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Author Archives: Franklin Habit

  • Just Say Yes

    franklin_400x400Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

    One weird side effect of writing about your knitting for a living is that the number of people who comment on your knitting can be enormous. To chronicle the day-to-day progress of a big, complicated shawl for the public is daunting and unnatural. Knitting is meant to be seen when it’s complete, not laid bare for inspection as it grows stitch by stitch.

    Having hundreds or thousands of people pore over a piece of work may sound like fun, and it can be. My first sweater reached the finish line loudly cheered on by a crowd of blog readers who had watched it grow from nothing, and encouraged me to continue on in the face of neckline issues and a second sleeve that threatened never to end. Certainly that was far more gratifying than showing it to my then-boyfriend, whose entire response was, “Hey, nice.”

    Nice? Nice?!

    It does no good to point out to such a person that he is, thank you very much, looking at tens of thousands of stitches made with several miles of string; that these stitches have been arranged (with help from Elizabeth Zimmermann) into the shape of a garment that fits your own very peculiar measurements exactly so; and that smack in the middle of all this you charted and knit a band of stranded color work–your first ever stranded color work–spelling out a favorite tag by Seneca from your first year Latin book.

    No, if you point these things out, you will sound peevish. And all you will likely get from the other person is an amended, “Uh, I mean–very nice. Cute.”

    Cute?!

    The flip side of the cheering crowd is the crowd that fails to cheer. I don’t mean they just watch in silence. I mean they speak up to let you know what you’re doing wrong. Which is, not infrequently, everything.

    Such people assume that because you have made your work public, you have also magically sprouted a titanium carapace that prevents them from stinging you. Not that they won’t try.

    A certain amount of immunity does build up. The first time someone who presumably has little else to do with her days looks at a piece you’ve spent three hundred hours making and says, simply, “Blech,” it hurts like being kicked in the chest by a horse. The fiftieth time, it only hurts like being poked in the eye by a strong monkey.

    But you shrug it off, because that is part of  your job. You become good at that part of your job, or you get another job.

    Sometimes the poke is especially weird and vicious. I am thinking today of a photograph I posted on Instagram some time ago of a tiny piece of fine lace still on the needles. It was an antique edging pattern of leaves, worked with cotton thread on a nineteenth century pair of 0000 needles. That photo got a lot of oooohhh and aaahhhhh which it may or may not have deserved. “What are you knitting this for?” people asked.

    I answered them by way of a photograph of Ethel, one of my small collection of antique china head dolls. Ethel was more than naked when she came to me–she was nothing but a head. After sewing her a body, I planned to dress her from the skin out beginning with a cotton petticoat. This lace was intended as trim.

    Quite a bit of the oooohhh and aaahhhh changed to eeeuuww and uuugggghhhh. It’s one thing to say, “I would never knit that.” It’s another to say, as many did, “You shouldn’t be knitting that.”

    A long-time reader told me she was “very disappointed. I never knew you were one of those doll people.” Another said it made her uncomfortable to think of “a grown man owning a doll,” and that she felt I should–if I must continue this sort of knitting–“Keep it to yourself. It’s creepy. We don’t need to see it.”

    By this time this happened, I had already lived four decades as a guy who could never manage much interest in most “boy” things, as artificially defined by the narrow-minded adults who presume to make the rules. So, for once, I genuinely did not care. There was no sting. I enjoyed knitting small things for Ethel, and would (and do) continue knitting small things for Ethel. (And her sisters.) (And for my dolls’ house.)

    But not everyone has my thick skin, built up layer by layer over years of fighting back because I had to. And comments like these–which are all too common in the crafting world–so often halt joy in its tracks.

    It’s not just men with dolls who hear it, of course.

    I’ve heard knitters criticize other knitters for an interest in a yarn or a project or a technique they consider a joke. (All she knits with are novelty yarns. All she makes are baby clothes. So low class!)

    I’ve heard knitters criticize those who crochet or who want to learn to crochet. (It never looks good, you know. So lumpy. So low class!) I’ve heard crocheters criticize other crocheters who “only” work zigzag afghans or doilies or filet wall hangings. (So stuffy! So old-maidish! So low class!)

    I’ve heard weavers and quilters and embroiderers criticize knitters and crocheters (We make art–they’re just crafters. So low class!) And I’ve heard all kinds of people snark about macramé. (In case you think I’m typing this while balanced on a high horse…I’ve been guilty of that one.)

    I would like to suggest that we all cultivate the craft of self-restraint–that when we find ourselves on the point of making such comments, we sit back from the keyboard or bite the tongue.

    Quite aside from sounding ridiculous–how can one form of fiber craft be “lower” or “higher” than another?–we need to think about the cumulative effect of millions of  people saying “You shouldn’t do that” to millions of other people.

    I am just old enough to remember the days when it seemed pretty certain that knitting, weaving, sewing, and crochet were all on their way out–forever.

    We were in a new age! An age when women could do anything! By which it was meant that women now could do “boy” things, as artificially defined (once again) by the narrow-minded adults who presume to make the rules. Women were not required–or even supposed–to do “girl” things any more. (So old-maidish! So low class!)

    Yarn companies folded, yarn shops shuttered, and department stores sold off their stocks of dry goods. Even women’s magazines stopped publishing patterns. Why? In large part because society had come to sneer at people (especially the female half of people) who spent leisure time working with their hands, and sneering can have dire consequences.

    We who care about handwork hear enough “no” in our lives from outsiders who think we should buy our socks, not knit them; who think money spent on yarn is money wasted; and who mention grandma’s crocheted afghans only as a punch line. We should never, ever discourage a fellow member of the global needlework circle from any creative pursuit that catches his or her eye.

    No, not even if it’s macramé.

    Now, if you will please excuse me, winter is right around the corner, and I am making Ethel a knitted coat to go with her newest hat.

    habit-lb-illo-06-16

    —–

    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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  • Lesson One By Franklin Habit

    Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and franklin_400x400insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

    She. Let’s do it now! I’m ready.

    Me. Are you sure you want to do this?

    She. Yes!

    Me. Okay, then. Come over here and sit next to me.

    (She does so.)

    Me. You’re going to have to put down the iPad.

    She. But I’m watching “Word Girl.”

    Me. You can’t watch television and learn to knit at the same time.

    She. You did knitting while we watched The Great Muppet Caper last night. You knit during the whole movie.

    Me. That’s different. I have been knitting for years. So I know what I’m doing.

    She. You do?

    Me. Well, maybe not in a cosmic sense; but I can knit and purl and also sing along to “Happiness Hotel.” Now, sit down.

    She. And the iPad is not the television, it’s the iPad.

    Me. You can’t watch or listen to programming of any kind, educational, frivolous, or otherwise, on any electronic device and learn to knit at the same time.

    She. You use a lot of big words.

    Me. Are we going to do this or not? Because I haven’t got all day.

    She. Yes! I’m ready now.

    Me. Then sit here next to me.

    She. Wait a minute, I want to get Sheba Bear.

    Me. You can’t play with Sheba Bear and learn to knit at the same time.

    She. I’m not going to play with her, she wants to watch so she can know how to knit, too. I will be back in a minute. Don’t go anywhere, stay right here.

    (She exits. Fifteen minutes pass.)

    Me. Are you coming back or what?

    She (offstage). I can’t find Sheba Bear.

    Me. She’s on top of the toy box.

    She (offstage). No she isn’t, I looked.

    Me. Look again.

    She (offstage). Oh!

    (She returns, with bear.)

    Me. Now, both of you sit here next to me.

    She. Sheba can’t see. She needs to borrow your glasses.

    Me. If I don’t have my glasses, I can’t see the knitting.

    She. Is that because you are so old?

    Me.

    She. I said is that because you are so old?

    Me. I wasn’t when we started this.

    She. What?

    Me. Never mind. You sit there, and Sheba can sit there.

    She. But she can’t see without her glasses!

    Me. Yes she can. She has excellent eyesight. All bears have perfect eyesight.

    She. Why?

    Me. Because Boy Scouts are high in Vitamin A.

    She. What?

    Me. Never mind. Just. Sit. Down. Are we talking about bears or are you learning to knit?

    She. Learning to knit! Learning to knit!

    Me. Okay. So you need to sit down.

    (She sits.)

    Me. Now, this is our ball of yarn. It’s made of wool. You know where wool comes from, right?

    She. From sheep.

    Me. Correct! Good!

    She. Can I pet the yarn?

    Me. We can always pet the yarn.

    (She pets the yarn.)

    She. It’s soft.

    Me. Yes, it is.

    She. Sheba wants to pet it, too.

    Me. Okay, fine. Be quick, Sheba.

    (Sheba pets the yarn.)

    She. Sheba says it’s soft like a baby raccoon.

    Me. I guess she would know.

    She. But she doesn’t like the color.

    Me. Well, that’s too bad. This is all we’ve got.

    She. That’s not true! You have a whole room full of yarn!

    Me. Well, this is the yarn we have to use right now.

    She. Why? Why can’t we use your other yarn?

    Me. Because when you are starting out, it makes more sense to practice on scrap yarn. And this is good yarn. I used this to make a very nice hat.

    She. I know what I want to make.

    Me. What do you want to make?

    She. My wedding dress.

    Me. Are you engaged?

    She. NO!

    Me. Then there’s no rush, so you can start with something smaller.

    She. It won’t be a real wedding dress. Just for pretend. So that is smaller.

    Me. Even a small dress is a lot of work. Let’s just learn the knit stitch today and see how it goes from there, okay?

    She. If I made a wedding dress for Sheba Bear that would be a lot smaller.

    Me. Do you want to knit or not?

    She. I do, but we can’t use that color because it’s not white and Sheba wants her wedding dress to be white!

    Me. That’s pretty nervy of her.

    She. Why?

    Me. Never mind.

    She. You say never mind a lot.

    Me. So. Anyway. Here is the yarn, and of course you know what else we need to knit.

    She. Needles!

    Me. Bingo. Here are our needles. Take this one in your right hand.

    She. Sheba can use the other one.

    Me. Fine, okay. Sheba can use the other one.

    She. Oh no she stabbed herself with it!

    Me. Oh, did she?

    She. She stabbed herself with the knitting needle! She stabbed herself in the ear! Oh the blood is going everywhere! She needs the emergency doctor! Ow ow ow! We have to go to the hospital so they can pull it out again or she can’t hear anything!

    (Exit, swiftly, with bear.)

    Me. Can I have my needle back, please?

    (Silence.)

    Me. Needle! I need that needle back! Bring it back, please!

    She (offstage). The operation was a success, nurse!

    Me. Smashing. Bring back my needle.

    (Enter, with needle.)

    She. Here you go. Sheba is resting now.

    Me. Great. I’ll send flowers. Shall we knit?

    She. No.

    Me. Why not?

    She. Sheba says knitting can kill you.

    (Slow curtain.)

    habit-08-16-illo

    —–

    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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  • Yarns for a Summer Evening

    franklin_400x400Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

    Yarns for a Summer Evening

    Little Maybelline and I were sitting on the porch swing as the dusk drew in like gently felted wool. I was knitting something; I can’t remember what. Perhaps it was a new penwiper for old Mrs. Pennyfeather across the way; she had lost hers that year in the spring gale and mourned it ostentatiously.

    Maybelline drained the last of her lemonade and said petulantly, “Sing to me, Uncle Franklin.”

    It was a peculiar request, as I had never sung to her before; and in fact I am well known to have the worst voice in three counties. I declined, politely as I could. But Maybelline has never been one to let go of an idea without a fight.

    “Sing to me,” she insisted, the bow in her hair shaking in a threatening fashion. I recalled the grim fate of a rather introverted doll of hers, by the name of Ophelia, who had obstinately refused Maybelline’s repeated summons to a tea party. The heliotrope in that corner of the garden has yet to fully recover.

    Therefore I began to sing.

    * * * *

    lb-07-16-illo-final

    Old Mother Hubbard
    Went to the cupboard
    To fetch some merino in blue.
    But when she got there
    The cupboard was bare
    And so Mother Hubbard screamed,
    “How many times do I have to
    Tell you all to stay out of my stash?”

    Old King Cole
    Was a merry old soul
    And a merry old soul was he.
    He called for his pattern,
    And called for his yarn,
    And called for his hook, size E.

    Three little kittens,
    They lost their mittens,
    And they began to cry.
    And all I could think was
    What possessed me to knit clothes
    For the cats?
    Should I seek professional help?¬

    Sing a song of sixpence,
    A pocket full of yarn,
    And another pocket full of yarn.
    Has anybody seen my knitting bag?

    Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
    How does your sweater grow?
    I asked you please to shut your mouth
    ’Til I get to the end of this row.

    There was an old woman
    Who lived in a shoe.
    She had so much yarn,
    She had to store most of it in the second shoe.
    Good thing shoes come in pairs
    I guess.

    Hey, raddle heddle,
    The cat and the treadle,
    The cow jumped over the loom.
    The little dog said
    I told you we didn’t have
    Space in the living room
    For that thing.

    Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, knitter man,
    Knit me a sweater as fast as you can.
    Cabled and bobbled, like that one in the store,
    I will totally pay you fifty bucks
    Plus the cost of the yarn.

    Baa, baa black sheep,
    Have you any wool?
    Yes sir, yes sir,
    Three bags full.
    One for $7.50 per skein, and
    The other two are on sale
    At twenty percent off
    Because the colors are being discontinued
    So it seems this is your lucky day.

    Hickory, dickory, dock,
    The mouse has knit one sock.
    The other one
    Will never be done.
    Hickory, dickory, @#!$*.

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty was knitting a shawl.
    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Asked him so many questions about it
    That he lost his place in the chart
    Messed up sixteen long rows
    And had to rip out and
    Start over.

    Mary had a little lamb
    Its fleece was white as snow
    And everywhere that Mary went
    The lamb was sure to go.
    She made the lamb into a shrug,
    And wore it to the fair.
    The color looked divine on her,
    But the neckline was wonky.

    To market, to market
    To buy a fat hen.
    Home again, home again,
    With enough yarn for
    Two afghans
    And ten pairs of socks.
    And I forgot
    To get
    The hen.

    —–

    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 

    - See more at: http://www.lionbrand.com/blog/franklin-habit/#sthash.X5C4UaYn.KlwvR9p6.dpuf

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