Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Florida Bound

The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful for my boyfriend and I. He had a job interview at a great company that happened to be in Florida. We're from Indiana. We currently live in Indiana and have lived in Indiana for at least 20 years (I'll get to that in a minute). My boyfriend was so excited about this opportunity and once he got home, the waiting began. Would he get a phone call? Would he get an email? Would they be positive or would they be breaking bad news to him?

Last Friday while we were at work, he got a phone call. It was good news. I jumped up and down as our coworkers looked at us and congratulated us, mostly him, on the great job and pretty perfect location. I ran outside and called my family, the first person I got ahold of was my dad. We talked about  specifics like when and where. We ended the call with him saying, "So, going back to the state of your birth, huh?"

I was born in Florida. I was there for such a short time though that I don't really talk about it, let alone mention it. When we left work that day, my boyfriend asked me, "So, how's it feel to be a Floridian?" And I responded, "What? Again?" My boyfriend of almost four years didn't even know I was born in Florida, or at least didn't remember it, that's how little I talk about it. My dad was in the Air Force and a few months after I was born, we were residents of Wiesbaden, Germany. So, Florida, don't take it personal that I don't really talk about you much when it comes to the History of Leigh.

There are a bunch of mixed emotions right now. I am excited because I have hit my mid twenties and the Wanderlust that effects most post-collegiate grads has hit me hard. I want an adventure. I love Indiana, I love the cornfields and the Hoosier fanaticism, especially when it comes to Peyton Manning. Many Hoosiers refuse to believe that Peyton Manning is playing for a different team although Andrew Luck is quickly gaining popularity 'round these parts. I've lived in Indiana for the majority of my life. There are very few memories that I have from when we lived in Germany, before I lived in Indiana. I'm going to miss this place with its two seasons, winter and summer (or basketball and construction). I'm going to miss local places like Sno Castle and the Park, places you can't replace. The best you can do is find a mediocre substitute. But most of all, I'm going to miss my family and friends.

I'm not worried about making new friends or new acquaintances. When I do want to be around people, I can actually be quite pleasant and enjoyable and I've even been called fun, but that was after most of a giant margarita. You can find new friends, that's not hard. You of course can't replace old ones, the ones that were there to eat ice cream with you after a bad break up, or those who bought you your first Jaegerbomb and you decided it was nasty and that you'd never have one again, or those who you've known since middle school. They can't be replaced, you just find mediocre substitutions.

But what I'm going to miss most of all? My family. We've had our rough spots and times when we haven't talked much or gotten along well but they're still my family. A couple of weeks ago, after my boyfriend had his interview and came back to Indiana, I visited with my mom. She told me about when she left Indiana with my dad to go to Florida. She sat and cried as she talked about leaving her grandmother and about my dad being compassionate, something that doesn't happen too often.

"You'll see her again." He said as he grabbed her hand and she sat crying in the cab of the moving truck.

I feel like history repeats itself and sometimes in very eerie ways.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

You Spin Me Right 'Round (WIP Wednesday)

The yarn officially called "Hot Mess."

Most of the time I spend online, I spend looking at pictures of other people's projects. Their dyeing projects, knitting projects, crocheting, spinning, embroidery. You name it. The ones that always stop me and make me "oooh" and "aaahh" over are the spinning and dyeing ones, especially roving. I attempted to dye my own yarn a few years ago and I ended up with a mass of yarn that smelled like Black Cherry KoolAid but looked like raw hamburger. I haven't gotten the urge to attempt dyeing again but my fingers itch when ever I see someone's hand-spun yarn. I want to do that. I want to try that. So I did.

The main reason why it took so long for me to attempt to try spinning is the initial cost. Knitting and crocheting, you can spend $10 and get yarn and needles/a hook and start that day. I don't know if you've seen the prices of spinning wheels lately but they aren't exactly what I'd call cheap. More like "really effing expensive." My criteria for starting a new craft or hobby is "Can I try it for $10 or less?" If I can't, I don't want to put a bunch of money into something and then decide I don't like it. This is why I won't try scrapbooking.

Drop spindles were an option. But even then finding a cheap one and then roving. I just got discouraged.

Until one day I got a wild hair and decided I was going to learn to spin. Damn the cost, I was going to find a way to jerry rig the whole thing and I was going to do it on a budget! I watched videos online for hours about different drop spindles and how to make them and how to spin with one. The next day, I ventured to the Big Box Craft Store, got a wooden wheel intended for a toy I'm sure, some needle felting roving and that evening I was soaking my first hand-spun.

My drop spindle is made from an old knitting needle made from a dowel rod and wooden bead. Slap on a wooden wheel, I didn't even bother with glue because they fit like a dream, and you got yourself a makeshift drop spindle. The roving I got is intended for needle felting and there was a moment when I was afraid it wouldn't work at all, but it did. My layout for starting hand spinning: ~$8. Sure my hand-spun yarn looks like crap and feels like steel wool, but it's yarn and it's holding together and I am finally getting some consistency.

I don't know if you've seen it but there is a $7 make-your-own spinning wheel out there. (Ravelry link) It fits my criteria, although I am getting outside help because I don't want to mess up cutting something. And now that I feel I have the basics of spinning down, I think I might be able to actually use this thing once it's made. And I'm really excited.

In other news, I did a thing! Two great friends of mine have a literary magazine dedicated to Creative Non Fiction and I'm the featured writer for April! Go check it out! The rest of the magazine is really awesome too, so you should go check it out even if you don't like my writing.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ya learn somethin' new every day... (WIP Wednesday)

I decided to continue the trend of trying new things and new techniques. Up next on the list of things I hadn't tried yet: Double knitting.

Well, this isn't true. At all. I have tried double knitting before. I was trying to make a scarf for my then boyfriend's roommate but I gave up and just made her a garter stitch scarf. She didn't seem to mind or care that I had knitted her anything. (We haven't stayed in touch.)

And I didn't really double knit this week. I really just knit two things at a time. On the same needles but with different yarn. Someone on Twitter had posted a picture from their sock-inside-a-sock class and I had the urge to try it RIGHT THAT MOMENT. Before I did that though, I talked myself down from the crazy ladder I had climbed and I decided that just trying two washcloths at the same time would be good practice and would result in less injury (probably). I'm glad I started small. I got the hang of it eventually. It was fiddly and I did have to watch numerous videos on different techniques of how to hold the yarn and where to put it when. Because I wasn't trying to end up with a double thick washcloth and was really trying to get two separate washcloths, it was difficult to find something that helped. Eventually I just bastardized the whole process and did my own thing, which if it works...

I'm trying to decide what new thing to try next. There aren't too many techniques that I haven't at least tried out there. Except steeking but why on earth would anyone sane steek something?*

*Leigh would like to say at this time that she doesn't think that people who enjoy steeking are insane even if they do show qualities of crazy people like enjoying cutting up a perfectly good piece of knitting that you just spent hours and hours of work on.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Visiting the Continent

I decided to try something new. Something adventurous, exotic, undiscovered.

I tried Continental.

I was taught by my aunt how to knit. She taught me how she was taught by my grandmother who presumably was taught by her mother. Our family knits English. We are a whole bunch of throwers.

But I decided to try something new. I had heard Continental knitting was faster than English, that picking the yarn was easier and smoother than throwing but I've been set in my ways. I am very much a creature of habit and I'm in the habit of tossing my yarn about like a madman. The more precise picking hadn't crossed my mind even after a friend in college had decided to pick it up. He talked about his increased speed and how much quicker everything seemed to go and yet after my fumbled attempts, I gave up and stayed in my comfort zone.

For some time, it has been my desire to teach. I've taught numerous people how to knit and they have all picked it up or decided it wasn't their cup of tea. The first thing you have to have when knitting is patience and if you don't have that then you won't enjoy knitting. But as I'm trying to figure out just what I'm supposed to do, I figured that I could teach others how to knit. I'm a good teacher and I've learned, being with my very analytical boyfriend, how to explain things multiple ways to get even the most left brained person to understand.

"But if I want to teach," I thought to myself, "then I should know more techniques than just my trusted English knitting."

So I braved it. Yesterday I picked up my needles and my cotton (I'm on #3 for my Mother's Day washcloths) and started a mitered square washcloth. It's been slow going and weird. I'm still not sure I like it. My right hand feels like it's being lazy or left out and not doing anything. It's so used to being the one to direct the whole process and now my left hand, my non-dominant hand, is in control.

It's too early to say whether or not I like it. And I'm not even half done with this washcloth so the whole "faster" thing has yet to be seen in my opinion. And tensioning the yarn is weird. I've found a way that sorta works but I definitely knit looser than I do when I throw my yarn, which might not be a bad thing. I tend to knit on the tighter side.

Maybe I'll be a convert. Maybe I'll go back to my old ways. Maybe I'll get so frustrated that I'll throw it away and take up weaving and never touch a set of needles again. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Square Peg (WIP Wednesday)

I decided it was cool to get a cold this week. I hate colds. They're terrible. You can't do anything except suck down cold medicine and hope it works for you. I also tend to have neat reactions to cold medicine so I have to take half doses and sometimes that like just drinking straight water with a lump in it.

Colds make it so that you can't get anything done. Have dishes to clean? Sorry, they'll have to wait. Have a writing deadline? Too bad. Want to work on a knitting project? Not today! I've spent the past three days in bed, whimpering and contemplating how terrible it would be to cut out my own throat (I decided pretty terrible.)

Yesterday was the first day that I didn't want to cry every time I coughed or had to blow my nose. I have a variety of things I want to work on since I am moving sometime in the next two months (Date still undetermined). But I couldn't focus enough on anything to actually pick up the needles let alone knit a somewhat complicated lace and cable pattern. (Hey, everything is complicated when your brain is fuzzy.) So I went back to an old favorite.

I went home this past weekend to celebrate my grandmother's birthday. She's 82 and she still knits regularly. She's my hero. While my aunt taught me how to knit in the first place, both women remain my inspirations to continue knitting. 

The first thing that is taught by my family when learning how to knit is the washcloth. Tried and true and the best damn washcloth you're ever going to use. I didn't understand why I needed a washcloth at 7 years old when my aunt sat me down to learn, mainly I think to keep me occupied instead of talking to her about Power Rangers. It still didn't really click for me as to why a washcloth until last summer when I was teaching a friend how to knit. It's simple. It's a washcloth. Even if you miss every other stitch and drop 6 of them and make yarn overs every 4th stitch, it will still work because it's a washcloth. No one cares how it looks. It's just going to go into the kitchen drawer to be used eventually to scrub a pot or a mug or a particularly ugly stain on the stove. If you make a mistake, it doesn't matter. It's the perfect starter project. I don't remember what my first washcloth looked like or even what color the yarn was (I'm sure white with some variegated colors in it) but I know my first project was a washcloth. I also remember what my brother's first washcloth looked like too. It was holey and misshapen until I finished it for him. It was a weird Frankensteinian type washcloth with one half looking like it had been eaten by a blender and the other half without any (major) mistakes, but it worked. 

I started working on washcloths on my walks that I would take. I got quite a few of them done. I found I could do about 2/3 of a washcloth per 1.5 mile walk. It's something that's simple enough that I don't need to think about it or devote that much thought process to but it still keeps my hands occupied and makes me feel productive even if I am wearing pjs for the third day in a row and my hair hasn't been brushed and there is dried snot on my arm that I don't know how it got there. 

When I went home, I stopped by my mom's to sit and chat for a while. She handed me a full plastic bag and grinned at me. 

"Oh! More yarn!" I smiled in return. I thought she was just excited to give me yarn.

"You know what kind of yarn that is?" My mom asked. She knows little to nothing about yarn or knitting so this question was odd coming from her.

"Cotton. Sugar 'n Cream." 

"And what do you make with cotton yarn?" She asked, grinning again like a maniac.

"Washcloths. I take it you want some washcloths?"
She grinned and nodded at me.

Everyone who has gotten a cotton washcloth from a relative will look askance at it when they receive it but will then call and thank the crafter that gave it to them in the first place. Knitted washcloths really are the best.