Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.
I spend about half my time these days away from home, standing in front of classrooms full of knitters, teaching them how to do things. That’s my job. I have an awesome job.
I teach these knitters to do all kinds of stuff: how to knit lace, how knit with color, how to put colors together, how to cut knitting, how to sew knitting. And that’s just the top of the list. If you want to make a living in this business, it pays to have many strings to your bow.
No matter what I’m teaching, one sort of question always comes up.
“What if I…?”
For the ellipsis, read any of the following:
...do the opposite of what you are telling me to do?
…try doing the same thing in a way I just thought up?
…try doing something that is not at all this thing we are talking about, but is some other thing I think might be kind of cool?
Or variations thereupon.
I grin, because one über lesson underlies all my lessons:
Play around. Whatever you’re doing, play around.
If you come into the classroom to learn intarsia, I’ll work myself into a frizz to make sure you leave knowing intarsia. But I hope you won’t stop with just learning how. I hope you to go further–past the “how” into the “how else?” and the “what else?” and the “what next?”.
So when students ask, “What if…” I tell them to try it. Play. See what you get. If it doesn’t work, who cares? If it does work, you may have come up with something that pushes knitting forward a little bit. That’s how artists progress–by messing around. It’s true of all artists, not least fiber artists.
Before it gets any smugger in here, let me confess: as often as I preach this to students, I just as often forget it when it comes to my own creative output. Were I a physician, I’d need to heal myself.
Case in point.
I don’t often travel to teaching jobs by train, but a couple years ago I accepted an engagement in a small Midwestern city about three hours’ journey by rail from my own front door. I hopped aboard at Union Station in Chicago, settled into a quite comfortable seat and dropped off to sleep.
When I woke up, the train had left Chicago well behind and I was…where? I had no idea. We had slowed at a crossing, so I flipped open my phone camera and took a shot.
I was awake now, but too groggy to knit. And since I have this weird fascination with fleeting glimpses of obscure places, I decided to keep shooting and see if I could catch something decent.
I had this idea in my head of what a good shot would look like. Whenever the light, the view, and the speed of the train seemed cooperative, I’d shoot.
All the while, the light continued to fade. I kept snapping, but stopped paying much attention.
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.