Tag Archives: crafts

Hello, 2014.

6 Jan

Wow, 2014. I feel like the last year went whizzing by in the blink of an eye. My 2013 was split into distinct little chunks, which helped it go faster. Until the end of March I was in South Korea and Japan. Between April and September I was living in a tiny village near Oxford. From September until today I’ve been living with friends in St Albans and commuting into London. I’ve also had three different jobs, been in four different countries, and dealt with a lot of firsts – first time living in a village, first time buying a car, and first time watching a grown man eat a watermelon without using his hands (don’t ask) to name just a few.

I bleached my hair and rocked a fringe in 2013. Like you cared.

It was an unsettled year, I suppose. I haven’t felt quite like myself for a lot of it. It made me quite nostalgic for my time in South Korea, where I knew how I fit in. That might seem odd, but getting back the huge number of choices and possibilities I’d missed when I was away actually turned out to be a bit overwhelming.

Still, it’s gone now and 2014 is here and looking more settled already. I have a new full time job, and soon I’ll be moving into London (and saying goodbye to suburban commuter trains! Thank God!). I also have a few aspirations for the new year. I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I know they get a bad rap but I have no clue why – why should people setting goals for a new year be a thing worthy of derision, even if they don’t keep them? Goals should be reassessed, anyway, in my opinion. I tend to look at them again in the summer around my birthday and adjust them. Self-improvement is always a good thing!

Last year’s resolutions were 1) to see more live music and 2) to learn a new skill. I saw four or five bands live this year, some of which were bands I really love and wanted to see. I also went to Download Festival again and rocked out to some great metal legends. Success! I also started taking ukulele lessons – my repertoire at present includes Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again and, er, Moon River. Oh, and Slade’s Merry Christmas Everyone. Second resolution down!

See – you CAN keep resolutions! Admittedly there were definitely more of them that I don’t remember because I didn’t keep them. Shh. Let’s move on to this year’s:

1) Read more books. I use Goodreads to log my reading, and the site revealed to me that I had only read 12 books last year. That seems quite pathetic, especially since I know I read most of those in the summer when I was reading on my lunch break, after work in the garden, and for hours at weekends. I like to read in the sunshine (I’m quite cold-blooded and I don’t do well in winter in general) but that’s really no excuse. My aim for this year then is modest – 24 books. I’ll aim to double last year’s total, and read more before bed and instead of watching TV.

2) Knit more and learn to crochet. This one kind of contradicts the first resolution since I can’t read and knit at the same time. I love TV – I think that good TV is an art form that’s as worthy of my time as reading. Plus I can knit whilst I watch TV. I aim to try to incorporate some audio books which I can knit to, and not allow myself to watch TV idly – without performing another task at the same time. I also want to learn to crochet which will count as this year’s new skill!

3) Write more. I struggle with this because it feels like work sometimes to sit at the computer and create. I used to love it, so I don’t know where this lack of motivation has come from. When I was a teenager I wrote with every spare minute. That was probably before the advent of all the TV streaming sites – perhaps I need to be limited my TV intake to achieve this one. But then that contradicts my other resolution! I think I’m going to be a bit more realistic and try to write for one full hour a week and see if I can wean myself back on to it. I might also try varying projects – a novel seems like a mamoth task, but if I intersperse that with shorter fiction projects and blog posts then I might be in with a chance of keeping this one!

4) Run a 10k. I plan to run the Bupa 10k this May. As someone who is not a born mover (I’m a world class sitter though) this will take the most will power. However I have done some regular running before and started to enjoy it. I also noticed how good it was for my general well being too, so I really need to get back into it. I figured that committing to a race would be a good way to motivate myself – I’ll be so ashamed if I can’t do it!

Sadly "hang out with cute dogs and eat cake" is not one of my resolutions. Maybe it should be?

Sadly “hang out with cute dogs and eat cake” is not one of my resolutions. Maybe it should be?

That’s plenty I think. Two “do more things” and two “achieve new things”! On top of that I want to keep up my ukulele playing which is turning out to be really fun and relatively easy compared to other instruments I’ve tried to learn. Although I suppose there is some danger that with knitting and the ukulele I may become so twee I explode.

So how about you? Any resolutions or goals for the new year?

Getting crafty in Korea

11 Dec

So, winter is here and I’m sad about it. I hate the cold and the dark with a passion that goes well beyond the occasional annoyances of summer. Thanks to the weather, I spend my evenings bundled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle and an electric heater watching TV and dozing. It’s not the best.

One thing that winter is better than summer for, though, is knitting. Staying home and knitting is a bitch in the summer, when sweaty fingers make needles sticky and yarn squeaky. In the winter, I want to make warm hats, and gloves, and the extra layer of wool on my lap is a blessing. Plus it’s a great way to spend a weekend mostly snuggled under a blanket with the TV on and still feel like you did something productive with your time.

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Some wrist-warmers I knocked up which are getting a lot of use in my classroom right now.

Before I came to Korea, I worried that I would find knitting supplies hard to find. I tried googling “knitting in Korea” and came up with little outside of Seoul. I packed a suitcase full of yarn and needles, just in case. You see, knitting keeps me sane. I mean that quite sincerely. Whenever I notice that I’m feeling very stressed (you know that terrible, increasingly anxious feeling that no amount of to do lists or rationalisation seems to cure?) I also realise that I haven’t got any projects on the needles. Once I cast on, and knit a few rounds, I notice the anxiety just drop away. I can’t relax properly unless there are needles in my hands. Or unless I’m on a beach somewhere tropical with a good book. But often knitting is easier to achieve.

Totall relaxed and snug with my knitted bunting and ear-warmer/headband thingy.

Totall relaxed and snug with my knitted bunting and ear-warmer/headband thingy.

Busan is actually great for knitters, as it turns out. I can’t speak to the rest of the country, but for knitting fanatics heading to South Korea, I can reassure you that Busan will cater to your needs. Here are some tips about knitting in Busan (and by extension, quite possibly South Korea in general):

1) Circular needles are your new best friends.

I’d knit on circular needles before I came to Korea, but I also used double-pointed needles and straight needles a lot too. Koreans seem to knit exclusively on circular needles, which at first I found a little annoying when trying to buy needles for new projects, but now I’m a convert. Circular needles are longer for knitting big projects flat, they make it easier to transport your knitting, and you can use them to knit smaller projects in the round using the magic loop method (or the two needle method outlined here: http://www.weebleknits.net/twocirculars.html). Needles are also ridiculously cheap – about 500 won (or 30p) each.

Circular needles also allow you to try on your work as you go for a better fit.

Circular needles also allow you to try on your work as you go for a better fit.

2) Hunt down yarn in subways and markets.

I find most of my knitting supplies in shops in the underground shopping malls attached to the subway stations, or in the markets. In Busan, there are a good selection of shops in the mall connected to Bujeon subway station, and there’s one that I buy needles from near Nampo subway station (walk up past exit 7 and keep going into the subway – the shop is on the left and closed on weekends as far as I can tell).

When it comes to buying yarn, the best place I’ve been is Gukje Market (close to Nampo or Jagalchi subway stations). The stall holders have a pretty good selection at reasonable prices and are happy to get balls out of bags for you to poke at. If you’re a knitting novice you may want to bring a more experienced yarnaholic with you because the labelling can be a little lacking and I have had to guess weights and fibres sometimes.

3) Craft seasonally.

I noticed over the summer that heavy yarn was hard to get hold of, and the Koreans I ran into everywhere seemed to be crocheting with lightweight cottons. That’s not so useful for a girl trying to get a jump-start on her winter knitting. Plan ahead and stash-up is my advice.

4) Stationers are great for notions.

I’ve found the best notions (especially cute buttons) in stationers. My local stationer in Dongdaesin-dong is more like a craft and games warehouse – the guy has a floor dedicated to paint – and they stock a great range of cute crafting bits and bobs including some colourful acrylic yarn. I picked up some lovely buttons in a cute stationers attached to the bookshop in the Shinsegae department store. Keep your eyes peeled.

5) Daiso

Daiso is a Japanese chain of cheap shops that sell almost everything, kind of like Wilkinsons back home (fellow Brits should get that reference). They also sell a lot of basic craft equipment like material scissors, needles and thread, felt, and craft glue, plus some adorable craft kits.

Winter is Coming

12 Nov

It’s getting cold in Korea, and I’m not happy about it. I loved the summer, even when it was excruciatingly hot and humid and I got heatstroke and threw up for four days. That’s how much I love summer. Winter is cold, and dark, and windy. You wrap up warm, and then you get on a boiling hot subway train and sweat to death. Hat hair. Getting up on cold mornings. Showering in a freezing bathroom. Wearing your coat in the classroom. Catching colds. Paying a fortune for your gas bill. It all sucks.

I’ve taken the following steps to winter-proof my life:

1) The Korean underfloor heating system (the ondol) is great, but it’s expensive. So that I can keep it off as long as possible, I’m using a plug in electric heater and just move it from room to room with me. That and blankets. A lot of blankets.

2) My apartment is drafty. It’s like an actual barn. In order to latch the windows, you have to pull them back slightly and then the inner shutters don’t seal properly. To combat the cold I packed the space between the outer window and the inner shutters with cardboard. It’s a great insulator, and has the added bonus of making my flat look like a squat. Is that taking shabby chic too far?

3) My bedroom window has curtains, but they’re thin so I’ve hung a blanket on trouser clip hangers from the curtain rail to add some extra insulation. It makes a huge difference, but it does mean my room is almost pitch dark in the mornings, which makes getting out of bed a little harder.

4) I shelled out for a nice fluffy rug for my living room. No more cold laminate floors for me. Hell yeah.

5) I got a flu jab. A couple of winters back I got swine flu and it was horrible. I was sick for three weeks (as in feverish, bed-ridden sick) and felt pretty terrible for another couple of weeks after that. It was literally the worst. The next winter, I got my first flu jab! In Korea, the jab cost me 25,000 won. My co-teacher suggested a doctor’s surgery close to my flat, and wrote down what I wanted for me to show the receptionist. I had to wait for ten minutes or so and then a nurse gave me my injection. It protects against swine flu and some other common strains of flu for this year, and now whenever anyone coughs on the subway I can imagine the germs bouncing off the invisible force-field protecting me like a future evolution of humanity. YEAH!

6) I finished this glorious jumper:

Knit fast, die warm.

7) I should probably join a gym. Getting some exercise is great for beating the winter blues but I’m also really, really lazy. Ugh.

Any more suggestions for ways to prepare for a winter in Korea? Let me know if you have any tips!

Getting crafty in Korea

24 Feb

Just a quick update on my visit to the Hanok Traditional Korean Village. It was a place basically preserved as a traditional village for tourists to come and see, and we were able to look around and try out some traditional Korean dancing, drumming and paper crafting. Crafts! YESSSSSS! Now we’re talking!

The paper crafting involved a lot of pasting and folding and smoothing, and it was aided (or hindered) by the Korean experts who occasionally came round to offer advice (in Korean) followed by hand gestures, followed by impatiently doing it for you. Women I can relate to, after trying to teach so many people to knit in my time. The extra fun thing was knowing we’d seen a guy making the paper using the traditional methods just that morning! Okay, no, the fun part was the pasting.

My finished box, of which I was insanely proud.

The field trip was fun, but mostly for the activities, rather than the cultural sight seeing which was slightly fake feeling. There was, however, an couple of cute dogs. Like this one!

I know, I know, but it’s my first dog in Korea! And he was a very handsome dog! Alright, you want culture? How about this:

A traditional Korean building, which was part of a shrine we visited, which was extremely pretty. Want more?

Please note the traditional Korean theatre mask is accompanied by the traditional Korean flicking of the Vs.

This is a traditional theatre mask. We got a chance to try them on after learning some steps from a traditional dance, which is best described as Korean Morris dancing, I think!

I’m sorry this post is light on actual text. I’m still very tired from the goings on of the week. I also haven’t taken a lot of time to examine my feelings about all of this, and I think this is because my feelings seem to change every hour! I’m being collected by my Korean co-teacher and taken to my apartment on Monday, so I will be without the internet for a while, although not offline, as there are plenty of PC Bang (internet cafes) about. I will try to give a more thorough update on my new living arrangement as soon as I can!

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