Editor's Note: We're excited to introduce Franklin Habit's monthly column for our Weekly Stitch Newsletter as a regular feature here on the Lion Brand Notebook. Stay tuned for stories, insights, and laughs.
My grandmother, a mostly sensible woman who nonetheless cultivated a small garden of superstitions, taught me early that to begin a new year with messy closets is to invite three hundred and sixty-five days of calamity. So last week, while 2012 was running out the clock, I was hastily performing the annual ritual of Keep-or-Keep-Not.
An essential part of the ritual is contemplating my meager pile of sweaters and wondering why there aren’t more of them. And why most came from a factory. And why most don’t fit. And why most of them are, to be blunt, tragically ugly. Keep? Hah. Burn.
I am a prolific knitter. I knit ceaselessly. But I almost never knit for myself. So I have to buy sweaters which never fit properly and I look terrible nine months of the year. This needs to stop.
A few of my friends are formally dedicating the coming year to knitting primarily for themselves. There’s a popular term for this–Selfish Knitting. It’s a term I don’t like.
The same grandmother who taught me that a messy closest causes earthquakes taught me not to be selfish. Selfishness is deliberately withholding love, help, or cookies when somebody else might need them. Selfishness hurts people. Selfishness is bad.
Is knitting for yourself bad? If you are a hobbyist knitter, and your hand-made socks end up on your own feet and not your husband’s, are you being selfish? If your hobby is selfish because the direct benefit of it is yours alone, why don’t we hear about Selfish Golf?
I don’t believe in Selfish Knitting. Knitting for yourself isn’t selfish, it’s sensible.
If you knit (or crochet, or weave, or sew) for yourself:
You know that the end product of your work will be wanted. Even your dog isn’t necessarily going to appreciate every sweater you make for him, though he may be too polite to say so.
You won’t fulfill a request for a blue, cabled hat by making a blue, cabled hat; only to be told, “I didn’t mean that shade of blue.”
And should you decide not to wear or use whatever it is you made for yourself, you will not thereafter look at yourself with a smoldering resentment that finally flares up one morning and causes you to fling the butter dish at your head.
My first new project for 2013 (kindly look away from the pile of works-in-progress littering my worktable) is going to be a sweater for me. I intend it to replace the nasty, clammy moss-colored abomination manufactured by a Big Label that thinks a small man is two feet larger around than I am. All I can say for it is that it looked decent enough at 75% off after Christmas 2010.
The pattern I have in mind is the Man’s Rough Neck Sweater from the 1916 Lion Manual of Worsted Work, obligingly republished in facsimile by the smart cookies at Lion Brand Yarn. I love the collar and I’m curious about the construction of the pockets and hem. As it happens, Lion Brand makes a perfect modern substitute for the original yarn–LB Collection Organic Wool.
Of course, as is my custom I intend to make some changes. The only question is how many…
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.