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Author Archives: Franklin Habit

  • Make Two by Franklin Habit

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

    Every so often, usually during a rare moment when I feel pretty good about myself, a well-meaning relation sends me one of those perennial news items about a lady who has crocheted the same blanket for every baby born in her town since 1957, or another lady who singlehandedly keeps an entire children’s hospital supplied with knitted teddy bears, or that other lady who cranks out 100,000 pairs of mittens annually to warm the chilly hands of the poor.

    These inspiring stories are invariably accompanied by a note saying, “Hey, you could do something like this.”

    Sure, okay. Maybe I could also sail to China on a mulberry leaf, or spin straw into rigatoni.

    I’m not so good at repetitive knitting.

    Or maybe I am. I don’t know, because I pretty much refuse to do it. I have a deep-seated, abiding aversion to knitting the same thing twice. It is only through the cultivation of an iron will that I do not have a wardrobe of full of unwed socks and one-armed sweaters.

    I am not proud of this. I see it as a character flaw to be smoothed away, much like my fear of flying. Both keep me from living life to the fullest.

    To overcome the aerophobia, I’ve found it comforting to interact with people who love airplanes. My father, for example, is a pilot; and keeps an airplane in his backyard where normal people keep a toolshed. When taking off, or bouncing through unstable air, I hang on tight and try to remember his frequent rhapsodies on the wonder of flight and the laws of aerodynamics. I also listen to Frank Sinatra singing “Come Fly With Me,” and pretend I am having a ball up where the air is rarified. Sometimes it helps. Fake it ’til you make it.

    So I thought it might be useful to hear from knitters and crocheters who find joy in repetitious work, even if not to the extent of knitting the same mitten 100,000 times.

    I put the word out and found that People Have Opinions About This. Mind you, people who knit and crochet have opinions about everything; but I was nearly carried into the next state by the flood of comments.

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  • Free to Good Home

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

    Welcome, good people, to the Franklin Habit Home for Neglected Knitting Projects.

    You’re in luck. It’s Adoption Week, during which time we waive all fees, background checks, and paperwork. It will be my pleasure to show you around. Petting is not only permitted, it’s encouraged. If you see anything you like, simply speak up and it’s yours.

    If you don’t see anything you like, we will stuff something in your bag and force you to take it home. We’re that desperate. No backsies.

    You’ll find the home is divided into a series of pleasant, airy pavilions, each devoted to a different sort of neglected project. Let’s begin with Slow Haven, where hours upon hours of patient knitting have brought these sad creatures no closer to completion.

    May I interest you in…

    One quarter of a blanket cunningly intended to use up the odds and ends of 150 partial balls of sock yarn? Such a charming concept. Not merely a blanket, but a blanket full of memories. All those different yarns jumbled together in one joyous samba parade of wild color. Who could resist?

    Reasons for Surrender: Color mix looks less like samba parade than political riot. Grows at the rate of one inch per week, forcing the knitter constantly to contemplate how old she will be when it is finished.

    Or perhaps…

    A Shetland cobweb lace shawl comprising one repeat of center chart and six untouched balls of eensy weensy yarn. Purchased on impulse at spectacular fiber festival; best friend purchased same kit so that “…we can knit them together.”

    Reasons for Surrender: Chart has vanished. Pattern is out of print. Best friend finished hers in six weeks. (No longer speaking to friend.)

    lb-habit-04-16-illo
     

    Now, if you’ll please follow me over the hill, we’ll take a peek into Twilight Garden, the shady grove wherein we place projects that have outlived their usefulness without leaving their needles.

    Have you room in your heart for…

    A baby sweater minus one sleeve and the button band? Such a promising beginning. Look at that darling two-color yoke. I’d go so far as to say the work is perfect. A small bag containing the perfect ducky buttons is included.

    Reason for Surrender: Baby is now thirty-six years old, and like the sweater has failed to live up to its early promise.

    Take a look at…

    An unspecified amount of the bottom of a bottom-up sweater.

    Reason for Surrender: Instructions state, “Work in stockinette until piece measures fifteen inches from cast-on edge.” Somehow, knitter has never managed to get both this project and her tape measure into the same room.

    Or please consider…

    In white fingering-weight yarn, a charming congratulations on your wedding baby divorce retirement funeral shawl, lacking only the knitted-on edging.

    Reasons for Surrender: The clue is in the name.

    We shall now make several wrong turns and come to the Salon des Whoops. This, by far our largest building, is a secured area for projects that were pretty much doomed from the start. We don’t tell them that, though. They’ve already suffered enough.

     Perhaps you might have some use for…

    The half-finished body of a wool cardigan in eighteen colors?

    Reason for Surrender: Upon returning from extensive tour of Shetland Islands, maker suddenly remembered that she lives in Miami Beach.

    Or…

    A single sock with an un-grafted toe?

    Reason for Surrender: Maker suddenly remembered why she hates knitting socks.

    Or…

    Pattern, four skeins of top-quality merino/silk, wound into balls, and one circular needle. 

    Reason for Surrender: Cast on for pattern is 537 stitches.

    Or…

    Afghan Block-of-the-Month Club January block, completed; plus half of February block, and two rows of March block, and all the yarns for April through December.

    Reason for Surrender: If you have to ask, you must be new here. Excellent. You really should try a block-of-the-month club. Hold still while I stuff this thing in your bag.

    —–
    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 a Schacht spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.

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  • How to Be a Superb Student: A Lesson in Two Parts, Part Two

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

    I left you, last month, on the brink of taking your seat in the classroom. If all has gone well, you are equipped with the correct needles, notions, and yarns. If the teacher has asked for homework, your homework is complete.

    Let us begin.

    Part Two: In the Classroom

    1. Dress for Comfort. A fiber arts classroom may be anything from a deluxe hotel suite to a livestock barn. I have taught in both. No matter what, I promise you this: the room will be far too hot for half the class and far too cold for the other half.

    Dressing in layers is vital. A student in a shirt, sweater, and small shawl or scarf can adjust to a variable microclimate. A student who wears only a bra under her snuggly hand-knitted merino pullover is going to suffer when the radiator starts to glow.

    1. Arrive on Time. On time is slightly early–anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes before class is due to begin. Earlier than 45 minutes isn’t punctual, it’s pushy. The teacher needs time to arrange the classroom (and himself) for what’s to come. If you cannot sit outside (i.e., it’s snowing hard, there’s an angry mob in the street, the yarn shop is entirely surrounded by a moat stocked with alligators) please have mercy–quietly choose a seat and let the teacher prepare.

    Do not ever (ever) show up very, very early and attempt to wheedle a free private lesson out of the teacher before class beings. You will not enjoy what happens next.

    If you must arrive late, slip in quietly and take the nearest available seat. No explanations necessary.

    1. They’re All Good Seats. If you have a physical condition that requires special accommodation, please let the venue know in advance so they can take the necessary steps.
      If you do not, choose any open chair. You’ll be able to see. You’ll be able to hear. The seats in the back are fifteen feet from the teacher. It’s a crochet class, not a Who concert at Yankee Stadium.
    1. Silence the Phone. Period.
    1. Silence Yourself. Your classmates have paid to learn about cable knitting, not your dinner plans. When the teacher is addressing the class, conversations on your phone or with your table neighbors should–indeed must–be taken out of the room.

    If you simply can’t wait another minute to catch up with the bosom friend you haven’t seen since the day fifty years ago when you left her for dead on a blood-soaked battlefield, please consider that perhaps my class on the history of lace knitting is not the ideal place to do it.
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