Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Knitting Neuroses on Parade

When blogging was brand new to me and I was trying out everything including memes,* I took a bunch of those online quizzes that were being passed around like smallpox and discovered that I am:
  • St. Vincent de Paul;
  • the color orange;
  • Paris, France; and
  • a pelican.
There was also at least one quiz about what kind of Knitter you are. I didn't bother taking that one. I already know what kind of knitter I am. I am a Weirdo Knitter.

To those who have known me long, this will come as no surprise. I was an odd baby, a quizzical child, a peculiar teenager, and a strange young adult. Now, with dotage fast approaching, I share my apartment with a cigarette-smoking sheep and fifty balls of talking, homosexual sock yarn. Le Tricoteur Bizarre, c'est moi.

I offer the following two Unfinished Objects in support of my diagnosis.

Exhibit A: A Nearly-Finished Baby Surprise Jacket

Once again, I'm knitting for a baby with no baby in sight. Inexplicable. Especially as on the continuum of Inborn Parental Urge I lie somewhere between a bag of Fritos and the witch in Hansel and Gretel.

Exhibit B: A Single Poetry Mitten Cuff

I was so excited that I almost hyperventilated when a nice lady at Knitting Camp turned me onto a Piecework Magazine pattern for mittens with poetry worked into them. Oh yes please, I squealed, and ran right out to Arcadia Knitting and bought this perfectly luscious yarn in three colors, and the proper needles, and then I sat down and knit the first cuff all at once and then I stopped short.

Because the poem in the pattern, while appropriately wintery, is just not me. It doesn't speak to my experience of winter and mittens and snow. I simply can go no further until I've picked out verses that do, and fit them into the chart.

So for four weeks I've been staring at the cuff and rummaging through my library in search of Just the Right Poem.

I've considered the Shakespeare lyric "Blow, blow thou winter wind," but then I've thought it might be too pessimistic and does one really wish to look down at one's mittens and feel depressed?

I thought about Ezra Pound's 'Winter is icummen in" but worried that the repeated "Goddamm" might render the mittens unwearable at, for example, elegant holiday parties and job interviews. And again, there's the pessimism issue.

I tossed around some lovely winter haiku, but then I realized I hate haiku.

I've woken up at 3 a.m. seized with sudden inspiration, and jumped out of bed, and spent an hour paging through a stack of anthologies before realizing the poem I'd been thinking of doesn't actually exist.

And you may threat, cajole, or place a gun to my head, but I cannot continue with these mittens until the matter is settled. At this point, I expect I might finish them by July. Of 2009.

Since You Asked

Marie in Florida wanted to know what's on the little card on my altar. It changes from time to time–I write down lines from sutras, or koans, or what-have-you that seems appropriate for the time. Right now, I've got the Four Bodhisattvic Vows, which we say at the Zen Center after each period of zazen and which I recite every day:
All beings without number
I vow to liberate.
Endless blind passions
I vow to uproot.
Dharma gates beyond measure
I vow to penetrate.
The Great Way of Buddha
I vow to attain.
Rather a tall order, yes, but you gotta have a dream.

(I wonder how those would look worked into a pair of mittens?)

*No, I don't anymore, and no, you shouldn't send me one. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Dare I suggest that you (or perhaps some loving fan) WRITE the mitten poem? I mean, there's a sock poem, why not a mitten poem? Why not one written by a knitter? a mitten knitting knitter even?
I'm just sayin'

(Why do I now fear that I'll be working on stanzas instead of sleeping??)

Anonymous said...

Baby? Did you say baby? Do you need a baby to knit for? WE VOLUNTEER! QUEER FAMILY WITH ALMOST-BABY OVER HERE IN CALIFORNIA!

Seriously, Franklin, my partner and I are BIG fans of yours, and we're expecting in March and WE CAN'T EVEN BUY ONESIES WITH DOLORES ON THEM BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE THEM IN YOUR SHOP! Not that I'm complaining, really, but we love you and your blog and we're sure our baby will too. So we need something to introduce him/her to you. By March, ok? Kisses.

Cheryl:) said...

I guess you wouldn't want Robert Frost Mittens.
How about "Spoon Valley Anthology" Mittens?

pacalaga said...

Why does the poem need to be about winter? Can't it be about something else entirely?
Maybe something like "I'd rather be at the beach" but in Latin.

Mel said...

As I can't see an obvious email address with which to address you personally, Franklin, I'm going to leave this question in your comments in the hopes that I can get some help.

I'm looking for a decent book, or source of other format, that would get me started knitting lace. I'm an advanced intermediate knitter (that sounds so corny), so I definitely know my way around a pattern - we aren't talking bare nothin's here. When I look for Crochet lace on Amazon, I get next to nothing, and knitting lace way too much. Thus I need input from someone who has already done the deed.

PS I found a link to a DVD of Enchanted April - on Amazon . Be warned, its Zone 4, but you can acutally buy players and download software that will allow you to play all zones (sorry, if you already knew that).


Sami said...

How about "I have just swept away the snow from before the gate?"

That was Zen master Chu-hsi Chin-shi's answer to some monk asking him what auspicious sign he might expect at the master's inauguration.

Ashley said...

I've always liked the first couple lines of Coleridge's "Frost at Midnight: "The frost performs its secret ministry/Unhelped by any wind."

Helen said...

Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!
- - - -Oxford Book of 16th Century Verse

CowGirlKnits said...


I haven't read your blog long, and might be a tad presumptious with a suggestion as my first comment...but...might I suggest instead of a poem on them, a koan? Whether it is about winter or not, one of the 'pay attention to the journey' type would be fitting, I think.


Anonymous said...

My favorite winter poem of all time is Shoveling Snow with Buddha by Billy Collins. You can read it here. It's a bit long for a mitten, obviously, but perhaps a line or two would work.

Anonymous said...

Dare I suggest the following?

I made myself a snow ball as perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet and let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas and a pillow for it's head.
Then, last night it ran away.
But first -- it wet the bed.
-Shel Silverstein

I do love a good pelican.

Julia (MindofWinter) said...

You can borrow my poem if it suits you: http://mindofwinter.prettyposies.com/archives/000154.html
If you do, you must send me the pattern however, as I wouldn't be much of a mindofwinter without some. xox,

mary said...

How about "Vidistine matellam meam pulchram parvam?" I'm embarrassed to say that my bachelor's degree is Latin and I barely translate what you wrote. Not because of your syntax or vocabulary, but just because I *sucked* at it.

Anonymous said...

Well, since we're all suggesting poems, might I suggest something from someone I'm sure Dolores would approve of?

Where I stray my thought must go;
With me wanders my desire.
Best to sit and watch the snow,
Turn the lock, and poke the fire.

Last four lines from "Harthside" by Dorothy Parker

Anonymous said...

fwiw, I think the Billy Collins poem about Buddha shoveling snow is beautiful and funny and warm and wonderful.

"Endless blind passions / I vow to uproot"? I'm thinking that sounds suspiciously like an end to compulsive knitting. Are you sure you want that?

froggiemeanie said...

You can always look to Robert Service for a few lines about winter - or one's hatred of it (I'm thinking of "The Cremation of Sam McGee").

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when Mind of Winter Julia would chime in...

And dude. If the poem's in your head and it only exists there, put it on your mittens. I put mine in literary journals and those don't keep anyone warm (unless, of course, they're being used to start fires...) so I think you'd be ahead of the game.

Anonymous said...

I say find a poem about spring or summer! It would keep your hands doubly warm. (Although I also loved Mary's suggestion that you do something obscurely Latin.)

Mel said...

What does it say about me that the Ezra Pound poem is the first one that came to my mind? Even though I love winter and even though I know Pound was a psycho fascist, I still love that poem. Of course, I don't go to elegant parties, and the people I work with would love mittens that said "Goddamm". Lhudely sung, even.

What about a take on Robert Frost. "My little horse must think me queer...."

Anonymous said...

This is the only snow poem anyone should ever need:

The more it snows
(Tiddly Pom)
The more it goes
(Tiddly Pom)
The more it goes
(Tiddly Pom)
On snowing.

And nobody knows
(Tiddly Pom)
How gold my toes
(Tiddly Pom)
How cold my toes
(Tiddly Pom)
Are growing.

(Winnie-the-Pooh and A A Milne)

Though perhaps it's more of a sock poem than a mitten poem.

Anonymous said...

How about a wish instead of a poem? Left hand: "It'll be spring", Right hand: "any day now."

jodi said...

How about this? Mortuary, by Irving Layton.

Flesh has fallen away. Trees/ And buildings are summer's skeleton;/ Wind has loosened, disarrayed/ The separate ribs, the evidence of bone./ Dead, deposited relics/ Shored up clean against a stiffened sky,/ Fixed by the mortician cold/ Moving his fingers over them ceaselessly;/ While the snow, decently to inter,/ Drifts between the spaces, everywhere.

If you don't use that for your poetry mittens then I'm using them for mine. Hell, I think I'll use it whether you do or not; too bad I sold all my Pieceworks at my yard sale this summer.

edawne said...

give up memes? are you nuts?

you're not the only one making yarn thingies for non-existant babies. i've made four this summer -- two sweater jackets, a swim suit, and a skirt & halter top set. what's wrong with us?

marie in florida said...

thanks. stuff on my alter/altar changes often also.
you wanna take submissions for the poem for your cuff? that could be fun.

p.s. i LOVE The baby surprise sweater. show us yours?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the obscure latin. Just because it fits with the 'weird' quotient.

By the way, if you're weird based on those things, I'm screwed.

Oh, and having trouble getting past you wearing mittens with 'Blow, blow' on them. *snort*

Elizabeth said...

Maybe the Sock Yarns and Dolores will have some ideas for you?

My verification word is
Sounds like Old McDonald gone awry.

Anonymous said...

How about this one:

There once was a sheep from Nantucket...

Anonymous said...

Or perhaps

First Glimpse of the Ox


Catching the Ox

vel sim.

Cheryl said...

Helen beat me to it. I second the nomination for "O Western Wind".

Liz said...

speaking of baby things, a smallish t-shirt for a 4 year old with the "it itches" logo would be quite the hit in these parts. Of course, given my particular four-year-old, perhaps Dolores might be preferable.

Anonymous said...

Which Peacework has that pattern?

thank you

Anonymous said...

Two lines of a wintery poem everyone knows over here... and if someone knows something about winter, it's got to be us in Québec! So, the first two lines of "Soir d'hiver" by Emile Nelligan:
Ah! comme la neige a neigé!
Ma vitre est un jardin de givre.
The rest might be a bit depressing (to say the least!), but most people only remember those two lines anyway. Surefire hit if ever you come and visit us in Montréal!

Anonymous said...

Franklin! (Note correct spelling....)

Exhibit A is known as the "Baby Ahead Sweater." You know that suddenly it won't be safe to drink the water in some office or other because 5 people you know will be preggers at the same time! So the only way to go is to always have at least one "baby ahead" sweater.

Linda "K"

Anonymous said...

Gracious, I love the alternative suggestions; I've had that mitten pattern for quite a while - I've been smitten with it since Nanette Blanchard of Knitting in Color made one (just one) mitten a few years ago; I wonder if you'll be the person to complete the pair?

Hannah said...

A slight take-off on Billy Collins:

"Can we go inside and knit together?"

Anonymous said...

I'm with Jacquelin.

If they were my mittens, I'd go the Tiddly Pom song. And thanks to the most excellent translation of "The House at Pooh Corner" by Brian Gerrard Staples, I have it in Latin.

Quo plus
NINGIT - tiddely pum
Eo plus cadit
NIVIS - tiddely pum
Et frigorem
DIGITORUM - tiddely pum
QUIVIS - tiddely pum.

(My apologies for any transcription errors, my Latin is not so much rusty as non-existant.)

Anonymous said...

I love the poetry suggestions so far, and a few do get a bit depressing after the first couple of lines, mind you my suggestion is a case in point. But as a British person I thought I should suggest some Shakespeare (and it was the first thing that came to mind):
"Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;"

Mind you I also quite like:
"Now the hungry lion roars
And the wolf behowls the moon"
If that's not too fanciful for mittens?!

Anonymous said...

I've always loved "The Snowstorm" by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Anonymous said...

Three little kittens,
They lost their mittens,
And they began to cry,
Oh, mother, dear,
We sadly fear,
Our mittens we have lost.

What! Lost your mittens,
You naughty kittens,
Then you shall have no pie.
Meow, meow,
Then you shall have no pie.

The three little kittens,
They found their mittens,
And they began to cry,
Oh, mother, dear,
See here, see here,
Our mittens we have found.

What, found your mittens,
Then you're good kittens,
And you shall have some pie.
Purr-rr, purr-rr,
Then you shall have some pie.

Three little kittens,
Put on their mittens,
And soon ate up the pie.
Oh, mother, dear,
We sadly fear,
Our mittens we have soiled.

What! Soiled your mittens,
You naughty kittens,

And they began to sigh.
Meow, meow,
And they began to sigh.

The three little kittens,
They washed their mittens,
And hung them out to dry.
Oh, mother, dear,
Do you not hear,
Our mittens we have washed?

What! Washed your mittens?
Then you're good kittens!
But I smell a rat close by.
Meow, meow,
We smell a rat close by.

You may have to go down a needle size to get it all in.
Think tight. Must knit tight!!!!!
Why limit yourself to winter pussycat?)

Anonymous said...

"Now Winter Nights Enlarge" by Thomas Campion (circa 1600) has some mitten-worthy lines:

Let now the chimneys blaze
And cups o'erflow with wine,
Let well-tuned words amaze
With harmony divine.
Now yellow waxen lights
Shall wait on honey love

[Or this:]

The summer hath his joys,
And winter his delights;
Though love and all his pleasures are but toys
They shorten tedious nights.

Anonymous said...

Any Emily Dickinson frags? Or Saphho (not likely to talk about winter, but ...)?

Anonymous said...

Rain, rain go away!
Come again another day.
Little Franklin wants to play.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Franklin, once again, for sustaining me in small but important ways. I would love to be your neighbor, but cannot live in Chicago (grew up in Homer, Alaska and did my 40yrs of long winter -- but OH! the mittens!)
Between Buddhism and being pretty much a weirdo knitter myself (ain't it fun?), I feel related with you in spirit.

Anonymous said...

Geez, how big are your hands?

Anonymous said...

Totally OT on the mittens, here. But had to thank you, Franklin, for your completed sock post and mentioning Charlene Schurch's book, Sensational Knitted Socks. I went to Amazon, I read the blurbs, I ordered. (Used, as I'm on a fixed budget.) It just got here yesterday, and I'm in love. *Great* book, esp. w/the different instructions including 2 circulars, which I prefer - one reason I jumped at it. I likely would've spent hours researching umpteen sock books had I not read your post, and still be dithering over which might be best for a novice sock knitter. Thanks much, and grateful hugs!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you got some lovely poetry suggestions. I was going to suggest the actual verbiage you probably use in, say Feburary..."yes, it is fucking cold". Not poetry in the strictest sense, but perhaps you could work it in as some performance art.

Marcy said...

Perhaps you are knitting the Baby Surprise Jacket because Dolores has gotten herself with lamb in all her recent gallivanting about?

Anonymous said...

HOw about something from the Welsh poet W.H.Davies:

Come, rich and lovely Winter's Eve,
That seldom handles gold;
And spread your silver sunsets out,
In glittering fold on fold

Silver Hours 1932

Anonymous said...

For mittens, how about: "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." (Albert Camus)

Anonymous said...

I think you should just put whatever piece of poetry you like one there, winter related or not. If you do it in Latin again it won't matter how many swear words there are.

And, I love how many of your readers have suggested poetry. Like high school english class only infinitely better.

Anonymous said...

"No peevish winter wind shall chill . . ."

from Eliot's A Dedication to My Wife is short enough. I'd love to see these mittens. I used to quilt words into blankets, but one had to go looking for them. Words on mittens would be wearing one's heart at the end of one's sleeves, no?

Anonymous said...

'Summer broke and drained. Now we are safe.
The days lose confidence, and can be faced

Philip Larkin, 'So through that unripe day', from The North Ship. Not the one about his mum and dad. ;) I'm also quite fond of the last few lines of 'Winter'. Or 'All catches alight': 'A drum taps: a wintry drum.'

Sweet Camden Lass said...

How about the one that goes "winter is the king of showmen, turning tree stumps into snowmen..."?


Jean said...

Without seeing the pattern, it's hard to guess how much poem you have room for, but what about Vides ut alta stet nive candidum/Soracte, nec iam sustineant onus/silvae laborantes geluque/flumina constiterint acuto?

Horace Odes Book I, ix: as soon as Dolores replaces the text.

Love, Jean

Anonymous said...

There is another "winter is icumen in" parody, the details of which (author, possible inaccuracies in my remembered version) I cannot for the life of me track down, but it might do the job for mittens:

Winter is icumen in,
Lloud sing tishu!
Windeth blo and snoweth sno
and all is icy nu
Sing Tishu!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to knit the Islamic socks from Nancy Bush's Folk Socks when I realized that part of the striping included the words "Allah." I think I'm going to replace it, because as much as I'm a fan of Islam, I'm not Islamic, and it would feel weird wearing that on my feet.

LauraJ said...

"When winter first begins to bite
and stones crack in the frosty night
when trees are black and stones are bare
'tis evil in the wild to fare."
Though Bilbo should have ben wearing trousers, anyway.

Eve, an SCA woman who made the Allah socks also made some that said 'blessing' in Qufic (http://home.earthlink.net/~lilinah/Knitting/EgyptKnit3.html), and I know exactly where you're coming from.