Fridays with Franklin

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.”


“Are you giggling?”


“Yes you are. I can hear you.”

“That’s the television.”

“There’s no giggling on NOVA.”


“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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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 (, 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, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection. Many of his independently published designs are available via

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

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