Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.
In my career I have reached the stage at which total strangers not infrequently write to me to ask for advice. My mother, to whom I am and will ever be The Little Boy Who Somehow Got Tomato Soup on the Kitchen Ceiling, finds this hilarious.
“Not cooking advice, Ma,” I tell her. “Knitting advice.”
“I know,” says my mother. “But still.”
Usually the questions are straightforward:
Q. Should I put lifelines in my lace shawl?
Sometimes the questions raise an eyebrow:
Q. Do you have any tips on re-sizing a woman’s sweater to fit a guinea pig?
A. You may omit the waist shaping.
Sometimes the questions raise two eyebrows:
Q. Have you ever blended male chest hair into handspun alpaca?
A. Not on purpose.
Questions like these are easily answered.
But then something landed in my inbox that brought me up short:
Q. I have been knitting for almost twenty years and I have always loved it. But lately I’ve lost the urge. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a project on the needles, and now suddenly nothing is exciting to me. I just don’t feel like knitting. I went to the yarn store twice last week and didn’t even touch anything. Please help. How can I get my mojo back?
In this case, the answer that springs immediately to mind is unhelpful. The querent is clearly vulnerable, possibly desperate. It would therefore be insensitive to reply,
Really? Too bad. More yarn for me! Ha ha ha!
No; my reply instead would be:
The best way to get your knitting mojo back is to stop knitting.
Yup. Stop knitting. Stop.
But don’t stop playing with yarn.
Stop knitting, and try crochet. Stop knitting, and try weaving. Stop knitting, and try embroidery. Stop knitting, and try tatting. Ask yourself the exciting question, “What else can yarn do for me?”
Here’s the thing: passion in craft is like passion in love. It thrives on variety. Sure, knitting is fabulously high, wide, and deep. A person could knit for fifty years and never try everything. On the other hand, if a person does nothing but knit for fifty years it’s possible she might come to feel like she has tried everything.
Familiarity can be soothing. You look across the dinner table, and there’s Charlie, the man who charmed you all those years ago with that funny story about his Uncle Fred, the 1953 Dodge Coronet, and the bag of chickens. Gray at the temples now, a bit stooped; but who minds when the continuity and the shared history are such a comfort?
Then Charlie begins to tell, for what you believe to be the 14,673,534th time, that interminable story of his Uncle Fred, the 1953 Dodge Coronet, and the bag of chickens. You feel sure that if you have to listen to it one more time, you may stab him in the face with the pickle fork and run mad in the street. Familiarity can also wear thin.
When your craft of choice ceases to thrill, there is no moral failing in dabbling elsewhere. You’re not serving Charlie divorce papers along with dessert, you’re just taking separate vacations for a little while.
When you knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit (or crochet, crochet, crochet, crochet, crochet or weave, weave, weave or whatever, whatever, whatever) exclusively for a long haul, you start to know what’s coming next. You know what these two colors will do if worked together, and how that particular yarn will block, and what you like (or don’t) about a given blend of fibers. There may be quiet, happy moments, but the thrill of discovery is gone.
When you take the same yarn and instead of knitting it you try a swatch of treble crochet, or a textured square woven on a Zoom Loom, or a row of tatted rings with picots–surprise! It does things you don’t expect, shows aspects of itself you didn’t realize were there. You’ve never seen Fred so much as hokey-pokey, and suddenly he’s out on the dance floor leading the rhumba, the jitterbug, and the waltz.
Contemplating an old love in a new light is wildly invigorating. Going back to square one with a new craft and remember why it is that sight of the word YARN in big letters over a shop door once made your heart skip a beat.
And I bet the next time you step through that door, you’ll feel like your old self again.
Any other questions?
Q. How the heck did you get tomato soup on the kitchen ceiling?
A. Go ask my mother. She’ll be delighted to tell you all about it.
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.