Wake Me When It’s Over

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Wake Me When It’s Over

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In Conversation

Franklin Habit

Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

I will have you know, ladies and gentleman, that my life–the life of the professional knitter–is not the yarn-addled conga line of joy you perhaps envision. True, I am not digging ditches in the pouring rain. Nor am I a person who needs to worry when the database, any database, goes down. I do not have to attend office parties. And my inbox is full of wool.

On the other hand, difficult as it may be to imagine, knitting can become a burden when deadlines forbid you to put it down. Your eyes water, your fingers ache; but somewhere there is an impatient editor tapping out the letters A-R-E-Y-O-U-F-I-N-I-S-H-E-D-Y-E-T on a keyboard and the only answer that will satisfy her is Y-E-S.

Any form of needlework performed under duress is unhealthy for the body and mind, and leads to unfortunate lifestyle choices. I have a friend whose gorgeous designs you would recognize if you read any of the major knitting publications; possibly you have turned out at least one of her shawls or sweaters yourself. She admits that three-quarters of them come to fruition while she floats, sleepless, in an altered state induced by extreme consumption of Mallowmars and diet cola.

I won’t tell you who she is; but when her Instagram feed breaks out in exclamation points and hashtags like #inspiration and #iloveknitting and #yarnyarnyarn, you can bet that rock bottom has been achieved.

Much as I wish I could tell you this never happens to me, it does. There’s a scene in the (ghastly) 2015 film Victor Frankenstein in which the doctor’s first experiment begins to run around the room attacking everyone and knocking over the furniture. My day is often like that; only instead of a misbegotten chimpanzee homunculus, it’s half a mitten.

Perhaps you think I am being overly dramatic. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I should lay off the Mallowmars for a little while.

A few weeks ago I fell into the pit while trying (and failing) to get a pile of writing, drawing, and pattern writing finished before a teaching trip. The knitting was complete, and the writing and drawing well in hand, but I had been avoiding the pattern writing for far too long. There’s a good reason for that. I hate pattern writing.

I don’t mean I hate designing patterns. I love that. What I hate is pattern writing, which any designer will tell you is different skill entirely. You either have the knack for it, or you don’t, and I don’t. I do it, but I do it the way that Victorian schoolchildren swallowed doses of castor oil: under threat of a whack from nanny, and grimacing the entire time.

When the evil hour could be postponed no longer, I sat down bleary-eyed with the finished sample and my folder full of notes. I began laying out the first draft, as is my custom, in a grid-paper notebook with a trusty mechanical pencil. I try to sweeten the bitter pill by making myself comfortable, in a good chair, with a little treat at hand. The dog, bless her, dragged her cushion over so she could lend moral support. She knows.

About two hours later, I woke up.

My paper was full of writing. Full to the margins. There was the name of the pattern at the top. Then the materials list. The gauge specifications. Special techniques. The first few steps. Repeat from asterisk.


Well, it appeared that I had fallen asleep. Yet kept on writing. Scribble, scribble. More asterisks. Something about wrap-and-turn. The handwriting started to droop, and grow faint. The letters piled atop one another, then with a jerk skipped a few lines.

And then something something working yarn, and then I begin declining the irregular Latin verb for “to go” (eo, ire, ivi, itum) and then there is a tiny, tiny sketch of what may be a mitten thumb or it may be a kitty cat. Or perhaps I was following Doctor Frankenstein’s example and it’s a bit of both.

Part of the paper was damp with what was clearly my own drool.

I asked the dog how long I’d been sleep-writing. She had no idea.

You may be wondering if the pattern is finished yet.

Shut up.

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

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  • How does it wash? Because of the single ply construction, will it pill?

    • Hi! So far we haven’t noticed pilling in our projects. It does get a fuzzy halo, though. It’s a soft looking yarn rather than being crisp.

  • Always a joy Franklin Habit.

    I’ve just checked out your ‘It Itches’ and wondered if you’d give permission to translate the drawings into redwork to put into a quilt for my equally yarn crazy sister-in-law?

  • I have been knitting since I was 11 years old, in my 70’s now. I enjoyed meeting Franklin many years ago when he was in Gold River (Rancho Corrdova) meeting with my former knitting group when he was traveling around the country having people knit a row on a scarf. I have been a fan of his for many year,s own the book It Itches and look forward to his monthly column.

  • Rock on, Franklin. Rock on.

  • Oh, Lion Brand! All the knitters know that Franklin is always ‘FRANKLIN’. While his writing is frank, his name is not. 🙁

  • As always, you are not only entertaining, you make a great point. I dislike pattern and instructions making when I do an article or packet design for a publisher or to sell, so it’s nice to know we share the same habits!

  • We’ve all been there…knitting, writing, or wrapping against deadlines. No one writes about it better than Franklin. Thank you for the smile his morning. Now off to get those fingerless mitts sewn up!

  • Question for Frank

  • Comments

  • I loved reading your column this morning and I can Identify. I don’t write up patterns but I designed them and then I
    try them out to see if what I imagine is correct. I loved the part when you went to sleep because I try to finish my projects but I realized I went to sleep after getting started when and how I don’t remember. keep em coming I love reading your episodes.

  • “…tiny, tiny sketch of what may be a mitten thumb or it may be a kitty cat. Or perhaps I was following Doctor Frankenstein’s example and it’s a bit of both.” Funny as hell.

  • Well, perhaps you would find writing your knitting instructions as a chart form easier than the written instructions which some of us find tedious to read. Charts are a snap to follow too and you tend not to lose your place as often. Just learn the standard symbols and you’re good to go. Good luck in your writing endeavors. I enjoyed your article.

  • Hello I just received your latest email about
    Franklin Habit. In the email is a picture of a
    triangular scarf. Could you please tell me
    the name of the pattern? I couldn’t find the pattern on your site.
    Thank you.
    Susan lee

  • Thank you Franklin — you are always able to give voice to all the the issues that are happening in my head about my numerous “fabric arts” projects. You help me laugh at my own problems!!

  • I greatly enjoyed reading this post! I suppose it was due to 2 things: I am crocheting my head off trying to finish gifts to ship back home for Christmas; and I appreciate the reference to slightly painful recreations of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” However, my favorite cheese-gushing version was the 90’s Kenneth Branagh vehicle. It was made bearable by the liberally sprinkled shirtless shots of an unusually buff- not very Shakespearean-looking Branagh- but it was still cringe-inducing.

  • Let’s shake hands… I know this problem from my sewing-atelier…Of course sewing is fun, is creative, is fulfilling, but if tehre are deadlines, it might come to night-working, bloody fingers, nearly starving and then put in much coffee and chocolate… People never will understand or realize this. But I love my job- like you. At the moment when crafting- knitting, embroiderin,sewing and all these funny occupations crosses the border to duty and business, it cann be very hard. once I heard the following story: a traveler came in Africa about an old man who made beautiful baskets. the traveller was enchanted and bought one for himself and the next day another one for a gift. And besides they were beautiful they also were extremely cheap. So when he was returned home he thought of helping the poor guy – when he came down next time he asked him if he could make 30 baskets and what would be the price. And the old man named a price more then ten times the one for one basket. The customer was a little bit scared and asked, why one basket was so chap and now this amount so expensive being a fine business for a poor african. And the basklet-weaver said: to make one basket or two- this is joy and fun, to make 30 of them is hard work…. and so it is- enjoy your job!

  • I’m new to the art of crochet & knitting &I must say I enjoy both. Unfortunately, I had to return to a full time office job and my new passion of yarn projects are tucked away for a nap. I also have a love of words & so enjoyed Franklins delightful post.. Thank you, Frankllin.

  • I appreciated the trip down Latin class Memory Lane. However, if I recall correctly, Latin verbs are conjugated. Declension is what we do to Latin nouns.

  • I can’t imagine writing a pattern–I always think my notes on a made up project or changes to another pattern are SO clear, but if I ever try to look at them again they invariably make No Sense. I do know about sleep writing though! Thanks for another good morning read, Franklin! #sleepwriting #morecoffee.

  • I actually enjoyed the pattern writing as well. What I did not enjoy was getting e-mails from the people who found the (not many) mistakes. Sigh. Love to Roz, SS.

  • Wonderful! I’m off to find your cartoon book!

  • I love, love, love your essays. They simply make my day. I won’t add to your stress by asking you to write them more frequently.

  • I feel your pain with the pattern writing Franklin 🙁 xo
    Because I go through the same thing but without the Deadline and the difference is my patterns never get written out from my notes. So it never gets done, otherwise I would have been posting them on Ravelry and Knitty.com.
    Whenever someone asks where I got the pattern, I tell them “Barbara G. Walker’s Stitch Patterns, Gauge, Tension, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Imagination. In other words I hate pattern writing and grading. It’s good for the one I’m creating for myself and that’s good enough for me to have “one of a kind”. I think that might make me selfish but I do have a job and everything else will have to wait until I retire in a few years time. I might actually take the time to write and grade 😉

  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, my first, exposure to Franklin. I look forward to enjoying many, many more.

  • When I’ve been under duress, working on a piano cantata for Christmas, while finishing up a thread queen size bed spread, or 20 afghans for the nieces, and typing up computer programs/software that must be tested and implemented before the holidays… I usually end up with a grueling case of tendinitis. Do you get tendinitis? when under pressure to finish all these projects, that puts you on rest… meanwhile your brain keeps percolating out ideas, and your dreams are all jumbled symbols from all the various languages that you read.
    Oh, and guess what? Christmas is rolling around again, with friends posting count-downs.

  • Lol. Sorry for the treat filled haze, but appreciate the byproduct of beautiful designs.To tame the marshmallow treat urge I recommend “Wondermade” hand made marshmallows, a few cookies n cream or gingerbread flavored ones and I feel like I can crochet or knit the world lol. BTW.I love it when my yarn multiplies-its a strange phenomenon that is experienced by knitters and crocheters around the world with varying degrees of joy and puzzlement. Thanks for the article and great designs and information and a thank you to your dog for the support that helps make it possible. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  • Franklin: I really enjoyed this column. I don’t knit but I do crochet. A couple of years ago I thought it would be fun to crochet for extra money by selling some of my creations. Wrong! It only made me stressed and hating having to make the same thing over and over again only in colors of yarn that were never in my stash. Anyway, I liked your column so much I plan to watch for it regularly. Bless you!

  • just loved reading the column – happy Turkey Day to all!

  • I truly share Franklin’s ideas about writing down a pattern of whatever one is knitting. I have tried numerous times and find it easier to record it as I go along…even the snoring parts 🙂

  • Today I needed a chuckle and your article did just that. Thanks from someone who has been knitting for 64 yrs., since the age of 5. I can’t write a pattern but I can follow it. Keep up the good work. To Franklin who enjoys giving joy to knitters..

  • I wouldn’t dream of asking if the pattern is finished yet… but I will tell you how much this made me laugh! I haven’t done a lot of pattern designing, but I so understand the lack of enjoyment of pattern writing. Why is it such a pain in the arse? I don’t know. It just IS.

    Meanwhile, I haven’t decided if I’m intrigued by Mallowmars or terrified of them, now.

  • I would be happy to write your pattern for you if I had the information. I’m one of those weird “bean counter” types who love doing that type of detailed writing.

  • Learning to Knit Rookie

  • This was hilarious! Sorry but I am laughing at his pain. I am so glad to know I am not the only person who sleep knits or sleep writes. What a relief!! I cannot imagine knitting for a deadline it is bad enough that I knit for myself and pile the end results in totes. I never use it myself but I do have some family members who know where those totes are hahaha! I do however envy Frank the stash of sock yarn

  • Arrgh! Custom knitting! Franklin, you do paint a great picture, and I laughed a lot. : ) I appreciate you and your crazy schedule. Love your writing and drawings!

  • I enjoyed reading this article. It did make me smile. I am very grateful for those with the gift to create and design patterns. I love to crochet and am beginning to knit but I must have a pattern to follow.

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