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.
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.
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.
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.
I was a bookish kid. Not studious–schoolrooms and chalk dust made me itch–but bookish. The way other kids had teddy bears, I had books. I read them, hugged them, toted them about, hid them under my pillow, and kept them to hand while I took baths. I spent so much time raiding the stacks of our tiny local library that the children’s librarian grudgingly agreed to raise my weekly check-out limit from the customary “no-more-than-two” to “no-more-than-you-can-carry-to-the-desk-in-one-trip.”
When summer came, every adult in my orbit did his or her best to pry the books away and plant me on a soccer field, a beach, or any other sun-swept, wind-blown stretch of ground far from the nearest shelf. “School is out!” they insisted, firmly shutting the screen door behind me. “Put down that book and go run around in the fresh air!”
Now, in the third decade of my legal majority, the bookish child has become a knittish adult. The way other grown-ups have smart phones, I have knitting. I keep it handy, I fondle it on the sly, I pull it out and play with it at every opportunity.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Long Island Knitting Guild. I always love speaking to ladies who are as passionate about yarn as I am; it creates such a wonderful rapport and allows for great questions. As I was leaving the meeting, one of the ladies presented me with three comic strips from her local paper, each of which were about knitting. [Click the photo above to enlarge.]
Not only was I excited because I collect knitting and crochet-related memorabilia, but I was also excited to see this because it reminded me of our very own Lola comic. Lola has been the most popular aspect of our Weekly Stitch newsletter for years and she’s is an important lady here in Lion Country. To check out what funny thing she is going to do next, subscribe and stay tuned for our next newsletter or you can check our new Lola comic book.
Have you spotted other knit/crochet-related comics? Tell us about them by leaving a comment!
Want me to visit your group? Groups of 50 or more in the tri-state area can contact me at email@example.com regarding speaking at an event.
Who is Lola, you ask? She’s a quick-witted, independent, grandmother with equally quick knitting needles. Twice a month, we feature Lola comic strips in the Lion Brand E-Newsletter, but she also stars in her own daily comic featured in 125 papers around the U.S.
Lola has a new book out–called Gimme a Break!–so we checked in with cartoonist Todd Clark to find out a little bit more about our favorite knitting grandma.
Lion Brand: How did you get started drawing/writing comics?
Todd Clark: I’ve drawn for as long as I can remember. My Mom was an awesome artist. My plan was to be the next Salvador Dali, but as soon as I got to college I realized my art skills were sorely lacking compared to others. I’d always been able to make people laugh, and could still draw these glorified stick figures, so I started telling everyone I was going to be a cartoonist. At some point I had to back up my claims. I had some great encouragement early on from some pretty big editors and got a few breaks writing jokes for some pretty well-known comic strips.
LB: Who or what inspired the character of Lola?
TC: Lola is based on my former partner Steve’s great-aunt Lola. She’s real. A WWII veteran and fantastic lady. The actual Lola is much sweeter than her comic strip alter ego. Steve and I did a book signing years ago in her hometown of Augusta, GA, and Lola came with us and sat at the table. It was very cool. She had contacted her entire church and they all came by. She wouldn’t let them get away with buying just one book. They all had to buy several.
LB: If Lola were to knit you something, what would you like it to be?
TC: I’d probably have her knit something for my little 4 year old girl, Rhiannon. If I was forced to choose for me, I’d have to say something blue and orange, maybe a scarf, the colors of my beloved Boise State University Broncos.
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