I Heard the Trowel Call My Name

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I Heard the Trowel Call My Name

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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.

I Heard the Trowel Call My Name | Franklin Habit for Lion Brand

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.

It was just like that, except for the noble tear. And the dropping to my knees–because nothing should touch that sidewalk right now. But the rapture? Identical.

I’m a constant needleworker (knitting, mostly) and a frustrated gardener. I’m privileged to play with yarn every day, year round. My gardening, on the other hand, is confined to three months and two borrowed spits of dirt that get very little sunlight.  In April, the month that brings us Earth Day, I find myself torn between trying to keep up with knitting deadlines and trying to spend every possible moment outdoors, coaxing the dirt into bloom.

I’m hardly the only yarn fanatic I know who also has a thing for plants, which makes sense when you consider how much the two obsessions have in common…

I Heard the Trowel Call My Name | Franklin Habit for Lion Brand


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 (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), 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 KnittingYarn Market NewsInterweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkCast On: A Podcast for KnittersTwist Collective, and a regular column on historic knitting patterns for Knitty.com.

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

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  • Thank you.I understand. Months of dead looking trees and brown ground is making a turn. I never thought I would be happy to see the green of a weed. I have changed to brighter colored yarn for the occasion.

  • I live in Nor Calif-N/E of Yosemite-our winters are nothing compared to Chicago’s-and yet I still dislike it-Last winter I noticed someone had planted colorful plants near a Dr’s office-I thought I would lose my mind-I swear I was going nuts in my car-oh my, color & beauty!! I even took a picture! I need to move back to So Calif, where I can have orange, lemon, lime, pepper, avocado, etc, etc, etc trees in my yard-OH and FLOWERS all year long! Want to come with??

  • You hit that nail right on top head. Well said

  • How deliightful and refreshing his writings are! And Spring – oh, what a boost for the general outlook on Life. I live in Las Vegas and our spring has been in attendance for more than a month now – and I love it! This is when you genuinely love the Las Vegas weather – cool nights, warmish days (but not hot), windows open 24/7, fresh air in abundance. I’m lucky to not be among those with allergies, so seeing things take hold and begin to blossom is so captivating. Thank you, Franklin, for your whimsical ‘take’ on spring! Loved the description of the ‘awful romance wartime movie’ – so apt.

  • I live in North Dakota, so today it is snowing! and most of the ground was still snow covered from the last snow. Still great weather for winter knitting projects. But when the growing season finally does get here, with our rich soil and long days, you can practically see the grass and everything else growing before your eyes! Wow!

  • Yeah, I’m in Milwaukee and the last of my snow melted today, my daffydills and tulips are trying valiantly to grow, and my dog keeps peeing on them. I got my Ashford spinning wheel almost 40 years ago and am back at it after 35 years!

  • Awesome. I just love Mr. Habit’s articles! He is a “yarnie” after my
    own heart. BTW: Wish it was snowing…(tho’ I live in Southern

  • I feel your rapture, Mr. Habit! I live on the western edge of Illinois, and was SO HAPPY to see my strawberries begin to green up as soon as the snow melted!

  • Ahh, Mr Habit, once again you have described me to a ‘T’. I like to think of myself as a 65 year old woman stuck in the body of a 35 year old.

  • I live in the Northeast and I dieing to be finally sitting outside every morning with my coffee and knitting while watching my garden grow from where I sit. My only pets tho are the song birds who stop by to visit. I put out yarn scraps in the Spring for nesting materials.

  • Thank you for your insghts. I love that you share.

  • I love your comparison between the two, and how others view us. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve just now “discovered” you, and I’ll be following you from now on … Lucky you 🙂

  • I have blooming purple crocus flowers in my otherwise brown-mulched garden! It’s 24 degrees out there this morning, that’s Fahrenheit degrees. I’m not sure why they’ve decided to bloom, actually, as the others have decided to wait until it’s warmer. Crocuses (croci?) are either very brave, or very silly

  • Thanks for your comments- I also an avid gardener and knitter. I never realized that there could be a connection until now!

  • My first time to read your column! Love it! Spring is coming to CO! I’m still knitting a scarf that was to be a gift last Christmas, done in the linen stitch. I ripped out more rows (450 stitches) than I’ve got done but now have 2″ and will need another 3 to finish it for her birthday in Dec! But need to get the fertilizer out on the perennials!

  • I live in the Pacific Northwest and Spring is HERE!! The pink plum trees, white cherry trees, purple magnolias are all in bloom. The fields of daffodils and soon the fields of tulips brighten everyone’s soul. I’m busy planning my community garden plot as well as the containers here at my apartment complex, but the knitting needles will be busy as well. I have so many projects that I want to do that for the first time I have three going at the same time — and I do finish every one of them.

  • I understand completely! Winter Sports and Summer Sports 🙂

  • Oh yes, please, Franklin, would you make this into a badge or a Facebook cartoon? Though I’d like to spend every moment of the day knitting, at this time of the year, must dig and weed and cultivate. Thanks – back to the needles… Best wishes – Carol

  • Living farther north than Franklin (northern British Columbia) our weather is sometimes harsh and cold until May. So when my first child way a baby and picked me the first dandelion somewhere towards the end of May, I decided that they were a mothers rose…and, dandelions are still one of my favorite flowers…thay mean that spring has finally arrived!

  • There are more daylilies than the one you describe as Hemerocallis. There is more information on daylilies at http://www.daylilies.org. They might just blow you your gardening dreams away.

  • Great article. I’d love to see more men get involved in crafting.

  • Heh, I’m the Allergy Queen, so my perspective of spring’s new growth is a wee bit different. Last week, after a wonderful rainstorm (Oklahoma’s in a drought), I went outside to go to the store. Lo and behold, the beautiful pear trees were in bloom, their white blossoms making delicate, snowy clusters on my neighbor’s trees across the street. As I admired them, my black little heart withered a little more, and I gritted my teeth as I added another few bottles of Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra to my shopping list.

  • Franklin, I wish I could sympathize, but I am afraid I have the opposite problem. I live in Central Texas. I have lived in or around this area most of my life. We have 2 months of winter–snow about once every 5 years if we are lucky–1 month of autumn and 1 month of spring, and 8 months of summer. We have been in a drought for years. I can’t even remember a time when we weren’t under water rationing in the summer–our poor lawns just shrivel up and die! My gardening is limited to my roses and cactus gardens; it is too hard to keep anything else alive in the heat and dry conditions. When you are feeling blue about your long, cold winter, maybe you can think about all of your readers down in the South who are sweltering and wishing they had a little snow now and then to cool off and provide water for their plants, animals and lakes.

  • We are still frozen here in Scotland,the daffodils are trying hard to push through,I recon spring will come and pass in a flash this year

  • Ah, Spring is almost here in Maine, too. Your comments are familiar and funny. Hope you enjoyed your foray into Texas spring. If it was lovely and warm don’t let it fool you. It will be blisteringly hot before you know it and won’t let up until October ends. I’ll take the cold and snow but love the idea of gardening year round.

  • Yes, there is a connection between the yarn crafts and gardening. Although for some of us, the gardening is much harder than the knitting. But thanks for putting it together for us. We often don’t see that it is kindred spirits in both endeavors.

  • Love this! Having moved to Chicago from a 97 acre farm, I am going through many inner shifts. Found a 10X10 plot behind a Starbucks, only 5 blocks from home, and it has saved my sanity. Want to see me wither and die? Take away the yarn and needles and coffee ground enriched soil and I will throw in the trowel and the towel.

  • It’s my least favourite time of year right now, because the piles from the snowplows are partially melted, covered in icky brown gravel and sand, and everything looks dirty, dirty, dirty here in Winnipeg (aka Winterpeg – especially this year! Can’t wait until all the snow is gone, and we get some cleansing rains!

  • Your grandmother!? I always thought you looked exactly like my brother, complete with no hair. Mybe that’s why I’ve always loved you!

  • My yard is sprinkled with daylilies. It is a very rugged plant that never fails and always prevails in whatever soil you give it. They live forever!

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