Franklin Habit and Old Time Knitting

I have not written here in so long. I have been doing so much, doing home improvements jobs, a little knitting and thinking about future projects, but I haven't logged in to share any of that with you.

Suffice it to say that I now have my college gurlz back home under one roof, one bedroom has been cleared of the detritus of years of toys, clothes, books and what not, and the walls have been patched (amateurishly of course), painted, and now the room is habitable! Yay!!! (Which has trod heavily on my knitting time... bah) Now onto the next improvement project, another room in need of patching to horsehair plaster, paint, carpet and general refurbishments. This is cutting into my stash enhancement funding!

I have been furiously trying to squeeze in some knitting to meet the challenge deadline of the May 1-15 UFO Ravelry group, but I didn't complete all planned WIPs successfully. I have been working on Manana, Pike, and my Favorite Cardigan.

I finished the Favorite Cardigan, but not the other two. This group has really helped me to stay in the groove of working as much as possible on current projects though. The Pike has only about 6" of the front panel left to be knitted, then on to blocking, and sewing in order to be completed. The back and the sleeves of the Manana are done . Only the fronts, blocking and sewing to go. Only... Oh well.

MIT's Strata Arts Center, photo by link

On Friday, I took myself to MIT's Strata Arts Building (see image above) to hear Franklin Habit tell entertaining tales of his research into old, very old, patterns. The talk was organized and sponsored by the Common Cod. This guild sponsors different events at MIT, and in the Boston/Cambridge area. There are many talented, interesting, and friendly people at the events I have attended so far.

Franklin was such a hoot! He is knowledgeable, funny, and prolific in his contributions to the knitterati. He had the audience laughing and guffawing at his cartoons, his dry wit, and funny tales of past experiences.

Image from Interweave Knits,

So, who is this Franklin Habit and why is he special, you ask? Oh ye of little stash... you know not of this leader of blogs, this archaeologist of knitting, and disseminator of humor and good faith?

If you are a blog reader, you will probably have heard of The Panopticon, one of the most widely read blogs about knitting. If you frequent Knitty, you will find many articles that he has written about patterns from generations past. If you love cartoons and you love knitting, you might have seen his book, It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons.

I urge you, no, I IMPLORE you to take a few minutes and check this stuff out. If you don't know of this wonderful, funny, articulate person, you will thank me for leading you to this rich source of info and humor; you might even guffaw!

(I posted my experience on Ravelry as told to the people I work with, none of whom knit, care to learn to knit, or hear about knitting. Telling the Muggles about Franklin Habit.)

So, the topic was the history of written knitting patterns, which surprisingly, only goes back to the 1860s. Mr. Habit has selected a number of these works, and has painstakingly brought them into the world of knitting as we know it. He has read tiny and dense print, figured out the abbreviations through trial and error, and translated into patterns projects that you will find on, or in Interweave Magazines.

There was Baby's Hood, 1844, a bonnet pattern. The story behind the photo had us laughing so hard as he described how he has been threatened by viewers who were shocked that he would use such an unflattering picture of an innocent infant. The baby is also shown in a more pleasant expression in the pattern page.

Photo © F. Habit. Used with permission.

He modeled 1840, Nightcap, and described how he uses it to stay warm whilest sleeping in the windy city.
The design of this cap is intricate and the weigh tof the yarn makes it look silky and lightweight. This might make for a good Christmas gift for relatives living in chilly New England homesteads (or condos).
Photo © F. Habit. Used with permission.

This pattern is based on Eleanor Roosevelt's hand written notes for mittens. During his talk, Habit described the former first lady as a woman who knit constantly during her travels. Some of these notes were found by Mary Ann Colopy, a curator at the Roosevelt/Vanderbilt National Historic Site who contacted Habit to see if he could decifer their meaning. The pattern on Knitty is an example of his research. Please take some time to read through the article attached to the pattern. Such interesting reading!

Photo © F. Habit. Used with permission.

The last design I leave you with is this little change pouch called a Pence Jug. These were used as change purses and make for a quick knit to use up leftover remnants of yarn.
Photo © F. Habit. Used with permission.

So readers, tell me what you think of this post... interesting, informative, or too long winded, too much info? I try to use your reactions as a gauge for future posts. Thanks in advance, and go check out these great patterns!


Patricia said…
I Loved the post! First of all, since I have been "creeping" my way into involvement on Ravelry, I am continually amazed at the depth of information that can be found there. Secondly, your post reminds me of this huge knitting "underground" that exist for those who venture in. I have never heard of Franklin Habit. (BTW - the link to Panopticon does not work.) I love the photo of the Strata Arts Center...brings back memories. I am fascinated by the history of knitting patterns. Keep on, keeping on.
Erin_in_Boston said…
Patricia, Thanks for the warning that the linky to the Panopticon wasn't active. I think I fixed it.
As for Ravelry, it has been like my caffeine fix since I joined, but more recently, I am there many times per day. I am a bit a-sceered that my employer will can me if they add up the amount of time I "Just Check" the forums tab or my message box. I have refrained from doing pattern searches while at work as it is trance enducing and hard to beak free of the powerlock that lulls me into just one more page! LOL.
I am glad you liked the picture from MIT, I thought of you and your dear one as I walked to the event and wished you were an East Coaster that I could cajol into coming with me!

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