Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.
Chances are I am never going to knit anything for you.
It’s not that I don’t like you. Of course I like you. You’re interested in yarn and you’ve come all this way to read something I’ve written; how could I not think well of such a person?
No, it’s not about you. It’s about time, and having too little of it. There is but one of me, and there are many of you. Even if I should promise to knit each of you a single mitten I couldn’t keep that promise before I drop dead.
And what kind of off-kilter gift is one mitten, anyhow?
You make things, so you know how it goes. You learn to make things and are so excited at having learned to make things that you want to make things for everyone. But you are a novice, and it shows. Your work is earnest, but uneven. The things you make are not much in demand.
“Is that…a hat?” says the person in the next cubicle when she spots you merrily stitching away during your afternoon break.
“Yes!” you cry. “Yes, it’s a hat. I’m making a hat. Would you like a hat? I’ll be happy to make you a hat. What color hat do you want?”
“Uh…” says the person in the next cubicle.
With practice your work grows not only even, but accomplished–and possibly splendid. The person in the next cubicle changes her tune.
“Would you make me a hat?” she says. “I would totally pay you. Ten bucks!”
However, you have come to know well what decent materials cost, why it’s important to use them, and how much time (there’s that word again) it takes to finish a hat. Ten bucks falls shy of the target. You explain this to the first, second, and third persons who ask for a hat. While explaining this to the fourth person, you notice his eyes have gone glassy even before you’ve reached the end of the bullet points on the slide headed “Wool: Nature’s Miracle Fiber.”
You cease to explain yourself, and simply say no.
You evolve criteria which determine who will or will not receive a hand-made gift. This may be as simple as one question (“Are you my mother?”) or may involve spreadsheets, algorithms, and a Magic Eight Ball. Either way, you make selectively and for the chosen few.
That’s where I’m at. Suffice it to say, these days it’s easier to smuggle a Fabergé egg out of the Kremlin Museum than it is to get a knitted gift out of me.
Every fortress, every citadel, every heavily-guarded subterranean bulletproof vault has a weak spot. Mine is babies.
If you’re a baby and I am in a certain mood, you are not leaving the room until I have measured you for a sweater. Doesn’t matter if you’re no relation to me, or I’ve just met you, or your father was my secret high school crush who went on to marry the prissy organist at the First Methodist Church who will never, ever make him as happy as I could. Come here and get your sweater, baby.
One such was born about two years ago to a good-friend-of-a-good-friend and ended up (somewhat to the mother’s bewilderment) with a tiny red cardigan I knocked out in five hours. My good friend’s good friend sent me photographs of the wee recipient wearing it and grinning madly. Most gratifying.
Just last week, my good friend’s good friend sent me more photos–of a new baby, aged two months, wearing the sweater. They’d not only used it, they’d saved it, and used it again. Profoundly gratifying.
Of course you can’t have the poor thing sitting around in just hand-me-downs, so I’ve cast on for a new tiny (green) cardigan. It won’t take much time. You don’t mind waiting a little longer for that mitten, do you?
Thank you. I knew you’d understand.
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.