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Fridays with Franklin - Adventure of the Warp with Two Brains, Part One

By Franklin Habit 6 months ago 610 Views


The Adventure of the Warp with Two Brains: Part One

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

Today, we start a new adventure!


In weaving!


If you hadn’t missed the staff meeting you would have known that.


We’re going to use a rigid heddle loom. If you’ve not yet encountered a rigid heddle loom, click back to The Adventure of the Scarf that Ate the World for a simple, brief description of how they work.

A biggish rigid heddle like my fifteen-inch Schacht Cricket doesn’t limit you to scarves; but I have scarves in mind because it’s spring, and for so many of us who do a lot of handwork, the return of spring means one thing: planning our winter holiday gift-giving. I’m thinking scarves. Lots of scarves. Scarves all around.

Scarves make fantastic gifts, so long as your friends have necks. A knitted scarf is a beautiful, bouncy, cuddly thing. It can also take a long time to finish, even if it’s perfectly plain. For a guy like me, who will never set a speed record, promising more than one person a knitted holiday scarf inevitably leads to an ugly moment in which I hurl delirious invective at the little chocolate elf who pops out of the Advent calendar on December 20.

That is no way to treat chocolate.

Warp Once, Weave Twice–Or More

When speed is of essence, weaving is almost always* going to beat the daylights out of knitting. If I’m to turn out multiple scarves, speed is key.

It’s true that before you can weave you first must warp–we talked about that here. But when you want to weave multiple similar somethings–dish towels, placemats, or (ding ding ding) scarves­–more often than not you’ll warp only once.

All you do is wind on enough length to accommodate your multiples, or at least as many as your loom can handle. Then weave the first item, leave a bit of space, weave the second item, leave a bit of space…and onward in this manner until you come to the end of the warp.


And while you might think multiple projects on one warp would mean a series of identical projects­–nope. Depending upon what sort of warp and weft you choose, you’ll find a variety of options for making each different from the next.

This is extremely useful if you have friends with highly different tastes, and I do.

The Yarn

I’m going to need two scarves off this warp, and here’s the yarn I plan to use.


This is Zitron Trekking XXL, and I chose it for a few different reasons:

  • It’s strong enough to use as a warp–meaning it can withstand firm tension and abrasion without falling to pieces.


  • I’ve used it for socks and I really like those socks.
  • It’s machine-washable. Neither friend is going to hand-wash anything. Believe me, I’ve tried to teach them. They won’t budge.
  • It’s finer weight (fingering) than the yarns I’ve woven with previously, and I’m excited to try a fabric that will be light and decorative.
  • The high wool content means the appearance and hand are pretty close to that of pure wool, which suits the scarves I have in mind.
  • I love these two colorways. Though they read as primarily solid, each has tweedy flecks of the other in it, plus flecks of other happy colors sprinkled around as well.


The Friends

Now, about the recipients. In the interest of protecting their privacy, I’ve been asked not to give you their actual names and likenesses. But like so (and I mean SO) many of my friends, they closely resemble in many ways characters from George Cukor’s immortal film The Women, released in 1939.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

It has an enormous, glittering cast of 130–all women. Even the animals in the film are female. No men appear, though they’re almost the only thing talked about. Do not attempt to apply the Bechdel Test to this film; your lab will blow up.

The screenplay was written by two women (Anita Loos and Jane Murfin) after a play by another woman (Claire Boothe Luce), yet manages to be breathtakingly sexist.

That said, it is a hoot. A scream. A gooey masterful camp fruitcake of sobby soggy romantic drama, knock-down slapstick, acid wit, and style. I have watched it so many times that even when the sound is off, I know exactly what is being said. Don’t believe it? TRY ME.


We are primarily interested in the costumes, which were by the legendary Adrian–not a woman, but a genius at telegraphing a woman’s inner life through hats, gloves, and dresses. Also, making her look taller. (Norma Shearer was five foot one.)

Friend One: Mary

Now, in terms of style, Friend One is a perfect match to the heroine, Mrs. Stephen (Mary) Haynes.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Mary was played by Norma Shearer, who began in silent films and continued to reign in the sound era as the Queen of MGM, grabbing plummy, starring roles from Juliet Capulet to Marie Antoinette and never once letting a near-complete lack of acting talent stand in her way.**

Mary’s style reflects her personality. She’s honest (one of the few truly honest characters out of the 130), loyal, strong, and prefers the quiet, simple, horsey life in her Connecticut country house to the enervating social whirl of Park Avenue.

Unsurprisingly, her clothes tend to the tailored.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

They’re not mousy or frumpy–she’s very chic, even in a cardigan–


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

but they have simple lines, quiet details, and classic fabrics. Even her dressing gown, though it has chiffon bell sleeves, has echoes of a men’s camp shirt.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Mary is disgustingly rich, yes; but her clothes tell you that if you take away the horses and the country estate and the Park Avenue apartment and the maid and the cook and the impulse trips to Bermuda she’s just the same as you or I, picking up light bulbs from Target.

Friend One–from now on, we’ll call her Mary–needs a scarf that goes with a wardrobe like that, and I think I know just the thing. A timeless fabric, no fussy trims, rugged enough for the country but amenable to the occasional city foray.

Friend Two: Sylvia

Friend Two is closer in style to Mary’s cousin, Mrs. Howard (Sylvia) Fowler, played by the legendary Rosalind Russell.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Happily, Friend Two’s resemblance to Sylvia ends with her sense of style, because Sylvia is horrible. HORRIBLE. Gossip is the air the Sylvia breathes. It’s also in pretty much every breath she exhales. She’s a liar, a coward, and a bully.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

She’ll abandon a friend, even her own cousin, at the first sign of trouble–even if she did her best to fan the flames.

The only thing you can admire about Sylvia is that she knits.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Sylvia’s dress sense is as theatrical as you can get without buying your clothes from the Cirque du Soleil garage sale. I think Adrian meant to reveal her as a woman consumed with appearances and dying for attention.

Her wardrobe isn’t terribly avant garde, except perhaps for this three-eyed homage to Elsa Schiaparelli,


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

but it’s impossible to ignore. Most of the pieces she wears play with scale (making things bigger or taller) or texture (making things fuller or fluffier).


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.


The Women © 1939 Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

Friend Two also loves to wear things that push boundaries and get noticed. She joyfully uses her body as the framework for an art project that’s created new every morning. Her closetseses (that’s not a typo–she has too many to express with “closets”) are her paintbox, and she paints with a surrealist’s brush.

This is going to be the greater challenge, because my own taste is closer to Mary’s. My wardrobe looks like it was last rejuvenated in 1922. I like sock garters. I have been known to put on a necktie just for fun. I think creative black tie is fine…for other people.

But I want to try, and I’m going to do them both on one warp. A gift for a friend should make that friend’s heart beat faster, even if it has the same effect on your stomach.

If you’ll please stop by in two weeks, I’ll be excited to show you what happens next.

*Exceptions would be forms of weaving requiring intense, frequent manipulation of the warp or weft threads; but that’s another adventure for another day. Maybe.

**Shearer did marry the studio boss, Irving Thalberg. It might have helped her a tiny bit. Just throwin’ it out there. That does not make me a Sylvia! Shut up.

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Zitron Trekking (75% New Wool, 25% Nylon; 3.5 oz/100g per 459 yds/420m). Colors: 210 (Buff) and 240 (Red).

Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom (15 inch) by Schacht Spindle Company

The Women (1939). For information on sources, visit the official IMDB page . Yes, there was a remake in 2008, but please don’t ever bring that up in front of me again.

About Franklin Habit

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His next book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book will be published by Soho Publishing in June 2016.

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’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.

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