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Play Me

May 15th, 2014

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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 has been my pleasure and privilege over the past several years to be interviewed by a few knitting magazines in America and abroad. The experience is always a little jarring, as for the first three-quarters of my life even those who knew me well were less than interested in my life and opinions. In some ways, it’s easier. When nobody cares to ask you about your creative process, you don’t have to worry about admitting that it mostly involves watching funny dog videos on YouTube and taking naps.

But interviewers, even the clever ones, always ask at least a few common questions that quickly become familiar and are easily answered. What’s it like to be a man who knits?* Who taught you knit? What’s your ideal yarn? What’s on your needles right now? You learn quickly that you’d better ready for those.

Once in a while, though, even a softball question will throw you a curve. For me, that question was, “What music do you listen to while you work?”

My answer was that if the work requires concentration–designing a lace motif, say, as opposed to knitting merrily along a sample–I work in silence. No music, no television, no funny dog videos. Silence.

The writer wasn’t terribly pleased with that response. It upset her data. She told me that every other designer she’d spoken to had obligingly offered the name of a recording artist, or at least a musical genre. Would I please do likewise? Or would I prefer she picked something for me?

So I told her to say I was physically unable to knit a single stitch in the morning until I had listened to the whole of Erich Korngold’s opera Die Tote Stadt while sitting in a bubble bath. She cut me out of the article.

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The question stuck with me. I like silence while I’m writing or designing, but sometimes I do listen to music while I knit, sure. Not one sort, though. How could I pick? Knitting is supposed to be a lot of things–meditation, mental exercise, the new yoga–but those all suggest calm and I am most certainly not always calm while I’m knitting.

If I were going to make a mix tape (for the youngsters, that’s like a playlist, but you have to start it by turning a crank) to accompany a new knitter through the rigmarole that attends a typical project, this is what I’d put on it.

Casting On
Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On”

Making Progress
Steppenwolf, “Born to Be Wild”
The Beach Boys, “Good Vibrations”
Nina Simone, “I Put a Spell On You”

Ripping Back
The Beatles, “Help!”
Lena Horne, “Stormy Weather”

Ripping Back Again
The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
Britney Spears, “Toxic”
Prince, “When Doves Cry”

Languishing in the Doldrums
Righteous Brothers, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”
Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”
Judy Collins, “Send in the Clowns”

Back on Track
Simon and Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”
Katy Perry, “Roar”
Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive”

Finished!
Martha and the Vandellas, “Dancing in the Street”
Harry Connick, Jr., “The Way You Look Tonight”
Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You”

Next Project?
U2, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

*Please stop asking this one. Please. It’s silly. What’s it like to be a woman who has a job and a driver’s license?

—–
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 Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist 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.

  • Helen Welsh

    Brilliant as ever Franklin! I am right there with you – there is no way I could attempt some patterns/stitches with any distraction & no way I could ever narrow my musical choices down to just one genre when merrily working on others. I think you have just proscribed my new mix tape though ;-) that interviewer doesn’t sound like a crafter of any kind if she didn’t get that & certainly didn’t deserve to have your words grace her pages!
    Helen

  • Pat Cooper

    I like to crochet in silence and I do not have a favorite to listen to (although LAGQ ranks pretty high) – and where did she ever get the idea that everyone has to fit into her idea of answers? why bother to interview people?

  • yvonne

    This made me laugh and laugh. Thank you, Franklin.

  • http://craftingyoohooville.blogspot.com Connie

    I love it! Great column Franklin. For those of us whippersnappers on Spotify, here’s your mixtape: http://open.spotify.com/user/1211463195/playlist/4HLIr2jZhKSHp0uZX3hUa2. Enjoy!

  • haha im second and u not

    We’re no strangers to love
    You know the rules and so do I
    A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of
    You wouldn’t get this from any other guy

    I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling
    Gotta make you understand

    Never gonna give you up
    Never gonna let you down
    Never gonna run around and desert you
    Never gonna make you cry
    Never gonna say goodbye
    Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

    We’ve known each other for so long
    Your heart’s been aching, but
    You’re too shy to say it
    Inside, we both know what’s been going on
    We know the game and we’re gonna play it

    And if you ask me how I’m feeling
    Don’t tell me you’re too blind to see

    Never gonna give you up
    Never gonna let you down
    Never gonna run around and desert you
    Never gonna make you cry
    Never gonna say goodbye
    Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

    Never gonna give you up
    Never gonna let you down
    Never gonna run around and desert you
    Never gonna make you cry
    Never gonna say goodbye
    Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

    (Ooh, give you up)
    (Ooh, give you up)
    Never gonna give, never gonna give
    (Give you up)
    Never gonna give, never gonna give
    (Give you up)

    We’ve known each other for so long
    Your heart’s been aching, but
    You’re too shy to say it
    Inside, we both know what’s been going on
    We know the game and we’re gonna play it

    I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling
    Gotta make you understand

    Never gonna give you up
    Never gonna let you down
    Never gonna run around and desert you
    Never gonna make you cry
    Never gonna say goodbye
    Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

    Never gonna give you up
    Never gonna let you down
    Never gonna run around and desert you
    Never gonna make you cry
    Never gonna say goodbye
    Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

    Never gonna give you up
    Never gonna let you down
    Never gonna run around and desert you
    Never gonna make you cry
    Never gonna say goodbye
    Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

    • Cora Shaw

      Love that song! Now it’s playing in my head, along with the Beatles…lol.

    • Juels

      Ummm we all just got RickRolled lol

  • CatherineMcClarey

    A good audiobook — familiar enough so I don’t get distracted, interesting enough so I don’t fall asleep — makes ideal “sound to crochet by.” The BBC audio dramatizations of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (both of which I own on CD — haven’t quite mastered the whole MP3 player thing yet) are perfect examples of this.

  • Ilnara Hesken

    I think I’d add S&G’s “The Boxer” to that list. If your response upset her data then she needed to realize that her data might not be right. Sounds like she was just trying to justify her theory without looking at the truth. It’s better that your name isn’t associated with hers in any way. Personally, I turn on the radio when I’m crafting. I don’t always listen to it but I prefer some background noise to silence.

  • Swapna

    I like to listen to Radio 4 Extra (News Quiz or The Now Show, or any of the reruns of Wimsey, Agatha Christie, Poirot and such like). When I’m working I prefer silence, but for crochet, knitting or weaving those will do. Or streaming Mohd Rafi. Sometimes I get reckless and watch episodes of Inspector Morse or Poirot, but not as much gets done when I have to watch rather than listen.

  • Denise

    I was laughing so hard I had to back up and read it to my husband! Thanks, Franklin! And, yes, concentration requires silence in my house, too!

  • BillJ

    I miss Dolores and Harry.

  • anima57

    as the mother of a whippesnapper, i recommend going to soundcloud.com and listening to DJ Dezie and Las Vegas Nights or her Easter set. they are snappy and just the ticket to get your needles or hook blazing through some of those endless, mindless lengths we all do now and then! also great for blazing through the housework! BTW, Dezie is my daughter, mother of two, and a busy DJ here in Las Vegas. She does crochet in her “spare time.”

    • Noel Campbell Hinton

      Your daughter has spare time? I’m a mother of five and I really have to hunt for spare time! Glad to know she makes time for her craft, as do you! I regularly keep yarn and hooks with me so I can keep my hands busy. BTW, I’m going to look her up and hopefully get to listen!

  • annie

    Great column again! I echo comments made already, and I love the question, “What’s it like to be a woman who has a job and a driver’s license?” Honestly, how do they get an assignment interviewing anyone?

  • annie

    Great column again! I echo comments made already, and I love the question, “What’s it like to be a woman who has a job and a driver’s license?” Honestly, how do they get an assignment interviewing anyone?

  • Trick

    I love how you think,especially in your choice of music!

  • Beth

    Love this!! I personally enjoy silence while I’m working on a project, especially if it has any detailed stitches or I am creating without a pattern! I’m not a beginner but still need to concentrate when a pattern is not just a mindless repeat. Many things can distract you and throw off your stitch count, which would be devastating in lace or other detailed patterns that consist of many rows. The interviewer was presumptuous and rude to imply that you would not work in silence and needed her help is falsifying what you ‘listen’ to while stitching!! As for the question about being a ‘man that knits’, the better question might be: “What kind of reactions to do you get when someone sees or learns that you knit?” Because men (in this century) are not as often ‘known’ to knit or crochet, it comes as a surprise to many, but then the curiosity usually sets in… creating a running conversation and learning/teaching process. I have had many a man (young and old) ask what I was doing and then ask if they could do it too and would I show them how. I actually taught a young man (in his 20s or early 30s), at his request, to knit on my lunch hours. The young ladies he knew teased him about it, but he just ignored them and continued with his lessons. So, I know that there is much male interest in stitching, it is just not cultivated!

  • Tara

    For one of the finished songs I would have picked “Let’s Party Like It’s 1999″

  • Pianogirl

    I’m a musician but hardly ever listen to music at home. I have to move when music is playing, and knitting is hard to do when I’m moving to the beat, even when I’m sitting down. Knitting is a pleasure all it’s own and we need to enjoy it! Love your articles.

  • kate

    Being deaf I always crochet or knit without music. I like to have the TV on and can make some real bad mistakes while trying to do one of these crafts while trying to read the captions!!! So if a pattern is complicated. no TV!!!!!!

  • Karen

    I have a number of those solar flowers, elephants, monkeys, pigs in my window and find I keep up a steady rhythm with them tick, tick, ticking in the background. It’s like working in Gepetto’s clock shop.

  • Vicki Brooker

    “is like a playlist except you have to start it with a crank” !!! i spit seltzer on my keyboard when i read that.

  • SuzyQ

    If I’m working on something complicated, like a lace pattern, I also like stone silence. If it’s routine knitting, or a predictable pattern, I watch TV. I’m still amazed at how few mistakes I make while watching Masterpiece Theatre or reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond”!

  • Laura Rose

    Why do so many people feel the need to fill every moment with extra sound? Music is awesome, but so are the moments where you focus on just the one thing you are doing. Anyhow, that is a pretty shoddy move to suggest Purposely putting something into an interview that the person didn’t say. I know inaccuracies in interviews do happen when lines get crossed or inaccurate assumptions are made, but I wouldn’t want to be reading that woman’s work if I knew she suggested such things.

  • Kit

    Franklin – From a woman who has been asked many times, “What is it like to be a woman who . . . ?” with endings like “is good in math”, studies engineering, shoots (pistols, rifles, shotguns, beebee guns, a bow and arrow, a crossbow), fights fires, works in offshore oil, and probably several other things that I am forgetting at the moment, I can understand your frustration at the question. My answer has sometimes been that I only know three things that a woman can do that a man can’t and two things that a man can do that a woman can’t. And this is not one of those things. That usually satisfies people, and may keep them from asking the same question to someone else. Of course there have been times and places where men did more weaving, knitting, or crochet than women, just not here and now, too. Yes this is an overly serious answer to a very amusing essay. I have not yet come up with a clearly humerous comeback that can be said in polite company, but I am working on it.

    Meanwhile, I knit in public A LOT, so I can knit while listening to and / or watching just about anything, or while holding an conversation, or even in the dark, without lighted needles. It does lead to occasional errors, more than I make in a quiet environment, but it gives me a lot more opportunities to knit. And after doing this for a while, I actually make surprisingly few errors even while doing simple lace or cables. I cannot do lace nearly as complicated as you do even in silence with no distractions, and when I finally do learn to do extremely complicated stuff I may need silence as well. But I will also always make time to do some knitting that I can do standing in line, or traveling on a car, bus, train, or plane, at least as long as I can hold a pair of needles and some yarn.

  • Kit

    When I was finished with a major project, if I wanted music, I would probably go with “We are the champions . . .”

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