September 26, 2012

The "I Can Knit!" Phase and Other "I Can Do These!" Moments

Remember when you just learned to read and would just read things because you could? You'd be so proud that you could read that you'd read Go Dog, Go, The Cat in the Hat, and Mat on the Rug just because you could. Who really cares whether "you like my hat?" What you cared about was the fact that you could finally do something you thought was cool.

I'll have to admit that I was never enthusiastic during my "I Can Read" phase. Reading was torture until midway through second grade, and after that all I would read was 5th grade level and up biographies and historical fiction. But that's another story, and not a very interesting one, anyway. 

Just like you might have recently gone through the "I Can Drive" phase (unless you're like me and haven't finished driver's ed yet), the "I Can Do This" model can be implemented with almost anything! 

Although I didn't have an "I Can Read" phase, I did have an "I Can Write in Cursive" phase. During a few weeks of third grade I would practice my cursive letters pages at a time at my own will. I started to develop an interest in calligraphy then, and it hasn't gone away yet. (No, I am not a professional. Yes, you should probably be able to read my handwriting.) This was also why I started a journal then (after rereading it a few years ago, I have started to wonder where my priorities in life are), because I figured that if I loved the act of writing so much, maybe I should actually make myself productive whilst doing it. 

Now don't look at me strangely when I say that I hand-write everything before I type it. Note: I started a draft for this post, but I lost it so this is an exception. Whoops. :P

At around the same time the "I Can Write in Cursive" phase ended (there was some overlap), a new phase began that lasted the greater part of two years: the "I Can Knit!" phase. 

Starting in December 2004, I was very happy knitting for the sake of knitting. There wasn't anything I wanted to make in particular, I just wanted to knit. This of course was mainly because I thrived on the attention I got when I knitted in public. Knitting was an uncommon sight to see. I liked being an uncommon sight to see. I loved the attention as a person doing an uncommon sight. 

"Ooooh, it's so cool you're knitting," someone would say. Of course the next thing they'd ask would be "What are you making?"

The reply every time was "I don't know yet," to which they'd roll their eyes as they looked condescendingly to this little child who was so proud she could knit and isn't she cute and well she'll grow up someday and shoot, I have to go. You're welcome. 

So, as my "Whachamacallit & Thingymajiggers" box became fuller and fuller during those years, I considered my time productive. Over the years, I've thrown away some of the unmemorable stuff that takes up too much space in my closet and too little in my brain. What currently remains that was deemed worthy on "Photo/Going-Through-all-the-Junk-in-that-Box Day" can be found below. 
Notice the green cursive letter L in the middle. Also, the three different yarns used are the first three balls of yarn I ever bought (see previous post). This project took a few months, with size 7 needles, and a rate of production similar to that of my progress in SAT prep. 

This thingymajigger was crocheted. During class. In 5th grade. I had a brief "I Can Crochet" phase, but my crocheting abilities haven't improved since than and I am still a beginner that only knows chain stitch and first crochet (or is it second crochet?). If you're not impressed, don't worry. I'm not either.

Happy beginner knitting with Red Heart yarn!

September 7, 2012

First Knits

When a non-knitter thinks of knitting, according to my informal research over the last eight years, "Grandma," "ancient," and "rocking chair" are the most common associated terms. Let me clarify that the person that taught me to knit was not my grandmother, nor was she ancient, and we didn't sit in rocking chairs when I learned. In fact, at the time she was a high school student, and unless I'm missing something, being sixteen isn't ancient. And we sat on a couch because at her house, there were no rocking chairs to be found (on the second floor).

Think about where knitting has crossed paths with your life. The cartoons? Your grandmother? Your mother? TV? Pickles Comics? All these images from the media do not portray knitting accurately. Most knitters do not hold their sticks downwards, and none just rub their needles together to create a bunch of fabric coming down in no time. And another thing, time is critical. 

It's time for a pop-quiz!

How long do you think it takes to knit a simple scarf 4 feet long and 8 inches wide, with acrylic yarn and size 10 needles?

a) 30 minutes

b)1 hour
c) 2 hours
d)4 hours

If you guessed a, b, or c, the media is ruining your life. You're wrong. If you guessed d, that's probably how long it would take me, and I've been knitting for eight years. I've also become a lot faster over the years, because like anything, practice certainly makes a difference. 

Knitting requires oodles of patience. And practice. And yarn. That's why I have about 150 balls of it and it still feels like nothing. And SEX (Stash Enrichment Expeditions) are still one of my favorite things to do, especially when I'm not paying for it (which is never...)

One of the great things about a hobby like knitting is that it although it is a little expensive, it feels very productive and especially rewarding when you manage to complete a project. They make great gifts (until you run out of creative things to give to the same person) and keep you warm when you're making it, especially if it's a half-done blanket. If you choose to make something for yourself, and you happen to mention this fact after someone asks where you bought the scarf you're wearing and finished earlier that morning before school, it's the greatest feeling. And if you just assume that the gifts you made for other people get the same comments when they're wearing them (assuming your friends do end up wearing it), it's an even better feeling when you feel that your handiwork is making its way around the city (or state, country, or world, if you have a large friend network). Knitting is more productive than playing video games. I could write an entire entry about that. Or browsing Facebook. Or watching TV, sitting in the car, or doing homework. I'm not trying to discourage you from traveling in automotive horseless carriages (yet), but I always feel more productive knitting a hat while in the car AND getting community service hours all at the same time. That way instead of being bored on a road trip to LA, I just earn seven hours of community service. 

So now that I've told you why knitting is so awesome, maybe you were wondering why I started. Because I didn't learn all this stuff until a few years into it, so none of the aforementioned reasons were motivations of mine. 

To be honest, the blame is entirely upon the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. If you were a lucky third grader, you may have been forced to read one or more of these books. You probably didn't enjoy them, but I did. My reaction was nothing short of wanting to live their life because it was so cool. They knit all their warmth, sewed all their own clothes, baked all their own bread, and grew all their own food. Self-sustenance ftw. It's still a goal of mine. Kind of. 

So since my parents wouldn't even consider moving to South Dakota (and in retrospect I don't blame them one little bit) and building a log cabin and working on a small family farm that are very rare in existence in this day and age, knitting would have to do to mimic their lifestyle. And quilting, sewing, embroidery, and hanging the clothes out to dry in the backyard. Since I already "knew" how to do those other things, learning how to knit was first on the checklist. 

Our family was having dinner with some family friends. The other family has three daughters at least eight years wiser than I am. They had abilities far superior than mine [are], and one of their many talents was being able to figure out how to make me think that they loved "playing" with me. After dinner, we all went up to the playroom/study room/library/ I don't know what the room was classified as, but it was definitely a room. The middle daughter was showing me her knitting basket, and I asked her if she'd knit something for me. She did. It was a yellow rectangle about three inches by one inch that said "LIZ" on it via different stitching. Unfortunately, I don't have it anymore. I already spent some time yesterday looking for it. I wasn't that impressed, but it didn't matter. I simply flat out told her that "I'd like to learn how to knit." And ten minutes later, I had some knitting needles and yarn and was what I considered myself to be a pro. I could cast on, knit the garter stitch, and cast off. In my world that lasted twelve months, that's all there was to knitting. After half an hour or so, I had to go home. I couldn't take her knitting needles home with me so I cast off, carried my little knit work home and was determined to knit some more tomorrow.

There was just one problem: I didn't have any knitting needles! Whatever, I thought. Where there's a will, there's a way. I found two #2 pencils that were exactly the same length when perfectly sharpened, and started knitting my second piece ever (see picture below). When my mom found out, she cracked up when she saw graphite on every inch of yarn that I'd used. I was convinced that my entire knitting career was going to be rock solid with pencils, but my mother was skeptical. She took me to the yarn store where I bought a pair of size 7 knitting needles, and three skeins of Red Heart 100% acrylic yarn, the ultimate beginners package. And since that moment, I never really stopped. 

My oldest knitted work that I still have ever. The pink, purple, white, and first half of the green were knit with pencils. The top blue multicolor yarn was one of the three skeins I bought in my first knitting shopping spree.

Thanks for reading this! Let me know what you think or what you'd like me to include in later posts by commenting below. If you don't want to miss a post, feel free to subscribe; if pressing a button sounds like too much work to you right now, I'll try to make a new post every Friday, so just check back here next week. 

Happy crafting!

P.S. If you have some yarn lying around your house and want to start knitting and have no knitting needles, don't use pencils. The household remedy I'd recommend would be chopsticks.

September 3, 2012

The Beginnings

We start at the very beginning, which as I'm sure, is a very good place to start. But instead of ABC, 123, or Do Re Mi, it was knit, knit, purl, and over, under, tighten, and knot, knot, knot... because that's how I roll. The exact moment my crafty life began is rather uncertain, but what is certain is that it started at least twelve years ago. And it wasn't knitting, lanyards, or jewelry, but... paper. 

Paper cakes. Paper chains. And plastic-in-paper, also known as Light Brite creations. The paper cakes were surely a favorite. With childhood excitement comes the desire that time would move faster, but then slow down by tenfold on the special day. I'm talking about my birthday, and more specifically, my birthday party. And even more specific in that would be a birthday cake. And that sets the premises for my paper cake obsession. I would plan and sketch and design and present and dream about what my birthday cake would look like, complete with my full palette of eight Crayola washable markers and twenty-four Crayola crayons. Nobody had to rain on my parade to tell me I was (and still am) an atrocious drawer, but what everybody didn't see was the imagination that didn't find its way onto paper. The creative wheels were still turning that would later be released in other forms of which I had more aptitude, forms that I still pursue and find joy in to this day. 

My grandmother was quite the sewer, and the dresses and blankets and quilts and even curtains she made for me and I saw her make definitely inspired me to do something similar. I noticed all the attention I got when I wore these special outfits, especially when I told the onlooker that my grandmother made them for me, and special feeling I got inside during moments like these made me want to sing and dance with joy. And I did; all the time (more on that some other time). I figured out that making dresses like this wasn't the normal thing to do, and due to this, it was a special and cool thing that got one lots of attention. Obviously, I knew this was the thing for me. 

But one who's only five doesn't decide they are going to sew themselves a dress by themselves without any baby steps first. My mother enrolled me in a doll-clothes-making class when I was in kindergarten, where I made lumps of fabric that eventually found homes in the waste basket. I still loved it. 

My grandmother took me under her wing and taught me how to use a needle and thread to sew two pieces of fabric together. Whether I achieved this goal or not is not the moral of the story. What matters is that I loved every minute of it. And since then, I always have. 

I've found homes and comfort in other mediums besides sewing, which I don't even call my dominant crafting form nowadays. Regardless, I would still consider it the first medium which converted me into the art of crafting. And as far as I know, the aftermath of the conversion has been vastly successful up to this day.

Happy Crafting,