Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.
“Leelee just loves my knitting,” she said brightly, plucking the ball of yarn from the corner into which it had rolled. “Don’t you, Leelee?”
Leelee was silent.
“She just loves it,” she said again, winding on the twisted clew that had circumnavigated the legs of the armchair, the coffee table, and a medium-sized plaster reproduction of the Venus de Milo. “You love it, don’t you?”
Leelee watched sullenly for a moment, then turned her back and began licking her foot.
Leelee, as you may have guessed, is a cat. Unable to speak for herself, she is frequently given voice by the knitter with whom she resides. Leelee is often said by the knitter to be quite the yarn fanatic. Leelee pores over the knitting magazines that litter the floor and offers mewling critiques of the patterns inside. Leelee does not care for intarsia, drop shoulders, or very bright colors. Leelee is presently infatuated with chenille.
“Did she tell you that?” I asked.
“She doesn’t have to, silly!” said the knitter. “Cats and yarn! Cats and yarn!”
I felt, on Leelee’s behalf, a certain resentment. I understand what it’s like to have everyone assume they know you just by looking at you. As a man, I am generally reckoned to have a deep love of football (no) and a violent aversion to needlework (also no). It’s not quite fair.
When the knitter excused herself to fetch the tea things, I took the opportunity to ask Leelee in a whisper whether she truly did love knitting.
“Strictly entre nous,” I said.
“Meoowwrrrr,” said Leelee.
By which she of course meant, “Funny you would ask. Come back tomorrow when she’s at the chiropodist. I’ll leave the kitchen door unlocked.”
Over a glass of milk and a can of tuna fish, Leelee said she was happy to share her feelings about yarn (in a word, meh), but not comfortable speaking on behalf of felines everywhere.
“Meeoowwrrr,” she said.
By which she of course meant, “Who needs the pressure?”
At the end of our interview, Leelee slid a sheet of paper across the table.
“Meeoowwrrr,” she said.
By which she of course meant, “Look, call up a few of the cats on this list. They’ve all agreed to talk. Heck, we’ve been waiting years for somebody to ask. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a hairball to deploy. Please see yourself out.”
What follows are excerpts from candid interviews with a representative sample of Leelee’s contacts. Where requested, identities have been altered to protect the informant.
Mister Whiskers (Montclair, New Jersey)
Sometimes, it’s fine, I guess. She’ll do it for a couple hours every night, then put it down and go to bed. No problem. But sometimes, man–sometimes it does things to her. You know what I mean? Like she can’t stop herself, she just sits there and knits and knits and knits and I have to poop in her slipper to get her to notice it’s, like, Wednesday morning and she’s been working on the same sleeve since Monday.
Lyonette (Camaret-sur-Mer, France)
The knitting, I adore it. The crochet also. What cat could not? I defy anyone to call herself a proper cat who will refuse to partake of fine yarns. Myself, I am a connoisseur of the laces. Silk, especially. Ah, silk. Have you tried it? You must. In the skein, in the shawl, it matters not. Always delicious–if somewhat sticky afterwards.
Fred (Arthur, Iowa)
It could take it or leave it. Rolling a ball around can be fun, sure; but really I’d rather mess with the birds. I love a good bird. Don’t let anybody tell you there’s nothing to do in Arthur just because it’s a small town. We got birds galore. Yarn–it’s okay. Nice for winter, when you can’t get birds.
BooBoo (Uniontown, Pennsylvania)
Yarn? Get out. In October she made the dog this goofy football sweater that says GO STEELERS down the back and he was into it, but he goes along with everything she does. No dignity, that one. Now she’s started coming after me with the tape measure. Nope. Not gonna to happen. I’ve been watchin’ the door of the yarn closet. First time she forgets to close the latch, I’m off to Pee City.
Mitzi (Eugene, Oregon)
It’s not the yarn for me, it’s the crochet hooks. He keeps the whole collection in a old cookie tin on the table near the television. So what you do is, you wait until he’s at the office and then you knock it down and they spill everywhere. We have hardwood floors so the noise is amazing. Then you noodle around in the pile until you find one hook–the one–and you spin it and spin it and spin it and spin it and spin it and spin it and–hey, do you mind if we take a break? I’m feeling kinda overexcited.
Grumbles (Chester-le-Street, England)
In the ball? Never touch it. That’s kitten stuff. I wait ’til she’s got it strung up on the loom and the weaving’s well under way. The space behind the heddles makes a smashing place to nap. Rather like a hammock. Terribly private, what’s more–the blasted dog can’t get near it. That’s the ticket. Quite.
Schrödinger (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
Things have been stressful the past couple months, I won’t lie to you. I’m all for encouraging her hobbies. She works long hours, she needs an outlet.
But she got it in her head that she ought to make herself a poncho, and she did. Again, not a problem. Then she made another one, and another one, and now we’re on poncho number six, and they keep getting weirder and weirder.
This latest one is shaped like a misbegotten amoeba and has Christmas tinsel in it and looks like something–well, I was going to say something the cat dragged in, but I wouldn’t touch it. I keep trying to discourage her by sitting on it while she’s trying to knit; but she just snaps a picture of her “sweet little helper” and posts it to Instagram. Listen, I don’t want collaborative credit for this thing.
I remember when she was all about cute mittens that matched her coats. Those were good times, man. Good times.
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 Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist 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 a Schacht spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.
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I have a couple cats…I am certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this is spot on! Good for you, Franklin, finally giving them voice! 😉
I actually know a cat named Schrodinger who lives in Cambridge – his dad is a needlepointer rather than a knitter, but he does like yarn. A bit too much, in fact – he’ll swallow it whenever given a chance, which is trÃ©s bad for his gastrointestinal tract.
I stopped using straight needles because of a big yellow fellow named Trouble. The wiggling ends were too much for him to resist. I cant count the times he lunged and pulled a needle out of whatever I was knitting at the time. And of course he loved balls of yarn and knitted or crochet cat toys created just for him. This is the same beast who decided to leave me gifts of dead squirrels in my yarn basket. I was making a scrap afghan out of random yarns, just reached into my stash to grab a ball and wrapped my hand around an ice cold, rock hard, dead frozen squirrel. I screamed. My husband said he had never before heard me make a sound like that. This happened several times when we lived in New York. I got into the habit of looking before I reached!
Gra Mjav hates knitting, but his sister, she sleeps in the basket with the latest project just to near the yarn…on the closet shelf way up high because, just because.
I had to read the French cat’s statements out loud, with a bad French accent. It was sublime.
I have six indoor cats and one outside (they revolve yearly). I’ve found the need to keep cats and yarn separate, because if they can’t chew on the yarn, they’ll chew on the cord of my Addi Turbos, and if they can’t chew on that, they’ll chew holes in the ziploc project bags (eliminating the moth-proofing). If they can’t chew on that, they’ll chew on the project itself, or the pattern, or the book. I swear they HATE The Knitting.
It pains me, because it has ruined my dream of a cozy little cottage, knitting by the fireplace, sipping a hot toddy, surrounded by purring sleeping cats. Instead, I do all the knitting alone in another room, and the hot-toddy cat napping has to wait.
This was awesome. Can’t wait to share. I love reading your once a month posts.
Carol F Metzger
Any yarn dangling unguarded was fair game for Blackie. I’d rinse the cat drool off the bitten end and watch for signs of obstruction. The rest of the family did no harm.
You are so wonderfully twisted dear Franklin.
I have four cats and a kitten who I have to put in time out in the bedroom as he gets into the yarn wherever it is and chews and I don’t want her swallowing it. My brother and sister cats are both chewers of the directions, plastic bags and needles, especially non-metal. Cat #3 likes to sit on the knitting bag wherever it is and cat #5 is totally uninterested. I loved your stories on the cats and giving them voice..