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Inheritance

Editor's Note: It's that time of month! Knit-wit Franklin Habit joins us for his regular column.

At odd moments throughout her otherwise pleasant life, my mother has been confronted by the sight of me, her only son, with my pants on backwards; with my fingers stuck together by glue; trapped in the bathroom by an aggressive cat; frantically hunting for a pair of glasses I was holding in one hand; and standing sheepishly under a dripping splotch of tomato soup that had spoiled the pristine white of a newly-painted kitchen ceiling.

Every time, she has turned to my father and issued the same official statement: "He gets this from your side."

My father, the diplomat, has never countered with examples of what I get from her side; but the list is long and certainly includes my propensity for flying into fits of rage when thwarted by inanimate objects—including my knitting. If you could break yarn by hurling it against a wall, this room would be neck-deep in shattered bits of sweater.

Happily, that isn't the greater part of my inheritance.

If creativity, like male pattern baldness, runs in families, it was inevitable that I'd wind up creative. (And bald.)

A few months ago I was sorting a basket of sewing notions left to me by my paternal grandmother, who had worked as a professional seamstress for eight decades. She was the first person I remember doing needlework–a piece of crewel embroidery in a large hoop. She was, on the sly, my first needlework teacher. When I was a child, boys as a rule were not permitted to partake of embroidery. But my grandmother did not observe that rule.

I picked up a pen and started writing down the things she had taught me: threading, basting, running stitch, back stitch, feather stitch.... Within a few minutes I'd covered an entire sheet of paper. I made another list, covering another sheet, for my maternal grandmother. Then another, for my mother. And another, for my father. And another, for my mother's eldest sister, Eva.

I began shuffling the pages around, then linking them together, and realized I was building a family tree–but rather than births, deaths, and marriages, it was a record of attitudes, passions, and techniques. It was my lineage…of creativity. Here was the line of needlework, there was the line of problem-solving. Not to mention the line of teaching, the line of making do and mending, and the especially pronounced line of why-buy-that-when-I-can-make-a-better-one.

Or maybe it's less a tree than a river–the creative impulse flowing from one generation into the next. Sometimes it broadens or narrows, but it all ultimately bubbles from the same sources. Sometimes it evens flows backwards. Many folks learn knitting at mother's knee—my mother learned knitting at my knee. (That sounds a little weird, doesn't it? Sorry. I get it from my father's side.)

Where do you get it from?

Franklin's Family Tree

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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 KnittingYarn Market NewsInterweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkCast On: A Podcast for KnittersTwist 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.

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