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Humor

  • 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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  • 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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  • Each One, Teach One

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

    I was sitting in an airline lounge, waiting for a flight home from a teaching trip, when a complete stranger got up from his laptop and gin and came over to look at my knitting.

    The project I was knitting was nothing to stand up about. It was my fifth go at my all-time favorite sweater pattern–Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Seamless Saddle Shoulder, as set forth in Knitting Workshop–which I keep repeating because it suits me and I can wear it with anything. The finished product is terrific, but while in progress it’s just stockinette and more stockinette and encore la stockinette.

    I don’t think that’s the correct French for “even more stockinette,” in fact I’m fairly sure it isn’t, but I’m too lazy to get up and fetch the Larousse from the shelf in the next room.

    Anyway. I’m knitting my plain vanilla sweater and here comes Mr. Executive–the classic American version in navy, gray, and khaki with trousers that are just a little bit too long and a tie that should have been retired three seasons ago.

    “What are you making?” he said.

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