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yarn humor

  • Cough Cough Cough Wheeze

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

    I am sick. Oh, how sick I am.

    I type this to you feebly, feverishly; lying prone on a bed that I feel sure by now is half-composed of used tissues. When I breathe out, I sound like our vacuum cleaner did after I accidentally ran it over a pile of loose change. When I breathe in, nothing happens. Substances too disgusting to describe are escaping from openings in my body I did not even know were there.

    Yet I write to you, dear reader, because even in extremis I will be faithful to my post.

    (You may feel free to applaud here, if you like. Or weep a gentle weep.)

    I am so sick. How sick am I?

    Too sick to knit.

    That got your attention, didn’t it? Yeah, too sick to knit. It’s been about two days now, and any time I pick up the needles my head swims and my arms ache and down they go again. Don’t even say the word “chart.”

    Crochet is no better, nor embroidery. I’m in that most dreaded state for anyone who loves handwork. I’m awake. I’m aware. I want to knit. But I can’t.

    I’m reminded of those alien abduction stories where the immobilized abductee awakens to the sight of long-fingered, oval-headed Martians going through her bedside tin of mixed nuts and picking out the cashews while all she can do is watch.

    Except in my case the Martians are making progress on the sweater KAL and I’m not.

    You don’t know, do you, how central handwork has become to your existence until it gets taken away?

    At home, projects huddle around me like angry geese honking for attention. When I leave, one of them comes along. The traditional masculine memory chant before leaving the house is includes “spectacles, wallet, and watch.” I, invariably, add “yarn.”

    I doubt that on a normal day I am ever more than arm’s length from a work in progress.

    But this is not a normal day. I am sick. Did you know I’m too sick to knit?

    I remember once before

    Bring your chair a little closer to the bed, won’t you, darling? My voice is giving out. Thank you.

    I remember once before being too sick to knit. I was nine years old, and everyone on our claim had come down with the fever ’n’ ague. Pa walked nine miles through the snow to Sleepy Eye with just a kerosene lamp and a piece of horehound candy to fetch the doctor and we were saved but ever after Mary had this annoying facial tic over her left eyebrow that made her look like she was always flirting with you.

    Or maybe that was the very special episode of  “Little House on the Prairie” I watched on Hulu while I was falling asleep last night. I think this anti-mucus medicine that tastes like a bat’s armpit is messing with my short-term cognition. Does it say anything about that on the bottle? Can you check  the label and see if it says it may cause you to believe you are Laura Ingalls Wilder?

    Since I can’t knit, instead I am making a list of things I will finish knitting if I survive* to knit again. The very top of the list is that blue sweater with the mini-cables that I started two or three years ago that will be great when it’s done; but the directions at the shoulders are just complicated enough that I can’t take it to knit night, yet not interesting enough that I’m willing to power through it without the television on.

    It would be so embarrassing if I died from this** and they were going through my stuff and that’s what they found crowning of my works-in-progress pile: an almost-finished sweater so old the cast-on edge had started to compost. Knowing my friends they’d drape it over the lid of my coffin just to be funny. Ha, ha. Real nice, everybody–making fun of the dead knitter. Probably you’ll chisel on my stone FRANKLIN RIP WITH WIP. Oh ha ha ha. You are so funny.

    Well, the joke’s on you, darlings. I’m leaving my entire stash to the Smithsonian.

    No, that’s fine. You go off to the annual spring sale at the yarn shop while I lie here and hallucinate that I’m sitting in the tall grass among the prairie chickens knitting myself a new sun bonnet to wear to the town spelling bee. You go enjoy yourself. I’ll be fine.

    Maybe.

    Cough.

    *Yes, the doctor says this is just that really, really bad bug that’s going around. But hey, doctors have been known to be wrong.

    **Seriously, you just never know.

     

    cough

     

    —–

    Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book (Soho Publishing, 2016) and It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. His publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Ply Magazine, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and Knitty.com.

    He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, Stitches Events, Squam Arts Workshops, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

    These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned. Visit him at www.franklinhabit.com

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  • Yoga is the New Knitting

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

    About a decade ago, a sharp-eyed coworker noticed that I often snapped six or seven pencils in half during staff meetings. And that I often hid under my desk after staff meetings. And that even on those rare days without staff meetings, my face was contorted permanently into a Kabuki mask of rage.

    “I think you’re stressed out,” she said.

    So I ate her.

    No. No, I didn’t. But I did begin to look about me for ways to calm down. Knitting? I knew how to knit, but hadn’t done it for years. The needlework revival was just begun, with new books appearing and new shops opening. I dove in, and felt better. The money I saved on pencils, I spent on yarn.

    I went to a knit night, where one of the seasoned regulars informed me that knitting was the new yoga. “You get a lot of the same mental health benefits,” she said, “but you don’t have to sit on the floor and sweat.”

    Flash forward to the present, where I am now on the other side of forty. You know how when you turn forty parts of you suddenly start to wear out and dry up and otherwise malfunction? If you don’t, you will.

    So there I was, knitting merrily in my chair, not on the floor, not sweating; and I stood up to go get a glass of water. Parts of me I didn’t know I had objected to this, and suddenly I was on the floor, sweating. Also, swearing.

    My doctor suggested that I find ways to loosen up and stretch out.

    “I do stretch,” I said. “I stretch before every workout.”

    “Okay,” said the doctor. “Bend over and touch your toes.”

    “Fine,” I said, bending over. “No problem.”

    After she helped me to regain consciousness, we talked about yoga.

    “You’re spending too much time seated, hunched, and looking down,” she said. “And I could give you pills for the short term, but in the long run you’ll be better off if you find other ways to regain your flexibility.”

    I started yoga on the same day as another fellow I’ll call Charlie. Charlie’s mat was next to mine, and at our first class we bonded over our shared inability to do Tree Pose without toppling like a couple of dead pines in a windstorm.

    Like all newcomers to yoga, Charlie and I found the discipline challenging in different ways. Charlie, who is by a nature a competitive, king-of-the-hill go-getter, was most frustrated by what he saw as slow progress towards achieving certain challenging postures like Crow Pose.

    After ending up on his nose yet again, Charlie complained to the teacher that it had been two months, and he’d aimed to do a perfect crow in half that time. He’d practiced, and practiced. It wasn’t fair.

    “Charlie,” the teacher said patiently, “I’d like you to try to stop thinking about yoga in terms of goals. Release the outcome. Release the expectation. Just do what you can, right now, here, today.”

    And so Charlie ate him.

    No. No, he didn’t.

    But I (while wrestling with my own demons on the mat) realized that years of knitting were, to my great surprise, helping me with my yoga.

    When we knit (or crochet, or weave, or embroider, or sew, or…) we learn a lot of lessons that are of use to the beginning yoga student.

    We learn to stay the moment. What’s important? This stitch, right now. This one. The one before is complete. The one after is out of reach. This stitch, right now. One at a time.

    We learn to let go of the outcome. Not to say we don’t celebrate when the sweater is on the baby or the shawl is off the blocking pins. But we come to enjoy (or at least endure) the steps it takes to get there. Even those who would say they are more about the end product must to some extent enjoy the process. Because, as is often pointed out to us, you can buy socks, you know.

    We learn that time is relative. The distance between one row and the next can feel like seconds or like years. On a great day, we forget about time completely. The work itself is becomes everything. We lose ourselves in it, and emerge refreshed.

    We learn that success is made of many failures. Possibly thousands of them. If you are me, tens of thousands of them. Don’t sweat it. Pull out the stitches, rip out the seam. Do it again. And again. And again. You’ll get there when you get there, so long as you keep moving.

    Lately Charlie and I are able to stand upright as a pair of wobbly trees–most of the time. When we do fall down, we get back up. Staying up is growing easier. So is falling down. Charlie has stopped complaining about Crow Pose, and I’m starting to think he might make an excellent knitter.
    One stitch at a time. One stitch at a time.

    franklin-yoga-comic

    —–

    Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book (Soho Publishing, 2016) and It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. His publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Ply Magazine, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and Knitty.com.

    He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, Stitches Events, Squam Arts Workshops, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

    These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned. Visit him at www.franklinhabit.com

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  • Why Ask Why

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

    There’s a scene in the classic film The Red Shoes in which Boris Lermontov (the passionate ballet impresario) asks Victoria Page (the passionate ballerina) a passionate question, passionately, about her great passion:

    Boris: Why do you dance?

    Victoria: Why do you live?

    Boris: I don’t know, exactly…but I must.

    Victoria: Well, that is my answer, too.

    Every dancer I know–past, present, or wannabe–dissolves into a pool of tears at the mere mention of this snip of dialogue. That’s it, they sob. That’s it. That’s why we do it. Because we must.

    It sounds a tad overheated to an outsider; but I think it must be wonderful, and terrible, and wonderful, to be so enthralled by your art.

    When Lion Brand asked me to write this month’s column on the theme of “Why I Knit,” I thought about The Red Shoes and the weeping dancers.  I had to ask myself whether I feel that deeply about knitting.

    Certainly I’ve been knitting long enough and intensely enough that questioning it seems almost absurd. Yes, I knit. I also breathe. There are times when I would be hard pressed to tell you which is more important to my well-being.  How can something most of the world shrugs off as a hobby–a silly hobby, at that–become so central to a person’s life?

    I grabbed a piece of scratch paper* and started making a list of reasons I knit.

    1. To make things that fit me. I am five feet, three inches tall. Five feet, four inches if I have been regular in my yoga practice. That’s well below average height for an American man, and mainstream apparel companies do not acknowledge my existence. Even sweaters labeled “small” hang to my mid-thigh, like a tunic; and they usually have about a foot of ease at the waist. This is both unflattering and uncomfortable. If I knit my own sweaters to my own measurements, I don’t spend the whole of the brutal Chicago winter looking like a cuddly potato.

    An unexpected side effect of this has been a growing sense of peace with my own body. Without garment labels to remind me that I am too short here and too wide there, I can just be…me. Less time spent frowning at the mirror has meant more time doing things I love. Like knitting.

    1. To get exactly what I want. Sometimes the armchair in the corner is crying out for the perfect floral pillow in the blues and greens of the carpet, which would tie the whole room together. A nice, plump square pillow, not very large, with a big blue cabbage rose in the center and no fringe. No other pillow will do. Not a pillow in red and green. Not a tiny pillow. Not a rectangular pillow. Not a pillow with tulips on it. Not a pillow with fringe. But it seems nobody who makes pillows is making that pillow. So I knit one. Less time spent online searching for MEDIUM SQUARE PILLOW ROSE BLUE GREEN NO FRINGE has meant more time doing things I love. Like knitting.
    1. To keep my hands busy and my mind quiet. The tired joke “I knit so I don’t kill people” has lost its sting, but not the core of truth that made it funny. When total strangers notice my knitting, there’s a fifty percent chance they’ll say it’s pretty–but they haven’t got the patience to do it themselves. There’s a one hundred percent chance that I will reply that I knit constantly because I have no patience.

    I have no patience with flight delays, security lines, slow subway trains, long sonatas, waiting for the bus, strolling tourists, conference calls, dance recitals, sporting events, check-out lanes, road trips, children’s parties, adult parties, people who take forty minutes to order a burrito at Chipotle, or myself. Unless I’m knitting.

    If I’m knitting, there’s progress being made. The crown of the hat closes up, the sweater gets longer. Time slips past, but with two busy, happy hands I don’t worry about grabbing it.  My brain is preoccupied with happy questions like, “When does this cable cross again?” instead of sad questions like, “Which will end first, my life or this elementary school production of Giselle?”

    More time spent knitting means less time doing things I shouldn’t. Like–sure, okay–killing people.

    This three-item list helped me get at the root of why knitting has become so dear to me, as much a part of my existence as breathing.

    All these reasons have to do with control: of how I look, of how my surroundings look, of how I feel, of how my mind feels. With so little certainty in the world, there is measureless comfort in the way one stitch always, always, always leads to the next, and the next, and the next; until I’ve finished the sweater, solved the problem, or outlived the conference call. Or, for that matter, written this column.

    Why do I knit? I don’t know, exactly…but I must.

    Why do you do it?**

    *The scratch paper turned out to be the back of a label from a skein of Lion Brand LB Collection Organic Wool. So, yeah.

    **Knit, crochet, weave…anything with yarn. Why do you do it?

    —–

    Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book (Soho Publishing, 2016) and It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. His publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Ply Magazine, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and Knitty.com.

    He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, Stitches Events, Squam Arts Workshops, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

    These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned. Visit him at www.franklinhabit.com

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