Writer/illustrator/knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column on the life of a yarn crafter.
I was at a yarn shop a few weeks ago, troubleshooting a thumb gusset in the company of those who understand the importance of good thumb gussets, when the topic of steeks came up.
A steek, in case you haven’t run across the term before, is an opening cut into a piece of hand-knit fabric. There are many ways to create one, but they all end by taking scissors to your knitting. Snip! It gives some knitters the shakes to even contemplate this. It shouldn’t, but it does.
That’s not what I want to write about today.
I mentioned to the group that I’ve launched a class in which the students cut steeks, then sew zippers into the openings. Zipper installation is another thing that gives some knitters the shakes. It shouldn’t, but it does.
That’s also not what I want to write about today.
“I’d take that class,” said one of the junior knitters at the table. There was a murmur of agreement from the other junior knitters. The most junior shook her head. “I’d like to,” she said. “But I’m not good with a sewing machine.”
“You don’t need a sewing machine,” I said. “In my class we use crochet to secure the edges.”
“Forget it,” said the least junior knitter. “I don’t crochet.”
“It’s only basic crochet,” I said. “Even if you haven’t done it before, you can pick this up in sixty seconds.”
“No,” she said, under a slightly curled lip. “I don’t touch crochet hooks. Ever.”
Several of the others–junior and senior–echoed her. No hooks. No hooks ever. Well, maybe to pick up dropped stitches. Never to crochet.
“I don’t crochet,” she said. “I’m a knitter!”
That’s what I want to write about today.
Writer/illustrator/knitter Franklin Habit welcomes spring with a humorous take on two of his favorite hobbies in this month’s column.
A month since I last wrote, and a world of difference outside. The change has only come in the past day or so, and it’s precarious change, but it looks as though we may yet have our spring here in Chicago. This morning, in one of the flowerbeds under my charge, I saw this.
That’s my first sight in six months of one common orange daylily (Hemerocallis).
My reaction to it was the reaction of the hero in one of those awful wartime romance movies where he thinks that his fiancée bit the dust when the bombs hit the old mill and afterwards he pulled from the rubble the bracelet she always wore that said My Heart Is Forever Yours but it turned out that no she flew clear into the next county and landed on a haystack and was physically fine but lost her memory and so spent the rest of the war working as a milkmaid and thinking her name is Phyllis when really it’s Midge but just as he’s returning home and wondering whether his heart will go on she gets smacked upside the head with a milk pail and her memory comes back and she screams MIDGE! MY NAME IS MIDGE! and runs all the way home across the county line and he sees her coming and drops to his knees in rapture while crying a single, noble tear that stops precisely halfway down his cheek.
Franklin Habit returns to share his unique and humorous take on the life of a yarncrafter.
Things that are sure to happen every January: white sales, credit card bills, and some perky knitter chirping, “Ooooooooooooh, I love these cold, snowy days! Nothing’s better than sitting inside, cozily knitting by the fireplace!”
This always brings forth a chorus of happy agreement from other perky knitters, calling to one another like cuckoos across the Schwarzwald: “Ooooooooooooh! Yes, yes! Snowy! Fireplace! Knitting! Love!”
I think spending a snowy day knitting by the fireplace sounds groovy. Perhaps, in my next life, I’ll get to try it.
I’m not sure where these people live. In my imagination, it’s farmhouses on hilltops in Vermont, or perhaps a cabins nestled in the pristine forests of Wisconsin. I also imagine independent incomes, household help, and heated garages–so that any trek into the blistering cold is purely voluntary. The perky winter knitter need only flounce outdoors to skate merrily around the pond; or playfully fling snowballs at her handsome, rugged husband until he playfully carries her back inside and playfully serves her a hot toddy–probably holding the cup to her lips so she can keep on cozily knitting by the fireplace.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, it is snowing sideways and we are out of milk. Much as I would like to sit inside, cozily knitting by the fireplace, I have to go to the grocery store. Five city blocks away. On foot. I could have milk delivered, yes; but that would drive the cost of the gallon up to $35.68 plus tip, and daddy isn’t made out of money.
Editor’s Note: It’s that time of month! Knit-wit Franklin Habit joins us for his regular column.
At odd moments throughout her otherwise pleasant life, my mother has been confronted by the sight of me, her only son, with my pants on backwards; with my fingers stuck together by glue; trapped in the bathroom by an aggressive cat; frantically hunting for a pair of glasses I was holding in one hand; and standing sheepishly under a dripping splotch of tomato soup that had spoiled the pristine white of a newly-painted kitchen ceiling.
Every time, she has turned to my father and issued the same official statement: “He gets this from your side.”
My father, the diplomat, has never countered with examples of what I get from her side; but the list is long and certainly includes my propensity for flying into fits of rage when thwarted by inanimate objects—including my knitting. If you could break yarn by hurling it against a wall, this room would be neck-deep in shattered bits of sweater.
Happily, that isn’t the greater part of my inheritance.
If creativity, like male pattern baldness, runs in families, it was inevitable that I’d wind up creative. (And bald.)
Editor’s Note: We’re excited to introduce Franklin Habit’s monthly column for our Weekly Stitch Newsletter as a regular feature here on the Lion Brand Notebook. Stay tuned for stories, insights, and laughs.
My grandmother, a mostly sensible woman who nonetheless cultivated a small garden of superstitions, taught me early that to begin a new year with messy closets is to invite three hundred and sixty-five days of calamity. So last week, while 2012 was running out the clock, I was hastily performing the annual ritual of Keep-or-Keep-Not.
An essential part of the ritual is contemplating my meager pile of sweaters and wondering why there aren’t more of them. And why most came from a factory. And why most don’t fit. And why most of them are, to be blunt, tragically ugly. Keep? Hah. Burn.
I am a prolific knitter. I knit ceaselessly. But I almost never knit for myself. So I have to buy sweaters which never fit properly and I look terrible nine months of the year. This needs to stop.
I’ve noticed that in December knit and crochet types divide naturally into two camps:
If you’re in Camp One, congratulations. You might want to keep quiet.
If you’re in Camp Two, what are you doing reading this? Have you looked at the calendar?
The calendar is looking at me, because I’m in Camp Two. I am always in Camp Two. I have standing reservation for a Lakeside Cabin with En Suite Bath in Camp Two.
It’s my own fault. Each year, in early summer, I lay out a plan. I decide who is going to get knitted gifts, and what they’re going to get. My plan looks something like this:
Notice that this is a short list of small projects. I do not propose to knit lace shawls for the mail carrier, the mechanic, and all the bartenders who have flirted with me during the previous fiscal year. Two hats and a scarf, to be completed by Thanksgiving. A novice could pull that off and still have time for matching mittens.
1. Guest list. Fifteen.
2. Dining room chairs. Eight.
3. Chair deficit. Seven.
4. Number of guests who will not be horribly put out if asked to eat turkey while sitting on milk crates.Two.
5. Chair deficit. Five.
6. Number of guests who will likely not attend due to influenza, based on World Health Organization’s seasonal forecast. One.
7. Number of chairs neighbor across hall is able to lend. Two.
8. Number of chairs upstairs neighbor would like to borrow from me. Four.
9. Number of chairs gained from neighbor across hall after 50/50 split with upstairs neighbor has been negotiated. One.
10. Number of hand-knit scarves upstairs neighbor will be getting from me at Christmas. Zero.
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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.
You might think a nervous type like me, who has palpitations during especially intense action sequences on Curious George, might shy away from the shrieking tomfoolery associated with Halloween. But you would be terribly, terribly wrong.
I can’t help it: it’s hereditary. Three hundred and sixty four days of the year, our little family lived a quiet, unremarkable life of comforting monotony. Then, come dusk on October 31, we turned into a perfectly orchestrated quartet of terror.
Our neighbors put out pumpkins and bowls of candy. We scoffed.
My parents pressed my sister and I into willing service, crafting an entirely homemade carnival of thrills that turned our cookie-cutter ranch house into the set of The Addams Family. We had flashing lights, creepy sound effects, talking scarecrows, hovering ghosts, and giant spiders whose eyes glowed blood-red in the gathering gloom. Of course, we also had candy. But if you wanted a Tootsie Roll from the Habits, you ran the gauntlet or you left empty handed.
We considered the evening a flop if fewer than six kids wet themselves just walking up our driveway.
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When I lived in Boston I held among my acquaintances a heavily starched woman who, in the best New England fashion, lived for eighty-six years without ever once moving her upper lip or her eyebrows. She didn’t need to. Surprise and enthusiasm had been carefully bred out of her in childhood, so the entire universe elicited nothing more than an occasional sigh to indicate that had not yet quite died of boredom.
She was of the party when a clutch of us fled the city for a weekend in the semi-wilderness of Maine. The autumn colors were reaching a particularly loud climax that year, and one of our fellow travelers–newly arrived from a land impossibly far away (Ohio)–punctuated every bend in the road with a scream of approval. Confronted by a view that encompassed orange leaves, blue mountains, gray sky, and red barn, she nearly blew the roof off the car.
“I’m speechless!” she cried, inaccurately. “I don’t even have a word for it. It’s all just so…so…What is the word?”
“Obvious,” said a sleepy, starchy voice in the back seat.
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My knitting is sticking to my fingers. As I write this, it’s ninety-four balmy degrees outside the workroom. The plants in the window box are rioting–I abandoned judicious pruning in mid-July–and just below so is a gaggle of inebriated baseball fans, lurching homeward en masse after an afternoon game at nearby Wrigley Field. Sure signs of high summer in my Chicago neighborhood: heat, weeds, and another loss for the Cubs.
A change of season seems impossible. It is hot, it always has been hot, it always will be hot. But through the ceiling comes the first whisper, shortly to become a roar, heralding the approach of autumn. There has been a shopping trip, and the neighbor’s children are trying on back-to-school clothes.
They are not happy.
A muffled voice is protesting a sweater that itches. The pounding of stiff new shoes is shaking the walls. This collar is too tight. These pants are too long. “You’ll grow into them!” says their mother.
She is happy.
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