Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buttons, Leaflets, Yarn, and Men Selling Crafting Supplies

My mom, stepdad, and I occasionally like to go to the Long Beach Outdoor Antique Market that happens every third Sunday of the month.  It is kind of like a swap meet, except there are a lot more things that are genuinely old. Yesterday it was just my mom and I out in the sunny day looking for our version of a great find.

One booth had a selection of old dilapidated tools in every size and shape imaginable. Another had a collection of various salt shakers ranging from the 40's to the 60's. One of my mom's favorite sellers is a booth where anything on the table to $5. Walking down the center aisle we come to a booth that sells nothing but prints from books, back when most things were illustrated. The farther back into the sale you go the newer things get until by the end some of the booths look straight out of the swap meet.

Many of the booths are a hodgepodge of things and of course there are those people trying to trick and deceive. One sign said "Fat quarters. Civil War. $8." We took a feel of the fabric and knew instantly they were modern fabrics. The sign doesn't say they actually are from the Civil War, but the implication is there. Tricky aren't they?

My mom loves dolls. She loves buying them, selling them, but most of all, repairing them. She is usually hunting for doll related things and I hunt for knitting related items. On this day we found a large sink sized basin full of buttons. "Fill a box for $3. Two boxes for $5." Score! A set of new buttons alone is usually at or more than $3, and many of these buttons were fun vintage styles. We spent quite some time having fun riffling through their bin picking out buttons. I picked out some sets I might be able to use for sweaters and my mom picked out the teeny tiny ones to use for dolls.

My collection. I love the navy blue/white ones. 
They would look so cute on a little sailor sweater!

Of course what I'm usually looking for is vintage yarn or needles. I've gotten lucky a couple of times at thrift stores, and on a previous visit to the Outdoor Antique Market I found a few balls of Knit Picks. Yesterday I spotted a small bin on the ground with knitting needles poking out. The bin contained a decent stack of vintage pattern books, mostly for crochet doilies, some vintage circular knitting needles, and a few balls of vintage 100% virgin wool sock yarn.

Using a technique I learned from watching too many episodes of American Pickers I picked out a set of the circular knitting needles, the navy blue sock yarn, and a couple of the leaflets. This is called bundling, and means that you get things for cheaper than they would otherwise have been. The seller gave me the lot for $3. I was all ready to practice bargaining and then he gave me such a low price!

I chose a leaflet from the early 60's called Bernat Raglans and a Doilies booklet from 1956. When I showed my mom the Raglans leaflet she said, "Don't tell me, um, 62?" She was one year off, 1961. One of the raglans is made of mohair and she told me about how she and her friends all had to have one of those sweaters when she was in middle school. These kinds of things are great for inspiration and I have a feeling my little collection of vintage leaflets will keep growing.

Raglan sweater 1961.

Doily from 1956. Gotta love the drawing!

I am very excited about the yarn. A lot of vintage yarn is acrylic, because it was the cool new thing when they started making it. Finding vintage yarn that is 100% wool is a real treasure. Not only that, the yarn is soft and the two balls means there will be enough for a pair of socks.

These kinds of days, where the sun is brilliant and the sky turns a richer blue, the days I get to spend with my mom, these are the days to remember.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Traveler's Way - Part 1 - Destination: New Zealand

I am a traveler. A person who enjoys experiencing new places, seeing new views, eating different food.

I do not enjoy, however, being a tourist. I find that the majority of tourist destinations are boring and overpriced. When I was at the Louvre in Paris I decided to spend my hour looking at all the other wonderful items they have there rather than spend that hour waiting in line to look at the Mona Lisa for ten seconds.

The problem with tourist destinations and the reason I am libel to pass them by is that they often have nothing to do with a sense of place. What I am most interested in at a destination is the experience of that place.

The highlight of my traveling experience was the year I studied abroad in New Zealand. It is partially due to the fact that I spent so much time there that I really was able to experience the place. That, and the week I spent on the llama farm.

In this short series of blog posts on traveling I will give you some advice should you find tourism as overpriced and boring as I do.

First, go to New Zealand. Out of the major cities, many of the places are very down to earth and easy to access as long as you can manage to drive on the other side of the road.

For example, my geography class on Rivers and Slopes took a field trip and hiked to the place where they filmed part of the Lord of the Rings. There was no one else there but our class and we were able to see where they filmed the scene where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are heading into the cursed mountain where the dead reside. Remember that part? Geek alert!

Second, sign up for WWOOF and stay on a farm for a week. New Zealand is a largely agricultural economy. Much of their recent history is agricultural in nature and much of their culture is wrapped in sheep and cows. To give you an idea, last time I checked there were 4 million people in New Zealand and 40 million sheep. That's 10 sheep for every 1 person.

It fits then that to really experience New Zealand, staying on a working farm would give you the best taste of what the country is all about. WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms and is an organization that connects travelers and organic farms together. In exchange for lodging and food from the farm host the traveler agrees to give the farm 4-6 hours of work each day.

"WWOOF New Zealand is part of a world wide community that promotes awareness of ecological farming practices by providing volunteers with the opportunity to live and learn on organic properties. WWOOF is an enjoyable, educational and safe way to explore and get to know the people in the country."

There is a fee to sign up as a traveler and after you have done that you can look at postings by farms looking for help. There are all kinds of farms and all kinds of people. This would be a great way to finally learn about composting or organic farming practices if you have always been curious.

I was fortunate enough to sign up and stay on a llama and alpaca farm. The second day I was there the host, Elise, and I went to a nearby elementary school's farm day. The children each had an animal, either a calf or a lamb that they were to have trained. It was very cute to see the different personalities of the children and how they interacted with their animals.

Elise was asked to bring some of her llamas to the fair day, mostly because it's cool to have llamas around. I was in charge of Cesar all day. It was one of the highlights of my trip because I love animals, Cesar was a sweetie, and I got to talk to New Zealanders all day about llamas.

It was a very kiwi experience, my week on that farm, and I highly recommend it to anyone considering traveling to New Zealand.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Knitting Needle Boogie Monster! Rarr!

You better watch out, or the knitting needle boogie monster is going to get you!


These are one of Terri's Christmas presents. They weren't finished when Christmas came galumphing up the corner so I wrapped them up with the needles still attached. In the picture above I had Terri try the glove on to make sure they fit and Terri thought it was funny so she had me take pictures. If you didn't know what's going on I concede that the picture may result in fright.

Terri's hands are always cold in the winter. Store bought gloves don't work well because her hands are small and they seem to only sell pairs made out of acrylic in Southern California. Because her hands are cold she sticks them on my neck to get warm. Brr! To save my neck I decided to make her some gloves.

The pattern is called Knotty Gloves and is by Julia Mueller. Terri is not one for the princess look, and many of the glove patterns I found were of the "I'm a pretty, pretty princess" variety. I was very happy to find this pattern, which could easily be dressed up in pink for the princess look or dressed down in a dark green for a less frilly look.

Of course the pattern only comes in women's size large. I did some minor calculations and fudging to make a smaller version. The cable pattern isn't exactly centered anymore, but I decided that it wouldn't really matter. No one flying by on a fast horse is going to notice.

Knitting the fingers reminds me of some of the amigurumi crafting I have done before with the small parts. I also figured out that when I use double pointed needles I waste a lot of time when I end one needle and move to the next one because I usually drop the working yarn and have to pick it back up again. Watching myself knit and trying to change habits is difficult but worthwhile when I'm knitting such small tubes and am constantly switching needles.

Does Terri really deserve a pair of hand knit gloves? Well, she made me a swift for Christmas.

So yes, yes she does.