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All in the Same Boat by Franklin Habit

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

If my words look slightly lopsided today, it’s because my desk is gently pitching and rolling…side to side…up and down. So is the floor. And the rest of the room. No, I have not been in the pantry nipping at the vanilla extract again. I’m on a ship.

About a yard past my right elbow and down eleven decks are the chilly blue waters of the North Pacific. We are en route to Alaska. I came aboard in Seattle with two suitcases (one for clothes, one for yarn) and fifty knitters.

We, the knitters, constitute a Cruise Within a Cruise, vastly outnumbered by the 2,800 passengers who are not knitting.  As such, we are a curiosity. We knit fore and aft, port and starboard, day and night. We knit by the pool and we knit in the lounges. The library–well lit, central, and full of excellent chairs–has through steady and regular occupation become our special domain.

This is not, I am happy to say, my first experience of group travel with fellow yarn fanciers. It is the first, though, to give me sufficient leisure hours to reflect on the particular joys of moving about in a great knitterly herd. I’m surprised to find I like it so much–being at heart a lone wolf.*

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Why? Here, I think, are a few reasons why.

  1. Should you misplace or forget to bring the most notoriously slippery notions–stitch markers, tape measure, scissors–someone in your party will have them, or will suggest an ingenious on-the-spot substitute. (Example: Novelty swizzle sticks marked with the name of the ship or the cocktail lounge make excellent cable needles and cheap souvenirs.)
  2. Upon arrival in a new port-of-call, yours will not be the sole voice wondering whether there is a good yarn shop in the vicinity. In fact, it’s possible that someone will have already determined that there is, and will have figured out how to get there, and will have learned the local words for, “Have you got more of this in the same dye lot?”
  1. If yours is not the sole voice calling out for a visit to the yarn shop, you stand a better chance of being allowed to visit the yarn shop. If you are the only knitter and things are put to a vote, too often you will be denied fifteen minutes of browsing the local lace weight so that more time can be spent in rapt attention before The World’s Largest Ball of Tin Foil.
  1. When you aren’t sure whether it’s really wise to buy all that yarn, what with baggage restrictions and such, someone will be there to remind you that Wool Is Light and Yarn Squishes and You Only Live Once and For Heaven’s Sake The Owner of the Shop Says the Local Dyer Is Retiring and This Is Her Last Batch of Corriedale Worsted.
  2. There is always one person in the group who has the instructions for Kitchener Stitch committed to memory.
  3. On an excursion bus with thirty seats, one person with a crochet hook will be the subject of furtive comment, and perhaps stifled laughter. On the same bus, fifteen people with crochet hooks is a disruption of the social order. Those without crochet hooks will find they feel oddly inadequate. Their empty, unproductive hands will grow restless and fidget. At first they will only observe, slantwise and furtive. Goaded at last beyond the limits of patience, they will ask how it’s done. They will ask if they can have a go.

And that’s when we get ’em.

Bon voyage!

*Honestly, I’m not much of a wolf. I looked up other “lone” animals but my deadline’s here and I’m still not sure which one to pick. Arctic shrew, maybe, except I hate cold weather.

—–
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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  • MarileeRD

    I live in Alaska, and we actually have quite a few good yarn shops! Seaside Yarns in Juneau is awesome. If you are going to Seward, you may want to visit A Flying Skein. If you are coming to Anchorage, Quilted Raven downtown is mostly quilting supplies, but has some beautiful yarn available as well. If you venture to midtown, check out Far North Yarns and also Quilt Tree/Yarn Branch. Enjoy your visit!

  • Patsy Camarillo

    Surely a cat! While not exactly "lone," they do insist on their independence. They love warm, cozy spots, and good yarn is just heaven, in a skein or knitted up into a lovely squishy something.

    Love your words. Hope you and your fellow yarnies have a wonderful time and bring back lots of skienveniers!

  • Tine Ditmar Unnerup

    ..and if you can't find your fellow knitters just go to the yarn shop at port and find them there...

    Thanks for a wonderful cruise.

  • Pam S

    Love your perspectives about group travel vs. lone knitter...as true on land as it is at sea! My local group occasionally takes "field trips" to local areas with yarn shops (and bead shops, and specialty shops, and lovely places to lunch and knit), and we are a curiosity, but never bothered. On a lone excursion, rude comments and kibitzing are much more rampant.

  • Gina

    Fabulous article. I am traveling this week, lone knitter style and just got back from the LYS. I totally could have used that person to remind me that yarn squishes.

  • Kit

    I am frequently a lone knitter, and almost all the reactions I get are friendly and cheerful. Either that, or I am totally oblivious when people stare at me. No one has ever made me feel uncomfortable about knitting in the strangest places or in strange circumstances. People are most puzzled when I knit in the dark. Yes I occasionally make mistakes when I knit in the dark, and I usually cannot fix the mistakes in the dark so I have to put that knitting aside until I can fix the mistake in the light. But I do not make that many mistakes when I knit, so I can often knit for an hour or more just by feel. It is not quite as fast as knitting when I can see what I am doing, and I cannot do cables or lace in the dark yet, but I can do simple stitch patterns if I really want to. Mostly though when I knit in the dark I do either plain garter stitch or plain stockinette. Even that though always seems to amaze non-knitters.