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An Interview with Franklin Habit

Today’s guest is Franklin Habit from The Panopticon. (You may know him as housemate to Dolores the sheep.) Franklin has a new book coming out called It Itches.  Welcome!

I’m looking forward to seeing your new book and have had it pre-ordered for ages. Any hints as to what we can expect? Is it all cartoons? (I’m thrilled that the “It Itches” one is being used for the title and cover, by the way. I love that cartoon, and even bought a set of the notecards when you put them up for sale.)

Thank you–the itchy lamb cartoon is especially dear to my heart, and I was delighted when Interweave agreed that it should be the title drawing. Although the book is mostly cartoons, there are also ten written pieces as well–including excerpts from lost knitting diaries of the famous, and a historical piece on a remote Yorkshire village that was known for centuries for a rather unusual form of knitting.

I’m so jealous that you draw so well. Is it something you’ve always done? And … do you mostly stick to the cartoons and sketches, or do you do “Aaahrt” as well?

Well, the first time anybody noticed my drawing I was a bit less than two years old. My mother caught me scribbling with a crayon on my bedroom wall, and got a little freaked out when she realized she could tell exactly what I was drawing: three cats sitting on a fence in the middle of a field.

(Of course, nowadays I believe most modern parents would have shellacked over it to preserve baby’s precious artwork. My mother made me scrub it off, all by myself. I rather prefer my mother’s approach to child rearing.)

As for art versus sketching–I’m not sure what the difference is. Is there a difference?

(Editor’s Note: I believe it comes down the amount of money you can sell it for.)

Trick question: Do you think your writing is better? Or your drawing? (Or your knitting?)

They’re all disciplines at which I work very hard, every day. And there are days when I don’t feel competent at any of them. About the relative merits of each–well, I’ll let others debate that.

Because, of course, your knitting is fabulous, too … you learned that in prison, right? Or that was just a filthy rumor?

Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. It’s too good a rumor to confirm or deny. Might ruin my carefully cultivated bad-boy image.

You’ve got amazing lace skills. What’s your favorite part about knitting lace? Or, really, what’s your favorite part about knitting in general?

Thank you, but I don’t know that I’d say I’m amazing. Ambitious, yes. And determined not to let inexperience keep me from knitting whatever I want. I know amazing truly amazing lace knitters next to whom I’m only an ambitious novice. What I like about knitting lace – aside from the beauty of the finished piece – is that the process forces me to sit still and focus. I love to concentrate, but have always struggled with it. Lace has been an enormous help in learning to calm down.

What gave you the idea for your 1,000 Knitters project? Has it been as inspiring as you expected it to be? Or just faster?

The 1,000 Knitters Project began as an attempt to salvage an old idea that couldn’t quite get off the ground. I’d been advised by a mentor to set a goal that couldn’t be finished quickly and that pressed some of my fear buttons. So I figured this project would take ten years, and the results would never be published.

Of course, after the humbling and overwhelming support of all the knitters, I’ve realized that I do need to publish it somehow–it has come to mean a lot to many others, not only me.

The project has taken me to places–in a literal sense, and in a creative sense-that I never dreamed. There is so much rich material in what I’ve gathered that I can hardly wait to begin shaping the finished piece.

Any plans for what you’re going to do with the scarf that the 1,000 knitters have made?

I live in Chicago. It’s cold here. It’ll be great for wearing while I wait for the bus. A full-body scarf in 100% wool.

But if I can arrange for a gallery show of the project, of course the scarf will be the centerpiece. And if 1,000 Knitters becomes a book, then I’ll work photos of the scarf into that, as well.

How long IS the scarf now?

I don’t know how long the scarf is. I’ve grown almost superstitious about not measuring it until it has been bound off. I can tell you, though, that when I spoke about the project at a meeting of the Common Cod Fiber Guild in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the unfurled length reached from the podium to the back of the lecture hall.

So, you knit. You draw. You take photographs. You write really well. You’re downright funny. Any other hidden talents? Baking prize-winning streudel? Whittling clothes-pins? Reciting the Gettysburg Address backwards?

You make me blush, madam.

I’m not always good at it, but I love to cook. At one time I wanted to be a professional chef, and my six-foot shelf of cookbooks still dwarfs my four-foot shelf of knitting books.

I do make good pie crust. If I need to wow somebody across the dinner table I usually include a pie.

Mmm. Pie.

(Editor’s Note: I should have known you can do pie crust, too. I think everyone can but me!)

I love reading about Dolores’s adventures–though she sounds like a tough roommate. As I recall, though, she showed up on your doorstep when you took up spinning. Has she ever actually helped you with that?

To say that Dolores ‘helps’ with anything doesn’t quite capture what really happens. Dolores often thinks she’s helping, but the end result isn’t what anybody expected. Some stuff I’ve never blogged about, like the time she tried to help the rich widower down the hall rediscover the joys of living and we wound up having to summon an ambulance.

Did you ever expect her to take on such an … active place in the knitting community?

You mean, I am envious that SHE got a Ravelry fan group called the Dolores Devotees before I even got in the door? Oh, heavens no. Not a bit envious. Not me. Nope.

Any chance that Dolores is promoting your book while she does her campaign tour? Do you think that would help or hurt the book sales?

She offered to sell copies, but I knew perfectly well she’d be trading them for Pall Malls and Jack Daniels. I wasn’t born yesterday.

Speaking of Dolores, I was wondering–how does she get the cigarette smoke out of her wool?

My goodness, we get that question a lot. Without giving too much away, the answer is liberal daily applications of a special blend of Kookaburra Wool Wash, Windsong, Febreze and eleven secret herbs and spices.

I’m almost afraid to ask … are any of the characters who make cameo appearances on your blog based on anybody, um, real? (Other than fellow bloggers, of course!)

I don’t make anything up, lady. I just report what happens.

(Editor’s Note: I believe you, but I’m sure you can understand a certain amount of curiosity!)

And–if I could just ask Dolores a question–If you’re elected as President, what’s the first thing YOU’RE going to do to help the country through this difficult time?

I’m sorry, but she started describing her stimulus package and immediately veered into territory inappropriate for your mixed audience, so I cut her off.

(Editor’s Note: I appreciate that. I don’t hold with censorship, as a rule, but this is a family blog.)

Name one yarn you’ve never tried but would love to knit with.

The British Breeds wools from Rowan. I first played with skeins of it last month at Woolcott and Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and fell truly, madly, deeply in love. Gimme.

What is the one thing you would want to say to a new knitter?

One chief suggestion, “Be fearless,” with two sub-suggestions, “Ignore difficulty ratings,” and “Never follow blindly-use your own brain.”

If you could have a superpower (knitting or otherwise), what would it be?

I wish I had some sort of magic hug with the power to instantly calm and comfort.

That sounds disgustingly sentimental, as though I secretly dream of being a Care Bear, but I mean it. I’ve needed a hug like that more often in life than I care to think about.

Since this IS a site for book reviews–two questions: What do you look for in a book review?

I like reviews that convey a good sense of what reading or using the book would be like–that talk about how the book is arranged and how well that works, or doesn’t. (You do a good job of that.)

And, since I’m slowly working my way through my knitting book collection, are there any particular books–other than your own, of course–that you’d like to see reviewed? Maybe I could bump something up the list for you?

You’re so kind to ask, but I love being surprised. Keep on trucking.

(Editor’s Note: Not particularly helpful, but very gentlemanly, so I suppose I can’t really complain.)

Thank you so much for stopping by, Franklin. This was such fun!

Don’t forget, everyone, the book is It Itches published by Interweave Press, and is out any day now. (Be sure to check out all the official website for excerpts and such.)

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kim October 15, 2008, 8:48 am

    You’re becoming the Diane Sawyer of the interblog knit community! Excellent interview! Keep on trucking indeed!

    Kim´s last blog post..S is for

  • Ina October 15, 2008, 10:19 am

    Thanks for the excellent interview! Now all we need to do is inveigle Franklin to visit NJ.

  • Chris October 17, 2008, 9:27 am

    Kim’s got it right! Thanks for sharing another fun interview with us.

  • Laura Sue October 17, 2008, 1:58 pm

    Wonderful interview! I’m here from Chris and Chaos and am putting you on my feeds!

  • CatBookMom November 1, 2008, 2:06 pm

    Great interview with Franklin. It reads like an audio interview, and I liked the questions you raised.

    CatBookMom´s last blog post..Miscellany

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