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Well, Since You Asked…

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Well, Since You Asked…

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

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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?

A. Yes.

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?

Whoa.

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.

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55 Comments

  • Perfect, again. Thanks, Franklin. Patty in MI, one of the One in 1,000 Knitters 🙂

  • 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

    you made my day 😀 ♥

  • This is absolutely great advice. This says it all…..You’ve never seen ???? so much as hokey-pokey, and suddenly he’s out on
    the dance floor leading the rhumba, the jitterbug, and the waltz. Never thought of dancing with the yarn, but it makes sense to me.

  • 😉 So glad I asked you to friend me.. and if you are ever in Lucca, Italy the coffee (cappuccino, latte…) is on me!

    • Is that open to all knitters? If you are in Lucca, you must be in Heaven, truly!

  • You always make me laugh, and now I know that we have something in common besides knitting! My mother would be delighted to tell you about it…lol!

  • Great article!! It gave me a smile!

  • I know this is a plug, but I have found that by getting new patterns sent to me on my facebook from Lion Brand page inspires me to want to try new patterns that look so beautiful, and I have never tried. I think that having the same books around the house does not inspire to try new patterns, yarn types, and colors!

  • I want to hear the story about Uncle Fred, the 1953 Dodge Coronet and the bag of chickens. I bet it’s a great tale.

  • Oddly, I lost some mojo when I started antidepressants. Fortunately my doctor recognized the symptoms as the med levels being wrong (I love my doctor) and some adjustments brought me back.

  • Absolutely ! I bought a loom and packed up all my knitting supplies thinking I wouldn’t want to do it any more but a fewmonths later I got the urge and I am enjoying it more now than I had
    for quite awhile

  • Good grief, this made me realize that I have been knitting for over 20 years and I’m only 29, I hope I don’t loose my knitting mojo!

    • don’t worry, Emily. I’m 45, I’ve been knitting for 39 years, and my mojo is still there. In fact, it keeps growing… I guess when I’m 90, my entire world might be made of yarn, including the wall covers. (I’ve seen that on pinterest)

    • I turn 70 next month, and I knit my first sweater at age 7, and I’m still at it, though I did, for a while take a vacation into crocheting with size 50 cotton, but I’ve got two active WIPS and mumble mumble UFOs in the knitting barrel/end table. The mojo never leaves, just sometimes changes flavor.

  • You are such a gifted writer. Thank you for a great read!

  • Great answer on losing mojo…I’m excitedly waiting to receive a book on crocheting jungle animals….of any size I want. I felt like I needed to take my crocheting away from the blankets and into something new!

  • You got soup on the ceiling the same way my Husband got pizza sauce on ours… TALENT!!

    • My dad got mustard on his mother’s ceiling…

  • I crochet and I do counted cross stitch. But not at the same time. Right now I’ve been crocheting Christmas gifts and I’m burned out. Going back to cross stitch. This is a pattern of mine. One for a couple of months and then I need something different so I’ll start crocheting for two or three months. It works for me.

  • my Nan once got spaghetti sauce on the ceiling. She was cooking it in a pressure cooker. The old style pressure cookers didn’t have safety locks to prevent you from opening tehpot before the pressure was fully released. She opened the cooker when the pressure was still high and the sauce flew to the ceiling. Red dots galore on our ceiling.

  • But above all, what’s your mom’s email so we can hear the story of your tomato soup on the ceiling!

  • Thanks Franklin,
    As I sit here tonight, frustrated. I am contemplating …finishing,going back to, catching up with…..
    Well here it is going to college as 55 year old sophomore.
    I started 36 years ago. But marraige , children, working till
    I could stay home with the kids…. Now our youngest is on her own.
    Well I gave myself some ok no decisions just fun free time, plus volunteer
    work was great for a bit, now I think I should finish my schooling.
    Do I need to, would it be worth my time or frustration???
    Do I need too work , no I’m one of the lucky my hubby is an awesome
    Provider and always has been.
    I am also a very avid fiber addict…I crochet, and a semi-professional photographer.
    I really couldn’t be happier for the most part .. It’s just boredom….
    Thanks for the giggles and the space to vent …..
    If you have any suggestions??
    I’ll be a happy guinea pig.. To receive an explanation
    From you
    ps..tomato soup on the ceiling is as simple as a flip of the spoon!! Lol!…..

    • Finish School!!! I did at age 58. Best thing I ever did for my self esteem. You will have a tremendous sense of accomplishment even if you never work in your field.

      We had fake Halloween blood on our ceiling for a long time before it was noticed…

      • Finish school. I am 63. I hope to finish this May. You are obviously at least somewhat interested, since you are mentioning it. Whether or not you go back to school, in four years you will be four years older. You might as well be four years older and fresh out of school in something interesting, if you can do it without taking on a lot of debt.

        This is assuming that you do not have another pursuit that draws you more strongly. Not all knowledge is institutionalized. If you find that something else calls to you more strongly, then do that. If you always wanted to visit Peru or walk from Maine to Georgia, or write a great novel, or play oboe in Carnegie Hall, or run a marathon, or walk a 5 K (a little over 3 miles) it is your life.

        But if you can afford to go to school as an older student, and want to for your own reasons, going back to school is a great opportunity to start, restart, or continue something that might have happened earlier but did not.

    • You definitely want to finish school. Age 57 and I just got my BA in May!

    • My baby girl started college this fall, and though I felt a bit silly about it, so did I. The plan was a quick 2 year program for a certificate in a practical allied health field. The challenges and frustrations have been amazing, and so has the euphoria and sense of accomplishment. Go, take a class. You’ll love it!

    • Finish school. You won’t regret it. I went back when my youngest was not even 1 and I was 46 (yes, truly, I was into life-changing things). The only times I regretted it involved Algebra.
      You may indeed find that you are a better student. You are broadening your horizons in a different way. And, there is that sense of accomplishment, sort of like finishing the lace shawl, blocking it perfectly and wrapping it up and giving it to your best friend.

    • Finish school! You will never regret it. I started college at 18, but didn’t apply myself. I was too busy having fun. After 2 yrs. I dropped out & got a job. I got married & stayed home with the kids until the youngest one went to college. I had been going to junior college, on & off, while the kids were in school, to retake the classes I was too busy to attend the 1st time I was in college. When our youngest one was a sophomore at Texas Tech, I got a job and went to school at night. I graduated with my BA at 52. A week before graduation, I got a job as a teacher. I had wanted to be a teacher my whole life. While I taught, I went back to night school & at 55 got my M.Ed. in reading. I still can’t believe I did all of this, but it’s something that can never be taken away from me. Kathie is right when she says it is great for your self esteem. I have lots of hobbies & loved staying home with the kids when they needed me, but you are correct-boredom does creep in. You will be surprised at the support you will receive from the teachers. They love having a student in their classes that wants to learn. Go for it! You will amaze yourself at what you can do!!!!!!!

  • A friend once asked me if I would spin his boyfriend’s body hair into yarn that he could put into a medicine bag (he’s part Native American). I don’t spin, so I put him in touch with a friend who spins and who is bit on the kinky side. I’m not sure if they ever worked it out, but it is one of the things I think about when I try my hand at spinning (and at which I am pretty awful).

  • Great advice. Reminds me of the time my Grandmother asked my husband if I had been quilting lately. His reply? “No, it’s not quilting’s turn.” (It was actually knitting’s turn). I knit, crochet, tatt, quilt, sew, tool leather, play harp, 3D photography and play with trains. My daughter likes to say “My Mom only has one hobby … she collects hobbies.” It is great having alternative hobbies to keep from getting bored.

    • Yes!!! That’s me!!!

  • My! Oh! My! I have been knitting for over over 84 yrs. and am still not tired of it. There are so many new stitches and patterns, so intriguing that I shall always stay interested and sad, when I ca no longer keep abreast of it.

  • Hmmmm. Going to show my ignorance here. What’s a lifeline?

    • A strand of waste yarn threaded through your knitting every few rows so you don’t lose the whole bleeping thing if you have to rip out a mistake. It may not actually save your life, but it will save a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth!

  • I got my mojo back a few years ago (after 20+ years away) when my mom drafted me to help her teach middle-school kids to knit as part of a summer activities program at her local community center. The kids were clamoring to learn after they’d been to camp & seen one of the (male) counselors knitting a sweater (men who knit are AWSUM!). I think we ended up with 6 girls and a boy, including 2 lefties (HINT: set up a mirror so you can watch each other’s hands “the right way”).

    In the process I remembered how much I enjoyed knitting. I raided Mom’s stash & started knitting scarves on pencils & sharpened chopsticks until I could get my own yarn & needles. Just goofing around getting my chops back until my son got engaged a few months later, so of course I HAD to make an afghan as a wedding present, then I got really crazy & made my own dress for the wedding…

    I don’t always have a formal project on the needles, but I’ve always got something percolating in my head, experimenting with stitch patterns, collecting patterns & books, etc. I almost never stick to a pattern as written – I’m very much a process knitter & it’s not uncommon for me to “half-make” something 2 or 3 times, decide I don’t like the way it looks, rip it out, & start over (which drives Mom kind of nuts; she’s always eager to get something done so she can wear it or give it to someone!).

  • I have a friend who has given up knitting for the last few years, despite the fact that she formerly made fabulous sweaters, etc., and had done so for… well, forever! This is the first of your columns I have ever read, and I think God put it in front of me for a reason. I can’t wait to email it to this particular friend… and get her back on the horse again. I’m going to see if she’ll let me teach her how to crochet!

  • Thank you Franklin. I’ve not lost my mojo in over 40 years of yarn/fabric craft, but if it ever happens I now know where to turn.

  • There comes a time when all the art craft mojos take a leave of absence. If anyone is interested in beautiful free yarn, contact me.

    • i would love to have some free yarn..i will pay postage !!
      marilyn mitton

    • I would love some beautiful free yarn..

    • Hi Tanvel, I knit and crochet, but mostly every thing I make I give away. I love to share a homemade item with someone. Since retirement, several years ago, I have crocheted or knitted over 400 afghans including baby, hats ,mittens, scarfs and shawls. and given every one away. I love to have something on my hook or needles all the time. Would welcome beautiful yarn. Willing to pay postage.

      Betty Steenbergen

      I am on Facebook

    • I am always interested in free yarn. I would be happy to pay shipping. I am on facebook. Guadalupe Martinez

  • My guinea pig will be eternally grateful to you 🙂

  • Franklin, you’re awesome. I usually read these at work, and my coworkers can never figure out why I’m laughing so loud. 🙂 Thank you. From Rachel in NH.

  • We had mashed potatoes on the ceiling thanks to my late father. And not only on ours, but on restaurant’s as well.

  • Ha – my mom got egg on the ceiling – wonder if it was the same way you got soup on the ceiling 🙂

  • Thanks Frank for sharing! I have been doing it 3 ways since i was 12, reading, crochet and needlework. As a stay at home mom of kids who are all off working or in college I thought I’d be traveling more but unfortunately have been I diagnosed with MS in 07. Due to neuropathy I had to give up counted cross stitch and crochet because of the pain. A year or so go I took control, fought through the pain and started to crochet again, so now I’m more relaxed and giving the pain up to God. I may have to start an etsy store….I’m on a roll and have run out of places to hide my yarn addiction. And thanks to the Internet I can have it delivered to the house =D

    • Julie,
      I also have have MS… and have had 4 Strokes.
      I know exactly how you feel.. We seem to be on the same page.
      What’s your thought about the collage thing realizing how are condition works?
      I the Theresa above contemplating going back to collage…
      I hope your feeling great to night! 🙂

      • Theresa,
        I think it would be hard to go back. I’m pretty sure the leisions in my brain are messing with my memory. I’ll watch a show and then re-watch with family and I swear I’ve never seen it before and they say I have they were with me the first time. I also have lesions in my spinal chord and I have a hard time getting around. I guess mine is progressing if yours is not then go learn something we are suppose to be doing cognitive work every day and that could be yours. Doing pretty good tonight , hope you are well!
        Julie

  • I can vouch that switching methods helps bring back the thrill. I consider myself a crocheter, but picked up my knitting after a 20 year break. My stash is exciting again!

  • Thoroughly enjoy your writing. Even though I haven’t lost my zest for knitting/crocheting, your article has piqued my inner creativity to try somethiing new in the New Year. Something other than scarves, slippers, and afghans.

  • I can tell you about how the catsup & the Kool-Aid got on the ceiling!

  • I can tell you about how the catsup & the Kool-Aid got on the ceiling!

  • I love learning new words. “Querent”!

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