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A Brief Guide to Lesser-Known Yarn Superstitions by Franklin Habit

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

There is no question that persons who make things with yarn are a superstitious lot.  This is scarcely to be wondered at–so much can go awry on the journey from winding up to casting off. Skill and vigilance are well and good as safeguards against disaster; yet much depends on luck. You cannot make luck as you can, with luck, make a mitten. And so knitting, crochet, and all their sister arts are shot through with charms and spells intended to pick up stitches before they drop.

You are likely familiar with the folk custom that one does not knit a sweater for a lover to whom one is not firmly and finally wed. So old and pervasive is this belief that it has passed into common knowledge. Few among us will have left grammar school without learning the ancient playground chant:

Mary knit a cardigan

And handed it to Gene.

He stuffed it in his bottom drawer

And ran off with Maureen.

The origins of the famous “sweater curse” are obscure, but perhaps arose from the hard-won knowledge that it is best to present him with an expensive, labor-intensive gift he doesn’t want and won’t use only after both of you are too exhausted by the demands of child-rearing to care about anything else.

Though it is the best known of the knitting superstitions, the sweater curse keeps company in the needleworker’s subconscious with a host of other customs and beliefs. Most are now nearly lost, granted currency in but a scattering of remote hamlets far from the illumination of modern thought.

How many of these do you know?

A mitten cast on during the waning moon will always sprout extra thumbs.

 

If you throw the remnant of a ball of yarn into a fast-flowing creek you will never run short of yarn while traveling.

 

A pregnant woman must not handle novelty yarn; her baby will grow up to be overly fond of wearing sequins in the daytime.

 

To dream of your true love, place a skein of yak/silk blend under your pillow. You may only dream of yak/silk blend, but that ain’t so bad.

 

habit-lb-cartoon-05-15

 

When unable to locate a skein of yarn you know is in your stash somewhere, flush a stitch marker down the toilet and make a wish to Saint Gigi of Toulouse, who was martyred for refusing to sell expensive, top-quality merino to a Roman soldier who just wanted to felt it for cat toys.

 

Swearing in front of witnesses that you never swatch because you never need to will curse you with seven years of incorrect gauge.

 

Read a lace chart by moonlight and dropped stitches are sure to follow.

 

If a woman finds a knot in a skein of kid mohair on her wedding day, her future husband will never accuse her of spending too much money on yarn.  Or if he does, she won’t much care.

 

A person who enjoys purling two together through the back loops is probably a witch.

 

—–
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 Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist 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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  • Michael Harrigan

    A fun read. Thanks.

  • Syd Tupaj

    I learned years ago to put my coffee down before reading Franklin, still holds true!

  • Pam

    Literally laughing out loud, Franklin! Thanks! I needed it today. :)

  • Merike Saarniit

    I AM a witch after all. Hugs!

  • Tephra

    Outed as a witch yet again.

  • Donna Galletta

    I really believe the last one!!

  • Darcy09

    Or the sweater will be unfinished and beau will change as will size.

  • Gen

    Great start to a Friday!!

  • Linda Peterson

    I am almost out of stitch markers.

  • Kathryn Kienholz

    I need to flush a stitch marker. Maybe then I will find those 4 balls of Knit Picks blue alpaca/merino that are in my Rav stash but are nowhere to be found in my house.

  • Ilnara Hesken

    We obviously played in different playgrounds. I've never heard that chant.

  • ilr1950

    Im a witch! Ive never seen it spelled that way before .....

  • Ila Treat

    My big sister knit an Aran sweater for her boyfriend as her first knitting project! Alas, the curse held true, he was gone before she finished the sweater. She was so traumatized she never knit again, but meanwhile she had taught me to knit, plus she got to keep the sweater, so it wasn't a total loss. I'm knitting a sweater now for her 9th grandchild!

  • Charlotte

    i knit a fisherman knit sweater for my boyfriend/fiancé which he wore once and his mother promptly shrunk by about 4 sizes. I never forgave her and it took 43 years of marriage before I knit him a replacement. Don't think the curse worked though as this year marks our 45th anniversary.

  • Mary Goodson

    Ok, reading the comments gives me the idea that this is intended as humor. Huh...

  • Anna M.

    Uh-oh! Never heard the one about pregnant women and novelty yarn. He's more apt to go out in a super-hero costume than sequins. . .so far.

  • Liz D

    My favorite saying that I'm pretty sure I came up with? "If you drink, you will tink." Because, inevitably, you will.

  • http://www.bykaae.dk/ Charlotte Kaae

    So true, never cast on for a mitten during the waning moon ;-)

  • Velia

    You've made my day!