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  • Jack and the Yarnstalk: A Slightly Longer Yarn

    franklin habitIn a land far away, in tumbledown shack, lived a poor, sad mother and her young son, Jack.

    Jack’s mother was one of those souls who are born, so it seems, to be miserable. Her husband was long gone–possibly to the next world or possibly to the next village, out of reach in either case. When she took to the plow, her crops failed. When she bought a cow, it ran dry. When she sat down to spin, her wheel fell to pieces.

    To crown all these trials, there was Jack. The boy was the image of his father, which would have been annoying enough. But he had also his father’s wandering wits and want of ambition. When the weather was fine, he was content to lie for hours and watch the clouds float by. When the weather was foul, he was content to watch the same clouds through the holes in the roof of the shack.

    He would not, despite his mother’s entreaties, go out to seek work as the other boys did.

    Inevitably, there came a day when this could not go on.

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  • 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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  • Celebrate Read a Book Day with One of These Yarn-Filled Novels

    September 6 is Read a Book Day, and to celebrate that, we've compiled a list of novels that feature yarn crafts. You may have already heard of books like Friday Night Knitting Club (which was also a movie) or Knit One, Kill Two, but there are a lot of them out there. Whether you read on paper or a screen, here are ten books, many of which are the first in a series, that feature knitting or crochet.


    • Hooked on Murder by Betty Hechtman is a mystery about a bookstore event coordinator, Molly Pink, who discovers the body of the leader of a local crochet group. Because of a tense personal history between the women, Pink becomes a suspect and must catch the real killer to clear her name. This book is the first in the Crochet Mystery series.




    • The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil tells the story of Jo Mackenzie, who moves from London to the seaside to take over her grandmother's yarn shop. As their little town grows more exciting, the members of the shop's knitting circle rely on each other for support. This is book 1 in the Jo Mackenzie series.




    • The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood is a story of recovering from loss. After the passing of her only child, Mary Baxter turns to a local knitting group for support. She learns new techniques as well as new things about love and loss, herself, and her relationships.




    • Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton combines yarncraft with witchcraft. In the sleepy town of Sugar Maple, VT, everything looks like your usual New England town, but there's one difference -- it's full of witches, warlocks, vampires, and sprites. The owner of the local yarn shop faces a unique challenge when she falls for the forbidden -- a human. This is the first in the Sugar Maple series.




    • Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LaZebnik is as much about coming of age as it is about knitting. As three twentysomethings are suddenly thrust into new and terrifying situations involving love, money, and forgiveness, they have to rely on each other and their weekly knitting group to survive.





    • When it Happened by Kathy Gleason tells the story of a teenage girl who loves to crochet. Shortly after losing her father, the girl faces an unwanted pregnancy, and must figure out on her own how to handle her situation.





    • Knitting by Anne Barlett is about two women, their love of knitting, and their grief. Sandra and Martha meet by chance, but spark a deep friendship. Both are dealing with their share of loss, and manage to cope to work together on a new project.




    • Died in the Wool by Mary Krueger is a mystery set in a knitting shop. Ariadne Evans comes into the store she owns to find one of her customers strangled with handspun yarn. She must work to solve the crime as bizarre patterns and connections unfold. This is the first book in the Knitting Mysteries series.





    • The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan is an over-the-top (on purpose) story of knitting and vengeance. When members of a knitting circle realize most of them have been sexually assaulted, and their attackers have never been punished, they take matters into their own hands -- and needles. This books is a satire that explores many topics, including violence, feminism, knitting, love, and revenge.




    • Last Wool and Testament by Molly MacRae is a mystery involving yarn and ghosts. Kath Rutledge inherited her late grandmother Ivy's yarn shop, only to discover that there has been a murder and Ivy was the number one suspect. Kath also discovers a ghost who has a vested interest in solving this crime, and must turn to her grandmother's friends, as well as the spirit, to find the real killer. This is the first book in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery series.





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