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Author Archives: Franklin Habit

  • The Story of Little Red Knitting Hood: A Short Yarn

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

    “Now then, Little Red Knitting Hood,” said Mother, “You must be a brave girl and take this basket of beautiful yarn to your grandmother who lives on the other side of the forest. Alas, she is sick in bed and until she has something to do with her hands she’s going to keep calling me every ten minutes.”

    So Little Red Knitting Hood put on her yellow ski hat, because her clothing did not define her as a person, and picked up the basket of yarn.

    “Mind you keep to the path,” warned Mother. “Turn neither right nor left, but walk straight on. Linger not to speak to anyone, nor tarry to pick the flowers–for we have Intro to Intarsia class at seven and we have paid in advance.”

    Before long, Little Red Knitting Hood had left behind the open fields and entered the pale blue gloom of the forest. The child was not afraid, for she loved the whispers of the wind in the tall trees, which seemed to bid her stay among them. But she was mindful of her mother’s words, and followed the path without fail until she came to a clearing in the midst of a circle of noble oaks.

    Here the sun shone and anemones grew in abundance. Little Red Knitting Hood was dazzled, and thought, “Who must know if I pause to gather flowers? Why, I’ll get some to granny, too.” So she left the path, and began to tuck the bright blossoms among the yarns in her basket.

    The prettiest flowers always seemed just beyond her grasp. Pursuing them, she drifted further and further, until at last she had wandered quite some distance from the path. As she touched the stem of a particularly handsome specimen, a rumbly voice said, “Good morning, young miss. What brings you to the forest today?”

    She looked up to find herself being addressed by a large grey wolf, who politely slicked back his whiskers and made her a low bow.

    “A talking wolf?” thought Little Red Knitting Hood. “Are you kidding me with this?”

    But she only said, “Good morning, Wolf. I am come this way to carry a gift of yarn to my dear grandmother, who lies sick with nothing more than reruns of NCIS to keep her company.”

    “Yarn?” said the Wolf. “You don’t say. What sort of yarn?”

    “Lion Brand Shawl in a Ball,” said Little Red Knitting Hood. “It’s a cotton blend.”

    “I’m awfully fond of pretty yarns, myself.” said the Wolf. “In fact, in these parts I am a knitter of some note.”

    “I’ve never met a wolf who knits,” said Little Red Knitting Hood. “Mostly only little girls and older ladies.”

    “That,” said the Wolf, “is a very tired stereotype.”

    But Little Red Knitting Hood was not inclined to engage in an extended dialogue on the subject of the persistence of needlework as a gendered activity in post-millennial society. And the hour was growing late.

    “Please excuse me, sir,” she said. “But I must be on my way. Grandmother will be yearning to cast on.”

    “I don’t suppose I could persuade you to...erm...destash, just a smidge,” said the Wolf, licking his lips and tapping the basket with his paw.

    “Indeed not,” said Little Red Knitting Hood. “Were Grandmother to run short before the end of the poncho, I fear we should never hear the end of it. Farewell.” And off she trotted.

    But the Wolf had the scent of yarn in his nostrils. He was not to be denied. He knew all the secret ways of the forest, and taking a shortcut reached the door of Grandmother’s house well before Little Red Knitting Hood. With one great gulp he swallowed the old woman whole. Then, after donning her spare housecoat and switching the television to Midsomer Murders, he took her place in the bed.

    When Little Red Knitting Hood arrived, she felt that something was different about her grandmother but could not quite put her finger on it.

    “I’ve brought you some yarn and flowers, dearest grandmother,” said she, pausing at the door.

    “Carry them to me, child,” said the Wolf. “For I may not leave my bed.”

    Little Red Knitting Hood drew closer.

    “My goodness, Grandmother,” said the girl, “what big eyes you have! And yet you always have trouble getting gauge.”

    “Don’t make smart remarks,” said the Wolf. “Hand over the yarn.”

    Little Red Knitting Hood crept forward with the basket. As she drew closer, she realized that this furry, fanged, tick-ridden, long-nosed, floppy-eared quadruped in a housecoat was not her grandmother at all!

    “It’s you!” she cried. “The wolf!”

    “Good guess,” said the Wolf. And with one gulp, he swallowed her whole.

    It so happened that there came along a stalwart woodcutter, and he knocked upon the door of grandmother’s house.

    The Wolf, still dressed in the housecoat, answered the door.

    “Pray, good woman,” said the woodcutter, “I am far from home this day and find I have mislaid my Size F crochet hook. I wish greatly to continue my afghan–have you a spare to lend?”

    The Wolf was taken aback.

    “I’ve never before met a woodcutter who crochets,” he said. “Only girls and old women.”

    “That,” said the woodcutter, “is a very tired stereotype.”

    “I couldn’t agree more,” said the Wolf. “Come right in.”

    While the Wolf hunted for the crochet hook, the two engaged in an extended dialogue on the subject of the persistence of needlework as a gendered activity in post-millennial society. It turned out, in fact, that they had quite a lot in common.

    The woodcutter stayed to lunch, and agreed to return the borrowed hook the next day along with a copy of his favorite baby blanket pattern. He and the Wolf became good friends, and were often seen together at fiber festivals in matching housecoats.

    Little Red Knitting Hood, having been eaten alive, missed her Intro in Intarsia class. The yarn shop refused to issue a refund.

    The End



    Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book (Soho Publishing, 2016) and It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. His publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Ply Magazine, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and Knitty.com.

    He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, Stitches Events, Squam Arts Workshops, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

    These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned. Visit him at www.franklinhabit.com

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  • Each One, Teach One

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

    I was sitting in an airline lounge, waiting for a flight home from a teaching trip, when a complete stranger got up from his laptop and gin and came over to look at my knitting.

    The project I was knitting was nothing to stand up about. It was my fifth go at my all-time favorite sweater pattern–Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Seamless Saddle Shoulder, as set forth in Knitting Workshop–which I keep repeating because it suits me and I can wear it with anything. The finished product is terrific, but while in progress it’s just stockinette and more stockinette and encore la stockinette.

    I don’t think that’s the correct French for “even more stockinette,” in fact I’m fairly sure it isn’t, but I’m too lazy to get up and fetch the Larousse from the shelf in the next room.

    Anyway. I’m knitting my plain vanilla sweater and here comes Mr. Executive–the classic American version in navy, gray, and khaki with trousers that are just a little bit too long and a tie that should have been retired three seasons ago.

    “What are you making?” he said.

    Continue reading

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  • Cough Cough Cough Wheeze

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

    I am sick. Oh, how sick I am.

    I type this to you feebly, feverishly; lying prone on a bed that I feel sure by now is half-composed of used tissues. When I breathe out, I sound like our vacuum cleaner did after I accidentally ran it over a pile of loose change. When I breathe in, nothing happens. Substances too disgusting to describe are escaping from openings in my body I did not even know were there.

    Yet I write to you, dear reader, because even in extremis I will be faithful to my post.

    (You may feel free to applaud here, if you like. Or weep a gentle weep.)

    I am so sick. How sick am I?

    Too sick to knit.

    That got your attention, didn’t it? Yeah, too sick to knit. It’s been about two days now, and any time I pick up the needles my head swims and my arms ache and down they go again. Don’t even say the word “chart.”

    Crochet is no better, nor embroidery. I’m in that most dreaded state for anyone who loves handwork. I’m awake. I’m aware. I want to knit. But I can’t.

    I’m reminded of those alien abduction stories where the immobilized abductee awakens to the sight of long-fingered, oval-headed Martians going through her bedside tin of mixed nuts and picking out the cashews while all she can do is watch.

    Except in my case the Martians are making progress on the sweater KAL and I’m not.

    You don’t know, do you, how central handwork has become to your existence until it gets taken away?

    At home, projects huddle around me like angry geese honking for attention. When I leave, one of them comes along. The traditional masculine memory chant before leaving the house is includes “spectacles, wallet, and watch.” I, invariably, add “yarn.”

    I doubt that on a normal day I am ever more than arm’s length from a work in progress.

    But this is not a normal day. I am sick. Did you know I’m too sick to knit?

    I remember once before

    Bring your chair a little closer to the bed, won’t you, darling? My voice is giving out. Thank you.

    I remember once before being too sick to knit. I was nine years old, and everyone on our claim had come down with the fever ’n’ ague. Pa walked nine miles through the snow to Sleepy Eye with just a kerosene lamp and a piece of horehound candy to fetch the doctor and we were saved but ever after Mary had this annoying facial tic over her left eyebrow that made her look like she was always flirting with you.

    Or maybe that was the very special episode of  “Little House on the Prairie” I watched on Hulu while I was falling asleep last night. I think this anti-mucus medicine that tastes like a bat’s armpit is messing with my short-term cognition. Does it say anything about that on the bottle? Can you check  the label and see if it says it may cause you to believe you are Laura Ingalls Wilder?

    Since I can’t knit, instead I am making a list of things I will finish knitting if I survive* to knit again. The very top of the list is that blue sweater with the mini-cables that I started two or three years ago that will be great when it’s done; but the directions at the shoulders are just complicated enough that I can’t take it to knit night, yet not interesting enough that I’m willing to power through it without the television on.

    It would be so embarrassing if I died from this** and they were going through my stuff and that’s what they found crowning of my works-in-progress pile: an almost-finished sweater so old the cast-on edge had started to compost. Knowing my friends they’d drape it over the lid of my coffin just to be funny. Ha, ha. Real nice, everybody–making fun of the dead knitter. Probably you’ll chisel on my stone FRANKLIN RIP WITH WIP. Oh ha ha ha. You are so funny.

    Well, the joke’s on you, darlings. I’m leaving my entire stash to the Smithsonian.

    No, that’s fine. You go off to the annual spring sale at the yarn shop while I lie here and hallucinate that I’m sitting in the tall grass among the prairie chickens knitting myself a new sun bonnet to wear to the town spelling bee. You go enjoy yourself. I’ll be fine.

    Maybe.

    Cough.

    *Yes, the doctor says this is just that really, really bad bug that’s going around. But hey, doctors have been known to be wrong.

    **Seriously, you just never know.

     

    cough

     

    —–

    Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book (Soho Publishing, 2016) and It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. His publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Ply Magazine, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and Knitty.com.

    He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, Stitches Events, Squam Arts Workshops, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

    These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned. Visit him at www.franklinhabit.com

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