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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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…


…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.


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.


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.”


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.


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!


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

Fridays with Franklin

Adventure in the Shadows, Part Two

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

You know what I did first, don’t you? You know you do, you just don’t want to hear me say it.

I swatched.

Confession time: I love swatching.

If that makes you bristle, let me reassure you that I understand. I wasn’t always like this. I used to hate swatching. Swatching was vile. Swatching was the pile of green beans my mother used to force-feed me before I was allowed to have a cookie.  I hated green beans.*


Why did I change? Experience. People say swatches lie, and swatches do. But the most deceitful swatch still tells you more that no swatch at all.

Swatching isn’t just about checking your gauge to make sure you end up with something of the correct size. It’s also about testing the fabric. Does it look good? Does it have the right amount of drape? Frankly, it doesn’t matter if you “get” gauge but the yarn you’ve chosen to get it gives you a fabric stiff as cardboard and you’re looking to make a shawl.

With shadow knitting, my favorite way to swatch is just to pick one color or the other and start knitting a piece of garter stitch. Here’s the kind of garter stitch I look for:


See how nice and snug those ridges are? That’s good. Here’s what I avoid:


If you get snug garter stitch, the gauge of your shadow fabric will generally give you a bold, legible hidden pattern.

This was also a good test flight for the Schoppel Gradient. As I mentioned in the last installment, I was concerned that the slightly irregular nature of the yarn might render it unsuitable for shadow knitting. But when I saw these nice, plump garter ridges


I knew I was good to go.

That’s what a swatch is supposed to do for you, you know–let you set forth without anxiety. Or at least with less anxiety.

What pattern to knit, though? I wanted, on this test flight, to try out the shifting colors and see how they’d play against one another. That meant keeping it simple. A square would have grown monotonous very quickly, so I charted up a circle.

                        Click here to download chart

As I’d hoped, what grew was a series of bold explosions on a moody background. The nature of shadow knitting is to stretch out motifs, so they were more oblong than circular. I liked that.


I also liked the way the simultaneous changes in the background and foreground led to the unexpected.

6 7 8 9 10 11 13 12

All the while, one thought kept nagging me. These looked like something I’d seen. What was it? Paints in a paintbox? Not quite. Candies on a tray? Definitely not.

I was talking with a knitter friend when it hit me.

“They look like the sun rising through clouds. In the morning, when they’re storm clouds full of city pollution, and I’m at the airport, and it’s really early, and my eyes are kind of bleary, and I have hours of horrible flying before I’ll get any kind of rest.”

“That’s cheery,” he said.

“Angry sunrises,” I said. “Eleven angry sunrises.”

“Some people are inspired by pretty flowers,” he said.

“That’s what I’m going to call this,” I said. “Eleven Angry Sunrises.”

“You can’t call a knitting pattern ‘Eleven Angry Sunrises.’”

“Why not?”

“Because it sounds angry. Knitting is supposed to make you think happy thoughts.”

“Well, I’m not calling it Eleven Happy Sunrises.”

“Why not?”

“Because it sounds like the name of a cult.”

“And what is knitting?”

I have to admit he had a point.

Your Own Adventure: Recipe for Eleven Happy (or Angry) Sunrises

Procure two skeins of Schoppel Gradient in different colorways. The more difference between your colorways, the bolder your surprises will be.

You will also need two stitch markers, and the shadow circle chart above. And of course, scissors and a tapestry needle. (Do I really have to tell you that? Patterns always tell you that, but do they really have to?)

As described above, knit a good-sized garter stitch swatch (about four inches by four inches will do it) to make sure you have a firm but not tight fabric. If the fabric could stand up in the corner by itself, it’s too firm. If it looks like fishnet, it’s too loose.

Don’t bind off the swatch; rip it out so you can use the yarn.

With your first color, cast on 27 stitches.

You’re going to put garter stitch borders around the sunrises just for pretty. So knit two rows with Color One, then join Color Two and knit two rows with that. From this point on, you will always alternate two rows of Color One, then two rows of Color Two.

Enough border. Time for pattern.

With Color One, knit three stitches. That’s your right-hand garter stitch border. Place a stitch marker. Knit the first row of the chart. You’ll have three stitches left; place a marker, then knit them. Those are your left-hand border.

Now, follow the chart when you’re inside the markers. Outside the markers, knit all stitches. Don’t cut the yarns at the end of each stripe, just carry them up the right-hand selvedge as you work.

When you have had quite enough, knit two more garter stripes–one in each color–and bind off using the color of the final stripe.

Block, if you like. Weave in ends. Admire.

*I still hate green beans.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Schoppel Gradient: 100% Virgin Wool, 260m/100g per ball; colors: 1873 (red-orange) and 1508 (black-white).

Fridays with Franklin

Adventure in the Shadows, Part One

With this issue, Franklin’s adventures begin in earnest. For an introduction to this ongoing project, click here. 

Blame it on a childhood spent as the oddball and the outsider–I often find myself irresistibly drawn to knitting techniques that can’t get a seat with the cool kids.

Shadow knitting (sometimes called illusion knitting) is one such. I remember with perfect clarity the first time I saw it. I was a fledgling, making my maiden visit to a fiber festival. As I toddled through the vendor market with a clutch of far more experienced knitters, I came to a dead stop in front of a striped sweater with a geometric pattern that appeared out of nowhere, then disappeared. Then appeared. Then disappeared. Then–

You get the idea.

“How does it do that?” I asked.

The leader of our group winced. Her chief lieutenant came to my defense–sort of. “He’s new,” she said. “He doesn’t know any better.”

It was explained to me, as I was gently but firmly pointed towards the more respectable Fair Isle sweaters in the next booth, that shadow knitting was not quite comme il faut. “It’s cute for kid stuff,” the lieutenant said. “You can hide secret messages in it…if you like that sort of thing.”

I like that sort of thing.

Shadow knitting has become a fascination for me in the past year, and not coincidentally the topic of one of my most frequently requested classes.

Here’s a nutshell tour of how it works.

The fabric of shadow knitting is based on two-row stripes, in two colors. You knit two rows of color A, then two rows of color B.


These two stripes don’t only differ in color; they differ in texture as well. One is always stockinette; other is always garter stitch.


The second row of each stripe is where the magic happens. Any place you want the pattern to appear, you throw in purl stitches (in a garter stripe) or knit stitches (in a stockinette stripe). The pattern stitches of the second stripe always echo, or shadow (aha! see?) the pattern stitches of the stripe before it.

When you look at this stuff from the top, you see the stripes.


When you look at it from an oblique angle, the hidden pattern pops up.


That’s it. That’s all there is to it–or so I was told.

The fabric is straightforward, but so what? There’s not a whole lot to the structure of stranded color work, either; yet nobody suggests the residents of Fair Isle have been wasting their time exploring it. Why should shadow knitting be considered a one-trick pony?

I can’t help but be intrigued by a technique that’s neither color knitting nor texture knitting: it’s both. It has to be both. Remove either the texture or the color and it falls apart.

Students in my classes have been treated (?) to the fruits of my ongoing fascination, including experiments with motifs large and small, deliberate obscurity, changes in grain, and alternative charting methods.  But you are getting the first look at the latest adventure.

Though shadow knitting requires that the stockinette and garter stripes be different colors, the color of either may be changed at will–provided you take care to change in the first row of the stripe. I’ve used that to fun effect in some of my projects.

That set me to pondering what might happen if I relaxed my iron grip on the finished product and let the yarns decide what colors would end up in each stripe.

I’d tried unsuccessfully to combine two heavily variegated yarns in a shadow swatch, hoping the flashing and pooling would for once work to my benefit. No dice. All I got was an incomprehensible mush of colors. It turns out that for this to work, you need a yarn whose color changes are long and gradual.

Enter Schoppel Gradient.


Gradient had pretty much everything I was looking for in this experiment. It’s pure wool, it’s worsted weight, and the clear colors shift from one to the next at a nearly imperceptible rate.

The only thing I wasn’t quite sure about was the shape of the strand. In my classes, I’m accustomed to telling to students to look out for yarns that are smooth, regular, and round.  By round, I mean that if you cut the yarn into cross sections like a salami, this is roughly what you’d see.


Round yarns are usually made of multiple strands (called singles) twisted together. When you twist the singles together they become “plies”; and three or more plies tend to yield the round profile that makes shadow patterns stand out.

Gradient isn’t built like that. It’s a “singles” yarn–in effect, one thick strand.  It has a very slight irregularity in profile, too.


That can make even plain stockinette look enchanting–but I feared might goof up the shadow patterning.

However, in knitting as in all of life, you never know if it’s going to work unless you try it.  I shudder to think how many beautiful things are not brought into the world because the maker talks him- or herself out of the making.

Part Two will appear in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Schoppel Gradient: 100% Virgin Wool, 260m/100g per ball; colors: 1873 (red-orange) and 1508 (black-white).

Fridays with Franklin

It’s Play Time

Ten years ago, had you asked any of my coworkers to describe me they’d all have said the same thing: “He’s the weirdo who knits in meetings.” It’s true. I am a weirdo, and I did knit furiously through every meeting that didn’t require me to check my needles at the door.

I am sorry to say it was not a very nice place to work. Some days, the soothing influence of knitting was all that kept me on the side of perfect propriety. It is not easy to slap someone when both your hands are otherwise engaged.

Stuff I was knitting began to draw notice in the burgeoning online fiber arts community. I was asked to write articles. I was asked to write a book. I was asked to teach knitting classes. I was asked to design patterns. I sad yes. Also yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Suddenly knitting was no longer the thing I did to survive meetings. Knitting was the reason I had meetings. Knitting became my work. Alice, having popped through the looking-glass and into an alternate reality, was not more startled at her new digs than I.

Like Alice, I was by turns delighted and frustrated. Knitting is all fun and games when it’s all fun and games. When it becomes work, the games are postponed indefinitely. Deadlines don’t leave much room for rambling. You have to pick a topic and stick to it.

That is a pity.

In my experience the best sort of creativity is the messiest. I have been asked a few times about the creative process, and all my answers have been lies.

To talk about creative process in an interview, you have to make up a story about it. You cannot speak plain truth. You are not, for example, allowed to say that you have no creative process, unless by “process” you mean lying on the couch watching cat videos and crying until the thing is due in forty-eight hours and, fueled entirely by Mallomars and Diet Coke, you squeeze out a new mitten pattern in much the same way one forces the last squirt of toothpaste from the tube.

Instead, you have to shake the Mallomar crumbs out of your beard, smile brightly and present a narrative something like this:

I had an Idea.


Then I did some stuff. (This is the “creative arc.” In movies, it’s always a montage during which the artist maniacally paints/dances/types while the Pointer Sisters sing “I’m So Excited.”)


And then I had made my Idea into a Thing.


The end.

And to be honest, sometimes it does work like that. The tight deadlines of a competitive business can force you to lock your focus on Point Z and scoot towards it with little to no deviation.

But that, too, is a pity.

Because I find the best work comes often from a creative path that looks a little more like this.


Start here…


…but then…


…and then…




…and then suddenly…


Those loops and switchbacks and zigzags–those are the moments when you mess around. Those are the times you let go of Point Z and just play. Me, I find my very best work happens when I never make it to Z at all, and when my final product is wildly different from my original idea.

That’s what this project with Skacel Collection will be all about: playing. All sorts of playing, too. Knitting, yes–but also crochet, weaving, felting, embroidery, rug making, and anything else we can dream up. We are going to let go, move forward, and see where we end up.

We are going to have adventures.

And here is what I promise you:

I will show you the good stuff that we find.

I will show you how we got to the good stuff.

I will never pretend to be perfect.

When we run off the road and into a ditch, I will show you that, too.

Are you ready?


I am. Let’s go.

Spotted on Ravelry

Hi Everyone!

I can see it, running through a beautiful golden prairie with the long grass brushing through your toes and your little family dog chasing and barking after you. Just warm enough to wear your favorite romping dress but cold enough to keep your hands warm. (Woo, sorry… Got lost in the moment there) That’s exactly where my mind wandered when I saw these gorgeous fingerless mitts that just scream, VINTAGE. The designer used HiKoo Kenzie in #1000 which gives them an antiquey look, with a touch of garnet stitching as it’s accent/”pop” color.

Vintage inspired, these dainty hand warmers boast gorgeous lacy cuffs in a delicate woodsy leaf pattern. Knit in a luxurious, rustic fiber blend of merino wool, angora, alpaca, and silk noils. The hand stitching accents in deep garnet give these unique gloves a real handmade look and feel.

©Amy LaRoux

©Amy LaRoux

©Amy LaRoux

Prairie Lace Mitts knit in HiKoo® Kenzie.

Pattern uses one skein of HiKoo® Kenzie (Shown in #1000 – Pavlova)

Price: $5.00

Happy Knitting! I hope all your beautiful people are enjoying your summer!

Brooke @ skacel

Introducing Rub-a-Dub!

We’re excited to welcome Rub-a-Dub to our family of HiKoo® yarns. Fluffy, soft, and ultra-absorbent, HiKoo’s® Rub-a-dub is a quick-knit microfiber yarn that is perfect for washing, drying, cleaning, and so much more. The inside of the ball band contains two free patterns – one for a cleaning mitt and one for a textured washcloth. Each hank boasts enough fiber to complete at least 1 mitt and 2 washcloths. Additional free patterns are available for download on our website.

Time to knit up something quick and fun and put it to good use as a hostess or baby gift this summer!

PicMonkey Collage

Spotted on Ravelry

Happy Monday Crafty Folk!

I hope you all enjoyed your Summer Solstice and are looking forward to the next few beautiful months. In order to keep your needles clicking, and hooks a’ hooking, I will continue to show you some fun, funky and gorgeous things to keep the inspiration flowing. Below, Jane Richmond used HiKoo® Kenzington for her Arika Cowl.

Clever construction transforms a short scarf into a dynamic cowl. The first half is knit in a cushy 2 x 2 Ribbing creating a double layer of comfort while reducing bulk at the back neck. The second half transitions beautifully to an Eyelet Ribbing. The finished piece is blocked asymmetrically to create the flattering kerchief shape. Fringe is added to the outside border completing the look perfectly.
This cowl is fast and fun to knit and absolutely effortless to wear. It pairs beautifully with a denim top and looks just as fabulous worn over a tank in the summer making it a very versatile accessory for year-round wear. An ideal gift knit or instant gratification knit for yourself!”

Arika Cowl by Jane Richmond

Arika Cowl by Jane Richmond

Arika Cowl knit in HiKoo® Kenzington.

Pattern uses one hank HiKoo® Kenzington (Shown in #1015)

Price: $4.95

Happy Summer Knitting!

Brooke @ skacel

Spotted on Ravelry

This week I’ve got a double feature! Two weeks in a row with HiKoo® Simplinatural because I’m seeing beautiful designs pop up everywhere! Please let me introduce you, the Errant Shawl by Fog and String.This is a simple, kercheif style shawlette, starting with a tab cast on, working a section of stockinette then on to a variation on the popular moss stitch.

Errant Shawl by Fog and String

Errant Shawl knit in HiKoo® Simplinatural.

Pattern uses one hank HiKoo® Simplinatural (Shown in #57)

Price: $6.00

Happy Knitting!

Brooke @ skacel