December greetings everyone! I hope you had a couple of cosy and restful days and that those who celebrate Christmas had a lovely, warm and delicious holiday. For my part December has just been speeding by; as always I mean to get my year round up posts out a lot earlier than I end up doing and as always I only get to it within days of the new year starting. This year I was really swept up by the December end of the year hustle to tie up all loose ends and get my stuff in order before the start of our December holiday. Because the covid spread has been bananas here since the start of the autumn and omicron etc we’ve again kept our holiday celebrations small scale and just with the two of us and the cats. Our Christmas involved listening to winter folk songs, knitting by candlelight, a bit of tablet weaving and baking and cooking all things tasty. My mum and dad had their booster shots booked over the holidays (literally on Christmas) and it was a relief when they got them.
Because we knew for a while what way the holidays were going to go, we decided to go the extra mile with decorations and making our place a cosy den. We have small fake tree that used to be from my grandfather which we’ve been using for years, but this year we also got a tiny real tree in a pot that I’m hoping will survive over the holidays and maybe celebrate with us again next year. We have twinkle lights strung across our house, straw stars, knitted gnomes, candles, winter cards and illustrations and tiny wooden hangers that are almost as old as I am and were used to decorate the trees of Christmas pasts in my household when I was a tiny tot. I’ve been in a much more festive, cosy and all things yule mood than I have been for a while.
The thing I’ve looked forward to the most though was our winter vacation (as in time off, not as in travelling) at the end of December and filling it with all the crafts, walks and winter reflections my heart desires. So far this is going well with frosty winter walks, finishing up sewing and knitting projects, starting new projects and trying new little crafts. We tried making beeswax candles for the first time and lighted our first handmade candle on the shortest day of the year. I’ve also been reflecting on my year in my personal journal and my craft journal and this of course brings me to the subject of this post.
I’m rounding up the year on the blog similarly as last year; in this post I’ll be looking back at my sewing, quilting and at what happened in the garden and outside. The second post will be about my knitting, spinning and other textile crafts and will be up in a few days.
Sewing this year has been a mix between trying huge new things and finding comfort in go-to projects. A theme has been finding my basics and sort of daily wear uniforms and leaning into that by sewing all the shirt dresses. At the same time I tried more adventurous and advanced things like sewing on my winter coat for the latter part of the year and working on fulfilling my long held quilt dreams. So this year was a bit of a mix of those things and I’m quite content with where I am with my sewing.
Another sewing theme this year was using what I already have. So a lot, though not all, was made with fabrics I had in my stash for quite a while and using patterns I already had instead of going for the latest and greatest. Additionally there have been a lot of repeats of patterns I already made once (or twice… or… ). Repeating patterns is of course convenient for me but it also gives me the opportunity to deep dive into a pattern, hack them more significantly, and really fine tune them to my preferences. This is another development I am quite content with; constantly chasing the new defeats the purpose of being a maker which is for me in part to slow down. I haven’t really bought much new this year for my sewing and I think especially in terms of patterns, after years of sewing clothing, I have reached a level of pattern saturation in which pieces really need to stand out or be exactly the thing I’m after for me to buy it. There isn’t really any impulse buying of sewing patterns any more. It also helps that I know myself really well and now what I like and what I like to wear (ha those are different things!).
My sewing practise is kind of slow so my output in the context of a year is small. It suits me and my making. Particularly the start of the year was slow going and I found it hard to get in the sewing groove, but in the latter half of the year I really hit my stride with sewing and I made some of my very favourite and most wearable pieces in those months.
So let’s have a look at what I did sew!
I started the year by showing you this colourful button up shirt I made for my partner. Ha, I don’t think I ever got so many questions about where I got a certain fabric (or any craft thing in general) and than had to help people sail the rough waters that is navigating websites in languages that you do not actually speak. But I digress, this is the best made garment I ever sewed for someone else and a huge improvement over my previous efforts. It was made for a special occasion but otherwise serves as everyday wear. Though it is more of a spring and summer shirt, I also like it combined with a simpler solid knitted sweater were the collar peaks out and adds some colour to an outfit.
When at First You Don’t Succeed…
The yellow linen hinterland, is first shirt dress in a line of shirt dresses I made this year. It’s the dress that first was and then wasn’t naturally dyed. I learned a bunch with this one; about plant dyeing, about what type of mordant to use when (and in particular what not to use for dyeing plant based fibres) about accepting that you just don’t get the same kind of saturation from plant dyes when you dye linen vs when dyeing wool and persistence when it comes to getting a sewing project of the line and finally also about when to turn to the acid based dyes when all else fails.
Cosy and Comfy
Next up I made a couple of sweatshirts, these are hacked versions of the skipper sweatshirt. These are the kind of makes that if I was trying to make my life be an aesthetic my personal brand coach would tell me off for for posting about. Ah well, I think there are many reasons why I’m ill suited for the aesthetic influencer career and me posting about sweatshirts I made that I intend to use mainly as pyjamas is just a tiny one of them. Anyway, I’ve worn these almost every day and they are very cosy indeed. I might thwart my influencer prospects some more in the future by making some longer length versions in lighter tricot.
I’ve often talked about that I’m an autumn and winter person at heart and this is reflected in my makes as well. I find it difficult to get inspiration and motivation for hot weather makes and make summer clothing that feels like me, and am much easier persuaded to get enthusiastic for cosy makes. With so many record breaking hot summers, it’s basically become a necessity to learn to like making summer clothes. In the past few years I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to make more peak summer makes and find out what I like. I made some summer clothes last year, particularly my hacked Ogden dress and Bo top, that I felt matched the target pretty well and have indeed been worn a lot this summer. However I think this year’s summer makes might rival the success of those, which is good as it means I’ve possible hit my stride with summer makes?
My hummingbird Kalle was the first of my summer makes. I had it in my head to make a summer kalle with this fabric in my stash for a while but am glad that this summer I mustered up the motivation and carved out the time to actually make it. The lightweight, breezy fabric makes it perfect for those really hot days and I’ve worn it a bunch in the summer. Looking at the photos of this make still makes me so happy; taken at the end of summer in August and everything still looks lush and green instead of dry, dead and burned. A summer as mild as this one hasn’t happened in recent years and it has been nothing short of a healing balm.
Hot Weather Hinterland
My other hot weather make is my green sleeveless Hinterland dress. This is my favourite summer make ever and one of my favourite makes of this year. The hinterland really is a tried and true pattern for me and very much a favourite. This make has been a lesson in “accepting what you like and running with it gives you results that you will like”. So this make is quite basic and in many ways repetitive; it’s a solid colour shirt dress in a colour I’m known for liking and while it makes for less exciting blogging it’s precisely these things that make it a wardrobe win.
I feel there can be quite a lot of societal pressures to constantly be doing new things and looking out for the new. Social media has those pressures multiplied while at the same time really pinning down what sort of stuff you should be doing to be picked up. On top of that as a maker you are constantly subject to a well of inspiration through instagram which in part is fantastic but it can also be hard to dissect from that what is exactly that you want to make versus what you’re being told to want to make. I think every maker to some extend struggles with that. It might not look like it to the outsider but I’ve struggled with that last thing over the years, especially in a field like summer makes were I feel more out of my depth than in others areas where I know myself better.
Just like the previous dress, the heather coloured myosotis shirt dress is a shirt dress in a solid colour and a repeat make that all in all is not that different from my previous version. I guess that is what this year has been about in part for me; fine tuning my uniform, growing into the style and finding comfort in my basics. Basics does not mean not showing individuality of course, while shirt dresses are very much part of my basics for others they could be part of dressier wear or not play a role into their wardrobe at all. Similarly colourwork yokes and allovers are part of my everyday wear, so part of my daily uniform: a basic, while others will laugh at the very idea.
Having a uniform; styles and shapes which are everyday wear for me and patterns that are repeating makes gives me room to deep dive with them. I can hack them more easily but I can also fine tune their fit and features to my taste. It doesn’t look like it from the photos but my green sleeveless hinterland has had quite some alterations to it to fit my preferences and my body better. Similar story for the heather myosotis, that in addition to tweaks to the pattern gave me an opportunity to play around with colour. The muted warm pink, while fitting in my autumnal palette, it is a new colour for me. One that, between this make and the Wilhelmina cardigan, I’ve been gravitating towards this year but all in all I still feel a bit unsure about. Having the colour in a garment shape that I feel comfortable in helps me grow into the colour and feel at ease with it while getting use to it.
Pine Green Isca
The final of the shirt dresses I made this year is my pine green Isca dress. I feel that of all the things I made this year this dress feels the most as if it has my name written over it. With the standing collar, the longer length and a couple of unique features on the dress it feels like a more dressier shirt dress among my collection. The dress that I would wear to sketch in a sea side restaurant munching on a house made sourdough sandwich if my life was a quaint but cute art house film. Except my life is not a quaint but cute art house films and the sea is a few hours by train away so we’ll just make do by wearing it just about everywhere else, which is mostly my own home burrow and woodland walks cause we are still in covid times.
Additionally, I’ve discovered that this dress is one of those pieces that seem to go with everything in my wardrobe. The heathery pinks of my Wilhelmina and the golden green tones of my hand spun shawl gives it an earthy look, blue and green tones makes it more ethereal, while reds, orange and browns give the dress a wholly cheerful vibe, as charcoal and sheep tones keep an outfit with this dress grounded.
A Long Expected Duffle Coat
Feels a bit odd to already talk about my Plaid Duffle Coat in the year wrap up given that it only just appeared on the blog but ah well such is the life of early winter makes. With the quilt this is the standout make of this year to come off of the sewing machine. It’s been such a long time of dreaming, building skills, gathering materials that it on the one hand feels unreal to now be able to wear it everyday and on the other hand completely natural and normal to now have a handmade coat since it’s been so long coming. I finished my first piece of outerwear and it’s been so rewarding to have made something that keeps me warm and cosy in the cold outside. A garment that really gets put through it all with walking and biking through all sorts of weather in winter.
It’s also a testimony to how far I’ve come in my sewing journey; in terms of techniques and skill building but also in terms of wardrobe and what I want to work on. I don’t mind setting aside weeks or months to work on a project I really want to make and in that it starts to kind of mirror my knitting practise where I can spend months working on allover colourwork garments. I mean I’ve always been a slow sewist and dresses usually still take me a couple of weekends of sewing to finish and that was never a problem. While I obviously also will still be working on those everyday garments that will take me less than months of work to finish I like that there now is room for both kind of projects.
Without a shadow of a doubt finishing my first quilt is among my proudest and joy bringing achievements this year. It’s the one thing I still look at in wonder that my hands made it after dreaming about making a quilt for such a long time. It’s been well used since I finished it earlier in the year and since the weather turned colder it has been used every day and it even went through and survived its first time in the washing machine without a problem! Of course, the past weeks the colours in the quilt read to me as very festive. It was not intended that way, but with the house decked out in yule decorations with twinkle lights, stars stars, pine bought and little red kabouters how could I not?
The project was such a delight to make and now use that I’ve started to prepare more seriously for my next quilt project. Ever since I finished this quilt my head has been brimming with ideas for future quilt project so I’m spoiled for choice (sadly less spoiled for time). I mean to use part of the holiday period to get started on this next project so finger crossed that will happen.
In many ways 2021 has been the biggest year for our balcony garden as of yet. We decided early on in the year that we wanted to surpass our previous gardening efforts and basically allocated all our balcony space for growing things. So we started the year of by making a lot of container space to achieve that goal. I don’t think we maxed out quite yet in terms of growing space, there is still…ahem… room to grow, but the garden is as ever a work in progress. We grew a lot, had some successes, had some fails and a had a lot of things that did okay. Our peppers grew from seeds and actually grew fruit this year (a first!) and we had a ton of tomatoes and beans and our late summer flowers did really well. But we also struggled with plant diseases and plants not doing so well; for example the cucumbers and sweet peas were a disaster.
I feel the story about our apple tree illustrates the year pretty well: we had an massive abundance of flowers in February and then we had a two week snowstorm in that same month from which the flowers needed to be protected. Then the tree started growing her first few apples ever, most of which needed to be cut away in early autumn when we found out the tree had an infection. So lots of causes for celebrations but also some sad losses and struggles. As always we learned a ton of new things and we will have a think about things we want to change and grow next year in the first few weeks of the new year. I’m thinking more dye plants and flowers or maybe another climbing plant to get things truly wild and unruly in here.
A big garden thing for us was getting into vermiculture and getting a worm bin and compost worms. This too has been a learning curve, although most of it has been observing the worms and seeing how they adjust and settle in, so that’s very hands off. It’s been really cool to see them at work from so up close and see the process of the vermiculture really get going. With the temperatures dipping towards freezing point we made sure to pack them in real well and they have been in a sort of hibernating state (it is natural for them to hibernate in winter) but for most of autumn and even on our mild winter days they were still pretty active. It if gets colder we will take them off the balcony and into a warmer spot indoors. It will be cool to see them get more active in spring and watch how they fair with starting the whole cycle anew again. We’ve also been saving bottles of vermicompost tea (a liquid fertilizer the worms produce in the composting process) and it will be cool to be able to start using it – along with the regular compost – in next year’s garden.
This year I’ve been making more of an effort to get to know the plant and tree species in our surroundings and on our walks better. Over the past years I’ve been making more of an effort towards this anyway but there is always so much more to learn that it sometimes feels like I have just barely scratched the surface. I’ve also been more seasonal observant and tried to follow certain plants and trees throughout the seasonal changes. It’s a rewarding process that feels grounding and magical at the same time.
I saw a lot more wildlife and traces of wildlife this year than ever before while I lived in this region. I never set out to spot wildlife specifically as I do not want to disturb them, but it just so happened that I met a lot more wildlife during our forest and moor wanderings this year. Inland wildlife in these parts means animals such as deer, foxes, hares and rabbits, hedgehogs, frogs, squirrels, badgers, bats, beavers, all kinds of birds and if you are very, very, very lucky wolves. The ones I met during our forest wanderings were not quite as elusive as wolves, but I did see some bigger and smaller critters that I never saw before or that only occasionally show themselves in these parts. So that made this year feel very lucky and special. Especially memorable were seeing a white stork flying through a dreadful snow storm, spotting rabbit tracks in deep snow, watching a hare running up to me in full speed on a small woodland trail on a late summer day, seeing a group of deer sneak through an underpass and seeing a great egret flying over a field full of sheep.
My most favourite seasons to be outside are autumn, winter and spring. Summer is mostly missing out on there because for the last years it’s been so desperately dry and “unusually” hot because of climate change that it’s for me the most depressing time to be outside. This year though we had a wet summer that was milder than the past years (milder as opposed to extremely hot) and I was reminded that I actually don’t think summer is all that bad when everything isn’t dying of heat desperation. Going out in late summer and seeing everything green, full of life and some truly unruly bits of meadow and forest was such a joyful and healing experience.
Spring was lovely with its promising bright green shoots and foliage and vivid coloured blossoms on bare branches. Spring also holds the promise of planting seeds and growing things in the garden and especially this year it was such a hopeful period. I also got really into watching bird cams this spring. Autumn is my favourite season and also my favourite time to be outside; this year I spotted a record amount of red squirrels gathering their winter supplies, and I’ve been more observant of toadstools and tree varieties. Finally winter, nature’s rest period, in February brought us some of the most beautiful snow and ice days I’ve seen here in recent years and this year’s early winter has already brought us some beautifully sparkling (and cold, cold!) frosty walks. Ice and frost covered foliage are one of my most favourite winter gifts.
That’s it for now for me. Thanks for reading and I’ll have another post in a few days in which I look at my year in knitting and spinning and I’ll talk about a certain something I’ve been doing a lot less of and what that has brought me. Hope you are all well and see you in a few days! xx