Hello All and thank you for your patience there. Murphy’s Law in full swing but I’m back on top of everything now. So without further ado…
Crafting & the Art of Travel
…is today’s theme…because I do believe that travelling is an art form which you get better at with practice. The first time I left home, heading for India to do volunteering for my gap year, I packed too much, bought tons and had to get kind strangers to help me lift my suitcase off the baggage carousel! My last trip to Australia and home through Asia and America was definitely a vast improvement on my first experience, but even with so much packing and backpacking experience under by belt, I still slipped up a few times.
This last trip however had an extra element that my first didn’t. By now I was a committed (addicted more like) crafter…a knitting fiend…a crocheting tornado…a yarn-consuming mad woman who, after working in a yarn store in Brisbane, had the most ridiculous stash ever and NOWHERE to put it all! It was the yarn or my clothes and I’m not ashamed to say that 9 times out of 10 the yarn won!
Now when I look at the pieces I completed while on the road, I see a story, a memory of where I was, what I was thinking, how I was feeling as those stitches were made. The DB thinks I’m nuts because I’m not big into taking tons of photos and he is but my knitting has become my ‘photos’ in hindsight and I love them all the more for it.
Another huge element of my crafting was the social side of it. In college I started a Stitch n Bitch in the cafe across from our main building. My friends, even the ones who didn’t knit/crochet, all knew where to find me on a Tuesday night and I was never there alone. It brought us together away from the pressures of our Degrees and it was fun.
When I moved to Brisbane last year the very first thing I did was look up Ravelry to see if there was a knitting group there. And there was…an amazing one, with people offering advice on public transport and areas to live and their phone numbers so we could meet for coffee when I finally arrived. I knew noone in this city (and truthfully was going because the DB had the job opportunity he just couldn’t turn down there and I had nothing better going on at home…eck!) and these wonderful strangers took me into their community with open hearts…all because we crafted. It was through them that I got my yarn-store job and will be eternally grateful for that opportunity. They held a full-on Christmas party in JULY (Southern hemisphere’s Wintertime) because I moaned so much about having upside-down, hot Christmas in Australia! I miss them all lots now but I know what I have to thank for ever meeting them…and it is a simple, honest craft that I do everyday.
10 Days, 1 Backpack, and a Project that Fit in My Pocket
By Stephanie Bryant
In 2008, my husband and I went to Costa Rica for 10 days, and our plan was to arrive, spend 3 days enjoying the sights, then buckle down for a week-long immersion Spanish class on the beach. We knew we’d be taking the bus to Samara, our beach destination, and we’d witnessed plenty of luggage theft in Central America, so we limited our luggage to one backpack the size of a bookbag, and my one small purse. A goodly portion of our luggage space was dedicated to notebooks for school and a Spanish-English dictionary.
It was tough packing for such a limited-space trip, but it became easier when we realized that one pair of sandals would be sufficient footwear, and that Samara would be in the 90’s all week long, so we could get by with bathing suits and shorts.
But. I am a crafter, primarily a knitter. How was I going to “get by” when there was literally no space in the pack for the four balls of yarn I would certainly want– if not need— for beachfront knitting?
It was simple. I would have to do without the knitting. For 10 days.
But not, as it turned out, without crafting entirely. I had recently taken up tatting, which is a method of making lace using tiny knots in thread. Tatting is a lovely craft, and one that many think is “dying out” (it’s not, as evidenced by the thousands of tatters on the tatting groups). As a plus, a tatting project is cheap– for $7, I can buy 2 shuttles and a ball of thread, plenty to make several doilies or other projects.
I wound a good amount of thread onto two tatting shuttles and downloaded an easily-memorized pattern. I wrote the repeat onto half of a business card, and printed the whole pattern for reference. I would toss out the larger printout at the airport shortly after we landed, once I no longer needed it. The entire project fit inside a small coin purse, which I kept in my pocket wherever we went.
I started tatting on the way to the Miami airport. I’d intended the tatting to keep me sane while we endured long bus rides, but it also served as something to do when sitting on the beach, and when waiting for my classes to start. Because my class was conducted entirely in Spanish, and my teacher was intrigued by what I was doing with my hands, I even learned the Spanish words for tatting (frivolite), shuttle, and thread.
I had also brought one other arts and crafts project with me, my colored pencils and a small unlined notebook, in which I drew some of the beautiful sights around me. A camera is a lovely way to record a trip, but there’s nothing quite like sitting cross-legged on the side of the road while waiting for a replacement bus to come pick you up (the one we’d been in lost a fan belt), and sketching the cute cottage across the road while you wait.
Halfway through the trip, I had finished the doily pattern as written. Since the project was worked from the inside outward, I added another round to the doily, and kept going. I finally tied off my knots in the airport on the way home– the perfect 10-day project.
When the trip was over, I’d learned some more Spanish, I was deliriously rested and relaxed, and my husband and I had some lovely, space-conscious mementos of our vacation.
Stephanie Bryant is a knitter, blogger, and writer. She writes and publishes Handknit Heroes, the superhero comic book for knitters (http://www.comicknits.com/update). Her Ravelry username is mortaine.
As part of my PhD program we are expected to go abroad for a semester or two to do some research. (I study Spanish literature, so you can see how it might be useful to study abroad for a bit.) So as you read this I am probably sitting in the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library) of Spain…. or possibly hanging out with some knitters. Now, I might be biased, ‘cause I am one, but knitters are pretty much the nicest people you could ever meet. I learned to knit when I was young – less than 10 years old – but left it alone for a long time through high school and my undergrad career. When I moved to the States from Canada to start my PhD I took it up again. There was a new shop opening up near my house and a (now defunct) knitting group run by some other grad students that met twice a month (later the shop started a Saturday knit-in and I found another group of young professionals and graduate students to fill the void created by the defunct group).
I can’t tell you how many times these groups saved me from boredom, amongst other things. I have met people from all ages, politics, backgrounds, races, religions and whatever else you can possibly imagine through knitting. So when I had to move across the ocean, away from my family, my friends and my boyfriend I searched Ravelry for groups that met in Madrid. I packed my bags (complete with a stash to last me a few months) and transversed the Ocean. As soon as I met with the ladies of MadridKnits I felt more like Spain was home. It’s funny how two groups, from two very distinct places can both bring me the same sort of comfort. Even though it is in a different language, we often talk about the same topics, laugh at the same jokes, knit the same sorts of things. A good knitting group can become a second family, and both of mine, here and across the ocean, have been some of the most supportive people I have ever known.
So, if you find yourself having to move and worried about how to meet new people, I would seriously suggest taking up a craft and googling groups in your new area. You just might find your new best friends!
As for traveling and crafting – which I strongly suggest ‘cause knitting while waiting for planes or on a long train ride really helps pass the time – I have a couple suggestions:
- For plane travel (especially outside of the US) make sure your needles or crochet hooks are wood. In many countries they will take your metal needles (right out of your project, no matter how much you beg or cry!) away when you go through security.
- Chose small projects: my fave is socks! You generally only need one or two small skeins of yarn and tiny needles which makes it easy to pack a couple different projects to work on. There are lots of free patterns available online, but I would suggest taking something easy, either a plain stockinette sock like these:
- Or a simple pattern that you can easily memorize. I have a few patterns that I designed and put up for download (for free!! we all like free, right?!) on ravelry:
Socks on Fire: A top down lacey sock available for download here
Socks for a Winter’s Night: A toe-up, gusset heel sock with lace cuff available for download here.
If you aren’t a sock knitter there are lots of other small projects you can take along with you, like this cowl available for download here:
Of course there are lots more out there, all you have to do is a quick ravelry or google search and you will come up with lots of free / cheap patterns that will help you pass the time while you travel and when you get home you’ll have a new project! Not to mention all the friends you will make along the way… not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about my latest project as I work away on the metro to and from the Biblioteca!
Honestly my knitting groups, here and back home, have been life-saving for me… they were both very welcoming, open communities when I was new, and both have spawned what I think will be life-long friendships. The two I regularly attend at home have been supportive through moves, break-ups, new relationships, school drama… you name it, they have been supportive of me through it (and vice versa, of course). The yarnstore near my house in Baltimore is like my safe haven and the owner Sue is like my cool aunt/mom away from mom. There are times that I’m pretty sure if I didn’t have Sue and the group there I would have seriously considered giving up on grad school and gone home!