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Having a Ball, Wish You Were Here

July 11th, 2013

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

It’s July. My grand friends have gone to France, my less grand friends have gone to Michigan, my flat broke friends (the majority) have walked over to the lake for the afternoon. There is a general desire to get out of here, get lost, leave it all behind.

All of it except yarn.

The friends who went to France packed passports and hiking gear. The friends who went to Michigan packed swimsuits and mosquito repellent. The friends over at the lake took snacks and water bottles.

They all packed yarn.

That is, to me, perhaps the surest sign that a person has crossed the line between fancier and fanatic—when it suddenly takes longer to decide which needlework projects to pack than which shoes to pack.

The longer the trip, the more complicated the packing becomes. You find yourself asking questions like:

How close are these current projects to finished? If you’re within an hour or so of completing a piece, you can’t bring it along as your sole project if the trip is going to last more than an hour. You’ll need backup.

Can I work on this while chatting? Vacations often involve proximity to other people who will insist on engaging you in conversation whether you like it or not.

Can I work on this at the beach, on the trail, in an airplane, in a moving car, while seasick, while waiting in line for Space Mountain? Vacations often require that you spend time in settings that are less than optimal for chart reading, or counting, or toting pieces of intarsia that require 22 separate balls of color. You will need projects that travel light.

So you stand there in front of the open suitcases, trying to make decisions.

I really want to finish up the sock, but it’s a second sock and it’s almost finished, and I can never remember how to turn a heel or graft the toe without instructions, so I’ll need to make sure I bring the pattern and my Kitchener stitch cheat sheet. I’ll probably finish the sock by the time we land, so for the beach…let’s see…I’d love to finish the afghan but I’m not going to knit that in the sun by the water…I could get a jump on the Christmas presents. Four pairs of mittens and four matching hats, all in colorwork, so that’s sixteen balls of yarn…and two sets of needles…and stitch markers…and scissors…and tapestry needle…and another tapestry needle for when I lose the first tapestry needle…and stitch holders…and the patterns…which are charted, so I can’t bring those to dinner or on the tour bus…so I suppose I could knock out some plain dishcloths, just to keep my hands busy…so another set of needles…and let’s say four balls of cotton…and lace is always nice in hot weather, what about that shawl that’s been in my Ravelry queue for a year…the yarn is here somewhere…

You go on like this until you find you’ve packed half your stash and there’s no space for underwear.

And you ask yourself, Does a person really need underwear? Really? Is anybody going to check to see if I’m wearing it?

The worst case scenario, of course, is finding that you’ve run through whatever you brought with you and have no way of getting more.

It happened to a friend of mine, who set off for the getaway of a lifetime—a week on a at a friend’s home on a private island off the coast of New England. Upon arrival at the airport, he realized he’d brought the wrong piece of hand luggage. Instead of a bag full of yarn, he had a similar bag full of dirty gym clothes.

After taking a few deep, calming breaths, he decided to approach the situation as an exercise in self-discipline. He would set knitting aside for the week. He would fill the gap with meditation, swimming, sunning, hiking, bird watching, and all the other delights of his temporary island home.

By the morning of the second day in the island house, he had begun to collect the sheddings of the resident shaggy dog.

By that afternoon, he had fashioned a crude spindle with a borrowed CD as the whorl.

By the following day, he was spinning the dog fur into yarn. Which he then began to knit with a pair of sharpened pencils.

If that sounds perfectly reasonable to you…we should go on vacation together.

Having a Ball, Wish You Were Here | Franklin Habit for the Lion Brand Notebook

If you’d like to vacation with Franklin, check out his ‘Nautical Knitting’ Cruise with Melissa Leapman, now booking for December 2013.

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 (, 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

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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  • Mary

    Loved it and so true! Vacation to the cabin/lake in two weeks and already 4 bags ready with crochet/loom projects but no clothes/bedding/kitchen stuff yet! I’m hoping to get some projects done while sitting on the front porch watching nature go by!

  • glenda

    when I go to my sons’ caravan for a week I take my spinning wheel, is that fanatical!!!

  • Karen Monteith

    I can definitely relate to this article.

  • Linda Cannon

    Love this one. I have done some of the same things. Always pack the yarn first and whatever room is left is for everything else.

  • Maggi

    for the first time in many, many years, London became too hot to knit recently (remember, air-conditioning is rare here). I had to pack away the project bags and concentrate on light sewing and making up patterns. My favourite travel project is the Teddy Bear wardrobe. A while ago, I bought 10 bears on sale and now provide 15 or so outfits in a wooden wardrobe (curtained, padded hangers) to small family members and fund-raising events. As well as using up yarn and fabric from my grossly over-stocked cupboards, it’s a good excuse to travel with a furry friend. It’s also a good way to avoid contact on public transport – we are British you know!! People will do anything to avoid sitting next to someone knitting or sewing. Clearly we are Dangerous!!!

  • Jana

    I can so relate to your friend who found themselves without yarn on a vacay. Once I went fishing with my husband and didn’t bring ENOUGH knitting along so I resorted to tatting with fishing braid using lead weights as beads. Sad but true.

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