The Adventure of the Little Poser, Part One
For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.
I live in a rather up-and-coming part of Chicago’s North Side, in the sort of neighborhood where we already have three coffee shops on three successive blocks, but so far only one of them is a Starbucks.
I do a fair amount of knitting in one of those coffee shops. As the neighborhood has grown trendier the profile of the patrons has shifted from mostly punk rockers too young to have heard Joey Ramone live, to mostly pampered college students who never set foot in a library, to mostly Angry Yoga Moms taking a break after an hour of Vinyasa Flow.
This newest crowd has two topics of conversation: how doing yoga gives you inner peace, and how having children takes it away again. Therefore: Angry, Yoga, Moms.
They drink a lot of very strong coffee very quickly.
They’re also pretty much the worst advertisement for the benefits of yoga in the history of people bending over. The big yoga magazines always put somebody on the cover who looks like this.
The Angry Yoga Moms always look like this.
Of course it’s not really fair to blame that face on the yoga, but it was always easier to do that than to try doing yoga. I already have one of those faces that–on a happy day–inspires total strangers to hand me pamphlets bearing the word DESPERATE? in large type with a toll free number underneath.
What finally got me onto a mat was the sudden onset of not being able to reach things any more.
I don’t mean things on high shelves. I am a short man; I have never been able to reach things on high shelves. I mean that I began to have problems picking up things from the floor, and frankly even when I’m standing up no part of me is all that far from the floor.
Something had to give. Turns out it was my hamstrings, which hadn’t stretched since Carter was in the White House and I was sitting on a carpet square with nineteen other kindergarteners, already complaining about the lack of lumbar support.
Turns out yoga is pretty easy to get into. No great outlay of cash is required, nor must you invest heavily in supplies.
Your classes will likely cost you something, of course. You’ll also need a mat. Probably you’ll want a towel, and maybe a bottle for your water. Some people buy special yoga clothes, though few of the guys in my all-male class do. That’s about it. These things can get pricey–the alpha Angry Yoga Mom at the coffee shop has a $200 mat–but they don’t have to be.
In fact, compared to what I spend on yarn and yarn-related goodies in a month, starting yoga was practically free. Which is nice, because hobbies that interfere with my ability to purchase yarn and yarn-related goodies quickly become ex-hobbies. (Priorities, people. Priorities.)
After two weeks with a great teacher, surrounded by nice men who didn’t complain when I accidentally farted during pigeon pose, I was hooked.
So far as I was concerned, the only thing that could improve yoga would be somehow to mix it with yarn. Walking home with my mat rolled under my arm, I flashed back to the early 1970s and my first encounter with yoga.
The yogini was a woman named Linda. She lived across the street from us in Tucson and she was into all kinds of things that my mother and her friends considered alluringly exotic if possibly dangerous: office work, platform shoes, wine with dinner, belly dancing, divorce, and yoga.
She also crocheted. And she kept her yoga mat, I now remembered, in a special crocheted floral bag that exactly matched the crocheted floral poncho she threw over her leotard on the way to and from class.
Carrying a rolled yoga mat under your arm is uncomfortable and inconvenient. I’d seen a short strap on sale for tying it up–for twenty bucks. Twenty bucks? For a strap? Nope.
I’d make myself a bag. In fact, by way of a tribute to Linda, I’d crochet one.
And I did. I used a whole huge pile of lovely multi-colored worsted wool kindly sent along from Australia, and the bag (worked from a free pattern recommended by a friend) was handsome and serviceable, if extremely basic in its construction.
But as I got deeper into yoga, I felt the urge to make a new bag that would be really mine–my own design. After The Adventure of the Fallen Flowers, I wasn’t scared of crochet any more. Not much. I wasn’t an expert, no; but I felt I could branch out beyond double crochet repeated ad nauseam.
I started sketching.
And of course I started swatching, too. I had my eye on a pretty unusual yarn: Schoppel Leinen Los from Skacel.
What you’re looking at here is a singles (the final s is not a typographical error–the word is “singles”) yarn. Rather than multiple strands being twisted (plied) together to make the finished strand, there’s only one strand held together by felting. And that single strand is made from 70% virgin wool and 30% linen.
Yes, linen. I’ve been teaching a lot in the south lately, and it has reminded me what a fantastic fiber linen is–something easy to forget when you live in the Land of Horizontal Snow and are always thinking warm, warm, warm.
Warm is wonderful, but what I wanted for my bag was strength and resilience. Thirty percent is enough linen that the fiber has an appreciable effect on the look, feel, and performance of the yarn. Linen begins rough to the touch but softens with wear, and wears like iron. In fact, unlike many fibers, the more it wears, the better it looks. It’s supple, but doesn’t stretch–very desirable in a bag.
Knitters and crocheters tend to touch a skein of linen, wince, and put it back down again. That’s a shame, because once you get the feel for the stuff you realize there’s nothing else quite like it.
Performance aside, I just loved the look. A little rustic. Certainly natural. But absolutely modern. It made me think of Linda, pony tail blowing in the desert wind, striding down the driveway to her green Volkswagen Beetle and trailing a cloud of patchouli, or maybe it was Wind Song.
As long as I was trying out a new fiber, I decided to also try a new (to me) hook: the addi® Swing.
After the chaste natural beauty of the addi® Olive Wood hooks I’d used before, these looked distinctly unnatural. The handles reminded me of the weirdly curvy, brightly-colored Scandinavian furniture in Linda’s living room. Surely that must be a sign?
Time, and two weeks, will tell.
In the meantime…swatches!
Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
Schoppel Leinen Los (70% Virgin Wool, 30% Linen • 328 yards per 100 gram ball). Colors: 0908 (White) and 8495 (Gray-Brown).
Addi® Olive Wood Crochet Hooks
Addi® Swing Crochet Hooks
Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His new book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book has was brought out by Soho Publishing in May, 2016 and is in its second printing.
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, Sock Summit, and
the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.
Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.
He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon,
one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).
Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with
15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of
yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.