Fridays with Franklin

fwf-logo-v1Adventure on the Floor, Part Three

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…

skacel-c11-01

…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.

skacel-c11-02

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

skacel-c11-03

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

skacel-c11-04

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

skacel-c11-05

  1. 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.

skacel-c11-06

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.

skacel-c11-07

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.)
  1. 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.)

skacel-c11-08

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

skacel-c11-09

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.

skacel-c11-10

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.

skacel-c11-11

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

skacel-c11-12

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.

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 (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), 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.

Fridays with Franklin

fwf-logo-v1Adventure on the Floor, Part Two

For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here.

For the first part of this adventure, click here. 

Nervously, hopefully, I set out to crochet my oval rug from yarn and clothesline.

The instructions as presented in the vintage booklet were less than straightforward. Oval Rug No. 305 ostensibly begins on page three; but immediately refers you to the instructions for Oval Rug No. 300, which begins on page five. You flip to page five and locate Oval Rug No. 300. There you find the first round (only the first round) and a terse note directing you to page eleven for the rest.

The type is vanishingly tiny–far smaller, even, than many of the nineteenth century needlework books I’ve consulted. Rounds two through nineteen occupy one choked paragraph, crammed cheek-by-jowl like prisoners in the Black Hole of Calcutta.

skacel-c10-01

I was already exhausted and I hadn’t started yet.

In a situation like this I find it useful in the long run to stop and copy out the instructions so I can read them.

skacel-c10-02

Often this has another, added benefit: I begin to understand the nature of what’s to be done, and how, in advance of the actual work. Instead, as I scribbled line after line with the aid of a magnifying glass one thought began reverberate in my head.

skacel-c10-03

Something seemed off. I couldn’t put my finger on it. There were straight sections and increase sections. Clearly the increase sections were the two ends of the oval, the straight sections the flat sides. Fine. But as I copied more and more, I felt increasingly befuddled by the nature and location of the increases. There was no orderly progression from one round to the next.

I reminded myself that I am new to crochet, and that the person who wrote the pattern very likely knew a lot of things I didn’t. Maybe the thickness of the rope had something to do with it?

Just do what it tells you, I thought.

The Toolkit

Here are the fundamental skills required to crochet the rug. There are but three.

One. You must know how to single crochet over the clothesline, as described in the last installment.

Two. You must know how to join the current round to the previous round. It’s quite simple.

  • Round 1 is built by working first into the left half of the foundation chain, turning the first corner (by increasing, described below), then working into the right half of the foundation chain.skacel-c10-04
  • All stitches in all subsequent rounds are worked under both threads of the stitch below in the previous round. You can see the little hole beneath the threads in this photograph.skacel-c10-05

Three. You must know how to increase–and that’s nothing more than working multiple stitches into the same hole.

That’s it. How hard can this possibly be?

Let Me Tell You

“How hard can this possibly be?” must have been the motto of the psychotic, cocaine-addled sadist who wrote the pattern for Oval Rug No. 300.

The designer–let’s call him Kenny, because in my childhood I was mercilessly bullied by a drooling oaf named Kenny–sat down, scrawled “Oval Rug No. 300” at the top of the page with his own excrement, and thus began a pattern so awful, so perfectly awful, so mesmerizingly, heartbreakingly awful, that it is the veritable Mona Lisa of the International Museum of Awful Patterns.

Please keep in mind that we are making a basic geometric figure–an oval. The usual fashion for growing a basic geometric figure in crochet or knitting is to increase (or decrease) at regular intervals according to a simple formula.

Kenny doesn’t like that sort of thing.  Kenny likes to hold his victims in a perpetual state of hyper-vigilant suspense.

skacel-c10-06

Kenny will allow you one (1) stitch marker, to indicate the beginning the round.

You start with 67 stitches. They multiply rapidly. By the end of round three, you have 186. Do you have 186? You’d better have 186, or your rug won’t work. Kenny suggests that you count all stitches at the end of every round.  But stitch counts are provided only at random, so after finishing most rounds you’ll need to do the math yourself to find out how many you should have.

And please concentrate, because if you get distracted while counting you have to go back to stitch one. Maybe you should count every round twice, just to be sure.

Kenny hopes you love to count stitches, because you’ll also need to count your way from increase to increase all the way around. If the increases were distributed regularly, you might place additional stitch markers to indicate where they fall. But no. Kenny prefers to scatter his increases as he scatters the heads of decapitated squirrels in the woods behind his house. He follows a pattern only he can comprehend.

So as you work each round, take care to count every single stitch, absolutely all the time.

It’s 77 stitches to the next increase. Off you go.

One, two, three, four, five…was that the doorbell? Did I have five stitches or six? Better pull back and start again. Haha, no problem. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve…sixty-eight, sixty-nine, seventy, oh I love this part of that song, la la, wait…how many did I do? Shucks. Better count again. One, two, three…

skacel-c10-07

And just for that extra quelque chose, now and again Kenny moves the first stitch of the round backward or forward for no good reason. Whee!

Four Rounds with Kenny

I am new to crochet, but no stranger to complex patterns. I love complexity. I prefer it to simple repetition. Complex patterns keep my brain engaged enough to fend off boredom on long-haul projects.

On the other hand, simple repetition has certain fine qualities. Repetitive fabrics like garter stitch or double crochet  are great for knitting in company, or while reading or watching movies. Your fingers are at work, but your mind is free to play.

What Kenny achieved with Oval Rug. No. 305 is the Platonic ideal of a terrible pattern, because it is simultaneously fiendishly complex and mind-numbingly dull.

It is no more than round after round of single crochet, punctuated by increases that are also single crochet. Nothing exciting ever happens, so this should be a rug you can work on while binge-watching a season of The Real Housewives of Schenectady and sipping a Moscow Mule with your coterie of fellow fans.

But the need to count every stitch means you can never, ever take your mind off the work. You cannot watch television. You cannot listen to music. You cannot answer the door, the phone, or the child in need of immediate medical attention.  You cannot bring it to knit night or the guild meeting, you cannot keep it in the car to work on at odd moments. You cannot take a sip of tea or a bathroom break in between increases.

Oval Rug No. 305 requires you to retire to a windowless, soundproof vault with only the terrifying void of your own mortality for companionship.

I kept losing my place, and pulling back, and trying again, and losing my place, and trying again. To say progress was slow is a gross understatement. The work itself was painstaking, and opportunities to do it were few–I couldn’t pick it up unless I knew I wouldn’t be disturbed for at least an hour.

This was the result of, no joke, about twenty hours of work.

skacel-c10-08

I was on round four of nineteen rapidly increasing rounds. I can knit a moderately complicated lace shawlette in twenty hours.

Do you call that a “jiffy,” Kenny?

skacel-c10-09

Because I don’t think it is.

I was desperate for novelty. In a moment of madness, I pulled out all that work and started over with a different color of Simpliworsted (665), hoping in a hopeless sort of way that now, with multiple false starts behind me, I could make it work.

Maybe I was suffering from an excess of perfectionism. Maybe I needed to relax about making every round come out just right. So I did relax. I still counted, but not as obsessively. When I was off by one stitch, I threw in a compensating stitch somewhere nearby and moved forward.

Another six hours later, here’s what I got:

skacel-c10-10

A buckled mess. Unacceptable.
I was about ready to quit and admit defeat, but then

Oh, gosh. Look at the time. Gotta go. See you 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 (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), 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.

Fridays with Franklin

fwf-logo-v1Adventure on the Floor, Part One

For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here.

Hey, kids–remember when I promised that I’d show you what happens in these adventures even if they end with a crash, an explosion, and tears? Buckle up, because this one may well be heading that way. I truly have no idea if it will work.

More than a year ago, a very kind person who knows I have a weakness for vintage needlework books passed along a sheaf of patterns from the 1930s and 1940s. Among them was a curious specimen from a now-defunct yarn company. The subject? Making rugs.

1

I had never made a rug before, but the concept wasn’t entirely foreign. My early childhood in rural Pennsylvania overlapped by a whisker with the end of the rag-rug era. In one or two kitchens you could still find grandmothers or great-aunts sorting, braiding, weaving, and stitching the remains of old clothes into immense coils that protected bare feet from bare linoleum, and bare linoleum from wet boots.

They were products of poverty and necessity, made from textiles too exhausted for any other use. They lacked the romantic appeal of patchwork quilts. I liked them, though.

I’d thought about learning the skill myself, if I could find a teacher. The notion of making something as large, tough, and useful as a rug holds a certain exotic appeal for a guy who knits a lot of little lace shawls. Knitting needles are not much use in rug making. Sure, I’ve seen patterns for knitted rugs. I’ve walked upon knitted rugs. They all–at best–seemed like misplaced afghans or very, very large washcloths that had landed on the floor.

I don’t like knitted rugs. Sorry. No craft is good at everything.

This little booklet from 1939 pictured, what appeared at first glance, to be the rag rug of my childhood. Closer inspection, however, revealed it to be a new-to-me combination of crochet and clothesline.

You heard me. Clothesline. This:

2

According to the author, the combination allows one to create attractive rugs “in a jiffy.” It says so right on the cover. Jiffy, it says.

These rugs were clearly intended to compliment a certain widely popular take on American Colonial style; without the fuss of collecting, cutting, sorting, sewing, and braiding rags.

And it wasn’t only rugs you could make, wrote the author. You could also make lamp mats

3

and place mats

4

and pot holders

5

which look to me like extremely small rugs that are not on the floor.

I had doubts about all this, which meant I had to drop everything and try it out.

The Materials

I’ve already mentioned clothesline

2

as the foundation for these projects. I went to the hardware store around the corner and spent about fifteen minutes casing the different brands and varieties. This is far more time than most folks spend looking at clothesline, so the store owner came over to check on me.

He (cordially, if cautiously): Can I help you with something?

Me: No, thank you. Just looking at clothesline.

He (jovially): Gonna do your wash the old-fashioned way, eh?

Me: No, I’m going to make a rug.

He: I’m sorry, what?

Me: It’s…I’m going…there’s this old technique for making crocheted rugs with clothesline. And yarn.

He: Crochet?

Me: Yes.

He: Well, I’m afraid I don’t know anything about that.

Me: Oh. Well, that’s okay. Neither do I, really.

He (leaving, quickly): Huh. Okay then. Good luck.

I can never go back there, of course.

The booklet called for pure cotton yarn, because that’s what the now-defunct yarn company made. I wondered if I might substitute something else. For instance, Simpliworsted from HiKoo.

7

Judging by the size of the crochet hook the booklet calls for (equivalent, roughly, to a 3.5 mm or US size E) I had it in two variegated colorways, either of which would work as a rug in the apartment.  It’s a good mix of fibers too–wool for warmth and softness, acrylic and nylon for durability; and all of it washable.

The Technique

Some vintage pattern books do a remarkable job of illuminating obscure techniques within the confines of the format. Others do not. This booklet is one of the others.

The method for covering the clothesline in yarn is relegated to the end of the booklet, after the patterns but before the advertisement for Lux soap flakes. (“Precious heirlooms are the handsome crochets clever women are making. Protect their beauty with Lux!”).

As to how the method works, you get a set of diagrams

8

which tell you absolutely nothing. That’s all she wrote.

I figured out what I think you’re supposed to do by reading the patterns (more on that in the next installment); squinting furiously at the diagrams, messing around with the hook, yarn, and rope; and swearing at all of the above.

The basic idea is that you take a piece of clothesline and you use single crochet to entirely cover it with yarn. As the rug grows, you join successive rounds to one another as part of the crochet process.

Here we go.

Oval rugs begin with a central spine that’s merely a foundation chain.

9

Of course a foundation chain has a bumpy side and a smooth side (shown). We will address ourselves to the smooth side.

Each stitch in the chain has a right leg and a left leg.

10

We begin the rug proper by laying the clothesline along the top of the chain, adjacent to the left legs, leaving about an inch hanging free to the right. The working yarn should be behind the clothesline.

11

Make your first single crochet thus:

  1. Insert your crochet hook through the left leg of the second chain from the hook, then under the clothesline. Grab the working yarn with the hook.

12

  1. Pull the working yarn under the clothesline and back through the chain. You’ll have two loops on your hook.

13

  1. Reach over the clothesline with the hook and grab the working yarn. Pull it through both loops on the hook. You’ll have one loop on your hook, and the single crochet is complete.

14

To progress, put the hook into the left leg of the next chain and follow the steps exactly as before.

Your single crochets will begin to form a covering for the clothesline; but note that you’re looking at the wrong side of the rug as you work. Flip it over and you’ll see this on the right side.

15

That’s it–that’s the way the clothesline is covered. The rest of the pattern is nothing but small variations on those three steps to increase, turn corners, and join rounds together. Simplicity itself.

But will it all end in a useful, attractive rug?

I confess that I remain unconvinced. We’ll see what happens…in two weeks.

 

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo Simpliworsted: 55% Merino Superwash, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon; 140 yd per 100g skein.

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.

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 (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), 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.

 

WIN a Fridays with Franklin Autographed Bag!

DSC_0028These personally signed Fridays with Franklin project bags have just come back to us from Franklin himself and we are excited to give them away to our readers!

Here’s how you can win one:

1) Send us a photo of your Fridays with Franklin inspired project from one of our blog postings (i.e. shadow knitting, weaving with Hikoo® Rylie, or bath-time Hikoo® Rub-a-Dub) via email at skacelcontests@gmail.com and on social media with the hashtag #fridayswithfranklin

OR

2) Join us in a little fun! Print out the Franklin face logo (CLICK HERE), cut it out and wear it around mask-style! We’ve already had a bit of fun with this and look forward to seeing your creativity! Email skacelcontests@gmail.com with your photos and share them on social media with the hashtag #fridayswithfranklin

fwf collage

We will announce winners on December 28th!

Good luck to everyone and have fun! 

Fridays with Franklin

fwf-logo-v1Adventure in the Bathroom, Conclusion

For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here. 

For the first part of this adventure, click here. 

The bath strap I crocheted from Rub-a-Dub not only survived the practical shower test, but became a pleasant part of my daily scrub.

Meanwhile, all those unexciting rows of double crochet had whet my appetite for something slightly more elaborate. Something so ubiquitous in the crochet world that it could fairly be called iconic. Something I’d tried before without much success.

A granny square.

Do I really have to explain to anyone in the universe what a granny square is? It may well be the most famous needlework motif ever created.

At its most basic, it looks like this.

01

It grows from the center, in a single piece, in rounds that alternate open and closed spaces. In spite of being worked in rounds, it comes out (as you will have noted) square.

Previous forays into crochet had led me to the foothills of the granny square, but I’d never achieved the summit. Without a proper teacher, I fell back upon the usual modern pick-and-mix of print and online tutorials.

All of them were slightly different. It was maddening. One tutorial said you must turn a corner with three chains. The next said you must do it with two. One began a new round by creeping forward with slip stitches. The next said anyone who would do such a thing should be run out of town on a rail.

Which was the right way?

I have since learned that of course there is no right way. Granny square recipes are like recipes for cornbread or pie crust. Everyone who loves to make them has a pet method in which s/he firmly believes. Arguments over which reigns supreme are at best fruitless, and at worst end in violence.

Only after much frustration and many hilariously unsquare squares did I at last feel that I could produce an acceptable specimen. More importantly, all the fumbling, fuming, and fulminating had at last helped me to understand the underlying structure.

Does that make you giggle–the idea of something as mundane as a granny square having an underlying structure? I don’t blame you. It sounds impossibly pompous.

But that’s how I work. When playing with a new technique, I aim to get beyond the what–the basic mechanics–to the how, and ultimately the how else and the what else.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I know. If it’s not yours, I won’t think less of you. However, I will point out that developing a close knowledge of technique:

  1. Allows you, in time, to leave patterns behind and produce truly original work;
  2. Makes you better at spotting and fixing mistakes, which is nice for those of us who make a lot of mistakes.

With that in mind, here’s a detailed sketch of how I, at last, puzzled out the structure of the granny square for myself.

The Ingredients

Crochet teachers I have met (where were you when I needed you?) tell me the granny square is often the first motif a new crocheter is taught. No wonder, as it does amazing things with a tiny toolkit of only four maneuvers.

They are…

  • the slip knot or slip loop, indicated in standard crochet charts with a black oval.

02

  • the chain stitch, indicated by white oval.

1

  • the slip stitch, indicated by a tiny frown.

2

and of course, in the leading role, the double crochet stitch.

The symbol for double crochet is based upon the symbol for half-double crochet, which looks like a tall capital T,

3

because T is for “crochet.”

The difference between the half-double and double crochet symbols is the single slash mark through the stem of the T,

4

because one is for “double.”*

The half-double crochet doesn’t appear in a standard granny square. The other four are among the most fundamental skills in crochet; and they’re all you need.

The Principles

A granny square is built according to a tidy quintet of fundamental rules.

They are…

  1. Closed spaces (blocks) alternate with open spaces.
  2. Blocks and open spaces alternate from round to round.
  3. A block is made of three double crochet. Exception: the first block of a round substitutes a chain 3 for the first double crochet.
  4. Corners are always worked into corners.
  5. Rounds 2 and higher always begin at a corner.

Let’s put these to work and make a square.

The Recipe, Part I: the First Round

Start with the slip knot.

It’s the same slip knot that starts many a piece of knitting; but crochet, unlike knitting, does not count the slip knot as a stitch. Perhaps for this reason, the slip knot doesn’t appear on many charts–the designer just assumes you’ll know it’s there.

Next, work six chain stitches (figure 1)…

5

…and join the slip knot to the final chain with a slip stitch, creating a ring.

Now, begin the round. This round sets up everything that follows, so take care to do it properly.

We will make four blocks, and these four blocks will be separated by four open corners.

For Block One, begin with a chain three.

6

Then work two double crochet, right into the ring. The block will look like this.

7

In Round One, every block is followed by an open corner. To make an open corner, chain two.

8

(In the chart these chains don’t appear to be connected; but of course they are.)

In Round One, every corner is followed by a block made of three double crochet. Make your next block.

9

What always follows a block? An open corner–chain two.

Then make the third block, then the third corner, then the fourth block, then the fourth corner.

10

That’s our completed Round One. Four blocks, separated by four open corners. You haven’t yet joined the end of the round to the beginning, but we’re about to do that. Hang on.

The Recipe, Part II: All the Other Rounds

Some of the granny square tutorials I consulted ran on for upwards of 5,000 words, giving separate round-by-round instructions for the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and sometimes even seventh rounds.

But here’s the thing: after round one, all subsequent rounds follow the same steps.

Rounds Two and up all begin by closing the previous round and scooching to the nearest corner.  This is done with four slip stitches.

11

The first slip stitch–into the top of the chain of the first block in the previous round–closes the old round.

The second and third slip stitches–into the tops of the two double crochet of the first block of the previous round–move us closer to the corner where the new round begins.

The fourth slip stitch–into the opening of the first corner of the previous round–gets us perfectly into position for the next round.

As you work the round, with every step you’ll ask yourself three simple questions.

If the answer to a question is No, move to the next question. If the answer is Yes, follow the instructions.

Question 1: Am I at a corner?

12

If yes, work a corner unit (Figure 8) as follows.

  1. Three double crochet into the hole of the corner below. Exception: for the first block of the first corner in a round, substitute chain 3 for the first double crochet.
  2. Chain two.
  3. Three double crochet into the hole of the corner below.

13

Question 2: Is there a block in the round below?

14

If yes, work an open space: chain 2.

Question 3: Is there a hole in the round below?

15

If yes, work a block: three double crochet into the hole.

After working a step, go back to Question 1. Continue until your round is complete.

Upon reaching the end of a round, close it and scooch to the beginning of the next round with slip stitches as described above.

When you feel your square is big enough–it could, theoretically, go on forever–end with the slip stitch that closes the final round.

Little Quibbles and Bigger Ideas

Because the granny square has so many variations, some who have made it this far are rolling their eyes and/or gnashing their teeth. They may believe, for example, that a space between blocks is one chain, not two. They may feel sure that the chain in the first block of a round is not three chains, but one. And so forth.

They are right, and I am right, and you are right, and we are all right. The variations seem mainly to address differences in gauge and desired effect (some squares are very lacy and open, some less so).

If you’re not getting what you want, play with what you’re doing. Take notes, judge the work in progress, and adjust accordingly.

Keep in mind that we’ve still only made the simplest possible square. We haven’t played with shape or scale. We haven’t even mentioned changing colors.

Such potential, so many further adventures, all arising from the magic mix of four maneuvers with five principles.

But that’s for another Friday.

Back to the Bathroom

For now, I’d like to show you why I was excited to take my remaining supply of Rub-a-Dub and turn it into granny squares. I do believe I’ve stumbled onto the solution to a universal dilemma.

You know how sometimes, at the end of a long and tiresome day, you find yourself thinking, “Gee, I’d sure love to curl up on the sofa under something soft and warm and read a good book?”.

16

But then you think, “On the other hand, wouldn’t it be awfully swell to climb into a warm bath and read a good book?”.

17

How the heck do you choose?

18

Now you don’t have to…

19
with the amazing…

Bath-ghan!

20

Yes, the amazing Bath-ghan combines the cuddly joy of chillin’ on the sofa with the relaxing warmth of time in the tub.

And on really bad days, you can soak away stress and block out the world completely.

skacel-c8-23

I used a 12 mm hook and worked each square for three rounds; then joined them with whipstitch. At my gauge, each square weighs in at about two ounces, so a skein of Rub-a-Dub will squeak out three big (BIG) squares.

Whaddaya think? Pretty cool, eh?

Eh? Eh?

No?

Aw, heck.

If you don’t like that idea…it does make a wonderful bath mat.

21

It’s been a long week. I’m heading for the tub.

The next adventure will begin in two weeks.

*Dear Maggie Righetti explains in Crocheting in Plain English that the slash represents the single yarn-over-hook with which the stitch begins. I wish I’d learned that sooner.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Hikoo Rub-a-Dub: 100% Microfiber; 108 yd/200g per ball

Premium Crochet Hook (12 mm) by addi®

Crocheting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1988)

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 (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), 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.

Fridays with Franklin

fwf-logo-v1Adventure in the Bathroom, Part One

For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here.

In my long and rather checkered career I have often encountered yarns that made me gasp, yarns that made me sigh, yarns that made me recoil in fright and bewilderment. Now I’ve found a yarn that makes me giggle.

A couple months ago I got a call from a buddy at Skacel.

“Whatcha up to?” he said.

“Watching NOVA,” I said. “They’re talking about mummies.”

“Ah. Well, I don’t want to interrupt the party, but are you interested in trying a new yarn? One hundred percent microfiber. Absorbent, durable. Fluffy. Soft. You can machine wash it, you can bleach it. Pretty wild.”

“I’m not sure,” I said. “Wild isn’t my thing, remember? You were there when I passed out from doing double treble crochet.”

“You don’t have to go crazy. Just give it a shot. It’s called Rub-a-Dub.”

“Rub-a-Dub?”

“Are you giggling?”

“…No.”

“Yes you are. I can hear you.”

“That’s the television.”

“There’s no giggling on NOVA.”

“Seriously–Rub-a-Dub?”

“I’m putting it in the mail,” he said. “When you’ve pulled yourself together maybe you do something cute with it.”

“Rub-a-Dub-Dub!” I giggled. “Knit a sub in your tub!”

He hung up.

Meet the Yarn

Here’s what I got. Big, bouncy white bundles that look more like cartoons of  skeins of yarn than actual skeins of yarn.

1

It’s squishy. When you wind it, it makes a ball as big as your face.

2

As the name (giggle) suggests, it was made with applications for the bath (and other soggy venues) in mind. There are two free patterns (a bath mitt and a washcloth) inside the band.

The bath mitt pattern reminded me of a fellow I used to see in the locker room at the Harvard Club in Boston from time to time. He was more active than the mummies on NOVA, but equally a relic of a bygone era. I found the trappings of his Jazz Age masculinity fascinating. He used pomade on his hair, Bay Rum on his face, and a bath strap on his–well, on the rest of him.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a bath strap, it looks something like this.

3

You hold the handles and drag the strap back and forth across those hard-to-reach places. Store-bought bath straps are often made from something like sisal, which gently exfoliates your skin in rather the same way that the pagans gently exfoliated St. Bartholomew (look it up).

I fancied I could use Rub-a-Dub to make up my own bath strap.

Knitting or Crochet?

My first thought was to knit it. Knitting is my comfort zone. I’ve knit washcloths.

But a bath strap is used differently than a washcloth. You don’t bunch it up and rub it around, you grab the ends and pull it tight. To work properly, it must withstand tugging and pulling without stretching out of shape.

Crochet stretches; however, when yarn and gauge are equivalent, crochet stretches less than knitting. As I fancied practicing my crochet skills, that settled the question.

Research and Development

This is my incredibly thoughtful preliminary sketch.

4

Laugh, if you will; but I sketch out even quite simple projects. Sketching is a first go at giving an airy nothing some physical form. It forces me to consider proportions, edges, boundaries, structures. As I draw what I want to make, I think about how I’d like to make it. Can it be done in one piece? If so, where best to begin? Where will I end? Can I get there from here?

I figured the finished length by extending a tape measure behind my back until it was just about right for effective scrubbing. I left the width an open question until I’d finished swatching.

Rub-a-Dub is fluffy as a freshly blow-dried cat, so I selected a bunch of crochet hooks from the fatter end of my collection

5

and got down to it.

The whole swatch is in double crochet, because it’s the stitch I’ve worked the most so I could remember how to do it without looking it up.

6

The smallest hook (9 mm) gave me a fabric that was acceptable, but tough to work–the yarn wasn’t sliding readily through the loops. The largest hooks (12 and 15 mm) gave me a fabric that was too open–sloppy and loose.

In between was the 10 mm, which cranked out a good fabric. It also, being made of metal, slipped pleasantly through the yarn.

Just for the ducks of it, I did try out a smaller (6 mm) hook to see what would happen.

7

It wasn’t a success. The hook had trouble grabbing and holding the strand; working a single row took ages. And the smaller stitches were so compressed that the fabric turned hard and unpleasantly lumpy. Clearly, Rub-a-Dub (giggle) is a yarn that needs room to breathe.

The Pattern

If the following pattern for a crocheted bath strap doesn’t seem like much of a pattern, that’s because I’m not much of a crocheter. I love crochet, I’m just not too good at it yet.

On the other hand, the strap employs all four maneuvers I can do without referring to Maggie Righetti’s Crocheting in Plain English. When you look at it that way, it’s kind of a tour-de-force.

So…

Fetch yourself a skein of Rub-a-Dub and a US Size N (10 mm) crochet hook. You may need to use a hook that’s smaller or larger. Gauge isn’t vital, but you don’t want the strap to be stiff as cardboard or loose as fishnet.

Ch 20, with sl st join into ring.

Sl st into 9 chains to form first handle.

Ch 3 (counts as first dbl crochet from now on), dbl crochet into remaining 10 chains.

*  Ch 3, turn work, dbl crochet into back loop only of next 10.  (11 stitches total) Note: Working only into the back loops on every row creates a slightly corrugated fabric, which feels nice against the skin.

Rep from * until strap is 25 inches long (or desired length) not including handle.

Ch 9. With sl st, join chain to opposite corner of strap.

Turn work, sl st into all chains to complete second handle.

Cut working yarn and weave in ends.

Scrub-a-dub-dub.

8

The End?

The only thing left to do was a practical test, so I headed for the shower. I was delighted. Soap, hot water, vigorous friction, and the yarn didn’t snap or shed or otherwise misbehave. Hanging in the shower, it dried almost completely within an hour or so.

However, the bath strap had used only about half the ball, leaving me with a quantity of unused Rub-a-Dub (giggle) still sitting around.

That would not do.

And that’s when…the idea hit me.

The next part of this adventure will appear in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Hikoo Rub-a-Dub: 100% Microfiber; 108 yd/200 g per ball

Premium Crochet Hooks by Addi

Crocheting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1988)

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 (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), 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.

Fridays with Franklin

fwf-logo-v1The Adventure of the Scarf That Ate the World, Conclusion

For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here.

For the first part of this adventure, including an introduction to the nature of rigid heddle weaving, click here.

So it was time to weave.

Almost.

The last thing to do was wind my stick shuttles. Shuttles carry your weft yarns back and forth through the warp threads–and thus is your fabric created.

Stick shuttles are perhaps the simplest kind. They’re not necessarily the most convenient; but they’re nice and flat, and slide easily through the small shed on a rigid heddle loom.

1

As I was using my yarns doubled in both warp and weft, I wound each side of each shuttle with a separate length of yarn. To keep the two lengths reasonably even, I counted the wraps as I made them. There’s probably a more precise way to do it. This way worked well enough.

I’d already copied out Jane Patrick’s pattern from The Weaver’s Idea Book by hand.

2

I like doing that. It helps my mind…which often leaps forward like a startled gazelle…to slow down and focus. It also gives me a set of instructions large enough to read easily with voluminous margins for making notes.

Then, oh then, finally finally finally finally it was really truly no fooling time to weave.

At about four inches of fabric, I paused to assess my progress.

3

The weird looking white bit at the beginning is the header. That’s a short section woven with twisted toilet paper (I kid you not) that brings the warp threads parallel to one another before the proper weaving begins. You can create a more dignified header with strips of rag or scrap yarn, but the bathroom was closer to the loom than my stash. You know how it is.

Above that is the nascent scarf. After hours dreaming of it, hunting down a weaving pattern, winding the yarns into balls, putting on the warp, winding the shuttles, and weaving the header, I realized two things.

Thing 1: It was not working.

Thing 2: I did not like it.

4

It wasn’t working because according to my draft, these floats (circled).

5

should all have been showing up as Guava. That way, they’d matched the Guava weft floats (circled).

6

and form the “windowpanes” in my scarf. Instead, I was also picking up threads in Periwinkle and Freesia, interrupting the pattern.

I re-read my own instructions. I went back to Jane Patrick’s instructions and checked to make sure I’d copied them properly. I had a cookie. I triple-checked both sets of instructions. I had another cookie. I slowly, cautiously picked up the warp threads again. I wondered if Jane’s instructions were incorrect.

Halfway through cookie number three, epiphany.

In putting on my warp, I’d planned to double my warp threads. So, where Jane Patrick had said to put in one thread of color number 1, I’d put in two threads of color number 1.

But in direct warping as I’d learned to do it, every pass of the warp through the slot in the reed is done twice. Once forward, once back. So I’d doubled my doubles, and put four threads of each color into each slot.

If you don’t quite understand what that means, here it is in plainest English: I’d made every stripe in the warp twice as wide as it should have been.

7

That certainly explained the voluptuous pony tail of ends I’d created.

8

I polished off the whole box of cookies while pondering my options.

Option 1: Cut off warp, re-dress the loom correctly. It would take another couple of hours. Problem: not enough yarn left to do it.

Option 2: Untie the warp from the apron rod, re-sley the reed using the correct threads, remove the extra threads. Problem: I didn’t know at the time that this was an option.

Option 3: Change the pick-up pattern to only pick up Guava threads. I’d get a windowpane. Rectangular instead of square, but still a windowpane. Problem: the weft floats would be almost two inches wide. Floats that long are going to snag on everything they can find. Not suitable for a garment.

Option 4: Suck it up, buttercup.

I unwove those four misbegotten inches and started over.

But first, I clipped off two Guava threads at the right and left selvedges. A small change, but I hoped it would make those stripes less overpowering.

It was decided: keep to the original pattern and see what happened. Repeating patterns are tough to evaluate fairly after only one or two repeats. You’ve already heard that a mistake, repeated, becomes a design. I hope that’d be true here.

I could have avoided all of this by sampling, of course. I can say it to you now, calmly. At the time, if you had said, “You know, you could have avoid this by sampling,” you’d have got a neatly wound stick shuttle permanently embedded in some tender part of your anatomy.

Once I sat down to it, the weaving itself was remarkably uneventful.

I jotted notes on my instructions as I figured out what pick-up produced what effect in the fabric. That not only made it easier to keep my place, it also taught me to read my weaving much in the same way that I have learned to read my knitting.

9

Using three shuttles at once made me wish for extra hands. The shuttles slipped. They tangled. They fell off the table. I persevered. After some time, I discovered something every experienced weaver already knows: when a shuttle is not in use, put it in front of you, in the same place, every time.

10

And so, I wove. There’s almost nothing to say about it. After all the preliminary fuss and botheration, just change shed, throw shuttle, beat, change shed, throw shuttle, beat, change shed, throw shuttle, beat. It was fun. It was soothing. The only complication was the regular change of weft colors, but after about four repeats even that became second nature.

In a surprisingly short amount of time–I worked on the scarf casually, over three days, for about a total of eight hours–the weaving was finished. Clip, clip, clip went the scissors on the threads, and with a flourish I pulled the scarf off the loom. And pulled and pulled and pulled.

Twelve feet of scarf. Twelve feet.

11

I’d worried about making a scarf that was too short. I hate short scarves. So I’d kept nudging the warping peg further and further from the loom.

Twelve feet, plus fringe. To secure the fabric, I twisted and tied the fringes…

12

…and subjected the whole thing to a hot, soapy, highly agitated bath in the kitchen sink followed by a press with the iron. That’s therapeutic, you know. After years and years of namby-pamby knitting instructions to “block gently,” I got to beat the hell out of a finished project. Weaving is awesome like that.

So, how did I do?

On the one hand, the fabric is even. It drapes well. It feels like heaven against the skin. The floats are of reasonable length. The pattern’s not what I had in mind, but it’s not unattractive.

13

On the other hand, the colors. They’re not bad. They don’t clash. They’re not dull. However, I hadn’t realized Guava would look so emphatically pink against a background of Periwinkle and Freesia. The result is a little…vivid. A smidge too candy box to go with my combat boots.

14

My niece has seen it, loves it, and wants it. Mind you, she’s seven years old and four-and-a half feet tall. I’d have to slice it up; there’s enough material here to make several scarves for her. If she tries to wear it as is, she’ll look like the Easter Mummy.

So, what to do? Am I allowed a second take? If I try again, come to think of it, that would mean I did sample. Yes! This scarf is a sample.  A sample twelve feet long.

Oh, shut up.

[The next adventure will begin in two weeks.]

 

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Hikoo Rylie: 50% baby alpaca, 25% mulberry silk, 25% linen; 274 yd/100 g per ball; colors: Periwinkle, Freesia, Guava

Schacht Cricket Fifteen Inch Rigid Heddle Loom and stick shuttles by Schacht Spindle Company

The Weaver’s Idea Book: Creative Cloth on a Rigid Heddle Loom by Jane Patrick (Interweave Press, 2010)

Cottonelle Ultra Comfort Care Two-Ply Toilet Paper

Fridays with Franklin

fwf-logo-v1The Adventure of the Scarf That Ate the World, Part Two

For an introduction to this ongoing series, click here.

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

So, I wanted to weave a patterned scarf on my rigid heddle loom.

Weaving does not begin with weaving. Weaving begins with warping. You cannot weave until your loom is dressed in its full and correct complement of warp threads.

Warping has a grim reputation, even among some dedicated weavers. It is painstaking, slow, sometimes back-breaking work. There are many steps. If you fail to do any of them correctly, your fabric will not come out as intended. Putting on the warp for a substantial length of cloth may take anywhere from several hours to several days.*

I suspect warping to be the reason for nine-tenths of the “Loom for Sale, Never Used” ads on Craigslist.

This gave me pause as I stood looking at the naked loom. Should I chicken out and just knit something? No. I might wind up strangled in my own yarn, but I wasn’t going to give in without a fight.

Destination: Windowpane Scarf

My guide and inspiration was Jane Patrick (creative director for Schacht Spindle Company, which makes the Cricket) via her fantastic The Weaver’s Idea Book: Creative Cloth on a Rigid Heddle Loom (Interweave Press, 2010).

On page 121 are a pair of “Windowpane Effect” fabrics that caught my eye. One of these, Jane notes, “would be quite effective for a jacket pattern. Think Chanel.”

01

I’m a red-blooded American male. You don’t have to tell me twice to think Chanel.

The fabric as Jane designed it requires three colors, and I had to hand three emphatically gorgeous colors of Hikoo Rylie–Periwinkle, Freesia, and Guava.

02

Seemed like a good bet. Two cool colors for a muted background, with a closely-related warm color, Guava, for the eye-catching windowpane.

Moreover, I like scarves that drape. Rylie is made from three fibers–baby alpaca, silk, and linen–that are famous for drape. The yarn is soft, strong, and lustrous into the bargain. Perfect.

Jane Patrick provides a crystal-clear warp threading color chart for the fabric. I set out to follow it to the letter. That seemed like plan enough for me.

Getting Excited

I wrote above that weaving doesn’t begin with weaving, it begins with warping. However, some would say that weaving truly begins with a worksheet full of careful calculations. Those people are right, and I need to learn from them.

This was not my first go at a rigid heddle scarf. I’d made three, but all were extremely simple and wholly improvisational. When warping, I’d had no clear target. I put threads on willy-nilly and started weaving.

In following Jane’s recipe, I intended no alterations aside from a few extra strands of Guava at each selvedge. These would, I assumed, provide a handsome and stable border of plain weave to set off the windowpane.

Notice that word: assumed.

Jane says a great many wise things in her book. What she says most is, “Sample!”. Weaving samples in the weaver’s equivalent of a knitter’s swatching, and it’s every bit as vital.

Did I sample? I did not. I was excited, you see.

I was so excited that I did not sit down and use readily available, simple, time-tested weaver’s calculations to figure out how long my warp ought to be, and how much of each weft color I would require.

I did not then warp a small amount according to the plan, and upon it weave a sample and see if I liked the design and the fabric. Because I was excited.

You know how in this column I went on and on about how much I love to swatch and how important swatching is? Yeah, well…I didn’t swatch.**

Getting Warped

One of the benefits of a rigid heddle loom is that it’s easy to warp.

You can, if you like, warp it much as you would warp a multi-harness loom. This usually involves a warping board, carefully placed warp ties, warping sticks, and other baggage that allows you to keep your many threads in order. The process pretty much forces you to think ahead. If you don’t, you aren’t going to get far.

The rigid heddle allows for a clever, simple method called “direct warping.” Direct warping is so within the grasp of even the newest weaver that Schacht includes thorough, brief instructions with the loom itself. Jane also illustrates the steps in The Weaver’s Idea Book.

With this technique, you can put on a simple warp in forty minutes or less. No joke.

And because it is so simple, direct warping doesn’t absolutely require the planning and forethought that go into dressing a multi-harness loom. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t still have a carefully considered plan; but you don’t have to. And I didn’t.***

I’m not going to take you through every step of direct warping here, as it’s so well detailed elsewhere. I’ll just point out that the very ease and speed, combined with my eager nature, led me to do something with my warp that I should not have done: I decided to just wing it.

Here are a couple of highlights.

Direct warping doesn’t need a separate warping board or similar apparatus to measure the length of your threads. That’s great news if, like me, you live in a small space. In direct warping, it’s the distance between the loom itself and a single peg, attached to some surface in the vicinity, that determines how long your warp will be.

As I hadn’t considered properly how long to make my threads, I guessed.**** I moved the little table containing the peg further and further away from the big table containing the loom until the distance between seemed to be about right. About right for what? For a long scarf. How long a scarf? What an excellent question!

03

If you are striping your warp with narrow stripes, as I was, direct warping will in theory allow you to carry the different yarns along, rather than cutting and re-joining them for each stripe. However, if your yarn tends to stick to itself when strands rub against one another, this happens:

04

I realized pretty quickly that with Rylie, I’d do better to cut and tie off each stripe. You can see in this shot of the back apron rod, where I made the change. A small detail, but giving up the short cut quadrupled my speed and eliminated my frustration.

05

Mind you, this is not a flaw in the yarn. It’s simply the nature of it. In all the arts, there is a universal truth: you either acknowledge the nature of your materials and adjust your technique accordingly; or you can forge ahead in denial, and suffer.

So I pressed on, slot by slot. When the threading was complete, I found myself deeply in love with the Rapunzel ponytail that I’d created. It seemed like a lot of yarn. An awful lot of yarn.***** But it was pretty.

06

Two hours later, after tying on to the front rod, your threads are at last in their proper order. The colors of the Rylie, lined up next to one another, transformed from merely glowing to absolutely radiant.

Things began to look truly promising.

07

Will the promise be realized? See you in two weeks.

*Knitters, keep that in mind next time you grouse about having to cast on two hundred stitches.

**This will come back to haunt me.

***This will come back to haunt me.

****This will come back to haunt me.

*****This will come back to haunt me.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

The Weaver’s Idea Book: Creative Cloth on a Rigid Heddle Loom by Jane Patrick (Interweave Press, 2010)

Hikoo Rylie: 50% baby alpaca, 25% mulberry silk, 25% linen; 274 yd/100 g per ball; colors: Periwinkle, Freesia, Guava

Schacht Cricket Fifteen Inch Rigid Heddle Loom by Schacht Spindle Company

Fridays with Franklin

fwf-logo-v1The Adventure of the Scarf That Ate the World, Part One

I cannot tell you how many times I said to anyone who would listen that knitting was quite enough. I had no need or desire, I said, to learn to spin. Then I made friends with an accomplished spinner. Now I spin.

Then I said to anyone who would listen that knitting and spinning were plenty for one man, thank you, and I had no intention of learning to weave.  Then I made friends with a master weaver. Want to guess what happened?

Our next adventure is weaving.

Disclaimers

Before we jump in, two things.

Thing One: Don’t stop reading this because you don’t have space for a loom. Neither do I. We’ll address that right off the bat.

Thing Two: I have only the barest idea what I am doing here. I weave, I have woven, I will weave. What I am not yet able to say with a straight face is I am a weaver. I’m a fledgling, fumbling along mostly on my own with help from books and the aforementioned master weaver, who lives several hundred miles away.

My mistakes (they are legion) will be on full display. Take everything I write for what it is–the hopeful fumbling of an enamored amateur. But also keep in mind that if I can do this, so can you.

These Fridays are supposed to be about setting out for new horizons–so off we go.

The Question of the Loom

I avoided weaving for years largely because I didn’t think I could accommodate the furniture. I live in a city apartment. It’s big enough for most practical purposes, but–a loom? Are you kidding me? You’ve seen looms, right? I had seen looms, in those gorgeous, grim paintings by Van Gogh.

Van Gough

“Vincent Van Gogh, Weaver Facing Right (1884). Private collection.”

That guy is sitting inside the loom. By my calculations, it has roughly the same footprint as a Toyota Camry.

I knew there were smaller looms, but assumed (with an ignorance of which I am now ashamed) that you couldn’t do anything interesting on them. Simple weaving? Bah. I’d been a Boy Scout, I’d gone to camp, I’d made potholders. I was not interested in doing that again.

Then, as sometimes happens, a rigid heddle loom–a Schacht Cricket–arrived in the mail.

Meet the Loom

This is a completely naked Schacht Cricket. It’s the big one, with fifteen inches of weaving width. There’s a ten-inch size, too.  Both are smaller than a Toyota Camry.

Cricket

It doesn’t look like much, does it? What kind of weaving can you do on that?

A full-length introduction to rigid heddle weaving is beyond the scope of this column–and beyond the scope of my expertise. But for those who are not weavers (yet), here’s what you need to know to follow along.

The picket fence thing that’s sitting in the loom frame

Reed

is called the reed, and the little slats inside it are called heddles. Notice that you have slots between the heddles, and that each of the heddles has a little hole in the center. That’s going to be very important.

ReedClose

A rigid heddle loom like the Cricket has three notches that allow you to park the reed in three different places: up, down, and neutral.

Labels

How the Loom Works

Before we can weave, we have to put something on the loom to weave into.  That something is an organized array of strings called the warp.

I’ll talk about the process of putting on the warp (more elegantly referred to as “dressing the loom”) later on. For now, I want to show you what happens with the warp once it’s in place.

Notice (you’ll have to look closely) that in this little sample warp, each of the holes in the reed has a strand of red running through it, and each of the slots has a strand of blue running through it.

Neutral with yarn

That’s a shot of the warp with the reed in the “neutral” position. All the threads are roughly level with one another. That poses a question. If the warp is the thing we weave into, how exactly do we do that? What path does our weaving yarn–which is called the weft–take through the warp?

To find our path, we move the reed into the “up” position and–voilà–all the red threads move up, creating a neat little tunnel (called the shed) for our weft yarn to pass through.

Up with Yarn

After one pass of the weft through this shed (that’s called a pick), we move the reed to the “down” position, and look what happens.

Down with Yarn

The threads have changed places. The blue threads are up, the red are down.  The change in the position of the reed has changed the shed. We send our weft through this shed.

Then we go back to the up shed. Then the down shed. Then the up shed. Then the down shed. On and on, until our fabric is complete.

If we do that and only that, we make plain weave–the most basic weave. It’s so basic, it’s what I’d used to make pot holders as a Boy Scout.

But the rigid heddle has another trick up its sleeve–the pick up stick.

Pick up Stick

All by itself, the pick up stick–which looks like an overly ambitious tongue depressor–expands the possibilities of the rigid heddle loom almost infinitely. Here is how it is most often used.

After putting the reed into the down position, you take the pick up stick and you pick up (get it?) certain threads in the top of the shed according to the pattern you wish to weave. In this photograph I’ve done a very simple pick up: one up, one down.

Pick up yarn

Now watch what happens. If I put the reed in neutral and stand the pick up stick on edge, I get a third shed with a different combination of threads raised and lowered. This is usually called the “pattern stick shed.”

pick up

That’s undeniably groovy, but there’s even more.

If we put the reed in the up position and slide the stick forward (keeping it flat) we can get a fourth shed (usually called the “up and stick shed”).

Four sheds–up, down, pattern stick, up and stick–all on one tiny loom with one stick. And that, friends, is where rigid heddle weaving and nice-potholders-for-mommy begin to part company. Four sheds means we need not limit ourselves to plain weave.

All that’s needed is a plan, a delicious yarn, and a warp.

The plan is ready.

The yarn is ready.

rylie

The warp–that’ll take some time.

The next part of this adventure will appear in two weeks. (No, it won’t take two weeks to warp the loom. But this installment is at over a thousand words already, and I think you deserve a break.)

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Hikoo Rylie: 50% baby alpaca, 25% mulberry silk, 25% linen; 274 yd/100 g per ball; colors: Periwinkle, Freesia, Guava

Schacht Cricket Fifteen Inch Rigid Heddle Loom and pick up stick by Schacht Spindle Company.