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Dear friends,

Since I last wrote, I’ve had what may or may not be my final dose of chemotherapy–a forthcoming scan will decide that. Meanwhile, I continue to putter around the studio in between long stretches of confinement in bed.

I cannot thank you enough for the hundreds (!) of kind and encouraging comments, which carried me through a moment when I was feeling especially blue.

Now, I read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” at an impressionable age; so my chief concern has been keeping my wits sharp insofar as intermittent episodes of brain fog will permit. To that end, I have picked up and discarded a handful of “gentle” knitting projects. A hat, a sock, a scarf.

That sort of knitting is soothing, yes, but my brain needs soothing less than it needs waking up. It wants a challenge. It craves novelty.

Enter Mrs. Henry Owen, of Upper Baker Street, London.

I bought Mrs. Owen’s The Illuminated Ladies’ Book of Useful and Ornamental Needlework (1845) just before I moved to Paris. It was an impulse purchase, based on the low asking price, the title, and the cover.

The book was so cheap, especially compared to the usual prices for knitting books of this vintage, that I was willing to take the risk that it would be (as these sometimes are) an absolute stinker.

Which it is.

No, that’s too harsh. The stink is not absolute. The book is “illuminated” by a series of colored charts that I unabashedly adore. 

They’ve barely been exposed to light over the past 170 years, and so retain much of their original vibrancy.

You might find them shocking, if you have always thought of the mid-19th century as shadowy and dim. On the contrary, the design world was in the throes of a fascination with the emergence of the first cheap, brilliant artificial dyes and the result was a riot of rich color.

These alone are worth (to me, anyhow) five times what I paid for the book.

On the other hand, there are the patterns.

Mrs. Owen undoubtedly got to write (or was required to write) this book because of her connection to H. Owen’s Berlin Wool Warehouse of No. 2, Upper Baker Street, London, which is advertised at the back of the book. Reading the list of goods and services gives me the vapors.

You may recall that my personal household goddess, Jane Gaugain, wrote her first book to boost sales at the family haberdashery. It would be logical to conclude that Mrs Owen had a similar goal.

Unfortunately, where Mrs Gaugain was a genius and an innovator, Mrs Owen was…uh…

I’m sure she meant well.

I have spent so much of my knitting career trying to boost the reputation of these early authors, insisting that the designs are often delightful and the instructions not so opaque as popular opinion would have you believe.

And then here comes Mrs Owen, the ne plus ultra of vague and confounding.

When she begins a pattern by saying, “Procure a sufficient quantity of …” a given yarn, I can forgive her. She would like you to consult a representative of H. Owen’s Berlin Wool Warehouse, who will advise you how much to buy. That makes sense.

But the patterns themselves are, without qualification, the worst I have ever encountered in a single collection. Whether Mrs Owen had more ambition than skill, or whether she was pressed into writing on a subject in which she had little interest, the result is the same.

This is a lousy book.

Some of the patterns are frankly lazy, like the “Plain Crocheted Purse” that pretty much tells you to crochet a piece of fabric of whatever size you have in mind, then sew it into a purse.

Other patterns are utterly dumbfounding, presenting the reader (presumably a home knitter like you or me, having no more know-how than an amateur knitter of the twenty-first century) with a Zen riddle that might, if cracked open, result in a cap or a comforter.

I’m not saying these things based on a casual riffle through the pages. I have tried, and tried again, to knit some of this stuff. Almost without exception, the path peters out and you are left stranded (you should pardon the pun) in the woods.

Yet I cannot set the book aside. It is so extravagantly awful, such a brazen pile of yarn barf, that it fascinates me. It has become my sudoku, my Wordle, the Waldo in search of whom I wander the globe.

And friends, with enormous pride I conclude by telling you that this week–for the first time ever–I have slain the beast. I have conquered Mrs Owen. I have successfully knit one of her patterns. This one.

Can you blame me for being intrigued? With a name like that? It sounds positively medicinal. MRS OWEN’S FANCY NERVOUS D’OYLEYS FOR AGITATED KNITTERS.

It took me five tries to figure it out, but here’s the result: a double-thick, reversible table mat (not worked in double-knitting, by the way) …

… meant specifically to keep things nice and quiet for invalids in the vicinity. (I’m not making that up–it’s specified in the pattern.)

The adrenaline rush was incredible, enough to get me out of bed. I hope to be positively spry next time I see you, possibly wearing Mrs Owen’s “Gentlemen’s Bosom Friend” to keep out the autumn chill.



*PS I couldn’t find another place to write about this, but can’t leave it out. In her basic instructions for knitting, Mrs Owen offers two methods for increasing. The first is a yarn over, for “fancy-patterns”, i.e., lace. The second is to split the yarn of the stitch into which you are knitting. I have never seen this suggested anywhere else, so I tried it. It is miserable.

PPS If you would like to knit your own Nervous Doily, I’m preparing a modern version of it for my Patreon patrons at all levels. You can find out how that works (and see what else we’re up to) here.

About The Author

Franklin Habit has been sharing his brainy and hilarious writing and illustrations with the knitting world since 2005.


  • This is completely wonderful! Thank you, Franklin. I just love how your mind works and the way you write about it all. Brilliant. And congrats for cracking the Owen. Love that you deciphered her code on a the NERVOUS D’OYLEY. Couldn’t be more fitting and perfect given all that you’ve been through lately. Good wishes to you!

    • You have started my day off with a dose of humor and peaked my interest in these patterns!
      Take good care of yourself!

      • You do find the most, um, interesting needlework patterns. Always enjoy reading about your adventures decifering them. Bravo on cracking the code here. One would have thought if Mrs. Owens didn’t care for knitting she would have enlisted the assistance of someone more atuned to that portion of her husband’s business. Thank you for providing insights into Mrs. Owens book.

    • Thank you for sharing your day. It started mine off with fond memories of Paris❤️

  • You made my morning!

  • Elizabeth Zimmerman mentions somewhere (not hunting through the books right now) that splitting a stitch COULD be a way to increase, but she doesn’t even recommend it, just mentions it as a thought experiment in that every problem has a possible different use.

    I like the hot pad trivet!

    • Glad you mentioned EZ on split stitches because it’s exactly what popped into my mind — how accidently splitting a stitch becomes an increase. I share this and other examples when I’m teaching Learn to Knit — I think every new stitch started as a mistake, for example YO’s or the bane of new knitters, increasing a stitch at the beginning of the row because the working yarn pulled the stitches over the top. Well… that’s how german short rows are made….

  • So glad to see you emerge triumphant with a completed Nervous Doily. Every home should have one.
    As a PSA for other readers of the delights available at Owen’s : it eventually came to me that do. is probably an abbreviation for ditto.

    • It is! — transcriptionist of historical documents 🙂

    • Was wondering what do. meant.
      And no letter v in 1845 england?

      • Me too!

      • Oh, gosh Franklin I’d have plucked that book, too….gorgeous color and dedicated to the Queen, no less! Mrs. Owen’s dear husband’s business did offer an awful lot of choices …….glad you made it thru one and rather charming it is. I think the Gentleman’s Bosom Warmer should be next…. The weather is cooling in Paris, you will be on the mend from chemo, and as as our mothers used to tell us, we need to keep our chests warm when it gets cold! Of course a Hot Toddy works, too…. just sayin! Sending positive wishes and a hug!

      • Ditto

        • I must add “yarn barf” to my knitting vocabulary! Thank you, Franklin.

    • I WONDERED what that was! Especially the do do. Thanks!

  • This letter was brilliantly entertaining. Thank you!

  • Hope you are feeling stronger and less foggy every day! The article made me laugh so much! Yarnbarf! I have a new term for some of my worst knitting mistakes! Thank you for your articles. I always look forward to them and look forward to hearing about your continued recovery!

    • Well done! Sucessfully completing a confusing pattern is a coup at any time, but overcoming the stress & brain fog of chemo to do it is masterful!

      I hope your scans are clean, and that you don’t have to wait ling for the results.

    • So does this pattern Cure nervousness or Cause nervousness? I do know the healing powers of knitting but would love finding a pattern that cured all ills, the Holy Grail. Wonderful post, thoroughly enjoyed it. I was blown away by the vibrant colors of those charts. Glad to hear you are on the mend.

    • Yarn barf! So glad you are feeling stronger, Franklin! Love and happy wishes, Lisa

  • so glad to hear from you, I can’t wait to see your Bosom Friend…

  • In all the antique knitting books I have read, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pattern quite like that.

    I am intrigued!

  • Dear Franklin, a wonderful read which completely brightened my day. Thank you, you are a genius. x

  • Looking forward to a 21st century pattern- a larger version would be a nice throw rug.

  • Dear Franklin,
    Your posts never fail to delight. I will add my name to the hundreds who wish you a speedy and complete recovery. May your ordeal soon be a distant and foggy bad dream.
    gail solomon

  • Praying you had your last chemo! And that the “fog” lifts soon
    Enjoy your column and always look forward to reading it

  • As always, Franklin, your letter was a delight! Thank you! So happy to hear of your continued improvement. Please know that we, your adoring fans, care and are hoping for a full recovery!

  • Dear Franklin,
    I love the way you write. Such style and wit. Wishing you an exit from the fog and a grand entrance into a gorgeous, crisp, but not too chilly autumn.

  • You are so wonderful; thank you so much for writing even as you recover. I would read anything you have written on any subject, but yarn, and especially yarn book reviews, are so excellent. Hard to believe that one person could be such a wonderful writer and an incredible needle worker. Many thanks, and best, best wishes for excellent health.

  • My first read of the morning… delightful ! Keep healing and thank you for sharing your incredible self.

  • I’m officially standing up for everyone here when I request a follow up please! You have left us with this tantalizing nugget of Mrs. Owen and the drudgery she must have felt for the creation of this awful (wonderfully awful) book!

    Is there a potential sequel being penned now by Mrs. Pond? Or at the very least a D’Olyed household?

  • I would blame all of your ailments on the book. Split the stitch? You must be on drugs, Mrs. Owen, and I don’t mean the fun ones.

  • So glad you’re doing well. Cancer is a journey. Remember you are not traveling alone.

  • When I first began knitting as a teenager (60 years ago), I would split the stitch to increase. Hey, it worked!

    I just don’t remember if someone taught me that or if I made it up on my own?

    • Split the stitch: the same with me. EZ, bless her, enlightened me in the 1970s.

  • Dear Franklin, you have started many mornings for me with a smile and a chuckle. This morning it started with a GUFFAW. No signs of brain fog is this missive, my friend! Continuing to send you strength and healing vibes across the miles as so many others are doing. I am anticipating the next letter declaring a clean scan!

  • Dear Franklin—just seeing there is a new post from you in the MDK feed brings such delight! Sending you an equal measure of hope for fortitude and healing xo

  • Brilliant! Your writing intrigues me!

    I think of your podcast whenever I see a doll house that I consider buying and decorating.

    Hope you are 100% well very soon!

  • Franklin,
    My best wishes and prayers that your chemo is completed.
    I admire your patience in deciphering and actually knitting her yarn splitting pattern.
    You made my day!

  • Witty, scathing, and hilariously funny letter , Franklin! Bless Mrs. Owen’s heart (as is said around these Southern parts…). Looking forward to viewing the pattern on Patreon!
    Keep going, friend. Charlotte Perkins Gilman is watching. Or was that the wallpaper blinking? (I, too, read it at an impressionable age. Shudder.)
    Your quick wit is intact, and you’re making it through the fog!

  • Good morning. I hope you are finished with treatments for ever! Throughly enjoyed reading about Mrs. Owen’s. Thank you.

  • I hope you are feeling better soon. The pattern is hilarious. Thanks for helping us start the day with a big laugh

  • I have been wondering why I have not seen much from you lately. I am sorry to hear about your battle with cancer and pray that the treatment will be successful. You are a joy and encouragement to us knitters. I was blessed to take 2 of your classes during one of Vogue’s knitting shows in NY. You are a joy. Please keep fighting the “fog”, though difficult it might be, to challenge yourself and entertain us knitters. God bless you.

  • Oh my, this is priceless!!! Love your writing. Hope your scan goes well. Continue to send you healing vibes.


    And a coffee spit-take for your pleasure.

  • Love those charts and your nervous doily. Too, too funny…

  • Hi Franklin,
    Love your letter! As always! Your writing is just fabulous.
    And so sorry to hear you are going through chemotherapy. Had completely missed it. I know it can be rough… Whishing you all the best. Love, Marlies

  • I so look forward to your letters! You had me in stitches. Sending hugs and healing vibes.

  • So delighted that your chemo is almost over. I wish you all the best. Seeing that you have conquered one of Mrs Owen’s “patterns” I am sure you are on the mend. Love the term “yarn barf”and look forward to seeing The Gentleman’s Bosom Friend.

  • Very funny! It is a lovely item now that you have conquered the pattern and the author. Happy to read that you MAY, fingers crossed, be at the end of your treatments. Stay positive and know that there are many keeping positive thoughts for you and sending your positivity, prayers and well wishes.

  • Well the cover is spectacular! Hope you are feeling better.

  • This was a wonderful way to start my morning! Your writing always delights and informs. I, too, am hoping that you will be finished with chemotherapy, and on to pursuing more knitting adventures.

  • That sounds so awful it’s good. There is a technique of yarn splitting used in braiding, so maybe she figured why not use it everywhere! I wonder how many poor women went offer their tracks trying to follow her patterns.

  • Franklin, you bring me joy! I love how and what you write.
    I pray you feel better and continue to crack the code of Mrs Owen. The cover of the book is beautiful!
    Can’t wait to see the Bosom Friend!

    Feel better and know there’s lots of love from your readers!

  • Franklin, thank you for another wonderful letter from a beautiful city. Your writing is always a joy to read. I hope your continued health journey goes well.

  • Love your posts! Praying your chem is done and you are cured!

    This doily reminds me of a similar pattern that makes a great dish cloth.
    Happy knitting!

  • My only fear is that by the time one needs a Fancy or Nervous D’Oyley it is too late – what with all the crashing and smashing surrounding our dear knitter, how could they possibly concoct such a piece, let alone the full set necessary to surround their nervous person with peace?
    I enjoy your writing so much!
    I do have a question though – are the colors printed or did someone have to go in and hand-color those squares. I’m assuming the former – but I don’t know much about when color printing came to be? (I am confident Franklin does though!)

    • I was wondering the same thing! According to the ultimate authority, Wikipedia:
      “chromolithography, which was developed in France in the mid-nineteenth century, permitted color printing. The process was extremely labor-intensive and expensive though as the artist would have to prepare a separate plate for each color used.”
      Would it have been cheaper for the Owens to hire someone to hand color the charts in that case?

  • This is fabulous! I especially love the list of goods and services. I managed to decipher most of it, but I have to ask—
    What the #%%$& is a Purse Stretcher?? I have unpleasant visions imvolving heavy machinery.
    PS: I’m not always a consistent reader and didn’t know of your illness. Please add one to the number of those wishing you well.

    • Haha. I had the opposite reaction to the purse stretcher—thought you would look into your handbag and find $100 instead of the $10 you expected. The glorious items on that list had me light-headed.
      Mazeltov, Franklin, on getting to the end of the miserable treatments. The fog should be lifting soon.

  • D’Oyley sounds/looks like a Miranda Hart knitting term.
    Congrats on your victory, Franklin. And very glad to hear you are seeing the light at the end of the treatment tunnel!

  • Dear Franklin,
    May the joy and delight you bring to so many boomerang right back to you! Continued well wishes.

  • Plate XVL would be a lovely border for one of your cross stitch rugs.

  • Wishing you well and congratulating you on still being able to be delightfully witty even in the midst of your health problems.

  • Thank you so much for this, Franklin! To echo another comment, I am adopting Yarnbarf as an all purpose portmanteau for my own messes and that of patterns that enrage and baffle me.

  • I believe I have the vapors as well. Now where did I leave my smelling bottle?

  • Oh, thank you, thank you! I SO needed it this morning. I do hope it provides you with enough energy to enjoy the day and your next endeavor into the morass of Mrs Owen!

  • Oh my word. I might need a houseful of NERVOUS D’OYLEYS just to cope. This is fabulous. Thank you, Franklin, and I wish you all good health and healing.

  • I LOVE this! In case anyone is wondering, the “do.” mentioned is an abbreviation for “ditto”. Glad you’re doing better, Mr. Habit, and hope to see more gems like this 🙂

  • Delightful!

  • Oh, Franklin . . . your writing is an infusion to my soul.

  • I think she must be one of Dan’s ancestors —

  • Thank you for a delightful start to the morning. I am glad to see that chemo may well be ending. I am rooting for you along with the many others who are doing the same. I enjoy every letter you write and look forward to the next. Take care,

  • I think Mrs. Owen’s patterns are so awful because she was distracted by the “Ladies’ Companions” in H. Owen’s Berlin Wool Warehouse. Anyway, I hope the upcoming scan brings only good news, lifting the brain fog, and helping you find Waldo (and Carmen Sandiego, too).

  • Oh, Franklin, I think this may be a new masterpiece. I have read it three times already and literally laughed out loud each time. You are a gift.

  • So glad to hear you are almost through your chemo journey and what an amusing adventure this book has taken you on! I love your letters. Your description makes me want to defy my sinuses and wander used books stores in search of a knitting adventure of my own.

    Take care!!

  • I’m so glad you found something to conquer while you’re having treatments! Wow! I just wonder if you look at some of the writing and just snicker out loud? I hope the scans are good and you can return to the streets and shops of Paris! Best wishes.

  • This is wonderful and I send you best wishes on your convalescence. Thought you might like to know that, based partly on your posts, I have restored my great-grandmother’s 1908 sewing machine to working order, which thrills my mother to no end. So thanks for that!

  • Sending continued healing vibes. Thank you for taking one for the team & slogging through this book of books for us. Your tale made my day!

  • Thank you. I needed some lightness today!

  • Hello Franklin! Very glad to hear you are now on the other side of the chemotherapy horror and you can focus on regaining your strength and moving forward to more enjoyable days.

    That book looks fascinating and Mrs. Owen sounds like a hoot – the spelling of doily alone says a lot about how the home knitter language has evolved over time along with the patterns.

    It’s always fun to see A Letter from Paris in my email, and hear from the charming Mr. Habit. fondly, Gitte

  • I have unlimited respect for your remaining brain cells that you could decipher one of her patterns, and that you Kept Going FIVE times! Absolutely knit through chemo, but I needed something that would keep me going for a good long time and complex enough to exercise what was left of my brain, but never anything that felt like being punished for attempting to crack the code! I’m hoping for a clean scan for you and a rapid healing.

  • Sounds like you are firing on all cylinders ! So wonderful. Thanks for a great laugh.

  • Great read as usual! I felt myself in good company as I once had a knitting book that may have been written by this person’s first cousin. My favourite was along the lines of “Obtain a piece of paper 6 feet long. Trace your desired shape onto the paper. Increase or decrease as needed to achieve your shaping”. What could possibly go wrong! Thank you Franklin!

  • Can hardly wait for that pattern. I have often gotten a pattern just because I was intrigued to find out how it was done. Congratulations on conquering the pattern.

  • Franklin – I’ve been a bit blue lately and for the first time in days I found myself in utter joy… “pile of yarn barf”?! I imagined a backup of cars on the highway, miles long, and when I got to the cause it was a single-wide size pile of yarn barf. Thank you, Franklin, so VERY much!

  • Huh….okay I’m intrigued. Also I think it’s funny that we’re still trying to figure out how to make a small decorative shape to mop up the tea and coffee spills.

  • Funny! She clearly was pressed into service to pen that book! Yikes! I have to laugh. I remember being exactly where you are in the chemo journey. Hoping it goes well and that all scans are empty of cancer critters. I remember starting a lot of projects and buying way too much yarn (sort of a “f***k you” to death). Now I am living with the delightful remnants of that shopping spree, which includes a spinning wheel (bucket list) and now I now how to spin — so it wasn’t for naught!
    Hope you feel really better soonXXOO
    P.Joan G aka fuguestateknits

  • Continued love, hugs and prayers! Thrilled that your humor is still sustaining you thru all of the fog and tiredness!
    Thanks for doing “you” & keeping us in your loop! Love, ke

  • Thank you for the continuous entertainment and inspiration. Wishing you a speedy and successful recovery so you can continue your wonderful adventures through life.

  • Kudos for your determination. Very funny, my granddaughter would say hilarious. May you continue with your recovery!

  • Franklin, I sincerely hope your chemo is finished and you are well again. You have been a real trooper to keep up with your columns through all of this. I loved this (and all your articles). The history is fascinating and you make it hilarious. Poor Mrs. Owens, may she rest in peace. She tried.

  • One must wonder if perhaps Mrs. Owens had a nervous, invalid friend who was made anxious by noises such as the absurdly boisterous clack of the teapot (steeping a calming pot of camomile, of course!) hitting the tea tray and was thus inspired to design this delightful pattern in honor of dear Mrs. Marie-Claire D’Oyley. (Which then leads to further pondering… perhaps an O’Doyley for fair Kathleen?)

  • Lol, the nervous doily and the yarn barf! Thanks for a fun letter, Franklin. Glad you’re almost done with the nasty chemo.

  • How could you NOT buy this book?!! The cover alone would grab me, but your sharing of the pattern descriptions, which are utterly delightful. Bravo for conquering the Nervous Doily. I can’t wait to see The Gentlemen’s Bosom Friend knit up. Hopefully in a lovely shade of purple.

  • With such a spectacular cover on her book, I would have thought Mrs. Owen’s patterns would follow suit! Thank you for saving my investigation into purchasing one. Haven’t we come Such a long way from those hazy vintage days with patterns that are much clearer?! Your sense of humor always makes me giggle and I have high hopes that you will conquer the dreaded cancer!
    Fondly, Karen Haggas

  • Wonderful read. I hope your next post tells us you are out of chemo and on your way to getting back to what you love to do. Thank you Mrs. Owen for the moments of joy you brought to Franklin. And thank you, Franklin, for the joy you bring to us.

  • I always smile when I see you’ve written a column, and am glad you appear to be feeling better. Thank you for introducing us to such an “interesting ” designer. This was a hoot!

  • Nevertheless, he persisted. Admirable work, Franklin, on both counts.

  • Franklin, thanks for another refreshing article. Even in your distress there is that affable humor. Loved this letter as much as your others. Praying for your complete healing.

  • Wishing you well and a successful recovery (from the treatment as well as the disease.) And that is a wonderful “D’Oyley,” and the spelling is delightful in a wonderful Gilbert-and-Sullivan sort of way. (I too love the book cover.)

  • Dear Franklin,
    I enjoyed your letter. The knitting book reminds me of old recipe books.
    “ Mix it all together and put in a pan”
    Take care

  • Best wishes, Franklin. You have shown a great deal of what Mrs. Owen would have called “intestinal fortitude” in dealing with your cancer.
    Way back in 1969, as a tyro knitter of some eight years, I made a considerable number of unintentional increases by knitting into and splitting the yarn of the stitch in a previous row. It does work, although it’s not terribly desirable. The first knitted piece of many a beginner does indeed wave at the edges.

  • Hang in there!

  • Dear Franklin,
    Another wonderful article from your witty and brilliant pen! You are an inspiration and I look forward to your articles with great anticipation. They always make my day!

  • Dearest Franklin;
    Praying for your swift recovery (so that you can buy more ‘interesting’ books!). I truly enjoy your writing, photographs, etc. Thank you for enriching the world with your sense of humor!

  • Franklin, I hope your success with the quiet doily has you feeling better. I wish you well. Your wit and charm pierce through any brain fog, clearly, as this missive was hilarious. And I do love the colourful plates & pretty book cover. So funny that it is almost unknittable! Take good care of yourself.

  • I admire your patience and persistence. Thank you for sharing your perambulations and discoveries with us.

    your fan, V

  • I always enjoy your letters. That book sounds fascinating, despite how bad it is. Sometimes we just want to read a train wreck.

    Hope that was your last treatment. My husband battled cancer too.

    Best wishes and healing thoughts coming your way.

  • First,sending wishes that your last treatment was indeed your last treatment !
    And second, this is hilarious. Best knitting book review I’ve read in ages .
    (on my way to France and hoping your big lace is still in la fenetre)

  • One can see why the illustration, and patterns have been “barely been exposed to light.”

  • Congratulations on cracking the code! Mrs. Owen’s patterns sound like a hoot, but I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the Nervous Doily.
    I do hope your chemo is at an end and you will be diagnosed as cancer free. I love, love, love your articles and look forward to reading them. I send my best wishes for a full recovery.

  • Hurray for Franklin! Thanks for another delightful letter. So happy to hear things are looking up! Will keep fingers crossed for good results!!

  • Oh, I have missed you so. When my FB account was hacked and stolen, and I had to create a new one – and it won’t let me ask to be your friend.
    But here you are. Witty, charming, and coaxing beauty out of sows’s ears. I have no need whatsoever for a nervous doily. But now I really want to knit one.

  • The table mat is wonderful! I’m glad that you stuck with it for those five attempts. Now, I can’t wait to see the “Gentlemen’s Bosom Friend”. Most of all, Franklin, I am so happy that you’re in a good place, getting good treatment, and that things are looking up. ❤

  • Wishing you well and hoping for you to receive the best outcome! Always love your articles.

  • What would I do without your writings? Humor and A long overdue book review! Stay on your path to wellness! We are cheering you on!

  • Dear Franklin! I’ve been out of the loop and have missed you very much. Sew delighted to discover your blog and so very sorry to learn you’ve been unwell. I hope that you’re on the mend, and I’m grateful for this great post.

  • <3 & LOLOLOL!

    An emphatic lover of vintage patterns and veteran of trying to make sense of the making of those same vintage patterns! Been there, done that…

    PS – It helps to make it apparent that we all, individually AND collectively, get better and better by doing and re-doing again and again and again. Here is the proof… written… sometimes badly written!

  • Franklin, you adorable knitting maven you, praise god that the chemo is finished and that you’re on your way to a brain fog-free future. Thank you for every amusing instructive word you write. I wish you all thebest.

  • Out of curiosity I looked up “ split the yarn of the stitch into which you are knitting “ and they call it fixing mistakes! Boy that book gets you thinking doesn’t it. Or not.
    Thanks for your wonderful letters and looking forward to more!

  • So glad to hear you may be near the end of your treatments. Hoping it is so and that they are deeply successful.

    Thanks for the humorous review! I can recommend a couple other horrid examples, if you’d like. At least your charts are well preserved, possibly due to lack of the book being opened??

    Hugs to you!!

  • Ӏn fact no mаtter if someone doesn’t be aware of then its up
    to other people that they will assiѕt, ѕo here it happens.

  • Seeing a new article from you always makes me smile, even before opening it. You always seem to find the fun and humor in life and I love your sharing of life in France. Cancer is a nasty business …. sending you good vibes for a clear scan.

  • You always entertain me❤️❤️❤️

  • So glad to hear that you are closer to being on the mend. Getting older has some “perks”, but all the aches and unexpected illnesses are not great , but we must carry on by knitting, listening to music, playing an instrument reading, etc. Love your letters and this one with the old book and the beautiful table mat.
    Best wishes!!

  • Well done! Sucessfully completing a confusing pattern is a coup at any time, but overcoming the stress & brain fog of chemo to do it is masterful!

    I hope your scans are clean, and that you don’t have to wait ling for the results.

  • That is so funny. I love looking at past historiknitting patterns and just because it is old does not make it glamorous or a attainable project. Thanks for making me laugh. Gina

  • I desperately need one of H. Owen’s’ “purse stretchers”.

  • Best wishes for a full recovery and for conquering Mrs. Owens!

  • I always get a kick out of your letters – and learn a little something besides. Take care!

  • FANCY NERVOUS D’OYLEYS FOR AGITATED KNITTERS!!! Oh how you do inspire us! Can’t wait for your updated pattern release!
    Hope each day you are gaining strength and getting good reports!

  • Could Mrs. Owen have imagined that 178 years after publication a Parisian invalid would be knitting her nervous pattern? I read the listing of Owen’s offerings to the tune of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”

  • I am starting to suspect that Mrs Owen didn’t know how to knit, and any readers were too embarrassed to call her out on it!

  • Franklin my friend, Glad to hear that your chemo will be a thing of the past. I love your terms, “yarn barf” and it does apply to some patterns I have attempted. Keep the faith Franklin, and continue to pursue your goals. As we say in Minnesota ” Keep your stick on the ice, we’re pulling for ya”.

  • I hope it is your last chemo.

    Thank you for sharing your brilliant adventures with the victorian ladies. Sending much love ❤️

  • I love you, Franklin!

  • I wouldn’t have been able to leave that book behind either! And “Nervous D’Oyley” sounds like a Terry Pratchett character! Are they supposed to stop your cup clattering on the bedside table?
    Best wishes for a strong recovery and further victories over Mrs Owens.

  • I would love to have that on a T-shirt: MRS OWEN’S FANCY NERVOUS D’OYLEYS FOR AGITATED KNITTERS. Classic merch.

    Get Well, Monsieur Franklin, the world needs you.

  • Franklin, this made my morning! I have several vintage knitting books (c. 1920’s) handed down to me by my grandma and was able to decipher some of the obscure verbiage. I’m currently working on a sweater from a hand written pattern, no details (amount of yarn needed, sizing, etc.) but I’m enjoying the challenge. Can’t wait to see how it turns out! Glad you are feeling better and keeping your mind challenged,

  • Oh how I love your articles! Having this article arrive today is a special treat to kick off my birthday weekend! I’m keeping you in my thoughts as you (hopefully) leave chemo in your past.

    Your adventures into knitting patterns of old are fascinating! You’ve exposed me to a genre I didn’t know existed!

  • You do these things so we don’t have to! Take very, very good care of yourself, because you, sir, are a treasure.

  • Ah Franklin, your posts always deliver. Thank you for sharing both personal and professional parts of your life. I love the treasures you share about early knitters. Bless Mrs Owens’ little heart!

  • Franklin,

    I’m glad to hear you are feeling livelier again. Continue on this path to good health!

    Ferronier? Angola? The list was amazing. Most I had an inkling but these were still a mystery and confounded by modern references in my, admittedly, brief searches.

    Wising you some intriguing historical finds, possibly in a bijou French antiquarian Parisian bookseller’s shop. Given the convolutions of Mrs. Owens, the similar layers of French vocabulary from a French knitter of the same period might make it Herculean, though I am sure you will be up to the challenge.

  • Dear Franklin – Thank you for the great book review of a lousy book. I do like old patterns and chuckle at their suggestions for yarn and vague assuming instructions. I am happy you are finishing your last round of chemo and attempting to see thru the brain fog. I told my friend to use ‘chemo brain’ as an excuse for forgetfulness and crazy actions. I hope your scans are good news. Peace & knit on. PS I am going to dig up your past posts on MDK, you are a fabulous story teller.
    PSS I love Paris

  • I would have bought that book as well – the vibrant red and gold cover would have been enough. But then, I have always been a sucker for packaging.

    Feel better my dear.

  • I am so impressed that you are able to knit through chemo! I tackled a pair of fingerless mitts while recovering from chemo and they have been fit only to accompany me on camping trips where the inevitable snags only enhance the odd stitch pattern. Wishing you well and a speedy recovery!

  • How perfect a book to speed your healing! I love it just for the beautifully colored charts and the lack of ability to follow her thoughts. I imagine her doing as you say to promote the family business and being so nervous at being caught out. fingers crossed you are done with the chemo and can now stride towards stenghth knowing each day will be better.

  • Dear Franklin,
    You remain a total delight! I don’t know how you do that, while going through everything you have endured of late, but I (and so many of your fans) are truly grateful.

  • This interesting and entertaining posting demonstrates that your brain is working fine! I hope your treatment can now fade into the background.

  • You had me at “…a brazen pile of yarn barf”, probably because this will be my new description for any knitting project I’ve grown to hate. Thank you, Franklin, for another snazzy and delightful missive from Paris. Stay the course and feel better.

  • Did that cancer thing over 25 years ago…through the grace of God I’m still standing…learned the small things in life family history…now I ‘ m drinking smoothies… teeth in the near future..Knitting has gotten me through some pretty tough times…it provides me some greatly needed rest..God bless..deb

  • Love your humor and letters. This one is fascinating as well as funny. Thanks for sharing Mrs. Owens book with MDK readers!

  • Fascinated and very much amused beginning to end with your excursions into Mrs. Owen’s version of the hand crafting universe. But more importantly, I’m happy and encouraged to know you’re getting along and on (hopefully beyond!) your cancer treatments. May you soon be fully recovered, Franklin. All the best to you.

  • Enjoy your writing so much!! Thank you!
    Still sending positive thoughts your way. Hope your fog lifts and no more chemo!

  • Chemotherapy is never fun, but it will be behind you one day. I went through the procedure some 6 years ago. I participated in a knitalong as a challenge to myself that I could make the brain work. It was interesting to note that I had trouble remembering the yarn over on each row in the center of a shawl, seemingly so simple. I wasn’t as sharp as I thought I was, but I did persevere and it turned out nicely.
    Wishingyou well on your journey back to health.

  • What an amazing book in being almost 200 years old.
    I love your writings and have been introduced to them through MDK (Modern Daily Knitting).
    May this chemo round be success and I wish you all the best.

  • I loved this. Be well.

  • Well, that was a chuckle.
    But then again, there was much color in the 19th c. Think of those aniline dyes and those weighted silks …. which are the cause of present day nightmares for those of us who work with costume collections.
    Best wishes for a full recovery and the end of brain fog. I must admit, I can deeply admire someone who conquered a 19th c. craft book while suffering from brain fog. What’s the knitterly equivalent of an OBE???

  • Thank you for sharing your trials and tribulations with Mrs. Owens. I actually laughed out loud and given the world we live in today, a Nervous Doily may be just what is needed. I am so glad the your chemo treatments are ( possibly, hopefully) over and I continue to wish you the best of everything. Thank you for the laughs.

  • What a great way to start my morning: I always know you’re going to be writing about an antique book when the author is credited as such: “Mrs. Henry Owen.” Poor lady doesn’t have a name of her own… Sending wishes for continued health, thank you for your lovely letters from France.

  • Happy to hear the chemo end may be sight. Hope you have a good week ahead.

  • What a wonderful article,found you but accident and loved your piece. The book you found sounds very intriguing. Thank you

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