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Let’s Be Brutally Honest About Pattern Difficulty Levels by Franklin Habit

October 6th, 2015

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franklin_400x400Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

While the emergence of the global online needlework community has undoubtedly been a boon in many ways, for the designer of patterns it is a mixed bag. The sort of mixed bag in which candy corn and miniature chocolate bars mingle with rusty scissors and angry cats. Reach in at your peril.

Answering questions about one’s patterns can be a frightful drain on one’s time, particularly the eternal and ceaseless query, “How difficult is this pattern? Is this pattern too difficult for the likes of me?”.

Publishers have tried to head off this question in the past with various arrays of stars and adjectives, with little success. Why? They leave too much unspoken. How spacious, exactly, is the distance between two stars and four stars? “Easy” for whom?

I shall attempt to pour calming oil upon these bouncy waters with the following verbose and infallible explanation of the most commonly encountered grading system. Where it enters, confusion vanishes. I have no doubt that universal adoption will be swiftly forthcoming.

When, in consequence, my monument is built in the village square, let it be known that I am more partial to bronze than marble. The latter is too easily damaged by pigeons.

Thank you.



Utterly mindless. Requires no skills of any kind. In fact, it finished itself before you reached the end of this sentence.




Requires rudimentary skills and at most a minimal attention span. It will take less effort to complete this project than it will to post a shot of it on Instagram.




A challenge of modest proportions. It will take a couple of hours to knock out, yes; but you can watch an “Outlander” marathon while you do it.




Difficult enough that the naughty bits of “Outlander” will probably prove too distracting. Consider instead a few episodes of “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Brady Bunch,” or equivalent selections from the oeuvre of Sherwood Schwartz.




Turn off the television. Are you listening to me? I said turn it off. No, you may not wait until you find out if they get off the island. They never get off the island. Well, not until the sequels. Stop arguing with me. Are you going to buckle down and focus, or not? Do I need to send you to your room?



If you have coffee, drink it now.




No television. Much coffee. And send the rest of the household to the movies. Failing that, lock yourself in the attic. Better still, lock the rest of the household in the attic.




Are you ambidextrous? Double-jointed? With a keen sense of balance?








I strongly urge you to reconsider what you are about to do.




Expectant mothers should not ride.




I’m not absolutely certain our insurance covers this.



You’re going to need these.






With smaller needles, cast on x=[2/SEC(¶/3)•[lim x→0 x^3+8x+10]^2]/[lim θ→0 sinθ/θ] stitches. Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist.




I wash my hands of you.

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 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

These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.

Party Trick by Franklin Habit

September 1st, 2015

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franklin_400x400Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

I have learned from experience that the best way to respond when a stranger at a party asks me, “So, what do you do for a living?” is to start a small fire, then run away while everyone is distracted.

I teach knitting for a living. Most folks are not prepared to hear that an ostensibly grown man spends his days teaching knitting.  It smacks of frivolity. There is always an awkward pause, lasting anywhere from five seconds to an hour, during which we stand blinking until the follow-up question.


It all, as Hannibal said from the top of the Alps, goes downhill from here.

Occasionally one of the guests turns hyperenthusiastic and begins spreading word of my vocation through the room. “Listen to this, Maude,” he says. “Listen, this guy–you’ll never believe it–this guy teaches people to knit. To knit!”

“What?” says Maude.

“To knit!”

“What?” says Maude.

He then, without setting down his gin and tonic, mimes “knitting” by wiggling his fists in proximity. It looks less like knitting than snapping the neck of a prairie dog, but never mind. Maude has caught on.

“Isn’t that something!” says Maude. “Hester, listen to this!”


All in the Same Boat by Franklin Habit

August 4th, 2015

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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.

If my words look slightly lopsided today, it’s because my desk is gently pitching and rolling…side to side…up and down. So is the floor. And the rest of the room. No, I have not been in the pantry nipping at the vanilla extract again. I’m on a ship.

About a yard past my right elbow and down eleven decks are the chilly blue waters of the North Pacific. We are en route to Alaska. I came aboard in Seattle with two suitcases (one for clothes, one for yarn) and fifty knitters.

We, the knitters, constitute a Cruise Within a Cruise, vastly outnumbered by the 2,800 passengers who are not knitting.  As such, we are a curiosity. We knit fore and aft, port and starboard, day and night. We knit by the pool and we knit in the lounges. The library–well lit, central, and full of excellent chairs–has through steady and regular occupation become our special domain.

This is not, I am happy to say, my first experience of group travel with fellow yarn fanciers. It is the first, though, to give me sufficient leisure hours to reflect on the particular joys of moving about in a great knitterly herd. I’m surprised to find I like it so much–being at heart a lone wolf.*


Let Go by Franklin Habit

July 7th, 2015

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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 spend about half my time these days away from home, standing in front of classrooms full of knitters, teaching them how to do things. That’s my job. I have an awesome job.

I teach these knitters to do all kinds of stuff: how to knit lace, how knit with color, how to put colors together, how to cut knitting, how to sew knitting. And that’s just the top of the list. If you want to make a living in this business, it pays to have many strings to your bow.

No matter what I’m teaching, one sort of question always comes up.

“What if I…?”

For the ellipsis, read any of the following:

…do the opposite of what you are telling me to do?

…try doing the same thing in a way I just thought up?

…try doing something that is not at all this thing we are talking about, but is some other thing I think might be kind of cool?

Or variations thereupon.

I grin, because one über lesson underlies all my lessons:

Play around. Whatever you’re doing, play around.


Bait and Stitch by Franklin Habit

June 5th, 2015

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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 don’t know about you, but if the person who invented the “click bait” headline suffered severe contusions after being buried alive in an avalanche of refurbished laptop computers I would not weep heavily into my handkerchief.

Unless you’re reading a transcription of this online article from a parchment scroll, you know what click bait is. You’re fooling around on the Internet when something like this catches your eye:

“She Ordered a Half-Caff Double Latte with Extra Foam. What She Got Instead Will Shock You.”

Being only human, you immediately cease writing a wry comment on the photograph of your sister-in-law’s new pet ocelot (a rescue, so cute) and click the link. Being only human, you brace yourself for the advertised shock.

Being only human, you are annoyed to find that What She Got Instead was not (as you had rather hoped) a cardboard cup containing a human nose; but a Half-Caff Double Latte without the Extra Foam. You have wasted two minutes of your life, you are not shocked, and in the meantime your own daughter has already written the clever thing you were going write on the picture of the ocelot.



This was bad enough when it was new; now it has become pervasive. The time lost is the worst of it. We are all too busy, in a gadabout age, without running after shocks that do not shock and amazement that fails to amaze.

And those of us who have things to knit, to crochet, to weave–can we stand to lose precious moments this way? We cannot. Life is short. Yarn is long.

Therefore, as a service to the public, I have undertaken to collect the latest crop of click bait and present you with a concise summary of the bait beyond the click. If you wish to investigate further, at least you will know what you’re getting into.