Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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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.

“What?”

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!”

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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.*

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Brief Guide to Lesser-Known Yarn Superstitions by Franklin Habit

May 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.

There is no question that persons who make things with yarn are a superstitious lot.  This is scarcely to be wondered at–so much can go awry on the journey from winding up to casting off. Skill and vigilance are well and good as safeguards against disaster; yet much depends on luck. You cannot make luck as you can, with luck, make a mitten. And so knitting, crochet, and all their sister arts are shot through with charms and spells intended to pick up stitches before they drop.

You are likely familiar with the folk custom that one does not knit a sweater for a lover to whom one is not firmly and finally wed. So old and pervasive is this belief that it has passed into common knowledge. Few among us will have left grammar school without learning the ancient playground chant:

Mary knit a cardigan

And handed it to Gene.

He stuffed it in his bottom drawer

And ran off with Maureen.

The origins of the famous “sweater curse” are obscure, but perhaps arose from the hard-won knowledge that it is best to present him with an expensive, labor-intensive gift he doesn’t want and won’t use only after both of you are too exhausted by the demands of child-rearing to care about anything else.

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