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Makers' Minute - Halloween Costume Alternatives

By Katie Rempe Yesterday 7 Views No comments

In this minute, Katie reminds you that you can MAKE YOUR OWN Halloween costume! Why settle for unsatisfactory options at the store when you can customize your own!

Visit www.makersmercantile.com to explore all the options and let your imagination run wild!

Unicorn Hat pattern pictured was designed by Brittany Tyler Simmonds.

Fabric pictured is BOO! - HALLOWEEN BEADS - BLACK & PURPLES.

Fridays with Franklin - The Adventure of the Fallen Flowers, Part Two

By Franklin Habit Yesterday 1269 Views

Jul 27, 2016 11:46:15 PM

The Adventure of the Fallen Flowers: Part Two

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

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

It probably speaks volumes about me that even my freeform crochet adventure had to start with some kind of plan.

Attitude Adjustment

The more I thought it over, the more the idea of creating a delicate fabric of scattered blossoms appealed to me. It was, for one thing, the opposite of the crochet I’d known growing up. That crochet came in two flavors: the zigzag afghan and the daisy place mat.

It may be that you recall zigzag afghans and daisy place mats with a fond smile. I’m sorry that I do not.

I recall the former as being worked always in three or more colors of stiff yarn so plastic it smelled like Tupperware. My memory kicks in around 1976, the American Bicentennial; so zigzags in red, white, and blue were the home accessory du jour along with colonial style console televisions and floor lamps in the shape butter churns. My mother, never a slave to fashion, made our afghan in a range of rusts and browns that didn't show dirt because they already looked like dirt.

The daisy placemats in vivid white, yellow, and orange thread may sound cheerful; but these were not the sunny, nodding, butterfly-kissed daisies of the open field. These scratchy daisies marched in regimental rows across the Formica dinette with all the charm of an invading army. Their pinched faces and lurid coloring make me think now of women I met years later while living in an unspeakable Boston suburb: identical dead eyes, fake tans, and secret fears that somewhere in Middlesex County someone might be having a good time.

What both specimens had in common, I now realize, is that they were textiles you wouldn’t want to touch. They looked nasty and felt nastier. All they had going for them, really, was that they were easy to clean. You could just throw them in the wash. Hell, you could lay them in the driveway and hose them down. They were impossible to destroy.

I thought for years that this must be the nature of crochet: to be, in a word, unpleasant.

It wasn’t until the very recent past that the work of designers like Cécile Balladino, Sophie Digard, Jenny King, and Kathy Merrick (this is but a partial list) began to open my mind.

That is absolutely crochet, yet it positively begs to be touched. The color mix is masterful. It’s beautiful.

So at last I had learned a funny thing about crochet: if you work it tightly in ugly yarn, it comes out tight and ugly. If you don’t–it doesn’t. Just like knitting.

Loosen Up

If I wanted my carpet of flowers to drape, the experts I spoke with all gave pretty much the same advice.

1. Choose yarn that drapes well.

2. Work it at a gentle gauge.

3. Keep your individual freeform units on the small side.

I’d already chosen my yarns–Schoppel Wolle Zauberball® and Hikoo® Tiara–before thinking much about that first point. They seemed drapey enough.

As to numbers two and three, I was only too happy to work with a light touch and a small motif. A small motif, it seemed to me, offered fewer opportunities to screw up. On a quiet afternoon not long ago I set off into the heart of a baroque nineteenth century hexagon full of picots and doubles and half-doubles and double-doubles and double-trebles and layovers and whoopee-doos; and got so lost I had to be airlifted to safety.

The Motif

I turned to Edie Eckman’s Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs,

which I mentioned in the last column and which had by now become my guidebook for this project.

Edie’s larger motifs are often matched with tiny “fillers” that act as decorative joins. It was one of these–a four-petaled flower–that caught my eye. Cute, simple, and contained no stitches I didn’t already know how to do. Winner!

For those who’d like to play along, Edie has graciously allowed me to share the pattern with you here:

Begin with sliding loop.

Rnd 1. Ch 1, 8 sc in ring, join with slip st to first sc.

Rnd 2. Ch 1, Block Stitch in same st, skip 1 sc, *Block Stitch (see below) in next sc, skip 1 st; rep from * around, join with slip st to first sc.

Fasten off.

Block Stitch: Sc in st or space indicated, ch 3, 3 dc inside of sc just made.

Two rounds and done. I can handle that.

Now, some folks will say that if I’m only using one motif, even if I’m attaching pieces at will and changing both colors and yarns, I’m not really creating freeform crochet. To those folks I can only say

The Rules of the Game

With yarn, hooks, sketch, and motif all in order, I still couldn’t jump in.

This was becoming embarrassing.

So I fell back on a tool in my knitting kit that I’ve used almost as much as my tape measure. Here it is.

When I’m at a crossroads in a piece of work and just can’t make a decision, I like to give it up to chance. To make it into a game.

Here are the rules of my game:

Roll 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5: Work the blossom with Zauberball®.

Roll 6: Work the blossom with Tiara.

A new blossom may be attached to any part of the fabric any number of times.

I stacked the odds in heavily favor of Zauberball® since I wanted the Tiara to be an accent sprinkled around the fabric. So, provided my die wasn’t loaded, only 1 in every 6 blossoms would be purple.

Now I was ready.

See you in two weeks...

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman (Storey Publishing)

Schoppel Wolle Zauberball® (75% Superwash Wool, 25% Nylon), 420m/100g ball. Color: 1993 (Chocolate Cream)

Hikoo® Tiara (10% Kid Mohair, 5% Wool, 49% Acrylic, 22% Nylon, 10% Bead, 4% Sequin), 188 yd/100g hank. Color: 74 (Amethyst)

addi® Olive Wood Crochet Hooks

Six-sided die from, I dunno, must have fallen out of an old Yahtzee set or something

Neko Needles Reviewed by Vickie Howell

By Jodi Roush 3 days ago 158 Views No comments

The Neko Curved Double Point Needles (CDPN's) have been flying out the door like crazy since their debut on our site this summer! Here is our good friend Vickie Howell's lovely review and demonstration! Thank you Vickie, for taking the time to go over these neat new needles!

Makers' Minute - addiLove Stitch Markers

By Katie Rempe 7 days ago 158 Views No comments

Show your knitting some love with these adorable addiLove Locking Stitch Markers!

They are available in a pack of 6 and fit up to a US 10 needle.

Makers' Minute - Exclusive Best Friend's Adjustable Dog Collar Kits!

By Katie Rempe 14 days ago 240 Views No comments

Katie tells you all about this brand new Makers' Exclusive! The Best Friend's Adjustable Dog Collar Kits! Available in a variety of colors and designs, you'll have a hard time choosing just one!

Special thanks to our guest star Barkley for offering his expert opinion on the matter!

Shop Collar Kits Here

Fridays with Franklin - The Adventure of the Fallen Flowers, Part One

By Franklin Habit 15 days ago 8470 Views

The Adventure of the Fallen Flowers: Part One

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

When I was drawing I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book, my friend and frequent collaborator John Mullarkey visited the studio and asked to watch as I worked over a piece from rough sketch to finished art.

I’ve seldom had someone spy on that process, which usually starts with a very light and wobbly sketch in pencil…

…followed by increasingly bold lines made by repeated goes with the pencil and a great deal of erasing…

…followed, with luck, by the slow process of inking the lines to make them permanent and printable.

John was struck by how many layers lay under what (I hope) appears to be a polished, unified final image.

Not everyone who draws follows that path, but I always have. Every finished drawing is the sum of a dozen unfinished drawings, one atop the other. To be terribly honest–honesty being a goal of these columns–one of the things that always drives me nuts about knitting is that it doesn’t usually lend itself to that multi-layered process.

Yes, you can swatch for knitting. And yes, I do. I also sketch and I plan–as I did for Rosamund’s sweater in our last adventure.

But when the sketches and swatches give way to the final piece you move from start to finish in a mostly linear fashion. You can rip back. And yes, I do. Boy, do I. Usually about a dozen times. For a hat.

But once a knitting project reaches an advanced stage, you can’t decide casually that it would be sweet to toss in a little cable action at the shoulders or move that stripe up four inches or narrow the color motif by two stitches without re-knitting the dang thing.

Please Feel Free

That’s one reason I love trying my hand at different fiber arts. Sometimes the nature and structure of knitting are precisely what I crave. Sometimes not. Sometimes I feel like messing around, changing directions, experimenting, reserving the right to go back and edit, add, and elaborate without a ton of ripping.

With that in mind I started checking out the freeform work that is the passion of artists like Australia's Prudence Mapstone, whose designs are known internationally as the vanguard of the field.

Freeform pieces don’t follow a pattern in the commonly accepted sense of the word. You may have a template or a sketch; but aside from that, you just…go. One improvised motif or fragment or what-have-you (Prudence evocatively calls it a “scrumble”) of knitting or crochet leads to the next, and to the next, and the fabric grows as it will. Or rather, as you wish it to, bit by bit.

Prudence works in both knitting and crochet (often combined, as in the piece above). As I had just finished a mess of knitting I felt the pendulum in my brain swing from needles to hooks.

Inspiration from Edie Eckman

Then, at this summer’s edition of Stitches Midwest, I ran into Edie Eckman at the Makers’ Mercantile booth in the Marketplace. Edie was one of my first needlework teachers, back when I decided to try taking classes after a lifetime of learning on my own. Now we’re friends and colleagues, which I find both miraculous and humbling.

She was there to sign her crochet books–which are excellent, numerous, and famous (everyone who crochets should have The Crochet Answer Book)–and I decided to pick up a copy of Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs.

I had admired the book since the year it came out, when Edie appeared at Stitches Midwest wearing this remarkable a one-skein snowflake shawl from the patterns section.

I was tempted to mug her and run away with it, since at the time my crochet skills weren’t up to making one myself. Now, having got granny squares under my belt, it might be possible to try something that complex on my own.

In Connect the Shapes, Edie dwells briefly on the topic of working freeform. I wondered if I might select an hors d'oeuvres from her extensive buffet of motifs, then multiply and vary it to make an improvised fabric.

"Do you think I could do it?" I asked Edie.

"You can do it," said Edie firmly. "And if you have questions, call me."

Yarns, Hooks, and Plans

The more I thought about the idea of freeform, the more excited I got. My first impulse was to reach for Schoppel Wolle Zauberball, color 1993 (Chocolate Cream) – a series of slow shifts from warm black through cream by way of milky cocoa and tan.

Then I realized that nothing prevented me from mixing not only a different color, but an entirely different yarn. It could be a different fiber, a different weight, a different texture. Maybe all three?

This skein of Hikoo Tiara in color 74 (Amethyst) had been sitting here staring at me for ages.

This yarn is quirky. It blends kid mohair, wool, acrylic, and nylon with beads and sequins. I liked as an art object, but couldn’t figure out what the heck to do with it. Frankly, I’m not a fellow who goes in for sparkle and fuzz. It might be useful, though, as a striking change of pace from the quiet rusticity of the Zauberball.

Should I? Beads? Sequins? Why not? In for a penny, in for a pound.

As to hooks, I will admit without hesitation that one of the reasons I chose to make this a crochet adventure was the chance to work again with the addi® Olive Wood hooks that I mentioned in the last column.

They’re pretty to look at and dreamy to handle.Can you blame me?

So I put everything on the worktable, poured myself a cup of tea...and froze.

Could I really charge forward without any kind of plan at all?

As much as I would love to make this a truly out-on-a-limb adventure, in which I crochet the day away without a second thought as to what I'm doing, I am not that person. I never have been that person. At my age, it is unlikely that anything short of being sucked onto a flying saucer in which long-fingered green aliens neatly switch my brain with that of Indiana Jones (or Prudence Mapstone) will turn me into that person.

And so we come full circle this week–back to my paper and pencils. I started scribbling and found my head was full of flowers. Maybe it was because fall has arrived here in Chicago, where I know I won’t see anything in bloom except mildew for about the next nine months.

I remembered a passage by legendary gardener Gertrude Jekyll, describing how with the aid of teams of housemaids she gathered thousands of roses to make potpourri. I remembered watching purple jacaranda petals fall and cover the sidewalks during my childhood in Hawaii. I thought of showers of white Mountain Laurel near my grandmother’s house in Pennsylvania, and pink cherry blossoms drifting across a Japanese scroll in my collection.

A carpet of scattered flowers.That’s what I wanted to make. To be used as…

To be used as...as...uh…

Well, I don’t know what it will be used as. I’m not even sure how I’m going to make it. Let’s talk more about that in two weeks.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book by Franklin Habit (Soho Publishing)

Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman (Storey Publishing)

Schoppel Wolle Zauberball (75% Superwash Wool, 25% Nylon), 420m/100g ball. Color: 1993 (Chocolate Cream)

Hikoo Tiara (10% Kid Mohair, 5% Wool, 49% Acrylic, 22% Nylon, 10% Bead, 4% Sequin), 188 yd/100g hank. Color: 74 (Amethyst)

addi® Olive Wood Crochet Hooks

Makers' Minute - The YarnIt

By Katie Rempe 22 days ago 520 Views No comments

The YarnIt!

  • Protects your yarn from dirt, grime and debris.
  • Unbreakable, high quality globe for crocheting.
  • Cat and dog proof (they hate it!)
  • Knitting kit keeps your yarn tangle free!
  • Yarn bowl allows you to crochet & knit effortlessly anywhere!
  • Knitting kit fits into a standard cupholder for cars & planes.
  • Clip-on strap allows you to take a project on-the-go.
  • Personalize your YarnIt bowl with fun colors and decals.

To shop the full range of colors available, Click Here!

Makers' Minute - The Sheep Shop!

By Katie Rempe 28 days ago 365 Views No comments

Are you a knitter or crochet? Odds are you're probably a sheep fan, too! We have an entire section of the Makers' Mercantile website dedicated to all things SHEEP!

Click Here to see all things Sheep Shop!

Fridays with Franklin - The Adventure of the Warm Puppy, Part Four

By Franklin Habit 29 days ago 10508 Views

The Adventure of the Warm Puppy: Part Four

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

For the the first part of this adventure, click here.

Rosamund is still waiting patiently for her new sweater.

A View of the Bridge

When last we left our steek, it looked like this.

Before we go further, let’s take a closer look at the place where all the action is going to happen: the bridge.

The bridge is the fabric we created specifically so that we could cut it open. Our version–used in making the leg openings for Rosamund’s sweater–requires an odd number and a minimum of five. This swatch steek has seven stitches, worked in reverse stockinette.

That center stitch is where we cut. The pairs of stitches on either side are where we secure the fabric before cutting, so that cutting does not lead to unraveling.

To this point we’ve been looking at the steek from the right side of the fabric...

...but now we’re going to flip it over so that the wrong side is uppermost. This shows us the little Vs of the reverse stockinette, which makes it easier find our way around.

It's useful to have guideline for both the securing and the cutting; so once the knitting is finished, I sew a running stitch right up the center column with a piece of scrap yarn. I can, quite literally, cut along the dotted line.

Securing the Bridge: Part I

We will secure our bridge using my favorite method: the crocheted steek. I didn’t invent it, I just love it. There are several variations; this one is not the "correct" one–it's the one I use, and therefore the one I feel comfortable demonstrating.

If you don’t think of yourself as one who crochets, even if you have never used a hook to do more than pick up dropped stitches, don’t stop reading just because I used the C word. This is about the simplest crochet there is. You can do it.

We need, of course, a crochet hook. While knitting Rosamund’s sweaters I fell so in love with my addi® Olive Wood circular needle that I decided I should try out the Olive Wood crochet hooks, as well. The construction is top-notch, and the handles aren't just comfortable; they're little works of art.

The size hook I choose is usually equal to or slightly smaller in diameter than the needle used to knit the fabrics. If you’re using a slippery fiber, choose the smaller size.

Recall that we wish to secure the pairs of stitch columns immediately on either side of the center stitch. To be specific, we wish to crochet together the legs at the center of each pair, here colored red.

We’ll begin by inserting the hook under the legs at the base of the right-hand column, then pulling through a loop of our crochet yarn.

(I could have used the sweater yarn, but the purple Simpliworsted is easier to see in this demonstration.)

Then, bring the working yarn over the hook once more to make a loop, and pull this loop through the stitch legs and through the first loop on the hook.

*We move up to the next pair of legs, and put the hook through both.

Yarn over the hook again, and pull this new loop through the stitch legs and through the loop on the hook.

Repeat from * until you have secured all the legs in the pair of columns.

When you’ve finished, snip the working yarn leaving a six-inch tail and pull the yarn through the final loop to secure it.

Confession Interlude

The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that in the above photos, I actually moved out from the center one stitch too far when working my chain. I could pretend that never happens to me, but I promised when this column began that I would show you stuff that goes wrong.

So what did I do? I pulled the crochet out and did it over. Both the bridge and I survived the operation unharmed.

My point? It’s no big deal.

Steeks are no big deal.

Securing the Bridge: Part II

When side one is complete, turn the work upside-down (so the last of your chain crochet stitches is now nearest you) and work side two exactly the same way.

When you’re finished, this is what you get. (I’ve trimmed the yarn tails here to get them out of the way.)

Get the Scissors

Then we cut along the dotted line. Use small, sharp scissors (embroidery scissors are my favorite). Take your time. If you’re cutting something circular, put a piece of paper or cardboard or a slim book inside the tube to make sure you cut only the bridge.

Voilà, a beautifully shaped and utterly stable opening in our knitting.

Was that so hard?

Judith Cuts a Steek

The edges of what used to be the bridge fold to the wrong side, and can be gently sewn down using whip stitch. I prefer to do this using the yarn used to knit the fabric.

And here we have the view from the right side.

The edges of the opening are now ready for whatever you wish to do next. One of the reasons I left the reserved stitches on a scrap of yarn is that nine times out of ten, I will finish the opening with a picked-up edging or by picking up stitches for a sleeve. Those reserved stitches are waiting for me to do either. It saves a bit of time and trouble.

Puppy, Warmed

And so my experimental sweater for Rosamund is complete.

My finishing touches–to mitigate the over-large leg holes and the unintended off-the-shoulder neckline–were additional ribbing at the legs and collar. I think the turtleneck rather suits her, don’t you?

She loves the sweater. I had to chase her around to get it off her, even though she knew that as a reward for modeling nicely we would play in the sprinkler.

This test piece has shown me what to do and not to do for her next sweater. I learned a lot about knitting to fit a dog, and I had a blast doing it. There will be a lot more Rosamund sweaters in “Fridays with Franklin,” because it seems to me they could be fun way to test new techniques and design new fabrics.

Plus, as Charles M. Schulz famously wrote, happiness is a warm puppy.

Ready for a new adventure? I'll meet you back here in two weeks.

Floralia Update

Kits and patterns for the Floralia Blanket (and a matching pillow) from this adventure are available from Makers’ Mercantile.

If you’d like help in choosing colors for your project, a member of staff will be delighted to assist you. They’re awfully good at that sort of thing.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Simpliworsted by Hikoo® (55% Merino Superwash, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon; 140 yds per 100g skein). Colors: 611, Earth and Sky (swatch) and 033 (Red Hat Purple).

addi® Olive Wood crochet hook

About Franklin

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

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

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

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet. 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 lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, three looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Makers Minute - Reward Point Program

By Katie Rempe 1 month ago 273 Views No comments

Katie describes how the Rewards Program works at MakersMercantile.com and what you can purchase with your points!

Don't have a Makers' account yet? Click Here to sign up (it's free!)

To see our current rewards offerings, click here.

To find out more information about the program, click here.

Exit Mist