Saturday, September 14, 2013

Into the yarn-filled deep end!

My new-ish friend in Italy is a knitter.  This chic always has yarn wrapped around her fingers.  We'll have a dinner party, she's tucked up on the couch with some project.  We're playing cards, in between turns she's "throwing" away (ooooo see... I already have the lingo down).  And I'm not judging.  I'm typically the guest in the corner with my nose stuck in a book, too preoccupied to add anything to the conversations taking place.  Actually, I found myself intrigued.  Not as another way to remove myself from socialization, mind you, but pulled into the artistry, the craftiness, the fun of it.  Sure, it could also double as a time-filler while watching TV or traveling (cause I'm all about that multi-tasking!!!), but I'm always looking for new ways to better myself or have another "thing" about me or have a different means to gift from the heart, aka HANDMADE stuff!  It just so happens my cousin in the states is having a baby shower next month - perfect timing, right?!?  The thing of it is, I have no freaking idea what I'm doing!

The last time my friend was over, I asked her the basic, everyone-is-wondering-this, non-knitter questions: "Is that hard?" (Yes, really I went about it like a moron), "How did you start?", "Can you teach other people?" (aka ME???), "What do I need to start?", etc.  Basically, her mom taught her, who learned from her mom, who learned from... You get the idea.  And she said it was also trial and error.  Honestly, she wasn't much help in the " learning " process, but did say if I did learn and got stuck on something, she'd be happy to walk me through it.  I'm a self-starter anyway and was determined to do it!

After she left, I hit the Google:

     "How to knit"
     "Knitting for beginners"
     "Idiot's guide to knitting"

I spent a few good hours scouring the interwebs, gaining a decent knitting vocabulary: cast-on (and the many ways to do it), stitches (garter, stockinette, seed, rib, etc), knit, purl, needles (materials, sizes, DPNS vs. straight vs. circular, etc), gauge, yarn (type, weight, length, color, tension, etc), patterns/charts and all the abbreviations that go with them, Continental vs. English, increases and decreases... This list could go on for days, and I didn't even make mention of all the accessories and gadgets associated with the craft.  Needless to say - I was a little overwhelmed.

The next day I made my way to the pitiful craft store we have on base.  Honestly, it's probably a good thing it's so small/under stocked because I found myself with limited options.  There weren't seven aisles of stuff like if I'd gone to Michael's or JoAnn's, and I found no overwhelming feeling of, "What the hell am I getting into?!?"  I looked over the stuff as if I knew what I was doing, and ended up grabbing a skein (a ball, a bundle, a thing) of teal, acrylic, Lion's Brand yarn and some metal, size 8 straight needles.  When I got home, I decided to just try learning the basics, no pattern, no specific project in mind.  I learned very quickly that I needed visuals.  YouTube became my best teacher!  After about a week, once I felt I had a semi-firm grasp on what I was doing, I decided to start an actual project.  My friend offered up some great sites (with free patterns!!!), as well as a ball of yarn and a pair of smaller needles once I picked my first project:

Knitting Pattern Central
Love Knitting
*Pinterest is a great catch-all, although you have to dig!!!  Most of the time it's stuff already knitted that is being sold, but I've found great ideas and then google searched for a free version somewhere else!!

And for the baby shower gift... BABY UGGS!!!

I, unfortunately, did not get a picture of these right after I finished them; these are
after a few runs in the washer (btw you aren't supposed to wash wool!!) - but it gives
you a general idea of my first attempt!

That was my first project, and it didn't turn out so badly.  I realized after the fact that I did the sole incorrectly, but it was my first time ever so don't judge!!!  In any case... it was definitely nerve-wracking and a bit overwhelming.  But after I rested from the knitting for a few days, I realized I would get better with time and decided to do a little something for the baby to give to Mom and Dad on his birth day.  So to have the skills necessary - I decided to knit a few other projects for practice!  Stay tuned for those projects and future lessons!!

Until next time...

EDIT (Mar 18, 2015):

- Choosing what cast-on that worked best for me was difficult.  There's no video out there that says "THIS IS THE WAY TO DO IT."  And just because someone else says it's the easiest way doesn't mean it is - everyone knits differently.  I also found that I didn't understand the concept of moving my yarn to the back for knit stitches and bringing the yarn forward for purl stitches.  I actually had to have my friend show it to me.  Also, don't be overwhelmed if your hands/fingers get tired quickly, or if you're "uncomfortable" with the motions.  It took me a few weeks to really find a groove for how to hold the needles and how/where to tension the yarn.  Here's a video I made showing my preferred cast-on method, and another video showing knit and purl stitches and how I hold my stuff:

- When binding off, I was tightening the yarn too much, afraid that it'd be too loose/the knot would come undone, and found that the work became bunched and curled, like this...

I realized that I needed to bind off more loosely than I casted-on/knitted.
Sometimes switching to a needle two or three times larger (if you find it difficult to loosen 
your tension) can help with this.  Just make sure not to pull the knot so tight
that it still curls.
Here are some helpful tips from Simple Knitting.

- Cheap doesn't always mean best!  Knitting can be an expensive hobby, whether it be necessity (you HAVE to knit with a particular blend of yarn) or just your desire to have kick-ass looking stuff (like these wonderful needles from KnitPicks that I broke down and bought OR this glorious yarn) and the tools of the trade do matter, to some extent.  But, sometimes, you can find things that you love for an affordable price.  These are a few of my favorite gadgets:

Knit Happy Fold-N-Go Notions Box!!!!  I love things and I
love having a thing to put things in!  Before this bad boy, I
was using a couple of pencil cases and it made my
knitting bag just look raggedy.  So this was the solution
and I absolutely love it!!!!
Point Protectors/Stoppers :) These nifty little do-dads
make DPNS into straight needles and/or they keep your
knitting from falling off the ends of your needles!  And
if you're a beginner and need the help, they are labeled L
and R to help you remember which side of your work
is which!!
CABLE NEEDLES - I love cables!!!  I love how they look,
how they knit, and I try to put them in as many projects as
I can!  These are Lion Brand, but any brand will do.  These just
happened to be the ones I got here on base and they work just fine :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

New Friends & New Adventures

So these past... 23 days or so one of the hub's co-workers had visitors: his mom and his girlfriend.  We're pretty close with this guy and so naturally, we wanted to make sure we helped in giving his loved ones the royal treatment.  This wonderful update is going to showcase all the awesome places we accompanied them to... enjoy :)

First off, they flew into Milan, which is a good 3 1/2 hour drive from our little village, and just so happened to be a city we'd yet to venture to.  It has definitely been on my list of places to go, but it wasn't at the top, and honestly, if we'd left Italy without ever going there, I wouldn't be mad.  Having an actual reason to go was quite nice, and if the ladies were up for it (after almost a full 24 hours of traveling) we were gonna get in a few sights while we were there, which luckily we did.
Waiting for the ladies to arrive while sippin' some cappuccino!
They're here :)

The Duomo di Milano

On TOP of the duomo :)

Our next adventure was to the beach only two days later.  Because both the hubs and I had been so unhappy with the beach at Jesolo, we decided to trust in one of his co-workers who had been to the beach in Lignano and said it was way better.  Man am I glad we did.  Accompanied by a few of the co-workers, in addition to our friend's guests, we hit up the beach and had a blast.  Since it's already turning fall here now, another beach trip is out for this year, but you bet your asses we'll be going back next year :)

After that little outing, we celebrated our friend's birthday on August 27.  We went to Colorado's, a place we'd been before, and had a blast together.  Next, we hit up a winery (got a little sloshed) and Lake Barcis with the ladies, and they loved it just as much as I had (and did again).  Then on August 31, we heard of a food and wine festival in a little community outside of our town called San Quirino.  You pay 15 euro and you get tasting portions of a starter, first course, second course, and dessert, all paired with recommended wines for each one.  It was fabulous.  They had live music and cool people and we had a blast!!

The "blues" band (they sang some Frank Sinatra)!

The following day was our next adventure in which we drove the hour and a half to the sea-coast town of Trieste which borders Slovenia and Croatia.  It contains a beautiful seaside castle, Castello Miramare, as well as some Roman ruins, a few museums, gorgeous landscapes, and the Grotta Gigante, a huge cave!  We hit up the castle first and although it was a bit overcast, we still enjoyed a fabulous breeze and calm sea filled with sailboats and swimmers.  After we toured the castle and the grounds, we headed up the mountain to the entrance of the Grotta Gigante cave.  After 500 steps down and a 15-20 degree Celsius temperature difference, we learned about the cave and it's history, then trekked back up a different 500-step stair case.  I ended the day drenched in sweat and guzzling water like I had survived the desert!

Gotta love my goofball husband :)

What do I do with my hands?!?!

As if that day wasn't filled with enough, we went home that night ready for a super early start the next day, September 2nd was a day for VENICE!!  Yes, I know how ridiculous it is that we've lived here for over a year, a mere hour away from Venice, and we STILL HAVEN'T BEEN.  Well, we have been to the airport (I know, I know that doesn't count).  We planned to do full-on Italian experience, which meant taking an early train, being walking, touristy Americans, eating in a delicious restaurant, and riding the train back home, of course making sure to hit every major attraction we could.  I was so dead set on two things: 1. I desperately wanted to ride in a gondola.  Yes I know that it's super expensive, but it's so cool and an awesome way to see the city, and 2. thanks to reddit I had to discover this hidden gem of a bookshop among the many tiny side streets and canals.  Unfortunately #1 was vetoed by almost everyone so the hubs and I vowed to return to Venice for our anniversary next year and make it a romantic and memorable experience, complete with a gondola ride for two.  Fortunately #2 DID happen.  Thanks to my hubby's amazing navigational skills, he directed us right to it and I was not disappointed.  Of course I could've spent all freaking day in there, even if I don't read Italian, but we only dedicated about half an hour, and that was okay.  Like I said... we can always go back :)  We were lucky enough to ride on a "vaporetto" which is basically the water equivalent of the city bus routes.  It was cheaper and took us all through the Grand Canal, letting us see the city from the water like a I desperately wanted.  It was gorgeous and fun and we ended up getting dropped off right at San Marco's Square.  We went up in the campanille, ate a restaurant, and wandered the city for hours, eventually heading back around 5 and not getting home until 730!  It was a fabulous day and I can't wait to go back!

Our view as soon as we get out of the train station

Picture Perfect

These suckers went off while we were in the tower!  It was soooo cool!

My lover and me <3

The time with them was fabulous and really got us out of the house and adventuring!  As I told you last time, we've booked an apartment for Rome for December and I have purchased a ticket home for January-March!!!!  I have to go alone, sadly, but I am looking forward to seeing family (and the new addition brewing in my cousin's belly).  I'm also looking into making a trip within the trip to the pacific northwest to visit family I haven't seen in many many years!  Things are looking bright for my traveling future!!

Until next time...