Friday, April 11, 2014

Portable Knitting: Socks, Cars & Other Places

Every once in a while there is a question that keeps popping up. Where do you knit? And, more importantly, what do you knit if you knit somewhere outside your home?

Unlike most people, I learned to knit on the go. My friend Rebecca and I taught ourselves how to knit in the car while our Girl Scout Troop went to Savannah, Georgia. Yes, it was bumpy and we lost a whole bunch of stitches during the process, but it was fun and it kept us quiet during the long trip.

Naturally, one of the places I spend the most time knitting is in my car on my lunch break at work. It is a time where I get to relax and get out some of my frustration of working part time in a fast food restaurant. Most days, I don't really get a real break, so this stolen knitting time is a wonderful treat. It helps me decompress even if I am knitting in a smaller space and have to put my seat back from the steering wheel to get some room to put my needles.

I also only knit socks when I am out and about. I have tried knitting on several other projects when I am traveling, but I keep coming back to socks. They are small enough that they don't get in the way of other things that I might be doing. The needles are short enough that I'm not disturbing anybody or getting my needles caught on other things. Finally, the socks never get long enough to be really heavy on the needles or unweildy. This was the major reason why I stopped knitting scarves on the go. They would just get too long and heavy to carry around comfortably.

The only other places I knit a whole lot that isn't my own home would be my fiance's house, waiting at doctor's offices, and in our local library while waiting for my family to make their book choices. My book choices are mostly taken care of because that is my other job, so I tend to spend a lot of time there.

So, dear readers, what about you? Do you like knitting anywhere or are you a mostly knit at home kind of person?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Knitting, Life, and Learning to Write Again

It has been six months since I have even thought about this blog. In that time I have gotten work in two part-time jobs and have all but given up my hobbies and life to my jobs. I had been living and breathing work day in and day out. When I wasn't working, I was worrying about work or about how to find a different type of work. All the things that I was supposed to be figuring out in college and never really did since I was too busy worried about passing my classes and getting good enough grades.

I had lost joy.

But then, I picked up the pure alpaca sweater that I had been working on for my mom and tried to remember how I felt when the yarn passed through my fingers. The endless blue and white stripes reminded me of sea spray. The finished fabric was soft and drapey and almost fluid when held. Figuring out how to knit the collar on was a challenge and by the time I had finished I felt proud of the work I had done.

Best of all, my mom loves her sweater.

I am still working two jobs, but I am working on getting my life back from the endless day to day grind. I have finished a pair of socks for my fiance and I'm working on a shawl for my best friend's wedding as well as a pair of socks for myself.

I like to write and I like to share. I had just forgotten about that and you should never forget what makes you happy because then what is the point of it all?

I'm sorry if this feels really negative to some of you, but I feel like I need to get this off of my chest. The transition from being a full time student to a working young adult has been really difficult. It finally feels like I can start knitting again and I have discovered a really important thing.

I really need to knit more socks. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Deep Autumn

The leaves are slowly changing their color from the emerald and forest greens of summer to the dusty browns, vivid orange, and sunny yellows of fall. Depending on where you live and what trees surround you, your backyard could also be coated with a thick layer of brown pine needles so plush that you can walk on them with your bare feet without getting pricked.

It is the perfect time to pick up the sweater that you have been too busy for. Or in this case, the sleeve of the sweater you have been working on for a few months and would have been done if you had not put it down for some reason that has since been lost to time and a bad case of the lazies. To imagine, the silly pattern actually wanted you to count so you could place increases in an even amount so the sleeve would actually be fitted to your arm. How dare it be so considerate. How dare you be so lazy to not want to count a measly seven rows then work a simple little increase.

The sleeve is at the simple part of knitting. The part where it is just a two-row stripe pattern on and on for a few inches. Then it will be ready for the sleeve cap, but we aren't rushing the process here. Simple, mindless, soothing knitting is ready for us and that is what we will happily take. Even if you have a pair of empty straight needles sitting beside the ball of green just waiting for you to cast on and knit the ribbing of the next sleeve. We aren't there yet and sweaters are a process project.

Just knit. Sit and knit, happily and steadily for a few more inches at least.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lolita Hobbies: Stationary, Journals, & Fountain Pens

The last segment of my Lolita Hobbies list deals with something that everybody should do every day in some way: writing. We are moving into an electronic age where everything is starting to be done by either a computer or a cell phone and the physical act of writing is starting to be looked down on as an inferior method of communication. But this was not always the case. Proper writing and having good penmanship was viewed as being a necessary skill because it was the only method of communication that was viable at the time. There were no phones to text other people with and no computers to send Facebook messages to your friends with. If you wanted to get a message to someone, then you had to write them a letter and hope that they got it.

Even though the physical aspects of writing longhand may not be used anymore, it can be a very relaxing pastime to do. Learning (or re-learning) different styles of penmanship can make your everyday thoughts look very elegant; especially if you take the time to learn a very elaborate script like Spencarian or Gothic.

Of course, it isn't just about the process of writing that makes this skill a good hobby for a budding Lolita. It is all the paraphernalia that can come with it: pens, paper, envelopes, pencil cases, and journals.

Journals can come in a variety of different shapes and styles. They can be as common as simple college ruled notebooks or as luxurious as Clairefontaine notebooks. And if you can't find exactly what you want then you can always learn how to make your own journals. Or if you don't want to start from scratch, you can get a plain cover and decorate it yourself to suit any style. There is a ton of variation and a lot of brands, so it would take a while to get bored looking at different journals.

There are as many types of pens as there are types of journals. For the ultimate luxury there are fountain pens that use bottles of liquid ink. Then there are multi-colored gell pens that come in a variety of pastel colors, roller ball pens that combine the ease of use of a ballpoint pen and a fountain pen, and normal ballpoint pens. For those that don't want to use ink there are pencils (both colored and regular), markers, and even crayons. And don't forget calligraphy brush pens.

For those who feel uncomfortable with the idea of journaling, there is a more practical side of pens and paper: the humble letter. Everybody likes getting a letter in the mail and receiving a handwritten letter is even better. It shows the other person that you care about them enough to sit down and actually write to them. Of course, mailing a letter through the postal service will be a lot slower than e-mail, but you get the perk of the joy of writing and the pleasure of shopping for cute stationary.

Writing is an ideal hobby to get into for a Lolita. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Of all of the hobbies I have done so far, it is one of the most customizable hobbies out there. There will be nobody in the world with your exact handwriting except for you. It can give you endless hours of pleasure or it can just add a splash of elegance to your everyday life. Finally, it is simple to incorporate into your life. Next time you need to go to the grocery store, write down a list. If you are throwing a party, try sending out some invitations through the mail instead of over Facebook.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lolita Hobbies: Spinning

There is nothing more luxurious than taking a bit of fiber, spinning it, and then making something out of the resulting yarn. It sounds boring and tedious, but it is strangely fulfilling to take the raw material and then end up with a scarf or hat or pair of fingerless mittens. Plus, when you spin your own yarn, you have complete control over what that yarn will look like and feel like.

Spinning isn't hard to do either. Anybody can do it as long as they have their hands, some sort of fiber, and a stick. You basically take some fluff, roll it between your fingers in one direction until you get a piece of string, pull it to get some more fluff, and see how long you can get that string to be. It is kinda like when you were a kid and were playing with playdough. You would take a ball and roll it out into a snake to see how long and how thin you could get it.

Of course, you can invest in better equipment to make spinning easier. Instead of a stick to wind your yarn you make with your fingers, you can get a spindle that helps you make that yarn faster and have someplace to store it. If you get really into it then you can invest in a wheel and then your yarn will start flying out as fast as you can pump the pedals.

Now, you might be thinking that this is all fine and dandy, but what does that have to do with the lolita fashion at all? It isn't like spinning is similar to embroidery or drinking copious amounts of tea. That is where you would be wrong. There are three reasons why spinning fit perfectly into a lolita lifestyle:

1. People who get seriously into lolita are all about the quality.

When you are able to control the process of making something all the way back to the raw material, then you are guaranteeing that you are making something that is high quality to your standards and specifications.

2. Spinning is luxurious and fits into a luxury hobby

There are so many different spinning fibers out there that it can be hard to choose. But if you want the biggest bang for your buck, you can get a ball of silk to spin into very fine yarn. What can be more luxurious than spinning silk? How about getting some baby alpaca, camel, bison, or cashmere? And for the extreme luxury, try saving up and getting some quivit. Ultra soft and ultra fine fiber that is harvested from the musk ox. Extreme luxury because of the extreme softness and rarity.

3. Spinning is elegant

Once you get the mechanics of spinning down, spinning is something that is seen as graceful, magical, and elegant. Especially if you opt for spinning with a light drop spindle. Spinning with a drop spindle without actually dropping it can be seen as graceful and you will amaze the non-spinners with your awesome hand-eye coordination.

My favorite learn how to spin book out there is one focused on drop spindle spinning. It is called Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont and she takes you from start to finish on a spindle. And once you get the hang of spinning, then you can make anything from big, bulky yarn that you can knit and crochet with to thread that you can embroider or tat with and everything in between.