Lion Brand Notebook

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So Long? Farewell.

February 12th, 2014

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When a non-knitter asks a questions about my knitting, that question is most often, “How long will it take you to finish that?” or the common variation, “How long would it take you to make me a [type of knitted thing]?”

So I explain that a hat may require several evenings, particularly if worked in a complicated technique or a fine yarn. I tell them the average number of stitches in a pair of socks (eight million) or a plain sweater (seven hundred trillion) and that completion of the latter may take months.

The gasps of astonishment are strong enough to suck the stitch markers right out of a raglan.

You will have noticed that we live in a world that idolizes instant gratification. What we want, we want now. (Did you scroll down to read the cartoon first? You did, didn’t you?) Inevitably, the sight of a person voluntarily engaged in sustained concentration draws the sort of fascinated stares formerly reserved for lake monsters.

Not that I make any claims of superiority. During one of the first knitting classes I ever took, the redoubtable Galina Khmeleva held aloft a completed Orenburg lace shawl, roughly six feet square. The yarn was finer than a typical modern lace weight–the sort you often hear called “cobweb”–and the entire thing was absolutely riddled with yarn overs.

“How long–” one of the students (okay, me) said breathlessly.

“Six months,” said Galina.

I said nothing, but my heart whispered, “Nope.”

I was still a fledgling at the time. My heftiest achievement was a scarf that reached eleven feet because I didn’t know how to bind off so I just kept knitting. I have since recalibrated my personal scale to count anything less than three weeks of casual work as quick knit. Still, even now when confronted by six to twelve months of cobweb-weight yarn, I am prone to think twice.

Oddly enough, I’m less inclined to cast on for something large if it’s also something simple. If I’m going to be on the road for a long haul, I need scenery. I need twists and hills and rivers and roadside attractions and flocks of sheep.

This is why complicated lace attracts more than repels me–all that fun along the way, always something new just coming into view. Shetland lace, with all those different patterns in the center, borders, and edging? Yes, please. It may have to wait until I retire, but I want to go to there.

On the other hand, a friend with a bun in the oven told me she’d really like an utterly simple little garter-stitch baby blanket, nothing but lovely lovely garter stitch in a squishy yarn forming a plain square maybe three feet by three feet.

I would rather be eaten by a lake monster.

I did offer to teach her to knit one herself, but she says she just can’t face it. It would take too long.

Epic projects: What’s your threshold? What will you do? What will you not do? What, perhaps I should ask, will you never do again?


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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  • Jennifer

    I agree about needing an interesting pattern if I’m going to make anything remotely large. I currently have a baby blanket that is needed to complete the set that is waiting for it. I’m bored of the pattern after just 4 rows… sigh.

  • Taterq

    I love anything that changes a lot. Hand dyed yarn, lacy patterns, beading, stranding. If it’s small, I don’t mind super simple, but even a sock has to be interesting, or I just won’t finish.

  • Trish

    My Grandmother taught me how to knot when I was about 13. Since the, I’ve taught myself how to knit. I love learning new stitches and will try just about anything, knit or crochet. Right now I am knitting an afghan using double knit entralac. Once I get the gist of what I am doing, it goes rather quickly. Lace is a challenge for me as I have a tendency to get lost, but I do it anyway. Tatting is the one thing I gave up on right from the start. Too many knots that can’t be undone if a mistake is made. And mistakes I do make…

  • Kit

    I love garter stitch, and have knit a ton almost of Garter Stitch Scarves with no increases, decreases, lace, cables, nothing but a pretty yarn that feels nice in my hands. Great for a project I can take anywhere and do in spite of whatever distraction is present, while listening to someone or something, even carry on a conversation without missing a stitch for hours.

    When I have an opportunity to concentrate on my knitting, I do more complicated things. I am working on a drop sleeve sweater right now, a little ribbing and a lot of stockinette stitch. Minimal shaping, but much more than on a scarf. Reasonably quick with two stands of super bulky yarn held together and size 19 needles this time. Would certainly do this again and by the third or fourth time I do this I will certainly to take the knitting with me in distracting environments.

    My biggest problem is finishing something without interupting myself and starting something else.

    With luck I get back to the project I am working on with only a few side projects. Mostly I do finish every thing I start eventually, even if I have to do a few other things in the mean time. Usually at about the same stitch tension. But I frequently have about two dozen projects that I am working on. This is of course absurd, but I don’t always have the attention span to do one thing at a time.

  • Christina

    I made a Dummy Clap shawl for a friend last year…70 inches of stockinette. I was paralyzed with fear when it came time to drop stitches and unravel…all that boring work mutating before my eyes. It looked beautiful, however, when I finished so I’m happy I stuck with it. Those hour long train rides to work we’re the only way I could get through it all though.

  • becky

    I loved reading this piece and the cartoon is deliciously delightful! Thank you for making my day!

  • margo

    well that is why I have several crochet projects going at the same time. Just made a scarf in a fab yarn that was confusing at first but it was so long I am now bored and can’t wait to finish. worked forever on an afghan of 30 9 x 9 ” squares of 4 different colors and then assembled and then two rows of edging, NEVER again. I like afghans that are continuous and then finished …period. and then the kicker was the person I gave it to didn’t seem all that impressed! I also do cross stitch and theorem and when I am bored with one, I switch to the other.

  • Madeleine Poe

    Never again? A pattern that I have to start over more than 3 or 4 times. The frustration factor squeezes the joy out of creating. In the future? A few years ago, I bought a simply gorgeous, but outrageously expensive, coffee table book about Orenberg lace with history, how-to’s, and patterns. The book itself is a work of art – you know, the kind of book where you carefully photocopy the pattern to keep from messing up the book pages. No notes or, heaven forbid!, hi-liter in this one. I keep telling myself, one of these days… Currently, for our oldest granddaughter, a lovely knit wedding shawl, yes, it is lace, but doable, is on circular needles; a crocheted lace dress for another granddaughter’s American Girl doll lacks only one sleeve and then blocking; and a breast cancer survivor knit afghan, in the form of a kit, is on another circular. I really, really don’t like working from kits, but considering a friend has requested it after her ordeal, I could hardly say no. There’s also a partially completed, or should I say, partially started, hand-knotted rag rug for the third (of four) granddaughter. Has absolutely nothing to do with knit or crochet and I’m wondering if I’ll ever even finish the beast, but…i love a little variety. (c;

  • grannybones

    when an aran sweater got boring, I did the sleeves in a different pattern!

  • Beverly

    Simple is not boring! Because of a massive blood infection I am presently in a rehab facility teaching my leg nerves to function again.. After crafting a BUNCH of hats for the elderly who had none (and no-one to get them one) I was approached by one gentleman and asked if there was time to make a bi-color scarf before Christmas…a nice thick warm one for his 92 Yr.old mom who was being brought to visit him. I agreed, made a double thick scarf in red & black, with fringe, and delivered it in a fancy bag while he was waiting for her to arrive. The look on both of their faces as she opened the bag in the rec room insured that never again will I look down on the simple things.

  • Anne

    That’s probably why I have so many UFO’s. I get a bit bored if its the same thing over and over, or awkward stitches, you know the kinds that don’t exacty flow. Unless I really love the texture of the yarn. then again sometimes a certain yarn texture will look fabulous in a simple repeated pattern, UGH but I get impatient,. so I hop from one project to the next like a realllly slow merry- go round. Its Yarnsanity!

  • BeeBalm

    One summer I taught a friend to knit. She proceeded to make Christmas gifts for everyone she knew. As Christmas neared, she told me that she did not have time to make the sweater she had picked out for her mother…a simple cardigan, one color, alternating stripes of garter and stockinet stitch. Would I please make it for her. I agreed, but her mother got the sweater for Valentine’s day! Good thing she lived in Idaho and it was still cold.

  • Megan Anderson

    I love socks for relaxing, but last year I made a cabled pair of socks, Aran style. Never again. That much concentration, not to mention fixing dropped stitches on size 00 needles at least one too many times, was not relaxing. Then when they were done they’re too lumpy to be comfortable. Blue ribbon at the fair though.

  • grimalkin

    inspired by the small, crocheted version in the lion brand catalog, I decided to make a queen-sized (90″x90″) captain america blanket. out of jiffy. I started in october thinking I’d have it done for christmas. I have yet to achieve the halfway point. this blanket is going to be my white whale! I’ve been knitting for 12 years (since I was baking my own first-born bun) and I’ve done a queen-size blanket before, but this one is killing me. I charted the thing up and its 315 stitches by 420 rows… but it’s also become the project that glares at me while I whip up some scarves, mittens, and a hat, just to maintain my sanity. maybe by next christmas?

  • Sara Hoye

    I love small, portable projects like mittens, socks, and dishcloths. Socks are my favorite, but they take me a long time. I usually have at least two projects going at a time so if I get bored with one I can pick up the other. I hate, hate, hate yarn overs. I’m always screwing up the count and having to start over. Maybe some day I’ll make that beautiful lace shawl, but I doubt it.

  • Emily

    The title made me think you were quitting and my heat stopped for a moment. Thank goodness it’s not anything like that.

  • Karen Melsen

    I will not do granny square blankets where the square is smaller than 4 inches. I absolutely hate joining and the sheer repetition of all those tiny squares. I will make all the hats you want because you can customize each one or make each one just a little bit different.

  • Penny

    When I saw the title of this piece I thought Franklin had died or something…

  • Dorothy Fitzgerald

    I once knitted a pink sweater in fisherman’s rib, and although I prefer to knit any stitches other than stocking stitch I do not want to ever again knit fisherman’s rib. I was extremely glad to finish it, it was a positive bore in the end.

  • DeeDee

    I will never again attempt to knit an infinity scarf in the round. I tried four times to get 320 stitches to not twist when I joined, but eight to ten rounds later it would become clear that they twisted. I estimate I ripped out at least 10,000 stitches before I selected another pattern worked the short way.

  • Orion

    Personally I enjoy simple projects. I have tried more complicated ones but they are a little stressful. I enjoy making wristlets. Sometimes a simple project is good because you can sit and watch tv without having to look at what you are doing

  • dstiebel

    What won’t I do again? Two chevron throws for couches in sport weight yarns. It took forever. I still have trouble doing chevrons even though they aren’t really that hard, just monotonous. I am jealous of all your sock lovers. I really really really want to learn how to do them but just can’t conquer four needles. Even my knitter friend who is a master knitter gives up on me. I did go to a local yarn store and someone tried to teach me. I had one regular size normal sock and the other one was fit for Paul Bunyan. I really, really, really want to learn how to make socks but please, someone, HELP

  • Cynthia

    Great essay! I learned a lot throughout. I get a kick reading other peoples thoughts about knitting. It so soothing to me like reading a favorite novel, etc. For some reason I am now ravenous at knitting, when I would never knit before when my mom taught me as a child. Thought it too slow I would only crochet. Now I do both. However, I do not feel experienced enough to knit a sweater. I have the fear of it not fitting properly when finished or as what often happens to me I lose the novelty of the learned stitches and stop. So, it ends up unfinished.

  • Kristen

    I like stitch patterns that have a few rows that repeat, something that creates good “scenery” but eventually I can learn and not have to check the pattern each time I start a row. I also like to switch to projects with simpler stitches – it’s a mood thing. It can be good “detox” for me to take a break from something more complicated to work on a simple st stitch item.

    Going back to the interesting pattern thing, though, my “never again” is a scarf I’m working on now that has a 23 or so row lace pattern. I’m not even halfway through, but NEVER AGAIN. Can’t seem to abandon it, though…

  • mollykitti

    I guess I’m weird. I like simple repetitive patterns and I don’t mind big projects like afghans. I like to knit while doing other things, and the idea of stopping to count stitches every 5 minutes sounds off puting. What I would never do again: anything on a deadline small or large. I have a bad habit of commiting to small Christmas projects like hats for friends and relatives. Every year I tell myself “oh, it’s just a simple hat and it is only October. I’ll have this done in no time!” Somehow, it always turns into me getting exactly zero hours of sleep the entire week before Christmas as I stay up each night trying to finish that one “simple” hat. From now on, only cable-guy style commitments: “sure, I’ll have that scarf done for you. Expect it sometime between 9pm and the 12th of next fall…”

  • =Tamar

    Anything that requires joining squares by picking up stitches. Never finished it, never will.

    • demelzabunny

      What do you mean “joining squares by picking up stitches?”

  • demelzabunny

    I need help: I’ve started a knitted pullover vest for my husband in a fingerweight fuzzy yarn at least 6 times! The first time was with a simple cabling pattern; the only way I could have been successful was if I were closeted in a sound-proof booth for months, counting and writing everything down; and if I forgot…oy! I finally decided to make it according to another pattern w/out the cables (they were sort of getting lost in the fuzz anyway), and I’m using sized 1 circular needles, but the gauge is still coming out too big for the pattern. If I make it according to the small size, do you think it’ll come out as a large? And what do I do if I lost count of the rows it takes to get to the armholes (decreases), which is what I’ve done, and it’s almost impossible to count the rows in this fuzzy yarn?! I would gladly just rip it out and make something else out of it, but what? And I don’t want it to be too taxing…I like nice effects, like cabling and lace, but if I drop a stitch or miscount something, I’m not accomplished enough to fix it w/out just ripping everything out. Thanks, everyone!

  • Selma

    Nev. Er. A. Gain: Anything with 482 (possibly more) ends to weave in, along with, or, joining small sections of different colors together, corners matching.

  • Tine Ditmar Unnerup

    For my kids – anything they ask. Otherwise? Only if I really want to knit the wanted item.

  • penny50

    I knit one pair of socks and never again. I thought I would lose my mind with size 1 needles and sock yarn. I would rather spend the time knitting a sweater or other garments. I love cables and would like to try colorworks.
    I will knit hats, scarves, slippers and baby blankets for gifts. I would like to try lace knitting. It is the same tiny yarn and needles but it is more open, and hopefully it won’t drive me nuts like the socks did.