I've noticed that in December knit and crochet types divide naturally into two camps:
- Those who have finished their gift-making.
- Those who have not.
If you're in Camp One, congratulations. You might want to keep quiet.
If you're in Camp Two, what are you doing reading this? Have you looked at the calendar?
The calendar is looking at me, because I'm in Camp Two. I am always in Camp Two. I have standing reservation for a Lakeside Cabin with En Suite Bath in Camp Two.
It's my own fault. Each year, in early summer, I lay out a plan. I decide who is going to get knitted gifts, and what they're going to get. My plan looks something like this:
Notice that this is a short list of small projects. I do not propose to knit lace shawls for the mail carrier, the mechanic, and all the bartenders who have flirted with me during the previous fiscal year. Two hats and a scarf, to be completed by Thanksgiving. A novice could pull that off and still have time for matching mittens.
Matching mittens. Matching mittens would be cute, wouldn't they?
Aha! You see? That's what happens.
In management parlance, it's called "scope creep"–the nature of projects to grow in scale and complexity over time. I come down with a bad case of it every June the way some folks get allergies. I start with scarf, hat, hat. Then I decide on scarf, hat, hat, mittens, mittens, mittens. Then I decide to design them all myself. Then I decide to do them all in stranded colorwork. Then I decide to do them all in skinny yarns.
Then it's December, and I'm only half finished with the second hat, and I snarl like a mad dog at anybody who comes near to the corner where I've holed up with all that pretty, skinny yarn. For a long time I thought maybe this was a guy thing–my competitive XY chromosomes pushing me to show off instead of just getting the job done. Surely, I thought, if I were a woman I would be more sensible. Then I became friends with a woman–a crocheter–whose holiday scope creep ought to be in a medical museum, behind glass.
"I decided to make a hat for my son's math tutor," she said. "It quick, and I liked the pattern, so I used the leftover yarn to make a hat for his piano teacher. The piano teacher got her hat at Thanksgiving and mentioned it to his soccer coach, who comes to her book group. So I made a quick scarf for the soccer coach."
"I see where this is going," I said.
"No, you don't," she said. "I made the scarf for the soccer coach in team colors and he wore it to a scrimmage. One of the other mothers pointed out a boy on the team whose family isn't doing so well–both parents just lost their jobs–so I felt like maybe he could use a scarf. But you can't just do a scarf for one kid, so I decided to do them for the team. Plus the assistant coaches."
"Wow is right. One of the assistant soccer coaches is married to the head coach of my daughter's field hockey team."
"Did you get everything finished?"
"I did. I lost the feeling in my left hand on Christmas Eve, but I finished. The final count was forty-seven."
"I hope everybody was grateful."
"They were. I got a lovely cards from both teams, and my kids think I'm a rock star."
"A happy ending," I said.
"Sort of," she said. "You know what my kids say goes great with scarves? Matching hats."
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 an Ashford spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.