We have enjoyed a beautiful -if ludicrously mild- autumn. I’m kind of running out of superlatives to describe the rapid changes to our climate on the blog, but yeah, “there was little need for a sweater the entirety of October and my entire balcony garden was still in flower” is indicative of the state of it, I guess. I thought that with our extremely dry summer it could be a bad year for toadstools, but then September was very wet and September and October were mild and even November was warmer than it should have been – so basically perfect conditions for them and they enthusiastically popped up everywhere.
Now we are, as implausible as that sounds, in December and earth seems to have gotten the brief that winter is supposed to be imminent and temperatures have returned to some form of normality. We have been visited by the first few frosts of this autumn-winter cycle and while it didn’t snow in my neck of the woods, my parents and my childhood home have been greeted by the first white tufts. Trees are increasingly bare, safe for a few stubborn ones here and there and more and more houses are being decked with twinkle lights. In our house too, we decorated our tree and filled the house with evergreen, straw stars and the like and our nights are spend in the glow of candles and fairy lights. In other words, winter is knocking well and truly on the door, if not has arrived already and it is time for me to bid farewell to my beloved autumn for another year.
I always try to take in all I can of autumn, because it’s my favourite season, but I haven’t been as present this season as I had hoped I would be. It has been an incredibly busy and at times stressful few months for both my partner and me, with some health issues to top it off, and so time has whizzed by. It has all distracted from the season and I feel some regret over that, but at the same time I also know that it isn’t always in your hands and it’s just how it goes sometimes. I’m grateful for the things that did happen though and perhaps I cherish the autumnal walks, mushrooms met, leaves gathered and dark, candle lit story nights even more than I usually would because of it.
I finally finished the yoke cardigan I was working on for the past months! At last! Progress stalled on it because for various reasons I have been knitting less than I usually do and at the same time I juggled more projects in that time. Because progress was so slow, a portion of the time I spend knitting on this was definitely more forced than out of sheer joy and that made me feel a bit meh about it all in the latter half of the project. That said, I’m super pleased it is done and happy with the result so that makes up for the struggles the project has seen. It is a colourwork yoke in the Shetland Tree-and-Star style, but I added rambling vines of leaves to the yoke and replaced the stars with birds. This was an idea I had in my head for a long time and I’m so happy to have finally done it. Excited to tell you more about this cardigan, though that will have to wait for the new year as I still need to take photos of it and my humdingers of year wrap up posts are still awaiting.
In other knit news, I finished the sock I was knitting in self striping yarn last time I spoke to you about my wips and have since cast on for another sock pair with colourwork this time. They are Norwegian colourwork socks in the Selbu tradition; the main motif features a centre “spider” motif framed by spruce twigs. I’m using a dark forest green with an off white and for the heel do a heel flap and gusset. I like working on this and it feels a fitting project to be busy with on the doorstep of winter.
Quilting and Sewing
I started hand quilting my small star quilt somewhere mid October and since then progress on it went fast. I think since some time past since I finished my first quilt and after a balmy, hazy summer waiting it out to work on it I sort of had forgotten how much I enjoy the actual quilting process but within the first few stitches it all came back like a bolt of lightning. This second quilt being a lot smaller than my first effort certainly also helps speeding up the process. The hand quilting is finished now and by the end of it I was kind of dreading not having my needle and thread accompanying me in the evenings for a while. All that is left to do is sewing on the binding and then I’ll be sure to make a post and tell you all about this quilt. While I put in the finishing touches on this quilt I’ll dream my way towards my next quilt project.
As for my regular sewing projects I’m working on a cosy flannel smock dress. Apparently I’ve been craving cosy sewing projects as the other project I’ve been thinking about making are hand sewn pyjamas. I guess the dark nights, the incoming winter days, my health hiccups and the general state of the world just makes me want to make all the warm, comfortable and cosy things to wrap in.
Stitching a Garden
After acknowledging my stitch fatigue with this hoop and possibly embroidery in general in my last catch up post I promised I would try to finish this hoop as swiftly as possibly and then take a break from it. I actually managed to do that and now – can you believe it – after months of reluctant stitching it is done. It took a silly amount of time and it is testimony to how stubborn I am in seeing a project through when I start one. A practical person would have long abandoned the couple of stitches every few days effort when a project wasn’t working out, but that is apparently more difficult for me than just stupidly trudging on. I now have a finished community garden hoop and I do like it when I see it hanging from my wall in my bedroom and while I feel no resentment to it whatsoever I do think it is good to acknowledge that things would have been a lot easier if I had just gone and done something else with the time spend tugging on this. I still think that my difficulties with stitching on it have been largely mental and a fatigue with the project/craft on surface level and less so with the actual subject or pattern I was stitching. Ironically my end sprint to the finish line has low key made me find some enjoyment in the craft again, but I still think I would do well to take a bit of a break and so far have valiantly resisted all the atmospheric seasonal and winter-y projects that are omnipresent at this time of the year.
Weaving and Spinning
I been working on a new weaving project on the floor loom. I did a terrible job of taking photos during the process of dressing the loom which I shall try to amend in future weaving projects. Anyway I used the same warping method and as with my first floor loom project so I can keep some things similar while experimenting more in other aspects. I’m using a single coloured warp this time and another colour for the weft so only have to juggle two colours. I am doing a different slightly more difficult and more impactful patterning this time around. It is only my second floor loom project and I am making a ton of mistakes but at the same time am having a blast working on it. I wonder how this one will turn our at the end of the cycle.
With my spinning I am up to my head in natural undyed colours. I’m learning how to use carding brushes to prepare a short stapled fleece. The learning curve is steep here! I am ending up with spinnable floof though so we are getting somewhere with this process. On my wheel I’m spinning undyed carded brown Karakul fleece. I say brown but there is such a richness in brown, beige, grey, gold and white tones in there you could get lost in it for days. It spins up nicely, though there is a lot of veg matter stuck in here which I’m constantly having to pick out so I’m moving only tentatively faster than the snail that is hibernating on my balcony roof ceiling.
When cycling back from a woodland adventure I found a bunch of long wispy willow branches scattered about at the foot of the tree. It was quite a lot so I first thought it was from pruning but given the type of breakage I think windfall is more probable. The fallen branches were from a weeping willow, so quite long, and I decided to gather them all up and bring them home. This was a location where city personnel would’ve taken away the branches within days anyway, so leaving them there for wildlife wasn’t any use. I must have been quite a sight on my bike with all these branches gathered around in my arms, quite a balancing act too – trying to avoid getting any of the unruly bits stuck in-between my spokes or chain, luckily it was not far to home! I have been interested in basket weaving for some time, particularly in working with foraged plant material and processing those for weaving myself. I think it’s an incredible craft to get into to learn more about plants and have a closer connection to your surroundings and the seasonal cycle. You can use lots of things for basketry: grasses, branches, roots, leaves, vines and the like and there are different techniques to be explored for turning them into baskets. So far it had been on my radar to do ‘at some point’, but it hadn’t materialized yet. When my eye spied these I jumped at the chance.
These are weeping willow branches, so not shoots from a willow variety that is traditionally used for basket weaving, but in the old days people used lots of stuff to weave so using what greenery there is on hand is a tradition in and of itself. All in all basketry is quite niche in the grand scheme of things but in the past few years I have seen more of it happening in the craft sphere, including weavers who use mainly foraged materials. These long branches with their flexibility and length seemed pretty useful to me for a first foray into this craft and if all else fails I can always wrangle them in a rudimentary wind screen or frost protection for our plants. I processed these in the same way ivy or bramble is processed; I stripped them of their leaves, coiled them and hung them to dry on a long rope in my bedroom which now has a nice subtle tree smell and many witch cottage vibes. Hanging them to dry out is advisable because there is apparently considerable shrinkage when they dry out for the first time – yes, this is a thing with any type of fibre you will ever work with- so this is the stage we are at now. Onwards and finger crossed for the next phase.
On Samhain Eve I made my first batch of fire cider. Fire cider is an immune system boosting folk herbal medicine that has been made for generations. In it’s most basic fire cider is apple vinegar infused with herbs, plants and spices know for antiviral and healing qualities. Traditionally these would be certain types of herbs but the nice thing about herbalism is that you can really make it your own and add herbs with medicinal qualities (or simply the taste) that you seek. You can add honey to it as well in which case it is called an oxymel. We have been using our fire cider a lot and if the healing bit doesn’t spark joy for you I can report that it is utterly delicious as well (if, you know…you like vinegar and spice). I grew up with herbal medicine being very present in my life through my mum and aunt – (because these times are these times, I should note here that regular medical care was never shunned, denied or ridiculed either) – and in my adult life it was always present in some form as well but on a more passive level. My health struggles in the past few months served as the catalyst to actively do more with herb medicine now. Folk medicine has a long inspiring and radical history and fire cider itself has seen it’s fair share of that even in recent times when a company trademarked the term and the herbal community fought back against it and won. A a rare and remarkable case of capitalism vs folk where the folk won!
Because of our extremely mild Autumn in early November I still had quite some flowers blooming on the balcony. It was so sunny and mild that I held of planting this year’s batch of bulbs for a lot longer than I had initially planned and than would be normal or recommended in the “before” times. Even though our entire autumn up until now, on the threshold of winter, stayed unusually mild they had to go into the ground at some point so in they went during a massive bulb plant day. Massively odd to be planting them in November when my snapdragons were still in bloom. Despite the overall mild weather we also had our first days of frost in November and December so I covered the plots of bulbs with a layer of leaves and bark chips. This serves the purpose of a protective layer against the winter weather as well as mimics the circumstances a lot of these flowers naturally would be growing in and leaves are just excellent feed for the soil when they break down.
In that same vein we are trying our hand at making leaf compost this year. I read about this at the start of the spring and had been eagerly awaiting autumn to gather up a bunch of leaves to do it with. In my neck of the woods in autumn each year large wire boxes are placed across the neighbourhood for folks to deposit their raked up leaves in. So gathering a bunch was as easy as just going to these boxes with a big empty bag and fill it up. Now they have to sit for a year while they decompose, though you can also use it in spring as half composted mulch. Because we don’t have a lot of space we can’t do a ton of them, but we do what we can and it is by far the best and most sustainable way of making fertile soil.
That’s it for me for now. I hope to back with one more project post before wrapping up the year, but December is crazy busy so we’ll see if that will happen. I hope you are all well and are able to find rest and joy in these closing weeks of the year. Wishing everyone a great weekend, and to those in the northern hemisphere, a warm welcome to the frosty season!
4 thoughts on “Autumn into December”
Weer een heerlijk stuk om te lezen en mee gevoerd te worden door de maanden en de projecten. Het werkt aanstekelijk om te lezen en te bekijken. Hopelijk komt je lichaam wat tot rust en kan het herstellen zodat je in alle rust kunt werken aan je projecten. geniet van de koude donkere dagen rond de kerst en je licht in huis. vorst krijgen we en misschien ook nog sneeuw. fijn weekend en tot gauw!
Ja, de vorst was voor mij echt genieten. En de tijd van kaarsen en lampjes!
Wow, you are so busy with crafting! All of your projects are beautiful and I can’t wait to see the finish products.
Thanks Sarah! They’ll -eventually, fingers crossed- make their way to the blog once they’re done! 😀