Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pretty Much My Entire Personality Encapsulated in Two Christmas Presents from My Parents

Item One.

As Worn with Kilt

Steve Madden "Ajax" Boots.

Item Two.

Welcome to the Family

Hat form from Wilshire Wig. I've named her "Hedda."

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Krampus

It's Christmas Eve in Chicago. Though a bit more gift wrapping must be seen to, the approach to a quiet holiday is otherwise unobstructed.

I know not everyone reading this celebrates Christmas, but it's certainly part of my heritage. In the spirit of the season, I'd like to offer a warm cup of holiday knitting to one and all–regardless of whether or not you usually partake.

There are veritable snowdrifts of patterns for knitting up Santa Claus, snowmen, candy canes, reindeer (plain- and red-nosed), elves, nativity scenes, mice (stirring), bears (teddy), toy soldiers (because nothing says Peace on Earth like a trained killer with a rifle) and most the rest of the cast of sugarplums.

But I was shocked–shocked–when I consulted the Ravelry pattern database and found not a single representation of the character I (and many millions of others) consider essential to a well-balanced festive season: Krampus.

Do you know Krampus? If not, a few words of introduction.

He is, mainly in Alpine countries, the friend and companion of dear Saint Nicholas. His useful function is to deal with the children whose behavior in the year past has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

This is, I believe, a most logical and reasonable division of labor. In America, we not only expect Santa Claus to reward the good children by scattering presents around; we also require–in the course of the same evening–that he stick lumps of coal into the stockings of the naughty. Have you ever held a lump of coal? I have. It's heavy, it's dusty, and it leaves black smudges all over everything.

Is it fair, I ask you, to make a man wearing white fur cuffs distribute tons of coal and tons of gifts from a miniature sleigh with less horsepower than a riding lawn mower? I think not.

Countries which employ Krampus do things far better.

Saint Nicholas visits only the nice children, hands around the goodies, and calls it a night. Krampus, meanwhile, drops in on the bad children–the ones who didn't finish their vegetables, and stuck out their tongues at Grandma, and boosted the ratings for Glee while Community was put on hiatus. He smacks them soundly with a bundle of birch twigs; licks them with his long, slimy tongue; carries them away screaming in the basket on his back. When he's good and ready, he tears them limb from limb and then eats them.

Note that coal doesn't even enter the picture. Krampus is very eco-friendly and discourages the consumption of fossil fuels.

That such a darling fellow should be absent from the knitting round-up appalls me. To redress the imbalance, I present the Little Knitted Krampus.

He Sees You When You're Sleeping

He is made from several colors of Skacel's excellent Fortissima Socka sock yarn, and the free pattern will appear in a few days.

He Knows When You're Awake

My gift, gentle reader, to you–provided you've been a good child.

He Knows If You've Been Bad or Good

Otherwise, expect the Real Thing to tap on your door and spread you on toast like a chicken liver.

Merry Christmas from me, Dolores, Harry, and whole of the Sock Yarn Colony. We love you very much.

P.S. If you'd like to see more of Krampus, including absolutely adorable Krampuskarten from the 19th and 20th centuries that I used as visual references, visit this site. An animated treatment sure to gladden the hearts of your children (show it to them just before bedtime) is available on Youtube.

P.P.S. Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochiland, I wouldn't have had the chutzpah to tackle my first knitted toy design without your inspiration, encouragement, and the excellent treatment of the technical aspects in your books. Thank you!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Go Forth and Twirl

The last time you saw it, it was just a hood.

Pink Thing Preview

To knit the rest has taken almost exactly a year and a heap of Cascade 220 Sport–a yarn I love to pieces. Happily, the fit is generous; so the recipient should (in spite of considerable growth) get a goodly amount of use from it.

I might have finished faster; but the cape was knit, ripped back to the hood, and re-knit four times. The file for this piece has eleven swatches, and forty pages of instructions–most of them crossed out. The problem with me as a designer is that I'm not very good at it.

Children's clothing is a tough nut for me to crack, mostly because I fear my taste is not in step with the modern child–not to mention the modern parent. I wouldn't put my son in a Fauntleroy suit or my daughter in petticoats. On the other hand, I look to nineteenth-century children's clothing and sigh for the neat tailoring and the elegant details. Most of the kids in these parts run about in loud, shapeless rags and usually look as though they were dressed in the dark by a drunken nanny. (In these parts, they probably were.)

Maybe shapeless rags is what twenty-first century childhood requires. If so, I know my work in this genre will have severely limited appeal. So be it.

Anyhow, here are the first photos of the finished hood and cape. With a grateful nod to reader Rams S., who suggest a variation of the name, I will call the piece Manteau Rose.

Manteau Rose Front

Manteau Rose Hood

Manteau Rose Back

I hope you'll like it, Abigail. It should twirl very, very well indeed. Uncle Franklin road tested it.

Note: After a rather unfortunate string of unsuitably, um, "whimsical" technical editors, I've finally found one who promises to deliver quality work in a timely fashion–so I hope that this and several other patterns (including the Anna Shawl) will be available for online download sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Collect 'Em All

Having already knit the Tiny Rabbit and the Tiny Mermaid–wait, sorry. I don't think I posted the mermaid here, did I? Here she is.

Chick of the Sea

Let's try that again.

Having already knit the Tiny Rabbit and the Tiny Mermaid from Anna Hrachovec's Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi, the next choice of project was patently obvious: the Tiny Chicken.

Poultry in Repose

Now, as you will have doubtless realized, I have the complete trio from the immortal anecdote about the rabbit, the mermaid and the chicken who walk into Claridge's Hotel. But my parents are due to arrive any moment, and I must dash, so I'd love it if one of you could tell the rest in the comments. Thanks awfully!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Am I the Walrus?

When I was in second grade, my science class did an electricity experiment that went haywire while I was touching the metal end of the apparatus. I looked a smidge odd until my eyebrows grew back; yet on the whole I thought the experience of being briefly connected to a live current was pretty cool.

This may help to explain why I like New York City so much.

I saw it for the first time in the late 1980s, courtesy of a gracious college roommate who invited me to stay with his family in Manhattan during Spring Break. My parents, upon hearing our travel plans, were full of grim foreboding. The words filthy, noisy, crowded, and (above all) dangerous were thrown about. They didn't mean to be wet blankets, truly they didn't; but my great-grandmother got mugged on the street in Brooklyn in 1966 and after that whole place went straight to Hell.

On the afternoon of the first day, I dutifully called home to reassure my mother that I hadn't been kidnapped and sold into white slavery like Mary Tyler Moore in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

"Well?" said Mom, "How is it?"

"I found it!"
I sighed. "I finally found the place where everybody walks at the same pace I do!"

That was not the right answer.

Americans who are not New Yorkers are not supposed to like New York. They're allowed to like certain things about it, maybe. A good musical, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or spotting Yoko Ono shopping at Barney's Uptown. But then they're expected to go home to a split-level house with a two-car garage and complain about the rushing, the crowds, the noise, the dirty streets, the overwhelming muchness of it all. Real Americans (as we were repeatedly reminded during the last election) are supposed to live in the suburbs and like it. Real Americans are supposed to prefer placid, empty, quiet, tidy.

But who would want a placid, empty, quiet, tidy New York? Not me. That wouldn't be New York, that would be Pyongyang. You may have it.

I go to New York to plug in. I love the way it wakes me up, even when it's unpleasant. Take, for insance, the smell of the subway underpass at 42nd Street. I'm not saying I savor that aroma, but you must admit it cannot be taken casually.

This month I went to the city to play with the good people at Lion Brand Yarn Studio on West 15th Street in the Union Square/Flatiron neighborhood. I gave a talk (and people came! and they laughed!) and I taught three classes (and people came! and we all laughed!).

Second Floor Window, Lion Brand Yarn Studio

The Studio serves as a public face for the company and is completely adorable. I don't care if you've never touched a skein of yarn in your life–you cannot ignore a display window that looks like this.

Ice Fishing Window

A closer view of the walrus. They were considering naming him "Franklin." I hope they did.


And the Inuit fisherman.

Ice Fishing

These folks go way beyond the customary yarn store mode of a-couple-baskets-of-yarn-plus-a-limp-sweater. The Studio interior is punctuated by spolia saved from previous installations, so you never know what you're going to encounter when you turn a corner.

I'm afraid I had only a pocket camera of limited capacity, but here are a few snaps of what I found.

In the larger upstairs classroom, spare materials for students who may have forgot something.

Large Needles

The needles are size US 300. Not sure about the metric conversion. Wouldn't want to take them through airport security.

Large Needles

This guy sits in the window of the smaller classroom, looking out to West 15th.

Knitting Lion

Hug it? Knit it? Hug it? Knit it?

Lion Face

On the way into the company owner's office, there's a crocheted Empire State Building complete with a couple of sightseeing tourists.


Inside the office, there's a vintage-style postcard (eight feet wide) celebrating the city's icons.


What you can see a little more clearly from this angle (click to embiggen)


is that the letters are three-dimensional and contain knitted and crocheted versions of (partial list!) Patience and Fortitude, the NYC Public Library lions; the giant Cup o' Noodles from Times Square; the Statue of Liberty; a Yankees cap; the Flatiron, Empire State, and Chrysler Buildings; the World Trade Center in memoriam; the Guggenheim Museum; and a hot dog cart that's half the size of the nearby hot dog. Underneath is the Brooklyn Bridge and a street crowded with a police car, a fire truck, a couple of taxi cabs and a tour bus.

At first I thought the little dude on the Brooklyn Bridge was a suicidal jumper, but it turned out to be the Phantom of the Opera consulting a city map. (Yes, he is so a New Yorker. He's been running in Manhattan since 1988.)

In the same room, there's also a chair/trellis hybrid crawling with butterflies and summer flowers.

Spring Chair

I was trying to come up with a "country seat" joke here, but it wouldn't gel.

Spring Chair

This is a box of something. I don't know what's in it. I was afraid to lift the lid.

Monster Box

Down in the basement, among the yarn storage bins, a friendly bunny keeps the staff company while they sort stock.

Basement Bunny

A wall map, about five feet across reminds one that there aren't Red States or Blue States, only states that like to play with yarn.

Map of the US

Kind of a nice thing to remember as the political candidates try to convince us otherwise.

While I was there, they caught me on cameras both still and moving:

I'm so happy I remembered to get my hair did. Also, I have a boycrush on Patty Lyons, the maven/doyenne/manager/queen of the LB Studio. She arranged the whole splendid shindig with such mastery that when she told me to stop fussing and relax, I actually did.

It was fun. I woke up. I hated to leave. I can't wait to go back. Hint, hint.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

More Lazy Haiku

Yet another airport post. Hi! I'm en route to New York City for some fun at Lion Brand Yarn Studio. Back home Monday, at which point I promise new pictures of the lopapeysa, which has grown a sleeve.

Over on Twitter (yeah–I finally knuckled under and I'm @FranklinHabit), I posted a lazy haiku:

Hey! I am a cow.
Moo moo moo moo moo moo moo,
Moo moo moo moo moo.

There were requests for more, which makes me fear for the future of our world. But I live to serve, so here you go.

I call this one "Monotony of an Autumn Afternoon."

Knit knit knit purl knit
Knit knit purl knit knit knit purl
Knit knit knit purl sigh.

This one is called "Sudden Awareness."

Knit knit knit knit wait
What? Damn! Rip rip rip rip rip
Rip rip rip rip rip.

And finally, "Pastoral."

Baa baa baa baa. Hey!
Clip clip clip clip clip clip clip
Clip clip clip. Nude sheep.

I could do this for hours, but we're supposed to board soon. See you in Manhattan.