Sunday, January 15, 2006

Needle Felting & Japanese

First of all, thanks for checking out the blog, newc! Yes, once B figured out which direction to read it, he really enjoyed "Hikaru no Go". We are planning an excursion tomorrow (he's off school for MLK Day) back to the anime shop so we can get volume 2, then it's off to lunch at our favourite Japanese restaurant. Thanks for asking!!

The picture at top is of my latest semi-obsessive way to pass the time, needle felting. What you do is take some wool roving (roving is fibre that has been washed & prepared for spinning, usually by a machine of some sort), of which I have rather a lot, make a big puffy pad of it on the foam block (upper right hand corner), then start poking it repeatedly with special needles which cause the wool to felt into a cohesive pad. I have been embellishing mostly with handspun single-ply yarn that I dyed with easter-egg dyes (those are the spirals & squiggles on some of the pads). I put some un-felted roving in the picture along with a little skein of the handspun so you can see the raw materials. It's kind of like magic, really. The jabbing of the needle, although tiring after a bit, is really cathartic & you end up with something pretty & useful when you're done. B has gotten into it as well & I'll let him do it as long as I'm around, as the needles are very sharp! I use a long weavette needle instead of fingers to place or hold the wool because, once you've jabbed yourself with that needle, you really don't want to do it again!! I got the starter kit last Wednesday (I think- maybe Thursday) & you can see I've spent some time messing about with it. It's neat because I can have a conversation while doing it & I don't have to withdraw to another room, or count, or worry about distractions like with some of my other creative outlets. I'm going to look for a bigger piece of foam at JoAnn's, since this one is only 8"x4" & I'm ready to try something bigger. Some people make dolls & sculptures with needle-felted wool, but I tend toward the useful/practical & prefer to make things that can be used for something. My friend Nancy got me into wet felting (I use a washboard) a couple of years ago & I love doing it, but it's much more physical & my hands & back are sore for days when I wet-felt. So I'm back on the felting track & still having fun mucking about & seeing what I can do. Such fun!

Speaking of fun, we had a very enjoyable Japanese lesson yesterday. Often it's difficult to get B plugged-in for very long (I try to keep him engaged for at least 1/2 hour, but it's not always easy) but something worked yesterday & he stayed with us for nearly 2 hours! It may have helped to have started out with hot cocoa... I usually offer Tomoko green tea- especially when it's cold out, but it occurred to me that she might enjoy having something different, since she enjoys experiencing US customs & foods. I made Ghirardelli hot cocoa, with milk, & C joined us for some, too, & we all just chatted for a bit. We showed her the manga we'd bought (B began reading "Hikaru no Go" at this point, actually) & some other new things. I save some of the goofier (to me) packaging on the Japanese foods I buy so she can translate & explain them to me. There was a funny tab from a jar of furikake (rice seasoning) that had pictures of happy onigiri (usually triangular, filled rice cakes) with eyes & hands. She called them "onigiri kun" meaning "rice-cake boys" & then explained that kids have different designations depending on their age, with "kun" meaning "almost a young man". I love the glimpses of Japanese culture I get through these discussions. Our lesson proper was about the days of the week & she showed us the kanji associated with each day, which stand for things like "sun" & "fire" & other elements. The kanji for "month" means "moon", which makes sense to me! She had us look at a calendar she'd brought back to the US with her & then match up the symbols on the sheet she'd typed for us. This is one of the things that makes Tomoko such a good teacher, since these exercises appeal to the code-expert superspy part of B & also help me to remember the lesson better than just reading & reciting it. We also learned to tell time, which led us back to counting & remembering the numbers in Japanese. I keep a set of asian dice on the table where we work, I we were using them a s arefernce. B all of a sudden asked Tomoko what the Japanese word for "temple" is. He said that the kanji symbol for 6 (roku) looked like a temple to him & they discussed the elements of that kanji, which indeed did include "roof". He then made up a game using the dice & some mosaic blocks that we have, called it "Ni Jin-Ja" (meaning 2 temples) & then explained the rules. The three of us played it, referring to the numbers by their Japanese names, & it was great fun. Bless Tomoko for her flexibility (she seemd to enjoy the game & what she called B's "genius moment", too). After our lesson, B reimmersed himself in "Hikaru no Go" & finished it by dinner time. He also taught dad to play "Ni Jin-Ja" & they refined the rules. It was fun to discuss the story with B over dinner & I think a Go set is in our future- we both want to try the cool stone-placing moves we saw in the book! He also wanted to know what an "aura" is & why the ghostly male Go master in the book looks like a woman... never a dull moment around here :)


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