Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stitch and Bitch

So I've taken up knitting (뜨개실/ddugaeshil) again and also gotten into cross-stitch (십자수/shipjasu). After admiring Fran's cross-stitching for a while, I got into it myself after picking up what looked like a very simple kid's craft set with a cross-stitch pattern at Fashion News for cheon won (about 95c) to make a phone accessory. After actually starting it however, I realised a few things that led me to the conclusion that it was a gimmicky piece of crap designed to frustrate and stunt any interest children might have in the hobby. There was no needle provided (fair enough, most people can find at least a sewing needle), the material provided was too small, and they basically just put in the same amount of every colour they had, regardless of actual need, so I ended up with a huge surplus of an orange colour that wasn't even in the pattern and running out of pretty much everything else, including the red for the strawberries about 1/3 of the way through the 2nd of 3 strawberries.
In the end I finished it with what was there just because I'm stubborn and it was driving me around the bend, much to the amusement of my friends who had been seeing me yell at and shake this tiny bit of cloth repeatedly over the course of many days every time something else went wrong, so now I have two red strawberries and one half red with what sewing thread I scrounged out of a hotel sewing kit and half orange. This time however I have a new (better) pattern and the shop I bought it at actually supplied the right colours and a real cross-stitch needle and everything. Actually, the ladies in both cross-stitch shops I've been to (one in Busan, one in Cheongju) were both really nice and patient so perhaps the calming effects of cross-stitching will be able to work their magic for me.

Although knitting certainly won't if the gorgon at the knitting supplies shop I went to is any judge. It's certainly the first instance I've ever experienced or heard of of bullying by knintting, which just goes to show how creative the average Korean ajumma can get when it comes to new ways of making someone else's life a misery and that language is no barrier to doing so. Oh and also that making someone feel awful about themselves is a far superior reward than actual monetary profit as I certainly won't be buying anything there ever again.

About 2 hours of knitting into my new scarf :)
So here I need to introduce my neighbour Edithe, who replaced Lara when she went home to ZA and so lives about 2 minutes walk from my place. Edithe and I hang out a fair bit (she bakes a mean chocolate chip biscuit by the way which is of course a completely incidental fact and in no way incentive^^), and have found that one thing we have in common is the tendency to 'hermit' in the winter months. Since we are a bit isolated from the rest of the city, but live near to each other, hopefully we will at least have some human contact with each other to stop ourselves going crazy. To aid this, Edithe came up with a "stitch and bitch" idea where we can get together with whoever is interested, do some very genteel womanly handicrafts and of course also gossip our little hearts out. Très fabuleuse, oui? As of course neither of us had anything to knit with, a needles and wool-finding expedition was needed. After asking around, I heard that there were actually supposedly quite a few such places in our area (Yongam-dong) so I did a quick search and found a likely looking place a couple of blocks over from my school called 용암뜨게방 ('Yongam Ddugae-bang' or 'Yongam Knitting Room'). Walking in, it looked quite cosy as there were a number of women there doing their own "stitch and bitch" thing looking for somewhere quiet to knit and crochet or who were just learning. Little did we know that the 'bitch' in this case was the woman in charge of the store. After deriding us for not knowing exactly what we wanted (apparently it's not enough just to buy supplies and THEN make up your mind) and that I didn't know the difference between winter wool and summer wool (FYI, the only wool I've ever seen in Australia is what I now know to be 'summer wool' which is thinner than winter wool, probably because, duh, winter wool isn't really needed and I only did this for a few years when I was a teenager for fun), we spent 15 minutes arguing over needles because we didn't want to use the Korean style ones that are short, made of wood and joined with a plastic cord over the ends and dared to ask her to order in some of the Western style ones that are long, separate and made of plastic. By the way, I'm tempted to call this woman Knit Bitch but I'll stick to Knitting Ajumma instead in an attempt to be positive :)

A summary of the argument:
We aren't familiar with them. - You'll get used to them.
We find them hard to use. - They're easier to use.
They're too short, we have bigger hands than you. - You'll get used to it, it's easier because they're smaller.
We don't like the cord at the back, it gets tangled in the wool and catches the stitches (when you have to move your knitting over the bit where the plastic connects to the wood). - You'll learn how to use it properly.
We don't like wooden needles. They catch on the wool. We like plastic more. - Don't be silly - these are better.

And so on. She finally grudgingly agreed to get us some more from Seoul, but kept emphasising that it would take "weeks" for them to arrive. Whatever. So we picked out some wool and she asked if we knew how to cast on and how to actually knit. I do but Edithe doesn't so I asked her to show her what to do (we'd gone through it before with a kids' craft set but the needles were really cheap and splintery and it wasn't very successful). KA cast on in an amazingly efficient way (which I since looked up on Youtube >> and love!) that I hadn't seen before, and then did the first couple of rows to 'teach' Edithe what to do. In about a minute and a half. Edithe's turn. As KA hadn't actually stopped to check that Edithe knew what to do, and also had started her off on a ridiculous knit 2, purl 2 pattern, she was naturally a bit hesitant. Too hesistant apparently, as a pause of longer than about 8 seconds was apparently enough to signal that she wanted KA to snatch it out of her hands and finish the row, all the while firing off instructions in Korean. And yes, I had told her both that Edithe had never knitted before and only knew a little Korean but apparently this was merely a reluctance to do it right on Edithe's part and not an excuse for not being able to immediately grasp and master the art. After a bit she bustled off to interfere with someone else and I tried to actually explain some of her instructions (which I had barely understood anyway) and show Edithe how to make the different stitches. We figured it out and Edithe slowly but surely knitted some fairly neat rows of knit 2, purl 2. We were both excited at what we thought was a pretty brilliant start she'd made to her winter scarf! And then KA came back, tutted at the mistakes, yanked the knitting out of Edithe's hands ("Even children can do this!") and unravelled all the mistakes... back to the first two rows that she'd started us on. Let the memes express my reaction

 Anyway, so we paid 24 000 won (about $23) for our stuff and got the hell out of there. Luckily, purely by chance on my way home from dinner with Michelle I found a fabric craft shop called '니들하우스' ('Needlehouse') that was mostly quilting and cross-stitch supplies, but also had some knitting stuff, so if we're desperate for some knitting help or more wool we can go there and not be made to feel like an ant under a huge ajumma shoe of disapproval. If you are keen to check it out, the address/directions is/are 상당구 용암동 롯데마트앞 우리들클리닉 1층 (first [ground] floor [of the] Woori Clinic [bldg] in front of Lotte Mart [formerly GS Mart], Yongam-dong, Sangdang-gu), t: 043-295-3690. As well as being quite friendly and patiently explaining how to cut and wind the thread onto the spools (she can explain how to do the stitches if you don't already know) the shop itself was nice, brightly lit and spacious, with a lot of tables where you can sit and work. By the way, what do you think of my scarf? I'm too lazy to do the scarf pattern the Knitting Nazi gave us so it's knit 2, purl 2, knit 2, purl 2, knit 8, purl 2, knit 2, purl 2, knit 2. I can't decide if it looks a bit wonky or if it would look better with just a purl pattern in the middle and the regular stitches on the side? Hmm.

Looking forward to my new and incredibly cute pattern^^

For anyone interested, there is also apparently another knitting supplies shop in Sajik-dong called '오후의 공간' - 'Oh-hui-ui Gonggan' or 'Afternoon Space', 흥덕구 사직동 621-4번지 (#621-4 Sajik-dong Heungdeok-gu), t: 043-213-2138 - which I could only find through Daum maps as it doesn't show up on Google, and there's also a cross-stitch store in Bunpyeongdong called '황실유럽자수' - 'Hwangshil Eurob Jasu' or 'Imperial European Cross-Stitch', 흥덕구 분평동 1305번지 (#1305 Bunpyeong-dong, Heungdeok-gu), t: 043-295-2127. I don't remember the name of the place in Busan, but it was in the Primall in Seomyeon near the Uniqlo store. Considering I only found the nice store by chance from walking past there, and that I see crafty type stores EVERYWHERE for stuff like beading and ribbons and fabric etc, I think if you are interested it wouldn't be hard to find somewhere. I found most of these places just by putting 십자수 or 뜨개실 into Google/Daum search. They must be making a comeback as a hobby I guess - one of my co-workers does quilting and has a bunch of stuff she's made such as a cushion, a hair accessory and a makeup bag around her desk. Pretty amazing :)

So that was my Monday. More to tell you about the other big thing in one of my classes that happened that day but I'll leave it for tomorrow so as not to completely overwhelm you dear reader :)

Oh and the other thing that happened today, I have officially de-facebooked myself! I'm still on here obviously though, as well as skype and contactable through my mobile phone and email and Google+. And yeah, I know it's virtually the same, but I did it for privacy reasons (virtually non-existent on FB) and there are less people on G+ and no-one that I'm actively avoiding but 'friending' to be polite (YET! : p) If you need any of those details, please leave me a message with your number/email address (I don't want to leave mine on an open space where demented Bieber fans people are easily upset.)

What else? Oh yeah, news about my 'husband' - Rain! Aka Bi (pronounced 'bee' not 'buy'). I was too stingy to pay the 80 000 won+ for tickets to his concert but Michelle brought me back some posters and apparently he's doing a free street concert before he goes to the military on the 11th of October. Oh my love, how I'll miss you! ㅠㅠ

Oh and a particularly cute video that made me smile today by a Korean Indie band called 'Standing Egg'. The song is called "Lalala", fittingly so because I believe that Lala herself will enjoy the kitty-ness of this video! And yes, seeing the kitty cut-outs on the apples made me shudder just a little :p A shoutout to seoulbeats for it - thanks! :)

And to finish, some student quirkiness. Firstly, when students see a teacher in the corridor, they usually greet them with a bow or at least an '안녕하세요!' (annyong hasaeyo! - 'hello!'). The more they like you (or fear you) the bigger the bow and the louder the hello, usually, leading to some funny moments I'm sure most foreign teachers can identify with where they start with a bow and an '안녕하세요' before they remember that you're the foreign teacher and switch to a hand wave and a 'Hello teacher!'. This is particularly funny when it happens on the stairs^^ For some reason, since late last year, at my school this greeting now has to be '사랑합니다!' (saranghamnida or 'I love you!'), which we are also supposed to use when we answer the phone. Odd? Slightly. It's not as weird in Korean (note: not AS, but still) where it's used slightly differently and more casually than in English, but it sounds funny and I laugh every time a student says it to me. They know it sounds a bit weird so most of them just say "hello" or "goodbye", but my kids like to joke around and they know that I think it's funny so they whip it out occasionally. Anyway, that's a very long backstory! But it made me smile today because I happened to walk up the stairs through one of my favourite 2nd year girls' classes (although to be fair I heart them all!) and they ALL decided to do it so I had a lovely chorus of "Hello! I love you teacher!"s all the way up the stairs. Haha, small joys^^ How was your Wednesday everyone?


  1. I have a couple of comments about this post, and I am going to put them all into this one comment. Prepare for a long one.

    1. It appears that chocolate cookies are enough to take my place in your heart :( Don't worry. I don't blame you. The same thing might have happened if you moved out and someone cooking awesome cookies took your place :D Though, whether they could cook awesome Korean cuisine like you would be another matter.

    2. Your scarf looks awesome and Knitting Nazi is a very appropriate nickname by the sounds of it. I would have called her Bitch, but your way is nicer.

    3. Add me on Google Plus. I hardly ever use it, but at least it will offer a way to stay in touch :D

    4. CUTE!!! Loved the song and the video :D

    5. Yay for being mentioned twice in one post!

    6. I MISS YOU!!!

    That is all.

  2. all the chocolate chip cookies in the world would not persuade me to replace you in my heart my dear! but they do help ease the heartache when i miss you :)