Hey everyone, I hope you all are getting through February, with the world feeling so incredibly heavy, and even heavier after this week. My thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, and I hope this nightmare ends soon.
I know it’s a common trope that January lasts forever, and while for me it also felt like a long month, somehow at the same time it also feels like time is constantly misplacing itself or evaporating in my life these past two months. Before winter disappears entirely in front of my eyes I wanted to come on here to talk about my winter knitting, crafts and walks before winter is over and we find ourselves at the blossoming start of spring.
In terms of time and energy evaporating it hasn’t helped that since the start of February the Treehouse has been visited by a series of illnesses, that after testing turned out to be Covid. First my partner got sick and a few days later it was my turn. For the past two years we have been super careful masking up and basically not going anywhere except the supermarket and the woods, but with the outbreak being so bad as it is here now it is not a surprise we got it anyway. A word of advise is that if you are symptomatic and test negative on a self test: go and get an official test anyway, as both of us were sick as dogs and still tested negative on all self tests we did, didn’t completely trust that result -justifiably, it turned out- and then got a positive when we tested at a clinic. We are both vaccinated and boostered and it still felt as if we got run over by the worst fever and cold of our lives. I’m a bit better now but the sore throat and cough are still lingering and the whole ordeal was and is still very energy draining and I feel I’m constantly running to catch up on things. Anyway so far for catching you up on the Treehouse Sneeze Report -onwards to nicer things that happened before we hunkered down with a box of tissues in our bed.
Our winter so far mostly has been very grey and especially from the midway point fairly mild. It doesn’t look like that will change towards the end of winter, though early spring can always surprise us weather wise. That said there have been a handful truly beautiful, sparkling, magical, cold winter days in there as well. I’ve been trying to make the most of those days, going for walks and take in the winter air. On the really cold days I’ve been able to put my first self made duffle coat up to the test and truly see whether it’s warm enough. (So far so good! Though obviously plenty of woollen knits in there as well.)
Frost covered foliage is one of my favourite gifts of winter. Apart from the odd dusting of snow we had nothing of the sort we had last year, but we have had quite a few beautiful days where the earth was covered in a sparkling layer of ice. Everything seems different and new when it is covered in a white layer of snow, usual woodland trails, meadows and even backside alleyways seem just a bit more magical and special when they are covered in a layer of tiny ice sculptures. I recently read about someone taking magnifying lenses to study moss during walks and I think they would also be of great use on frosty walks such as these.
I love winter landscapes, when everything is barren your eye is inevitably drawn to the landscape and things in it; the bare bones so to speak. I love studying tree shapes, plant skeletons, decaying leaves and following the path of branches on trees and bark texture. Old gnarly trees seem even more splendidly gnarlier in winter when everything is bare. Since easing myself into drawing and sketching more I’ve noticed I’ve been more open and attentive to taking in these type of details when going for walks. I love it when things I like doing feed off each other and interact in this way, as many of my crafts these days also interact and grow with and from each other.
Despite the mild days we’ve been having, spring flowers haven’t been overly enthusiastic with coming on. A few days before I got sick I did see some early days crocus buds popping up here and there in the neighbourhood, but the abundance of snowdrops and February flowers wasn’t really happening. That said I haven’t been out of my house since getting sick, and today when I went to get the post I saw the tree below my building was swarmed with purple and yellow crocuses! Seems nature wasn’t about to wait with getting on with things for my quarantine to end. I cannot wait for this cough to properly bugger off so I van leave my house again and sit amongst the flowers and whisper words of thanks and encouragement. Our balcony birds seems to be mostly in winter mode still, and mainly focussed on getting food. I did see a magpie reinforcing an old nest with twigs this week, so I’d say the early signs that change is coming are trickling in!
I finished my autumn Oregon at the end of January. It was a lovely knit for the majority of time, and I think the end result is really beautiful. However as I alluded to before, for reasons for which the project itself is not to blame, it became a slug to get over the finish line. That struggle somewhat tangled up my future knit plans. So much so that when I finished it, I was at a loss as to what to cast on next. Usually I go quite seamlessly from project to project, but not this time. I just kept going over my queue and going through books and looked at all the lovely things in it but nothing was calling my name. These are all things I objectively still want tot make and think are wonderful. It’s just that in that very moment I couldn’t find the motivation, inspiration and spark to actually start any of them. Generally I felt a bit bleh about any project I could think of. Perhaps you recognize this feeling. I’ve had it before but possibly not as strongly as I had now and usually when I had it I was already in the thick of a project and could drag that out while the meh feelings fizzled out. I don’t know, perhaps it was January blues, or covid/general state of the world fed up -ness or perhaps I just needed a bit of time to regroup after a big creative project but I sat with this feeling for a bit.
In the end I did cast on something new, as I always do sooner or later, and with it the ‘meh’ feelings are slowly retreating. I cast on a pair of Selbu mittens for which I’m using the Selbu Mittens book from Anne Bårdsgård. While I was still in the thick of knitting my Oregon I was in a huge mitten mood that I did not yet want to cave into while I had so much left of the cardigan to knit. Now I can slowly but surely feel the enthusiasm return each time I leaf through my Selbu and Latvian mitten books. The good thing about mittens is that it’s not an overwhelmingly big investment in time and energy and I feel that’s why it might be a good project for me now to get me out of a small bog of general meh-ness.
My main sewing project for the past weeks has been a second version of the duffle coat I made in the autumn. I’m making it in a beautiful blue Shetland wool that is lovely to work with. The outer shell is done and I started working on the lining. I though I would have been further with the coat than I am now but lately, even before I got sick, I haven’t had a lot of time for sewing in the weekends. Like I said in general I’ve been feeling like time is just evaporating this year. It’s ok, I’m not rushing it and I’m over the halfway point anyway so it will get done in the next few weekends or so.
Winter Candle Making
This winter we experimented with making beeswax candles. It was my first foray into candle making of any kind. We made the first batch at the start of winter and lighted our first one on midwinter evening and have been using them loads over the winter to mark special as well as mundane moments and to light our dark winter nights. It’s been such a success and sweet addition to our winter days and rituals that I think it’s going to be a returning seasonal craft for the autumn-winter period.
We made dipped candles (so long thin ones). We bought the beeswax directly from a beekeeper. If you never did it before, be aware though you need quite a lot of beeswax to make these dipped style of candles as the pot you are dipping in needs to be full and topped up all the times. Other than that we didn’t get any new equipment for it; we used a long glass jar to dip in, a repurposed coffee package (or, to be precise, a grain & chicory package, as the only coffee drinker in this house ditched caffeine half a year ago). We used a stick between two chairs to hang them on and covered the surfaces with paper from the paper bin. This worked well for us. The lack of equipment and our lack of experience does mean that our candles are a bit wonkier and carrot like than the regular straight ones you would buy in a store but, I’m not sure, maybe that is precisely why I like it. I know there is the thing that people compliment self made things that “don’t look handmade”( often meaning not perfect) which I loath. l sometimes like making things deliberately not aiming for perfect to reel against some of that and also to give a small punch to capitalist notions that reinforce these ideas. Other than that I think wonky carrots are just the thing a witch in her deep in the forest secluded cottage would use to illuminate her nighttime soup brewing and honestly that is a lifestyle I aspire to.
Mending and Other Crafts
Similarly to how I’ve been going through a period of less knitting I haven’t done a ton of other crafts in January either. I’ve done a bit of embroidery, spinning and weaving here and there but not a ton to write about any of it. Then when I got sick most of February was a miss too, and I only managed to do a bit of embroidery here and there in between coughing and feeling sorry for myself. It’s just how is goes sometimes.
I did spend some time mending things, mostly mundane stuff but I also mended my partner’s mittens. I think this is maybe its fifth patching session and we are getting close to “there is not a stitch on these mittens that was not touched by mending” territory. The mittens are plain store bought and over the years I’ve used various leftovers and bits of yarn to mend it, mainly stuff I inherited from my family. They are good to go for the rest of the winter at least and we’ll see how much future mending sessions they got left in them.
I also took the time to frog some things where I think the yarn will serve me better in another project. One of the projects is my phoenix feathers yoke jumper that I test knitted way back when it came out. I know some will be puzzled as to why I frogged this project as it somewhat bizarrely has ended up being the most popular thing I ever posted about. It pops up randomly in places on the internet and knitters still send me messages about it, tag me on photos and it’s the project people copied for themselves the most or message me to ask me for permission to copy it ( yes!, go for it!). As a knitter you really can’t predict these things and I definitely wouldn’t want to anyway. It’s obviously nice when people like your projects and a huge complement when people like it so much they actually want to recreate it but I try to keep it far from my decision making process or why I document my making.
The thing is, while outwardly this project has been a huge “success” in my everyday reality it wasn’t at all. I have barely worn it and struggle to remember if I actually did wear it at all after I took photos of it. I can’t really put my finger on it, as I like the colours and the combination of them and when it’s cold I wear lopapeysa all the time. In the end I figured that after all these years it hasn’t taken of for me, I’m better of frogging it and putting the yarn to use in a lopapeysa that I am going to wear a lot.
Another project that took a trip to the frog pond is my Toorie cardigan, which I casted on a couple of years ago, finished about three quarters of the way and then abandoned. It is still a project that’s on my longlist for another attempt in the future, in a different more forest-y colour theme perhaps.
Frogging these projects felt really good honestly and I have some other projects in mind which I might give the same treatment at a later date. I will let it simmer in my mind a bit before I’ll do it (I wouldn’t do anything drastic in my enthusiasm, would I? 🙄 ) but I caught my mind wandering over some of the possible projects I could possibly use the new freed up lett lopi for and I think that is a good sign.
Admittedly winter is not the most glorious of times in terms of plants on the balcony, and I doubt many people will feel different about their gardens in winter. However there is beauty to be found in nature’s rest as well. I love studying the bare branches of our tree and berry bush as well as the skeletons that remain of summer’s glory. I tend to leave most of the dead annuals during winter for insects and critters to shelter and I’m pretty sure the visiting birds to the balcony also prefer it over an mostly empty cleaned up space. Incredibly, our Nastrium has survived winter so far, weathering the cold and frost, and even more astonishing, is still producing flowers. What a little fighter! And that’s without any care or deadheading, which is usually what you need to do to lengthen its flowering period. It’s been a tiny green-and-orange beacon of hope and colour and a promise of what is to come once the growing cycle starts up again.
In winter the main spectacle of the balcony are the visiting birds. They stop by daily; mostly in the morning and early afternoon and then again when the twilight sets in. This year we hung a birdhouse that they have been flying in and out of a lot, though they haven’t settled in it (yet). A group of little blue tits spend a morning feverishly wrecking havoc among the potted strawberry plants, pulling leaves and being adorably loud. I’m not sure exactly what they were doing; foraging leftover berries? Trying to find nesting material? Hunting for bugs? It sure was entertaining to watch though!
With the start of spring coming ever closer it has been so nice to see the leaves and stems of bulbs we planted in late autumn popping up and growing. We planted a mix of bulbs in each pot so it has been fun to see different shapes of the leaves and stems popping up in each pot. This way of planting also keeps it a bit of mystery what flower actually turns up where. I look forward to following along with them over the coming weeks. We pruned our apple tree a bit as well and am excited to see if their will be a similar flower abundance on it this year as is the previous year. I’m super excited for seedlings season to start and have been occupying myself by making plans and dreaming about this years gardening.
Take care everyone and see you all later!