapper Keeper I carried to school in the 1980s. This was not, I admit to you, an entirely pleasant surprise.

But now comes the embellishment, and we’ll see if we can temper the Valley Girl vibe with that. Fer shure.

See you in two weeks.

*Note that the Davis crazy quilt, like many from the time, is formed from small squares later joined into a single large square. This kept the work as portable as possible for as long as possible, and allowed for flexibility and adjustment in laying out the final design. A sensible method indeed.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

 

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)

Woven Pot Basket from Big Blue Moma

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 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: Bunny Overload

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

People who wish to organize themselves often say they’re “getting their ducks in a row.” I envy people with ducks. I don’t have ducks, I have bunnies.

bun-01

The thing about bunnies is, bunnies multiply.

bun-02
Quickly.

bun-03
May and June have been months of near-constant work travel; and that always fools with my brain. When my body gets unsettled, my brain goes with it. I lose focus. The upside of that is ideas multiplying like–well, like bunnies.

The downside is that I follow this bunny, then that bunny, and never catch up with any of them.

My worktable (which is, in reality, two worktables in Chicago; the folding trays of forty airline seats; and innumerable hotel desks and restaurants) is entirely too cluttered. So I’ve been decided it’s time to finish up, clear up, and round up.

The long-awaited Bee Socks (done in good ol’ Trekking XXL Sport) are getting their final duplicate stitch additions to the swarm.

bee-sock-progress
I’ve been having so much fun with these, but if I don’t call a halt then I won’t get anywhere with the next pair (also to be duplicated stitched) I cast on in Color 1496. I haven’t settled on a motif yet. That’s one of the advantages of duplicate stitch–I can have a good ponder while I knit. Dogs? Penguins? Excerpted lyrics from Anita Ward’s immortal 1979 disco classic “Ring My Bell”? I can’t decide, and for the moment I do not have to.

And I have not given up on the Zoom Loom triangle shawl that I wrote about last week. The more squares I add on, the more I like it. That’s not uncommon with a self-patterning yarn. You have to give the self-patterning (or, in this case, the colors that would have self-patterned) enough room to repeat before the piece starts to look balanced. An ugly duckling stage is inevitable.

zoom-loom-02

The hand of the fabric, by the way, is lovely. I’m thinking I might do more weaving with Zitron Art Deco, perhaps on my Schacht Cricket.

zoomloom-01

Don’t stop believing.

With the Bee Socks and the Zoom Loom project tidied up, I’ll be able to focus on an idea I’ve had in mind for ages, and about which I am so excited that I think it’s going to become a new class. It’s a piece of knitting, and here’s the inspiration…

inspiration
And this is the yarn…

sueno-basket

My African woven pot basket from Big Blue Moma runneth over.

It’s HiKoo Sueño Worsted, a mix of merino and viscose that comes in a handsome array of colors and feels like a pat on the head from an angel.

I’ll show you what I’m up to in two weeks.

Note: The contest I mentioned at the end of the previous column has been postponed because y’all bought so much Zitron Art Deco all of a sudden that Makers’ Mercantile is nearly sold out. When supplies have been replenished (more is on the way from Germany) we’ll tell you what we have in mind.

 

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Art Deco (80% Virgin Wool, 20% Nylon; 437 yards per 100 gram ball). Shown in Color 05.

Zitron Trekking XXL Sport Sock Yarn (75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Nylon. 459 yards per 100 gram skein.) Shown in Color 1407 (sock), 1476 (bee), 1496 (blue).

HiKoo Sueño Worsted (80% Merino Wool, 20% Viscose. 182 yards per 100 gram hank.)

Woven Pot Basket from Big Blue Moma

Schacht Zoom Loom

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 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.

7 Fridays with Franklin: The Zitron Art Deco Challenge Part One, Get Shorty

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

My first idea is seldom my best idea.

I started my three-part Zitron Art Deco challenge with knitting. It felt good to be back on familiar ground again after so much crochet.

Mind you, I’m increasingly fascinated by crochet. But I’m in that Slough of Despond I reach whenever I’ve learned enough about a new craft to want to play with it, yet haven’t learned enough to get very far on my own.

My challenge is to take this self-patterning yarn…

beauty-03

…and use three techniques (knitting, crochet, ZoomLoom weaving) to mess around with the patterning that Zitron intended. Their pattern is very handsome; I’m just a congenital contrarian.

Now, commercial self-patterning yarns most often assume three things:

1) you’ll be knitting stockinette,
2) you’ll be knitting at an “average” gauge (not notably tight or loose),
3) you’ll be making rounds or rows of “average” length (not notably short or long).

So the first and easiest way to break the self-patterning is to choose a texture other than stockinette. Even switching to garter stitch will incite a metamorphosis.

I didn’t feel much like playing with very loose gauge, and only a die-hard masochist would undertake very tight gauge. I picked a needle I figured would give me decent garter stitch and cast on.

It’s also fun to see what happens to self-patterning yarns when you employ any method that pulls a stretch of yarn out of what would otherwise be its accustomed row. Knitting into the row below will do it; so will slip stitch knitting.

slippy-the-slipstitch

Slippy McSlipstitch is three rows high.

In all my years of knitting I’d not yet tried what you might call extreme slip stitch, in which the stitches to be slipped are given extra yarn (usually through double, or even triple, yarn overs); and then these stitches are slipped on three, four, five, or even six (or more) rows.

That’s where I started, and the result was okay.

slipped-swatch

It’s not unattractive. With some elaboration–changing the frequency of the slipping, or varying the lengths–it might become quite interesting. It didn’t grab me, though. I was mildly curious about what else to pursue along this line, but only mildly.

Is mildly enough?

There’s one other tactic you can take with self-patterning yarns. Rather than breaking up the pattern–which is really a carefully organized form of color pooling–you can keep the pooling, but change the way it shows up.

I was thinking about this as I set out to once again clean up the samples in my workroom. The ad-libbed short row purse liner from Cage Match came to light,

fwf-50-finished-closeup

Cage Purse with Knitted liner in various Makers’ Mercantile yarns and fabric lining by Cotton + Steel.

and I wondered if I might not just use the same technique–building of up a fabric made of continuous short-rowed motifs–to alter the pooling and patterning in Art Deco.

 

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of short rows here–if you’d like to know more, do click over to read the Cage Match series–but in brief, I decided I’d try knitting a fabric built up gradually from small short row lozenges like this.

path-of-shortrows

Many turns make a lozenge.

The early stages were, as early stages in any repeating fabric often are, ungainly. When I teach motif design, a point I hammer home is that a repeating motif only begins to sing when you let it repeat.

One round of lozenges wasn’t much too look at. It wasn’t enough knitting to even bring every color in the color way into play.

beginning-cowl
You’ll notice there are also little passages of stockinette mixed in with the garter. At first, this was a mistake. It happened because I turned the work and knit in the wrong direction.

You may have heard, though, that a mistake repeated regularly becomes a design element. I thought, why not keep it and see what happens?

So the fabric grew.

beauty-closeup
And as it has grown larger, I have found myself very pleased indeed. The self patterning is there…it’s just not there in the way the maker intended.

beauty-02

beauty-01
I like this so much that when the challenge is complete, we will put the pattern together–it’s a cowl, worked in the round–and issue it right here on the Makers’ Mercantile blog.

Meanwhile, the second part of the challenge–crochet–is under way with Art Deco in Color 05. I’ll show you in two weeks.

zitronartdecoyarncolor05

Where Are They Now? – An Occasional Look at Past Projects

I am pleased to report that the embroidered Tunisian crochet pillow (in HiKoo CoBaSi Plus) is giving excellent service as a companion to loafing and napping. It still looks as crisp as the day it was finished. Please enjoy this action shot starring Rosamund.

rosamund-finished-pillow
We have plans to eliminate the remaining ugly green throw pillows as quickly as possible.

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.

Makers’ Mercantile Leather Purse Cage (shown in Brown)

addi Click Turbo Interchangeable Needle

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 Ravelry.com.

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

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

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

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