Fridays with Franklin - Adventure in the Bathroom, Part One
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.
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 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
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.