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A-B-C-K-2-P-2

Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

I was a good student, but it would be fibbing of the most bald-faced and lamentable variety to tell you I enjoyed school. I hated school, in part because I invariably showed up on the first day wearing the wrong sort of sneakers, and was therefore declared by the girls on the playground to be covered in cooties.

I wasn’t much happier in the classroom. Each new year we were driven into a slightly more impenetrable thicket of the same dreary subjects by teachers who grew annually more gaunt and listless. Even the classes I enjoyed ultimately felt disconnected, irrelevant. I’d master the list of state capitals, or after days of tears successfully divide 283 by 14–only to think, “So what?”

“You’ll need this some day,” the teachers insisted, but that’s insufficient justification for a little kid. It’s tough to take the long view of things when you’re seven years old. It’s tough to see the horizon when you’re four feet tall.

Now I’m considerably older (though not much taller) and I’m wondering why the heck they didn’t just teach us to knit and crochet. If you can get a kid excited about a ball of yarn, you can get her excited about the entire curriculum that’s directly connected to that ball of yarn.

Check it out.

Spelling. W-O-O-L. C-O-T-T-O-N. M-O-H-A-I-R. A-C-R-Y-L-I-C. C-A-S-H-M-E-R-E.

Punctuation. Wool, cotton, mohair. Acrylic? Cashmere!

Grammar. I have been knitting. I am knitting. I shall be knitting. Stop bothering me, I’m knitting.

Geometry. Which shawl shape is most flattering: the triangle, the circle, or the rectangle?

Arithmetic. Georgie has six skeins of yarn. One pair of mittens requires one-and-a-half skeins. How many mittens can Georgie knit before he has to buy more yarn?

Psychology. How many mittens will Georgie knit before he decides to buy more yarn anyway?

Geography. This wool/cotton blend was spun in Turkey using wool from Australian sheep and cotton grown in India. Circle Turkey, Australia, and India on the map.

Botany. Where does cotton come from?

Biology. Where do sheep come from?

Chemistry. Where does acrylic come from?

Economics. Why does it take three countries to make one ball of yarn?

History. Who brought the spinning mill to America? Why is his face not on our money?

Physical Education. First one to climb to the top of the rope gets the ball of cashmere!

A-B-C-K-2-P-2 | Franklin Habit for the Lion Brand Notebook

Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008–now in its third printing) and proprietor of The Panopticon (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), one of the most popular knitting blogs on 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 other publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue KnittingYarn Market NewsInterweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkCast On: A Podcast for KnittersTwist Collective, and a regular column on historic knitting patterns for Knitty.com.

These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with an Ashford spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.

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  • Linda Peterson

    Brilliant Franklin, simply brilliant.

  • erin

    Franklin, you make me smile. :-)

  • margieR

    May I share this on my page, with full credit to you, of course!

  • Ruby Cruse

    The brilliance of the best education!

  • Jack

    Actually, I have been seriously asking this question for some time now. My son has a couple different learning disabilities, including calculation and spacial relationships. I wonder often if he would have an easier time with math if knitting and crochet, and sewing were a part of his curriculum. Unfortunately, during the time I was desperately drilling him in addition, subtraction and multiplication and division, I was NOT knitting. And it never occurred to me. Now I am, and all I can say is that I think it is an excellent way to immerse a student in basic arithamtec.

  • LYNETTE O'NEAL

    This is priceless! I think, like you, I'd have been valedictorian in my class had there been knitting in the curriculum.

  • Tammy

    Music class...."the spinning song"

  • Dragonstar

    I love this! School would have been much more fun!

  • Jennifer Simpson Hall

    I couldn't pass College Algebra until I learned to knit. Trufax!

  • Sue Hopkins

    Somebody put this man in charge of the Department of Education!

  • meg

    Brilliant! Here are a couple more.
    Philosophy. I knit, therefore I am.
    Logic. If yarn is on sale, then I will by it, else I will knit from my stash.

  • Whitney Jashinski

    as a teacher, I really love this!

  • Jayne DeBee

    Love this!

  • Diana

    So funny, yet so true! ♥

  • Anne-Maree Sleigh

    I'm a teacher and we've just been asked to say what subject we want to teach next year. I'm tempted to put this on the form and say 'Look! I can teach anything!'

    Brillant, as always.

  • Ginger Scott

    Thanks for the laugh, Franklin. My fourth grade teacher taught me to knit, and a few years later, I taught my sixth grade teacher to crochet. Yarn nerds, Unite!!!!

  • Atroposknits

    You are always brilliant, Franklin, but this is one of your best!

  • Pat Klunder

    Two weeks ago when the painter was here and I didn't have any paint sample to show him the color I wanted, I grabbed 3 or 4 skiens of yarn and we decided on a soft brown (not tan) for the bathroom. When he came back he had a perfect match and the room is beautiful. Yarn works for me!!!

  • Bossmare

    Oh how nice it would have been had my teachers done something like this.

  • Darlene

    Absolutely love it

  • Anneaptl

    So clever and leaves you asking the question "Why don't they teach this at school?

  • Cornelia Donovan

    Absolutely brilliant and makes perfect sense!!

  • Anne

    Excellent - and very clever!

  • Noel Campbell Hinton

    Love it! I would have made much better math grades!

  • Kathy G.

    Fabulously funny and true. Like learning music helps learn mathematics, knitting would really help in so many ways. ADD and ADHD might be contained if not cured but learning the rhythms of the needles and the patience of knitting!

  • cindypcm

    Many years ago...when I was in grade school, Miss Baker taught me to knit! Still knitting and she is the one teacher that stands out from all the others!

  • AnDee

    My daughter's math teacher and I have been having conversations aobut this for a while. He recently attending a seminar about introducing knitting and crochet into math classes. I offered to teach if our district goes for it. My daughter usually crochets at lunch and he thought it was interesting to the point of asking her if she knew how many stitches it took to complete her project. We also discussed k&c from the stress reducing point as well.

  • AnDee

    My daughter's math teacher and I have been having conversations aobut this for a while. He recently attending a seminar about introducing knitting and crochet into math classes. I offered to teach if our district goes for it. My daughter usually crochets at lunch and he thought it was interesting to the point of asking her if she knew how many stitches it took to complete her project. We also discussed k&c from the stress reducing point as well.

  • Charlene Marietti

    Few teachers are clever and creative enough to teach like this, but should you ever have one, you will remember him or her the rest of your life.

  • Vickie

    Makes sense to me.I would have been on the straight A list every year if knitting and crochet had been taught.Studies have shown knitting and crochet helps students learn in many different areas.Instead our children learn only enough to pass a test.And struggle through out life.

  • Fran

    A great way of learning...

  • Wanda

    As a Homeschool mom, yarn has always been in my curriculum :-).
    My oldest got her part time job (during college) at Joann fabrics. The fact that I had taught her to knit and crochet was a deciding factor.
    My youngest daughter majored in fashion design and got an A in textile class with her crocheted and felted wool purse. Her instructor was surprised that she could crochet. She also kept herself in spending money by making scarves to order.. Most girls in her dorm had one.

  • Janet from a crochet planet.

    You are absolutely right Franklin. Making knitting and crocheting is actually a form of permutations and combinations. Amazingly I failed that part of math miserably, however I can crochet a fairly decent item. Have a super sunny day everyone!

  • knittygirl52

    Oh Franklin, we love you.

  • Chris

    Love your posts! In Waldorf schools, which my daughter attends, the curriculum includes crocheting, knitting, embroidery, felting, and weaving, in addition to all the academic subjects. The boys and girls also made a doll, from scratch, that looked like them. My daughter's teacher spent her own time searching for curly black doll hair for our doll.

  • Grammy Cat

    I enjoyed most of the essay and really like the curriculum connections, but I am disturbed by your description of your teachers. Teachers then and today worked and work hard to motivate their students and provide interesting and useful lessons. Teaching is the most important job in the world.

  • AnneLibby

    Love this! I'm going to print it for my classroom wall--with credits of course!

  • Kim

    Hurrah! I LOVED this article, Franklin!! Personally, I confess to be mathematically-challenged. My Grade 3 elementary teacher, Mr. Brown, would keep me after class to teach me simple math on the giant chalkboard. Sadly, it didn't stick :(
    Fast forward to middle age - I knit, crochet, sometimes sew, and need to do some math to figure out yarnages, etc. Since knitting, I've learned to do math!! I can even balance my chequebook & that's a huge feat.
    Let us introduce knitting/crocheting math into all schools. Well done :)

  • Linda Monk Graimm

    I am mostly a crocheter and occasionally knit, however, I am in favor of craft humor and I love this particular blog because it speaks to me of my experiences in school. The one thing you didn't include in your list was algebra...I still haven't gotten why I needed to take algebra although I am sure that when I design, I use it somehow. I just don't understand how. Smile. Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate you. emmalemmon47@yahoo.com

  • Diane Ederer

    If only I had teachers like this while in school!

  • marlene

    I taught my grandson to crochet and used it to teach math, spelling, etc, before he was in kindergarden

  • louise from Quebec

    I love this story. In fact, I learned to knit from the Sisters on the first grade when I was 5! I am forever grateful

  • Elizabeth Casterline

    I taught a 2nd grade class to knit using circular looms. I have the same kids again this year for 4th gade and plan to do the same, plus teach them to crochet. Not only does ot teach them all these wonderfyl things, it also teaches them that they are capable of contributing to their community through making things for others. Last time we made hats and scarves for a homeless outreach program. I am thinking of focusing on hats for newborns this time.

  • snowbunny

    that was very enlightening.

  • Colleen Sheehy

    Knitting (and Crochet) works for EMDR (Eye Motion Desensitization Reprogramming) to sync the left and right sides of the brain for those of us with PTSD!

  • HomeschoolMom

    You hit the nail on the head - homeschooling at its best.

  • Virginia

    This is the most sensible thing I've read all week, besides my latest crochet pattern!

  • Janice Beitz

    We did knit in school! 1958! The girls learned to knit in Girl Scouts. We brought our knitting to school. Our teacher taught the boys to knit. Even some of the tough guys. We would all sit in class knitting and taking turns reading aloud to the rest of the class.

  • Arizonaknitter

    I love it Franklin!

  • Carolyn Scott

    Want to find some people who would be good at writing computer code? Look for a bunch of knitters.

  • Beverly Donovan

    I AM teaching knitting this year! It's one of our Fine Arts electives. I'll do that along with my core classes of Math and Geography. I love the cartoon....it's awesome. I want to blow it up and hang it prominently in my classroom.

  • LindY G Sherrod

    Bravo! couldn't have said it better myself. Back to basics....yarn

  • Gamma22

    Franklin, you ROCK!

  • gundel basart

    I learned to knit in 2nd grade at age 7. Was educated in Germany and was required to take all kinds of needle arts until I was 14. Hasn't failed me yet, I am still knitting, crocheting, cross stitching, garment and household sewing, embroidering, quilting, and now teaching quilting classes. It keeps my mind and hands busy and I don't think I'll ever need "therapy". This IS my therapy for life's large and small ailments and problems.

  • lynnedianne

    When I was at school in England, back in the dark ages, we had craft time classes where we could make something. I knitted a pink dolls dress in fan and feather stitch. I had metal needles and the yarn went grey from the needles. While knitting this item I taught myself to knit 'properly' without taking my right hand from the needle to wind the yarn around. This was about 55 years ago so it shows how important this was to me as I remember so much about it. I can't remember any other classes or teachers. I still get the thrill when picking up the needles to knit.

  • Karen Blackburn

    Franklin, you are a genius! I have the same urgent need to create by sewing. Thanks for making me smile today.

  • Becky

    I am a retired teacher. I taught my fifth grade students to knit and they loved it. With the advent of No Child Left Behind, I was unable to continue this valuable skill in my classroom. I did, however, have children visit me during recess to learn how to knit.

  • Nancy

    Waldorf Schools incorporate knitting in their curriculum, including making the needles.

  • Marsha Balbuena

    Now I am cool with how I need to learn. A ball of yarn teaches all!

  • Yarndork

    When son #3 did show and tell in Kindergarten, he was assigned the letter "Y". I have never been so excited. He took in 4 balls of yarn (cotton, mohair, angora, and wool), and 4 pictures we printed off the internet - a cotton plant, a goat, a bunny, and a sheep. Then he let all the kids pet the yarn and discuss which yarn matched which picture. Fun was had by all!

  • AnneLouise

    Don't forget percentages! "If the cashmere is on sale at 20% off...."
    Love it!!!!

  • Melken

    See your local homeschoolers; they've been doing this for years and loving it :)

  • Jackie Budde

    Wonderful! Made me laugh. So so true :)

  • Elaine

    When my sister had her left leg amputated many years ago, we found that when we crocheted, the phantom pains were eliminated for the time we crocheted. She was right handed, so for one who has the right leg amputated, activities should be done with the left hand.

  • Allison

    This is great, but I have one qualm:

    Grammar. I have been knitting. I am knitting. I shall be knitting. Stop bothering me[SEMICOLON - not a comma] I’m knitting.

    :)

  • wineplz

    "Why is his face not on our money?" That cracked.me.up! thanks for the laugh. :D

  • Cindy Bowen

    I love it!

  • mzklever

    LOVE IT!!

  • Raylene

    Not to mention, counting...stitches, rows, how to subtract, how to multiply stitches , how to dived stitches by rows, you even learn metric...in needle sizes. You learn home economics because you knit/crochet. And, commerce by selling your items, charity by giving your items to needy and pride when you earn ribbons at county/state fairs.

  • Raylene

    Forgot art what is more creative tthat a project of your own.

  • Erin Smith

    LOVE IT!

  • Pat Laster

    As a teacher, I'm right there with you Franklin!

  • mm

    LOVE IT!!!!

  • Cyndy Vachon

    I couldn't help but smile while reading, because my kids attended a Waldorf School - where every student IS taught to knit and crochet! And sew, and do woodworking, and all lovely forms of handwork. ;) http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/02_W_Education/

  • Lucy

    Made me nod while I read this!

  • patricia

    There are many studies that revealed that learning is based on neurons that are connected based on hand eye coordination. That is why many waldorf type schools do teach needle crafts to children starting in1st grade. You might be on to something here....teach them to knit.

  • Kelly

    I love this!! I can certainly relate!

  • Juanita Ludke

    In the Detroit Public Schools (of old) we had a teacher that taught interested students to knit in an after school program. I learned when I was in fifth grade - and I taught my mother and her left handed friend to knit after I learned. When I was in high school, my aunt taught me to crochet. Now I wonder - to knit or crochet - that is the question.

  • D Weber Jones

    Wonderful, if only!

  • DBImpressions

    Quite possibly the only time that I'd have been inspired to be first in phys ed. Fantastic!! Loved the grammar lesson, as well! :)