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  • Getting the Point Across

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

    If you are of a romantic turn of mind (I am) and a history buff (ditto), at some time in your armchair travels back in time you will have encountered an obsolete variety of social semaphore often called The Language of the Fan.

    It was a silent language. By manipulating her folding fan, a woman could send messages that propriety forbid her to speak. Historical sources suggest that fan language emerged in the late eighteenth century, and persisted (where folding fans persisted) until just into the twentieth.

    Predictably, most of fan language is concerned with flirting (or not) and loving (or not) and being kissed (or not). For example…

    Fan half-opened, pressed to lips.

    franklin habit

    “You may kiss me.”

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  • Lola Saves The Day! (or... Selma takes Lola On The Road)

    LolaReturns

    It’s a fact of modern life that families often disperse for economic reasons.  My sons and my sister moved from the east coast to west coast for work.  I’m still firmly entrenched in New England.  Now I have young grandchildren who live far away.  Although I take two trips annually to California, I want to be more than an occasional presence to them, more than an image on a computer screen when we have video-chats.

    That’s how Lola saved the day!

    Readers of the Lion Brand Blog know Lola as a regular feature by cartoonist Todd Clark*.  She’s a white-haired, knitting-and-crochet–fixated lady, whose feisty energy is concealed by her grandmotherly appearance.  Nothing comes between Lola and her needlecraft, and her output of knitted and crocheted garments is on the extreme end of things.  This creates comic situations that ring true for those of us who are, shall we say, somewhat needlecraft addicted?

    A friend from the Philippines tells me that lola is the Tagalog word for grandmother.  So when I saw in Lion Brand’s Pattern Database that there are knit and crochet designs for a Lola doll, I knew the “make your own grandma” moment had come.  I set about knitting a Lola for Max and Addie, and decided to bring her to them myself.  Lola would be not just a plaything, but a grandma double, to remind them of me after I returned home, three thousand miles away.

    Lola at Metro station2

    I’m happy to report that last week Lola enjoyed her trip to California immensely.  Though the temperature on both coasts was almost the same—in the high nineties!—it was less humid in the west than in the east.  This appealed to Lola, who likes her weather and martinis dry.  Even so, she was glad to have her removable raglan cardigan with her, because you never know when you’ll be in an overly air-conditioned environment!

    Lola and I took the Metro from Santa Monica to downtown LA, enjoying the shockingly low senior citizen fare (thirty-five cents!) as well as the view from the elevated platform.  Arriving in the heart of downtown, we strolled about Union Station, appreciating its beautiful architecture, and discovering a lovely garden, with fountains and umbrella-shielded tables.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    The highlight of that day and every day, though, was spending time with Max (two-and-a-half years) and his sister, Adeline (seven months).  They’ve all along been beneficiaries of their grandmother’s knitting addiction.  Since living in a warm climate cancels the need for mittens, sweaters, and caps, Max and Addie have amassed a collection of grandma-knitted stuffed toys, some of which have been documented in previous Lion Brand Blog posts (Sheepdog, William Hedgehog, a caterpillar, a lion, Babar, and a couple of bunnies).

    lolasbabies

    Lola is the latest addition to this cast of characters.  Max, actually, calls Lola “Grandma,” and he was thrilled to learn she’d be moving into his room.  So, too, was I.  If I can’t be with these lovable children in reality, at least I can be there by proxy.

    Lola posing among prickly pear cactus paddles

    *Editor's Note: One of my favorite moments when joining Lion Brand's marketing team was discovering the brilliant Lola Comic Strips by Todd Clark. If you are, as Selma says, addicted to needlecraft, you should find yourself chuckling right along with the wry humor of this ultimate Grandma! If you find yourself needing a little Lola in your life, grab the free knit pattern here, and the free crochet pattern here. Long live Lola!

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  • A Brief Guide to Lesser-Known Yarn Superstitions by Franklin Habit

    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.

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