Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.
About a decade ago, a sharp-eyed coworker noticed that I often snapped six or seven pencils in half during staff meetings. And that I often hid under my desk after staff meetings. And that even on those rare days without staff meetings, my face was contorted permanently into a Kabuki mask of rage.
“I think you’re stressed out,” she said.
So I ate her.
No. No, I didn’t. But I did begin to look about me for ways to calm down. Knitting? I knew how to knit, but hadn’t done it for years. The needlework revival was just begun, with new books appearing and new shops opening. I dove in, and felt better. The money I saved on pencils, I spent on yarn.
I went to a knit night, where one of the seasoned regulars informed me that knitting was the new yoga. “You get a lot of the same mental health benefits,” she said, “but you don’t have to sit on the floor and sweat.”
Flash forward to the present, where I am now on the other side of forty. You know how when you turn forty parts of you suddenly start to wear out and dry up and otherwise malfunction? If you don’t, you will.
So there I was, knitting merrily in my chair, not on the floor, not sweating; and I stood up to go get a glass of water. Parts of me I didn’t know I had objected to this, and suddenly I was on the floor, sweating. Also, swearing.
My doctor suggested that I find ways to loosen up and stretch out.
“I do stretch,” I said. “I stretch before every workout.”
“Okay,” said the doctor. “Bend over and touch your toes.”
“Fine,” I said, bending over. “No problem.”
After she helped me to regain consciousness, we talked about yoga.
“You’re spending too much time seated, hunched, and looking down,” she said. “And I could give you pills for the short term, but in the long run you’ll be better off if you find other ways to regain your flexibility.”
I started yoga on the same day as another fellow I’ll call Charlie. Charlie’s mat was next to mine, and at our first class we bonded over our shared inability to do Tree Pose without toppling like a couple of dead pines in a windstorm.
Like all newcomers to yoga, Charlie and I found the discipline challenging in different ways. Charlie, who is by a nature a competitive, king-of-the-hill go-getter, was most frustrated by what he saw as slow progress towards achieving certain challenging postures like Crow Pose.
After ending up on his nose yet again, Charlie complained to the teacher that it had been two months, and he’d aimed to do a perfect crow in half that time. He’d practiced, and practiced. It wasn’t fair.
“Charlie,” the teacher said patiently, “I’d like you to try to stop thinking about yoga in terms of goals. Release the outcome. Release the expectation. Just do what you can, right now, here, today.”
And so Charlie ate him.
No. No, he didn’t.
But I (while wrestling with my own demons on the mat) realized that years of knitting were, to my great surprise, helping me with my yoga.
When we knit (or crochet, or weave, or embroider, or sew, or…) we learn a lot of lessons that are of use to the beginning yoga student.
We learn to stay the moment. What’s important? This stitch, right now. This one. The one before is complete. The one after is out of reach. This stitch, right now. One at a time.
We learn to let go of the outcome. Not to say we don’t celebrate when the sweater is on the baby or the shawl is off the blocking pins. But we come to enjoy (or at least endure) the steps it takes to get there. Even those who would say they are more about the end product must to some extent enjoy the process. Because, as is often pointed out to us, you can buy socks, you know.
We learn that time is relative. The distance between one row and the next can feel like seconds or like years. On a great day, we forget about time completely. The work itself is becomes everything. We lose ourselves in it, and emerge refreshed.
We learn that success is made of many failures. Possibly thousands of them. If you are me, tens of thousands of them. Don’t sweat it. Pull out the stitches, rip out the seam. Do it again. And again. And again. You’ll get there when you get there, so long as you keep moving.
Lately Charlie and I are able to stand upright as a pair of wobbly trees–most of the time. When we do fall down, we get back up. Staying up is growing easier. So is falling down. Charlie has stopped complaining about Crow Pose, and I’m starting to think he might make an excellent knitter.
One stitch at a time. One stitch at a time.
Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book (Soho Publishing, 2016) and It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. His publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Ply Magazine, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and Knitty.com.
He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, Stitches Events, Squam Arts Workshops, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.
These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned. Visit him at www.franklinhabit.com