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.
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.