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In the corner pocket…

I know, I know. I started the macrame pocket nets for my cousin Mark’s antique pool table around the first of the year and they’re not done yet. The nets need to be perfect, so I don’t want to rush the job.

The actual knotting doesn’t take that long, it just gets tedious working around and around and around for more than a couple hours at a time. When you get bored, mistakes can be made — something I’m trying to avoid.

The initial hurdles were figuring out the right approach and making the first prototype net. It was a little short, so I added four rows when making the first and second pockets this spring. That’s about the time Mark’s wife, Mary, suggested the side and corner pockets might not be exactly the same sizes. Since the first nets were based on a side pocket, all work halted until I had a corner net to look at.

A pocketless pool table is a sad sight, indeed.

In June Mark dropped off a corner net (when passing through town on his way to the annual Corvette rally). That was days before the seemingly endless heatwave brought us way too many days of 100+ temperatures. Sorry, but even with a functioning air conditioner there’s no way I’m working with wool when it’s that hot, so I waited for the heat to break.

Another delay came when a bad bout of eczema hit my hands shortly after I started the corner net prototype. Once my skin started healing I was able to work a couple rounds a day. I finally finished the corner net prototype a couple weeks ago and turned it over to Mark the other day. It’s only slightly different from the side nets; the top edge is simply one knot wider – six knots instead of five. (I literally counted each and every knot on the old net to make sure the decreases matched perfectly, so I’m hopeful.)

Cross your fingers it fits. If so, only three more to go!

If there’s enough of the Lamb’s Pride worsted yarn (85% wool, 15% mohair, color M172, “Deep Pine”) left once the nets are done, maybe I can make another pool table accessory for Mark. Suggestions, anyone?

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Utilitarian Objects

A couple weeks ago Deb asked  if I could make some nylon scrubbies for her – she said her “source” had dried up.

I’d made some a few years ago, mostly for the guys in the family since the guys are the official dish washers. (Except on Easter when I declared anyone who had helped me with repairs and painting didn’t have to do dishes. Even so, I swear they were looming over their replacement washers, mentally critiquing every move.) The idea of making Scrubbies again really appealed to me because I love the idea of transforming delicate netting into durable objects.

Deb sent me a pattern that was much easier than the one I’d used before. (Sorry, folks, I have no idea where she found it, so I don’t have a link. Maybe we can get Deb to post a link in the comments.)

Basically, you start by cutting nylon netting into 2″ strips.

Then you cut small holes in the ends and loop them together, sort of like slip knots. (It’s easier than it sounds.) You’re basically knotting strips together, but without leaving a a bulky knot. Maybe it will make sense when you see it….

Is it starting to make sense?

The trick is to pull it taut without pulling so hard you tear the netting. If you do tear it, just snip off the damaged end of your strip and start again.

Once you’ve pulled it all the way through, it should look something like this….

With only a half-inch or so of netting sticking out, these knots are a lot neater than a regular double knot would be – and more secure, as well!

I kid you not when I tell you cutting the strips and knotting them together was the most time-consuming part of the project. It was also the messiest. See those tiny flecks? They’re itty bitty bits of nylon from the netting.

A couple yards of netting – enough for four scrubbies – resulted in this ball of “yarn,” so to speak:

From here on out, it’s all a matter of double crochets and single crochets. I used a “J” hook, but even a “K” would have been fine. You work a few rounds of double crochet, adding stitches here and there.

The cool part is when you stop increasing the next round becomes a side, or edge. Before long you’re making decreases on the reverse side! They work up really fast – less than an hour per scrubbie.

These scrubbies are slightly different, front and back. One side is all double crochet, the other is single crochet. The different size stitches offer users a choice of scrubbing oomph.

Once you’ve worked the whole way around, don’t worry about hiding the end of the “yarn” because you tuck it (and some scraps, if you like) right inside the scrubbie for a little extra strength.

Okay Deb, here’s a sneak peak at your new scrubbies:

A                                                                                       B

While most people use scrubbies for, well, scrubbing, I know some people who swear by them as lint removers.

My favorite way to use scrubbies? Cleaning soap scum out of the tub using just a little water, baking soda and the scrubbie. Once you’ve used these scrubbies, you’ll understand why Deb needed a new “source.” They’re real workhorses!

What do you like about your scrubbies?

Future Back-up Pocket Net?

I can’t say I’m 100% satisfied with my first attempt at replicating the worsted pocket nets for Uncle Gale’s old pool table, but it’s pretty close to what I’d hoped for.

As mentioned in the previous post, over at Ravelry.com we discussed several possible methods to try, but square knots won out when debbiepaa worked up a sample and posted a photo of it on Ravelry’s Techniques forum. She also suggested working it over a jar. It seems Robin’s guess was right: Macrame is the method of choice. Sort of. Well, my version of it, anyway.

Being inexperienced with macrame, I referred to some trusty old craft books and got started. First, I cut 34 strands of yarn, each roughly 45″ long, paired them off, doubled them up and slipped them onto a piece of wire:

34 strands of yarn soon became...

...17 groups doubled onto the wire

Next,  I used the wire to secure it to an old jar:

I tested a few different spacers to help keep the knots as uniform as possible. The goal was to make the new pockets slightly shorter than the old ones, since gravity and the weight of the pool balls will stretch the yarn over time. The double-pointed knitting needle I used on some test knots was too round, resulting in lop-sided knots.  A Popsicle stick, perhaps?

It fit the old pocket with a little room to spare, so it seemed like a good choice. I started knotting.

This is where the square knotting skills of my Eagle Scout brother or Cub Scout nephew would have come in handy. I kept a chart nearby to make sure I didn’t wrap the yarn backwards. I’m sure all the Scouts out there will cringe, but here goes:

Square knot step 1

Square knot step 2

Completed square knot

I soon realized the Popsicle stick was too rigid for working in the round, so I cut a thin piece of cardboard that could follow the curve of the jar a bit better.

Flexible cardboard spacer

With that settled, work progressed pretty swiftly.

'Round and 'round we go

After 10 rounds, it was time for the dreaded decreases. It only took about two seconds for me to realize that meant separating out the strands I needed for my next row of knots and working them row by row instead of around and ’round. Simple, huh?

Right side decrease

Notice how two of the previous knot’s four strands are worked, and two aren’t? That’s to keep the diamond pattern intact. The same holds true for the left side decrease:

Left side decrease

I decreased one knot per row simply by pulling back two strands on each side of each row, as shown above.

Bearing in mind that 1) I’m a horrible photographer, 2) I haven’t trimmed the un-worked strands (they might come in handy for attaching the pocket to the pool table’s pocket trim pieces), and 3) this is my first attempt…here’s the final result:

Prototype A

Over several decades, friction more or less had “felted” the fibers of the old nets (kind of like how your favorite sweater can “pill” after it’s been worn a few times), making it hard to distinguish one strand from another. Here, the separate strands are more obvious – as is the fact that not all of the knots are evenly balanced.

So what do you think? Be honest. I really want the new pocket nets to be as similar as possible to the old ones.

Any tips for tying square knots more evenly?

Any suggestions for a better spacer? (I fear the strips of cardboard will wear out before all six nets are made.)

If – after seeing this in person  – Mark thinks I’m on the right track, my plan is to make six additional pocket nets and let him keep this one – imperfections and all –as a spare.

Family Matters

Everyone loves Uncle Gale’s antique pool table. Who wouldn’t? It’s at least 100 years old and converts into a sofa.

Brunswick "Home Comfort" model

Not that anyone ever really wants to sit on it when it’s in sofa form, for fear the heavy slate could come crashing down and squash everyone sitting there. This could be why I only recall seeing it with the top tipped back a couple of times, ever. (You can see part of the hinge on the right front corner, above.) I vaguely recall being dared to sit on the “sofa” one time, but didn’t sit there very long.

My cousin, Mark, inherited the table after his dad died. A few years ago he had it re-felted and it looks great, as long as you don’t look too closely at the pocket nets.

Last time I was at Mark’s house I learned five of the six pocket nets had very large holes — mostly near the edges where the worsted wool netting had worn through. Assuming they were crocheted, I volunteered to try to replicate some new pocket nets.

Turns out they weren’t crocheted.

Some very creative and incredibly helpful new-found friends at Ravelry.com responded to my forum posts seeking advice on everything from what kind of yarn to use to the best way to approach this project. Rav members debbiepaa,  farmgirlwa, aussiesheila and a  few others proved especially helpful; debbiepaa even tested a few theories and helped me form a game plan based mostly on this photo of one of the old pocket nets:

Any guesses as to how I’m going to tackle this one?

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