Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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August 6th, 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.

I was a good student, but it would be fibbing of the most bald-faced and lamentable variety to tell you I enjoyed school. I hated school, in part because I invariably showed up on the first day wearing the wrong sort of sneakers, and was therefore declared by the girls on the playground to be covered in cooties.

I wasn’t much happier in the classroom. Each new year we were driven into a slightly more impenetrable thicket of the same dreary subjects by teachers who grew annually more gaunt and listless. Even the classes I enjoyed ultimately felt disconnected, irrelevant. I’d master the list of state capitals, or after days of tears successfully divide 283 by 14–only to think, “So what?”

“You’ll need this some day,” the teachers insisted, but that’s insufficient justification for a little kid. It’s tough to take the long view of things when you’re seven years old. It’s tough to see the horizon when you’re four feet tall.

Now I’m considerably older (though not much taller) and I’m wondering why the heck they didn’t just teach us to knit and crochet. If you can get a kid excited about a ball of yarn, you can get her excited about the entire curriculum that’s directly connected to that ball of yarn.

Check it out.

Spelling. W-O-O-L. C-O-T-T-O-N. M-O-H-A-I-R. A-C-R-Y-L-I-C. C-A-S-H-M-E-R-E.

Punctuation. Wool, cotton, mohair. Acrylic? Cashmere!

Grammar. I have been knitting. I am knitting. I shall be knitting. Stop bothering me, I’m knitting.

Geometry. Which shawl shape is most flattering: the triangle, the circle, or the rectangle?

Arithmetic. Georgie has six skeins of yarn. One pair of mittens requires one-and-a-half skeins. How many mittens can Georgie knit before he has to buy more yarn?

Psychology. How many mittens will Georgie knit before he decides to buy more yarn anyway?

Geography. This wool/cotton blend was spun in Turkey using wool from Australian sheep and cotton grown in India. Circle Turkey, Australia, and India on the map.

Botany. Where does cotton come from?

Biology. Where do sheep come from?

Chemistry. Where does acrylic come from?

Economics. Why does it take three countries to make one ball of yarn?

History. Who brought the spinning mill to America? Why is his face not on our money?

Physical Education. First one to climb to the top of the rope gets the ball of cashmere!

A-B-C-K-2-P-2 | Franklin Habit for the Lion Brand Notebook

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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  • Beverly Donovan

    I AM teaching knitting this year! It’s one of our Fine Arts electives. I’ll do that along with my core classes of Math and Geography. I love the cartoon….it’s awesome. I want to blow it up and hang it prominently in my classroom.

  • LindY G Sherrod

    Bravo! couldn’t have said it better myself. Back to basics….yarn

  • Gamma22

    Franklin, you ROCK!

  • gundel basart

    I learned to knit in 2nd grade at age 7. Was educated in Germany and was required to take all kinds of needle arts until I was 14. Hasn’t failed me yet, I am still knitting, crocheting, cross stitching, garment and household sewing, embroidering, quilting, and now teaching quilting classes. It keeps my mind and hands busy and I don’t think I’ll ever need “therapy”. This IS my therapy for life’s large and small ailments and problems.

  • lynnedianne

    When I was at school in England, back in the dark ages, we had craft time classes where we could make something. I knitted a pink dolls dress in fan and feather stitch. I had metal needles and the yarn went grey from the needles. While knitting this item I taught myself to knit ‘properly’ without taking my right hand from the needle to wind the yarn around. This was about 55 years ago so it shows how important this was to me as I remember so much about it. I can’t remember any other classes or teachers. I still get the thrill when picking up the needles to knit.

  • Karen Blackburn

    Franklin, you are a genius! I have the same urgent need to create by sewing. Thanks for making me smile today.

  • Becky

    I am a retired teacher. I taught my fifth grade students to knit and they loved it. With the advent of No Child Left Behind, I was unable to continue this valuable skill in my classroom. I did, however, have children visit me during recess to learn how to knit.

  • Nancy

    Waldorf Schools incorporate knitting in their curriculum, including making the needles.

  • Marsha Balbuena

    Now I am cool with how I need to learn. A ball of yarn teaches all!

  • Yarndork

    When son #3 did show and tell in Kindergarten, he was assigned the letter “Y”. I have never been so excited. He took in 4 balls of yarn (cotton, mohair, angora, and wool), and 4 pictures we printed off the internet – a cotton plant, a goat, a bunny, and a sheep. Then he let all the kids pet the yarn and discuss which yarn matched which picture. Fun was had by all!

  • AnneLouise

    Don’t forget percentages! “If the cashmere is on sale at 20% off….”
    Love it!!!!

  • Melken

    See your local homeschoolers; they’ve been doing this for years and loving it :)

  • Jackie Budde

    Wonderful! Made me laugh. So so true :)

  • Elaine

    When my sister had her left leg amputated many years ago, we found that when we crocheted, the phantom pains were eliminated for the time we crocheted. She was right handed, so for one who has the right leg amputated, activities should be done with the left hand.

  • Allison

    This is great, but I have one qualm:

    Grammar. I have been knitting. I am knitting. I shall be knitting. Stop bothering me[SEMICOLON – not a comma] I’m knitting.


  • wineplz

    “Why is his face not on our money?” That! thanks for the laugh. 😀

  • Cindy Bowen

    I love it!

  • mzklever

    LOVE IT!!

  • Raylene

    Not to mention, counting…stitches, rows, how to subtract, how to multiply stitches , how to dived stitches by rows, you even learn metric…in needle sizes. You learn home economics because you knit/crochet. And, commerce by selling your items, charity by giving your items to needy and pride when you earn ribbons at county/state fairs.

  • Raylene

    Forgot art what is more creative tthat a project of your own.

  • Erin Smith

    LOVE IT!

  • Pat Laster

    As a teacher, I’m right there with you Franklin!

  • mm

    LOVE IT!!!!

  • Cyndy Vachon

    I couldn’t help but smile while reading, because my kids attended a Waldorf School – where every student IS taught to knit and crochet! And sew, and do woodworking, and all lovely forms of handwork. 😉

  • Lucy

    Made me nod while I read this!

  • patricia

    There are many studies that revealed that learning is based on neurons that are connected based on hand eye coordination. That is why many waldorf type schools do teach needle crafts to children starting in1st grade. You might be on to something here….teach them to knit.

  • Kelly

    I love this!! I can certainly relate!

  • Juanita Ludke

    In the Detroit Public Schools (of old) we had a teacher that taught interested students to knit in an after school program. I learned when I was in fifth grade – and I taught my mother and her left handed friend to knit after I learned. When I was in high school, my aunt taught me to crochet. Now I wonder – to knit or crochet – that is the question.

  • D Weber Jones

    Wonderful, if only!

  • DBImpressions

    Quite possibly the only time that I’d have been inspired to be first in phys ed. Fantastic!! Loved the grammar lesson, as well! :)