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The Iceman Groucheth

March 7th, 2013

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Franklin Habit returns to share his unique and humorous take on the life of a yarncrafter. 

Things that are sure to happen every January: white sales, credit card bills, and some perky knitter chirping, “Ooooooooooooh, I love these cold, snowy days! Nothing’s better than sitting inside, cozily knitting by the fireplace!”

This always brings forth a chorus of happy agreement from other perky knitters, calling to one another like cuckoos across the Schwarzwald: “Ooooooooooooh! Yes, yes! Snowy! Fireplace! Knitting! Love!”

I think spending a snowy day knitting by the fireplace sounds groovy. Perhaps, in my next life, I’ll get to try it.

A cartoon by Franklin Habit, exclusively for Lion Brand

I’m not sure where these people live. In my imagination, it’s farmhouses on hilltops in Vermont, or perhaps a cabins nestled in the pristine forests of Wisconsin. I also imagine independent incomes, household help, and heated garages–so that any trek into the blistering cold is purely voluntary. The perky winter knitter need only flounce outdoors to skate merrily around the pond; or playfully fling snowballs at her handsome, rugged husband until he playfully carries her back inside and playfully serves her a hot toddy–probably holding the cup to her lips so she can keep on cozily knitting by the fireplace.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, it is snowing sideways and we are out of milk. Much as I would like to sit inside, cozily knitting by the fireplace, I have to go to the grocery store. Five city blocks away. On foot. I could have milk delivered, yes; but that would drive the cost of the gallon up to $35.68 plus tip, and daddy isn’t made out of money.

So forgive me, perky knitters, if I am unable to join your cuckoo chorus. I am but a hapless urban peasant who cannot stay inside and knit every time it snows.

The only thing keeping me from drowning myself in a waist-deep puddle of dirty slush is that we’ve kissed February goodbye. March in Chicago still looks like winter and feels like winter and stabs you in the face with an icicle like winter, but technically it’s spring. Around this time I dare to hope maybe I won’t end up like the poor writer in The Shining after all.

I know folks who knit and crochet less when the temperatures start to rise. I knit more. In winter my knitting exudes a certain desperate, survivalist stink. Finish the sweater or freeze to death. This, to me, is not a recipe for relaxation.

In spring, I’m less afraid to fool around with my yarn. The stakes are lower. I don’t need to knit. I just knit. I turn giddy, and frivolous. What shall we make today? Intarsia toaster cover? Toy mongoose? Butterfly hair ornaments? Those last are especially frivolous if, like me, you are bald.

I suppose I could make a flight of them into butterfly chest hair ornaments, in colors that match my new bathing suit. Come summer, they’ll be ready to wear as I lie by the swimming pool, lazily knitting when I’m not lazily napping. I’ll be the talk of the cabanas, is what I’ll be.

Warm thoughts like these keep a man alive, needles clicking, watching for the first bold crocus. Fireplace? Bah. Bring on the spring.

—–

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 KnittingYarn Market NewsInterweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkCast On: A Podcast for KnittersTwist 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.

  • Ruby

    No matter where one reads the article or nor the subject matter of the article, your writing is always sure to bring a chuckle to the heart and a smile to the face. Always a pleasure to partake in reading your words.

  • Christine

    ohhh..that was a good one, Franklin…especially the quip about the maids. hell yah! who are these people? ok, maybe they’re retired. I get giddy, in a sickly way, with a snowstorm, mostly because I know I’m going to lose my power out here and walking to the chicken coop in the snow has me thinking of stew instead of daily eggs! so what else am I going to do? KNIT! and talk about it days later when the power comes back on…haha

  • LaLunaUnita

    Thank you, Mr. Habit. This is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. I really needed it today! (Also, I’m a Texas knitter, so by necessity I MUST knit more when it warms up, or I wouldn’t knit at all.)

  • Starhawk29

    You should be grateful you do not have a basement for your yarn to multiply in!! I have to move, and I need an apartment for the yarn colony! The family that loves getting anything made of yarn, is the same group who endlessly complain that I have too much yarn. (And they do not see the illogic of that!) Enjoy this weekend’s thaw, because you know this is not the end of the slush season.

  • Linda

    Excellent piece. I don’t often get to laugh out loud because someone’s writing is genuinely funny. But I sure did – several times – while reading this piece. Thanks, Mr. Habit! Loved it!!

  • Adrienne G.

    Now Mr. Habit, you surely can’t complain about this year’s winter. It started in February, and judging by the forecast, hopefully just ended yesterday! ;)

  • Janet

    I can’t wait to see the butterfly chest hair ornaments! Love your writing as always, Franklin!

  • Knitwitch

    As I look out over 23 inches of heavy white New England snow, and acknowledge that sittin’ and knittin’ by the fireplace “wouldn’t it be loverely” will have to clear driveway and care first so I also can go get milk that I should have picked up yesterday when I was making slippers by request of my youngest..needed that laugh before I face the shovel. Thanks Franklin

  • http://crochetnirvana.weebly.com/blog Robin

    Fabulous!

  • Annette Engelbert

    Cute story I live in the so called north woods and going out to feed the sheep(wool sheep)in a snow storm makes want to charge big bucks for that skein of wool.

  • Beryl

    Very envious of your cold weather, here in Australia we a absolutely cooking with our hot weather that is just going on and on and on!!!!!!!!!

  • Johann

    I don’t think I’d want to nap wearing chest hair butterflys (assuming I were a man) in public. I can just envision some small child, captivated by the beautiful sight of butterflys, grabbing one and PULLING!

  • LisaMarli

    Hush, I live in San Jose, CA, and never understood, “I love knitting in winter”. I never have that kind of winter. Then again, I have no fascination with mittens and mufflers either. It was 58 today. We may go into the 60s next week.
    But the thought of butterfly chest hair decorations, as a Californian all I can say is “Don’t, just don’t”. It will never match the suit and just look tacky. But may I suggest an after swim wrap, those are always popular. I love some of the metallic yarns for that. ;)
    Happy Knitting.

  • Joan

    Your writing is so humorous! I crochet, but now trying knook, and love it.

  • Netagene

    Always love what you write, and have your book. Even tho’ I am in Birmingham, AL, we get occasional snow and ice (and even a blizzard – you can find it on the internet, 1993), My house faces north so when we have snow and ice, my steps, etc., will not be clear for 5+ days, whereas the houses across from me (facing south) will be clear within a day! In addition, I am legally blind so do not have a car and it’s too dangerous for me to walk a block to the bus stop. Thankfully I have sufficient usable sight that I CAN knit (some) and crochet (a LOT, even when I was almost totally blind). I’m often stuck inside anytime with enough yarn to start my own store – unless someone is kind enough to take me to the store (or get my grocery list and go for me) – so year round, I have several knit and crochet projects going at once. Warm weather, I’ll be on my screened-in front porch doing, as one mail carrier called it, “yarning”!

  • Susan

    A wonderful, wonderful read. I’m a rather slow knitter and yet I keep plodding away, not sure my gifts are always received as the monumental accomplishment that they are. I’d love to fantasize about the way my children would have looked in home knitted garments, but I only had time to get going on my knitting as a grandma. Now it is my joy to knit and frog, knit and frog my way through project after project.

  • Mamajoans

    I laughed out loud!

  • Kymberly Pease

    Right now I’m listening to predictions of 1/4″ of ice before nightfall. I think I’ll take the snow please.

  • dust-bunny

    I’m grumpy too Franklin. Though I don’t have to walk 5 blocks to get some milk from the store, I am trying to housetrain a new puppy, in the cold and snow of NH while being sick on top of that. And no knitting by the fireplace for me either, puppy won’t allow it, it’s much more fun to rip it out of my hands and run down the hall with it! You did give me a good chuckle though, the chest hair ornaments made me spit coffee!

  • Mary K.

    I simply LOVED this topic. Having been born and raised in Chicago, I now reside in the NW suburbs and I admit to being one of the gals you write about. A few days ago, when the Chicago area had 10″ – 12″ of snow, I got so giddy and my heart was racing that I gathered up my knitting needles and yarn and in those whiteout conditions when the snow was coming down hot and heavy, I was in front of MY fireplace cozily knitting an eternity scarf. I had perched next to me my chihuahua, a French Vanilla Capuccino, and I enjoyed every minute (in between running out to shovel every 2 hours) of my knitting time which, by the way, will probably be the last big storm before Spring breaks loose in Chicago. There’s not much else to do in a raging snowstorm. You’re tired from constantly running out to shovel pathways for the dog and shoveling the driveway and when you come back into the house, you want to rest (your back hurts and your asthma is wheezing) in between trips outside. The best way is to sit and knit and sip hot tea or capuccino. Winter is something I’ve had to endure living in the Chicago area, but I don’t enjoy it. I laughed so much when I read this because I could really relate to it so much. Thanks for making my day.

  • Shelda

    I’m laughing (sort of) about icicles stabbing one in the face. And many other things. As always, Franklin, you’re a pure delight. Fireplace or no.

  • WisconsinKnitter

    I recently quit my job after having worked 42 years and currently live in a rural area in Southern Wisconsin 4 miles from town. I’ve dreamed about knitting in front of my fireplace on snowy days for years and years and now that I’m “retired” so to speak, this past winter I got to do just that. Let me try and explain. You’re sitting in front of your roaring fireplace wearing those woolen socks that you knitted for yourself as a Christmas gift a few months ago just for this purpose. You glance out of your picture window and see big, fluffy snowflakes covering the farmer’s field across the road of which corn was harvested 4 or 5 months ago. You alternate getting a jumpstart on that cabled sweater for your brother who’s 11 months older using the cashmere yarn you got on sale and watching the snow crystals slowly cause your driveway and road to disappear. It is so relaxing that you feel your blood pressure drop 40 points. The feeling of inexplicable calmness and joyfulness is overwhelming that you rejoice that this time is truly your own. You’ve earned it and are making the most of it — and THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT IN THE WORLD – this peacefulness and calmness one experiences while knitting. That’s why we shout on the rooftops our cuckoo chorus.

  • chemgrrl

    To me, staying inside when it’s snowing isn’t cozy. it makes me feel rather desperate and restless–in short, it gives me cabin fever. I do knit at these times, but it’s with an eye on the weather. As soon as it clears and I’m able to go places, I happily abandon my knitting ( for a while).
    Like you, I’m happy to see that spring is on its way. And I knit whatever the season–I get more done from spring to fall than I do in winter.

  • Morgan

    I don’t even knit, Franklin, but I love reading your column. It’s the best part of my Monday mornings.

  • Nancy Shomo

    Franklin, you are awesome! I have just been introduced to you writing and I love it. I laughed and laughed. I am guilty of knitting in front of the fireplace on a rainy winter’s night(which we don’t get many of in So. California) but only after working a full day, and coming home to do the every night chores, then put the cats to bed(so they leave the yarn alone) . I usually get two or three rows done before I find I fell asleep mid row and woke up in time to go to bed.Keep those needles clicking!

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  • Jacuzzi63

    Oh, Franklin, that one was priceless… gave me a good laugh with the butterfly chest hair ornaments! but you really need to experience winter knitting on the Canadian prairies, in Winnipeg, where sister knitters and I gather around the fireplace…cozying up to the fire, hot chocolates in hand, warming fingers and toes from -30C temperatures… at our nearest Starbucks! ;-)

  • L.

    Well, if you live on a hilltop in Vermont, it’s more like a mountain top, and you’d probably be swept away by the winds before long. I used to live on a Vermont hillSIDE, and Chicago had the advantage in that you lack dirt roads requiring four-wheel-drive when the thaw hits in spring (we call it “mud season”… it’s about as charming as the name implies). Now I live in a more suburban area of the same fine state, but I’m right with you as far as your description of the eye-stabbing winds, need for milk, etc. In other words, I agree that those cozy winter knitters must be independently wealthy, retired, or have very tolerant significant others, and I too am REALLY looking forward to spring. In the meantime… onward! Persevere on! The tropical days will come. I look forward to your cabana photos.

  • Elizabeth

    AMEN Brother!!!!!!!!!

  • Aing

    I live in Wisconsin. For the first time ever, I was able to join the cuckoo chorus! Big fat flakes floating down, inches of snow accumulating on the ground around the barn, milk house and outhouse (all restored for modern day storage, haha!), no school bus to stand at the end of the driveway for, no errands to run. Knitting by the fire yields lower blood pressure, slower pulse, more completed entries for the county fair this summer. LOOOOOOOVE it!!!

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