A Knitter in Transition

My adventures - in knitting, marriage, and moving across hemispheres.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Instant Family

So, we're in a family way. Not THAT family way. But, we're a family now, cause we got a DOG. Ha! I freaked you out with that, right. Yeah, I freaked myself out a little, too.

His name is Raindrop, he's a mutt, about 35 lbs and adorably scruffy. He was named by a young child, and we will be rechristening him Barley, cause he's kind of barley colored. Also, he looks Irish to me, and I didn't want to name him after beer or whiskey. We get him on the 29th, after we move into our apartment.

That's right, we got a home, too. See what I mean about this family stuff. Next, people are going to start referring to us as adults and expecting us to eat veggies and get to bed at "a decent hour." Yeah, right, we got old like 3 years ago and stared going to bed at 8:30 and complaining about how we could be more regular and need to eat less salt. It's tragic, really.

We got a great 3-story town-house, a block from the ocean, a block from the dog-park, a block from the day-spa, and a block from the sushi joint. I may never return to the states. I shall spend my days thirsty from too much soy sauce, in the sun on the beach, scratching my dog's ears, with freshly painted island scenes on my soft pedi'ed tootsies. Ahhh.

The town-house is newly constructed and is very western-style. Meaning it doesn't have a toaster-oven sized stove in a kitchen fit more for a small sailing schooner than a land-lubbin' house, and that the bath-tub will fit my "western size" booty* and will not be mistaken for an indoor bird-bath. I'm not kidding either. I would have taken a photo of this TINY (I mean tiny - get it, lowercase letters. Ha. yeah, I'm a dork.) bath tub, but I was afraid Mr. Miyagi** would think I was rude. For anyone other than a pygmy to fit into it, you'd have to sit with your knees under your nose. How relaxing.

*For those of you that came up with bovine and or equine images of my booty: I bite my thumb at you.

**Not kidding. Miyagi is a common name on Okinawa.

Knitting news: there is still much work on the Dale gift. I'm with Alison on the "toothpicks and dental floss." In fact just last night, I lost my freaking mind after dropping like 8,564,972 stitches. In the round. In 1X1 rib. On two circulars. In size ZERO. I felt much better after flinging the damn thing from a bridge and tossing back a stiff shot of bourbon. Seriously, tho, would it be tacky to give your oldest friend's first-born a one-sleeved cardigan in February?

Japanese lesson:

1. Dog: Inu. Pronounced EE-nu.
2. Nose: Hana. Pronounced HA-na.
3. Flower: Hana. Pronounced ha-NA. Sneaky, eh?

In America, when you refer to yourself, you point to your chest. In Japan, you should point to your hana (nose).

In America, regardless of what our mothers tried to teach us, we refer to other people by pointing. In Japan, they see this as very rude. Instead, you use your entire hand, slightly cupped, palm up. Think: parade wave, or a "The Price is Right" spokesmodel.

In America, when we are gesturing for someone to come over to us, we wave our fingers with the palm up. In Japan, this is how you'd gesture to your inu (dog). To gesture to a person, you make the same movement, but with your palm down.

And now, I'm off to slave over some toothpicks.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Japanese Knitting Books!!

I found some! Yesterday, a I went with 2 of my new girlfriends to the "Jusco Mall." It's a Western style mall, and Jusco is the anchor department store, kind of like a Mervyn's. Down near the food court there's a bookstore, I knew it was my moment. I went in, made several "konnichiwa" (good afternoon) and "arigatoo, ohayu gozaimaasu*" (thank you so much), and pointed to a book and brought out my knitting**. Next thing you know, I was in the knitting section. Yet another benefit to carrying a project around with you. The girl knew just what I was looking for, she even made knitting hand motions.

But, the moral of the story isn't just that politeness and quality knitting will get you anywhere, but that I found Japanese craft books!!! There were some really awesome ones, they all had great pictures, and were all really well priced, averaging $10! Most of them have a mix of knit and crochet, and (at a glance) the schematic drawings looked pretty clear. They use Arabic numbers and metric abbreviations, and I've got a link to Japanese knitting translations. The Lt keeps asking me why on earth an American would want Japanese knitting books. He just doesn't get it, does he?

Here's what I found:
1. Baby patterns: the majority of these are crochet. Lots of lacy, open stitch patterns.
2. Funky patterns: I'm calling them this because they are very modern patterns. Stuff like capelets, fun tanks, lots of bolero/shrug type sweaters. All gauges and smooth and furry yarns. Fun colors, lots of hats and scarves. Style: think Glampyre, or knitty's Tubey.
3. Office patterns: I'm calling them this because you could wear these to the office. (Duh, Ashley) Anyway, they are all practical, easy to wear stuff that I think a lot of us would like to knit. The kind of pattern you knit so that people at work can be wowed by your skilz. This makes them sound boring, they aren't at all. Lots of texture and color. Style: think Jaeger or knitty's Bristow.
4. Toys: I found one book of crocheted toys, and one of sewn toys. The toys in both were very cute and quirky. Kind of oddly styled, with an eye here, an ear there, extra legs and arms. Really cute. Style: think Jess Hutch.
5. Learn to Crochet. Well, that's what the pictures look like. This looks like it would be an awesome reference for any Japanese crochet pattern you want to try. It's got very clear drawings of each stitch, with the stitch name in bold kanji. You could also compare it side-by-side to an American crochet reference to make it even clearer.

If you're interested in a book (or 10), let me know, and I'll get one flying your way. If there's something specific you want (quilting/paper crafts/shamisen sheet music), let me know that too, and I'll look for it. If you want a knitting bag, let me know what colors and style, and your price range, and I'll look for that too. OH NO!!! NOT MORE SHOPPING!!! Plus, I get to spend YOUR money. The dollar is stronger than the yen right now (Y118 to $1), so I try to think of everything I buy as 18% off. I'm not here to make money off you, just hook my peeps up with cool stuff, so you pay what I pay. I'll probably end up with at least one of these books in the near future, so if you want to see pics***, that's cool.

*Japanese Lesson: Where you see me double up on the vowels, that doesn't make the vowel long, as we know it in English. It draws the sound out to double length. It's not "ari-GAT-o", with a short choppy "o," but "ari-GAT-ooooh" with a carried out "o" sound. So, with gozaimaasu, (silent U, don't ask, I'll let you know when I find out...) you say it with a chopped go-, a chopped -zai-, and a carried out 'masu:" go-ZAI-maasu"

** See, I've been carrying around the super-secret Dale gift. As the needles and yarn are painfully tiny, it is taking FOREVER, so I work on it every bleeding chance I get.

*** The LT has mentioned buying a computer this weekend!!! We'll probably have an apartment next week, so that means pictures soon! I think I have about 50 pictures in the queue, so that'll be some fun posting.

Monday, December 12, 2005


We are gai-jin: foreigners. In a country as homogenous as Japan, you really stand out if you look anything but 100% Japanese. As much fun as it is to explore new things, I must admit I'm glad to be on an island with 50,000 other gai-jin to help me "blend." I hear Japanese school-children bully other kids who looks different. Imagine going to school and everyone has straight black hair, olive skin and black eyes; growing up never seeing someone with blonde hair and light eyes, or dark skin and curly hair. (At first it's just sort of surreal. But, then, I had these visions of a hundred little Japanese school-kids running after Goldilocks, and now it's all very funny in a Children of the Corn way. Yes, I'm insane...)

However comma pause for dramatic effect. I also find myself surprised at the diversity here. Not so much race/ethnicity, obviously, but in other subtle and really beautiful ways. There's a lot of different "looks." Subtle differences in hair color, every shade of brown and black you can imagine. Chestnut, mahogany, espresso, and blacks from flat brown-blacks to oily-blue-black like a raven. Skin tones vary from nearly ivory to dark and swarthy, almost east Indian. The Japanese have great, expressive faces, from long and stoic, to round and open. Japanese babies are heart-breakingly gorgeous, all fat cheeks and fuzzy black hair.

The personal style of the average Japanese is anything but average. Many people go through their day-to-day lives in "normal" clothes, slacks, skirts etc. It's common to see elderly people in traditional clothes, i.e. a tunic type top and comfortable pants, flat shoes and short hair. The kids wear "catholic school-girl" uniforms to school, usually with Converse All-Stars. The college-age, 20-somethings: fuggedaboudit. There is everything from mini-mini-skirts with knee-high boots and inch-thick eyeliner, to ultimate boho with woven shirts, skater-baggy jeans and a head-wrap knit from recycled-silk. Most young Japanese women look fabulous, with great accessories and an "interesting" mix of separates. If an American woman would say it almost matches, a Japanese woman will pull it off and look great doing it.

The entire time I was writing this post, I doubted whether I'd even publish it. "What will they think of me?" Am I a typical American, looking for Coca-cola and velveeta everywhere I go? I probably sound pretty scandalous or horribly uncultured. I know I'm not, but will "they?" Well, you're all my friends, and I know you won't. We've all experienced new things, and we all know that half the fun is learning about something else, and the other half is learning about yourself.

I know I surprised myself with this, because I realized I had thought all Japanese looked alike - gasp. I like think it's more like I know stereotypes exist, and am willing to 'fess up that each of us has prejudices and ideas about people and places that are strange to us. Hell, I'm at least as guilty of this as the next guy. It's one thing to go travel somewhere that's very like your home, say from the U.S. to England, and be amused at the subtle differences that seem so big. It's quite another to visit a land that is everything your hometown is not. You end up seeing that no matter how unbiased you might think you are, you aren't, and you might surprise yourself, too.

Me, I refuse to be over here and gloss over the differences in a "dahling, I am so world-weary that I hahdly notice the Japanese are even Japanese" kind of way. I want to learn about them and celebrate them. I hope you find these type of entries an interesting look into another culture.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


That's Good Afternoon in Japanase, coming to you from Japan.

We got here safely, at about 4:00 in the afternoon. By the time we got through customs and to our room, it was 6:30, and we were beat. There was surprisingly little knitting on the long plane ride, and I nearly had a melt down at Jo-Ann's right before we left. I need ONE little tiny ball of Lion Brand Microspun, or else the Technicolor Dream Sweater will only go up to his armpits, and the Jo-Ann's we stopped at on the way to the airport had every yarn in the Lion Brand fleet BUT Microspun. I officially hate that specific Jo-Ann's. I'm only buying the one ball because I'm too lazy to redesign and frog the front, and I'm dreading it, because I know I have a snowball's chance in hell on the dye-lot. But, I digress!

It's awesome here! Everywhere I go, I'm taking pictures of any little thing you can
imagine. It's like the stereo-typical Japanese tourist, only in reverse. Everything here is adorable, from the babies to the cars to the Cinnamaroll. The clothes here are also very cool. Unfortunately, I will never be able to wear any of them. The average woman is about 5'2", and wears size 4. They are all very tiny. I'm thinking of buying some stuff and just framing it.

Japanese women are very into "Kawaii." Kawaii (Kah-WAH-eeee) means cute, 4-year-old girl type of cute. Grown women will dress up like little girls, pigtails, pink socks and all, because it's kawaii. So, you can imagine that Hello Kitty and all her friends are fantastically popular. You can even buy some cars in a Hello Kitty version.

The cars here are awesome. Just today on the expressway, I saw a Honda "That's", a Suzuki "Naked" and a charter bus with "Powertard Brakes." All the new cars look like teeny milk trucks, boxy is very stylish. For some perspective on what I mean by small Japanese cars, yesterday I looked out across the bank parking lot, right over top of the minivan I was standing next too. In flat shoes. Granted, I'm 5'7", but STILL.

There's tons of knitting stuff around. Now, I have to confess that I haven't found a yarn store, and the yarn at the 100 yen (1 dollar) store was just what you'd expect at the dollar store. But, I got 2 stitch holders for 100 yen there! Nice metal ones, one 4" and one 6". I've also found about a million bags that would make great knitting bags, and the same with notions cases. They've got tons of little pencil cases, bento box type things, and little tchotchke cases that run the gamut from hobo-chic to hello kitty cute. Let me know if you're in the market for a cool Japanese knitting bag or notions case, or for that matter, anything Japanese, and I'll hook you up.

I've been knitting in public everywhere that I can, and there's definitely a huge interest in the craft. I'm thinking my idea for a little yarn boutique at the exchange could be very lucrative. The only thing that's a little turn-offy: the funky fun-fur/novelty yarn scarves that knitters know cost $15 or less to make, and sell at chi-chi boutiques for upwards of $60-75. Well, here you can find them for about $10 at the mall. This could hurt my easy-income-with-easy-scarves shtick.

Gotta go, pictures to come. Wait until you see the Japanese Biore ads!