I hope you all had a nice few days and that those who celebrate had a cosy holiday. I had meant to write a grand finale to my year in crafts here on the blog, but my household caught the sneeze and the last few days have been spend in a hazy daze of coughing and head cold. As a result any and all craft plans went out of the window as well as the inclination of doing an impressive write up of my year in favour of snoozing on the sofa with the cat. So instead, I thought I just do a quick write up of some of my favourite things this year forgoing the need to connect any of it or drawing any big conclusions or whatever but just wrapping op the year by looking at some nice things I did or that happened. So here we go in no particular order:
Finished my Autumn Oregon Allover
The first thing I wrote down on my list of favourites this year was finishing this my autumn Oregon fair isle cardigan. I guess this won’t come as a surprise, but I would go as far to say that this is one of my favourite knits ever. The moody colours of different blues, greens purples and browns offset the warm autumnal colours of red, rust and ochre perfectly. This cardigan is essentially my colour palette represented in one knit. This combined with the autumnal woodland theme of trees and leaves makes you almost question how it ever could have been not destined to be one of my favourite knits.
A Spring Bulb Garden
This was the first year we planted bulbs in the autumn for spring flowers and it became one of my favourite things this year. It made our flowering season start a lot earlier than in previous years which went hand in hand with our goal of focussing on a wildlife garden. Having flowers popping up early was not only good for our neighbourhood pollinators, but the early splashes of colour and seeing what popped up where was a big joy for us as well. In the summer I placed two large-ish (I mean we are still a balcony, so only have space for so much) orders at an organic bulb farm for next year’s spring blooms and I’ve been so gleeful about the whole planning and dreaming phase that I feel they warranted their presence already.
The Floor Loom Effect
Without a shadow of a doubt the biggest thing to happen in my craft life this year was weaving transforming my life. I started weaving in 2021 with tablet weaving, however this year the craft snowballed in my life with first the rigid heddle and later the floor loom and really transformed my craft life. 2022 will always be the year that our floor loom came to live with us and the decision to order one was a catalyst in lots of weaving things and learning. What were far away possibilities at best suddenly became real, tangible goals. It is probably obvious, but still I cannot stress enough how transformative this development was not only for weaving but for my crafting in general.
This all culminated in sort of the ultimate climax of this year which was weaving my plaid scarf. There were so many firsts in this project; first time looking at weaving yarns, first time figuring out how to calculate warp length, how to pattern to get the results I wanted, first time making a warp, first time dressing a floor loom, first time treadling a pattern, first time weaving on a floor loom and then of course, my first completed project on the loom. Aside from the obvious sentimental value this plaid scarf has to me I also just love the project in and of itself. It’s been worn almost daily since the weather turned cold and it is just the perfect length and width to wrap around in and be cosy and comfy. I’m not sure what directions my weaving will go into in the next year, but I do know there will be a lot more of it! I’m so glad this craft crossed my path when it did and that I decided to follow it’s pull.
Shetland Wool Duffle Coat
The Shetland wool Duffle Coat is my favourite sewing make of this year and possibly my proudest sewing achievement in all my time spend with the craft. It has become my go to cold weather coat – though I still wear my wearable muslin too– and I still feel an immense joy and satisfaction at having made this whenever I put it on. This coat just packs a lot of features that I’m fond of; the fact that the outer layer is made of Shetland wool twill fabric is a given in this, the blue slightly heathery colour, the cosy flannel plaid lining, the comfortable hood and pockets and finally the warm red brown wooden toggles. This coat is a pretty close rendition of my dream coat and isn’t it a wonder that when you are a maker you can – with some practise- just make clothes exactly like you want them? I’m really glad that in a year when at times I felt a bit meh and grubby about my crafting that I made such a standout piece as it almost completely washes away those negative feelings when I think about this coat.
I feel like my own memories and nostalgia about this coat style add to its charm, and helps making me somewhat feel like a sympathetic book character of winter stories of old whenever I put it on. Once a bookish dreamy kid, always a bookish dreamy kid.
A Wildlife Balcony
This year was the first time we had a complete focus on having a go at making our garden as wildlife friendly as we could make it. Previous years this was a large chunk of our gardening motivation as well but it was not the sole focal point. Largely this meant expanding on things we were already doing; more pollinator friendly flowers, adding more and diverse insect houses, leaving organic matter such as fallen leaves and adding foraged twigs and bark, and adding more features for birds. To make space for all that we decided to not grow any veg in the spring and summer, so no wall of tomatoes this year. Having wildlife at the heart of garden planning also meant more focus on native wildflowers and being mindful of where stuff added, seeds and soil mainly, comes from and making sure it is organic or at least pesticide free. The effect of this was quite spectacular in way I honestly hadn’t expected. Since we always had been mindful of wildlife I thought we would maybe notice a small difference, but was open for the possibility of seeing no difference at all. Haha, fool I was! I have never seen so many pollinators on our small patch, not so many all at once and not so many diverse critters. It’s been wonderful and I have some ideas for improvement for next year as well so hopefully bumblebees and friends have noted us on their neighbourhood map!
Project Analogue Queue
One of my big, and still ongoing, personal projects of this year was setting up my Analogue Queue. I’ve mentioned my queue project on the blog when I started it here and my ideas about it largely are still the same 10 months onwards. The analogue queue came into being after a long period of searching for and settling on a system for myself in which I could gather all my various crafts plans and make ideas. So the queue is in essence a box that I’ve been filling up with project cards: on the front there is a drawing of the project/the idea and on the back I write important info such as pattern, requirements, tools, modification ideas and the like. The queue includes all the crafts that I’m doing; knitting, sewing, quilting, weaving, spinning and the like but also crafts I want to learn, aspects I want to master and garden projects or drawing or story ideas. It has straightforward specific projects with a pattern on it but also own ideas or more general concepts such as “Bird yoke in Shetland Tree and Star Style”, “Selbu colourwork Socks”, “Fishermen Sweater” or “Quilt with Star Blocks”. It’s a very fluid system which offers me a lot of freedom in what I log and how I do it. It is also the most perfect project for a multi crafter to throw oneself in.
Throughout the year I’ve been drawing and writing cards for it, slowly filling the box with a more substantial stack. It has been a great companion and fun to work on as well as to choose from whenever I need a new project in my life. This is a long term project and I imagine I’ll be making these small cardboard cards for a long time to come until at some point the box is filled and I can spiral into an existential crisis about how slow of a crafter I am compared to what I want to make and, and, and…. (and look for another shoe box obviously). Until then though, craft on!
After two years of birds visiting and making merry on our balcony garden we hung up a bird house this year and in the spring we had a Eurasian blue tit couple nesting in it! This was a wonderful surprise as it is certainly not a given that hanging up a bird house actually birds like it enough to use it. We were a bit worried it might be too close to humans, but the balcony is the only place we can hang one and birds, especially in the city, are in dire need of more nesting spots so we wanted to at least try it. It was such a privilege to see this cycle from up close; them building a nest; coming and going with bits of moss and little twigs, to the nesting period and then the frantic period of the parents bringing enough food to their growing chicks and hearing the faint chick calls begging for more and finally the day the little ones flew out. They all made it out, and looked healthy and active if a bit frumpled and miffed at the whole ordeal of flying out and the prospect of learning to be an adult now. We opened and cleaned the bird house this autumn, which is the perfect time to do it as you won’t be disturbing any birds using it, to make the nest clean and parasite free for birds seeking shelter in winter and for spring when the cycle starts a new again. With our efforts towards a wildlife friendly balcony and our general fondness for birds it will probably come as no surprise that this was definitely a highlight of this year.
Year of Mittens
Between the Selbu mittens and the Underwing mitts I made this year 2022 has become a bit of a mitten year for me. It feels even more pronounced to me because I was visited by a massive mitten phase twice – once at the start of the year, and then again in the autumn. During that phase I was looking at lots of mittens for inspiration- particularity photos of old traditional mittens from online museum archives. The Selbu mittens where the most fun I had knitting a project this year. I had wanted to try my hand at these iconic mittens for a while and took my chance early this year when I was in a huge Norwegian and Latvian and Estonian mitten phase (the latter two are still on the ‘must make happen some day’-list). Not only was this a fun project to work on I also think they came out really well. The striking patterning combined with the rust and natural colour came out exactly as I had envisioned.
The Underwing mitts are decidedly not in the same heritage style and veer more towards the whimsical and picturesque, but it does illustrate I very much had mittens on the brain this year. The mittens are in part an homage to one of my favourite moths: A rare late autumn flyer that is only seen in October and November, so the perfect inspiration for these atmospheric autumnal fingerless mittens. I’ve worn these a lot in December, since the colder weather found us I tend to wear my full mittens outside but these still see their fair share of wear when I’m typing and the like at my desk. When I started these in the summer, and energy prices where shaping up the way they were, I realised a pair of fingerless gloves might be nice to have in times when folks (including us) don’t want to be too hasty with putting on the heating. This proved to be correct and I’m glad I took the time to make them in the summer heat, allowing me to wear them writing for the blog a few weeks ago while frost crystals clung against the windows accompanying a rogue frozen spiderweb hanging out in the corner of our window.
Play and Creativity in Other Crafts
A big theme and source of happiness has been creative play in arts and crafts in other crafts than my “mainstays” – knitting, sewing and spinning mainly. As mentioned above, weaving really transformed my crafting this year and I had a lot of fun with it as well as with making my second quilt. This year though, I feel I’ve been doing a lot of playing around with other crafts mostly for the cheer joy of being creative and making something. I’m a beginner at most of these things and put little pressure on myself to produce something in these crafts but rather just focussed on being, enjoying it and learning. I don’t think I’ve mentioned most of these things anywhere either so it has been really free and light to do them.
So this year I’ve made beeswax candles and with the nights drawing longer. they’ve been used a lot to light our evenings. Their wonkyness continues to be a source of delight and resistance. I’ve been making linocuts and carving stamps, unsurprisingly I’m drawn to botanical and folkloric styles but have also been having fun with carving some knitwear stamps to use in my journal. I’ve done some needle felting and felt crafts, again mainly drawing inspiration from nature (read: felted a ton of mushrooms). Embroidered my communal garden scene hoop, I dipped my toes in a bit of herbalism with fire cider and foraged for botanical materials to make things with as well as for natural dyeing. We experimented with new bread making recipes, mainly sourdough (SD bagels were a hit this year!) as well as tried new recipes for dinner and the like . There was more gardening as well, I’m not sure if it was because I’m more playful about it or because each year the garden brings me more and more joy but I felt cheery and merry planning, thinking about and being in the garden this year. Light-hearted exploration and play with these crafts was such an important feature this year that it definitely warrants being mentioned here and I hope it continues to be a presence in the next year.
Drawing, Imagination and Stories
One of my big creative pursuits this year has been doing more drawing and art making. I have various sketchbooks and draw in my journals. I’ve been experimenting a bit with different materials like inks, different paints and pencils but this is something I’d like to expand on next year. I try not to put much expectations or pressure on my self in this aspect as it can quickly enter the “paralysed by negative feelings” territory for me but I’m proud that I’m still at it and largely worked through my feelings and issues about it and mostly have fun with it.
One of my other main creative outlets throughout the year has been narrative play and story writing and telling. There has been more of this than ever. I’ve written stuff since I was a child, I had boxes full of my writing before I moved out to study (yes I’ve always been a pen and paper sort of person). There has always been creative writing in my life but I never really felt a pull to share my writing with anyone (beyond ahem… very wordy blog post that are largely life writing and show and tells of what I make). This year though, in February, I was invited for a small thing. I remember that I didn’t really know what to think of it – had some nerves and scares- but decided to give it a go just once to see how it would go. Reader, I now do this thing weekly. It has kind of snowballed with more writing, more story telling, narrative play and communal story telling ( which I never knew could be such a organic and beautiful thing) and sharing of creative ideas. It has been a huge surprise to now have this in my life and has had just as big an impact as learning to weave or learning to draw had.
A Quilt full of Stars
After the monster years long effort that making my first quilt was – which got finished last year- I started my second quilt this year. Progress on this -admittedly much smaller- quilt went a lot faster than my first crack at quilt making to the extend that it is finished at the time you are reading this. A post with all the details and photos of it finished will follow at the stellar and very precise time indication of “some point in the future”. I mostly worked on this in the later half of spring and in the autumn. I finished the piecework and made the quilt sandwich in spring, then shoved it in a drawer for the summer in favour of doing the hand quilting on it when the thermometer wasn’t showing ridiculous temperatures and then did the hand quilting and binding in the autumn. I particularly enjoyed doing all the hand stitching on this and it made me remember why I love quilting.
A Final Note
A bunch of other stuff happened. Of course it did. I made more sweaters, more socks and a bunch of shirtdresses that all get worn regularly. I tried some new things in my spinning when my friend made me wool combs and I got hand carders. I walked in forests and meadows and visited public gardens a few times. I got to meet some wildlife on my walks which brought some much needed charm to this year. I read some really good books, mostly non fiction about nature, history, folk or making. I knit up a self designed cardigan. I deleted all my social media. Since I already mostly vacated them last year this was less of a watershed moment than it perhaps sounds. My evenings these days barely involve screens and the most time I spend my free time on screens is actually to write for this blog or listen to podcasts (it helps that I’ve never been a huge film or series watcher to begin with). Instead I spend my time knitting, weaving, spinning, sewing or doing other crafts, writing in my journal, drawing, going for walks, read books, listening to music or telling stories with people close to me. I daydream more. I make bread in the evenings and light candles in the dark days. Had you told me this two years ago I would have been very impressed but also wondered what funny thing they put in your tea. I know this path is not for everyone and I fully respect that, but I also know that there are quite a few people struggling and wanting to know what it’s like on the other side and to them I say that this was 100% the right choice for me and been an incredibly positive and freeing experience.
Last year I spoke about how I had grown more into the multi crafter moniker. By that point I had well and truly been a multi crafter for some time, but last year was the first year I really took ownership of and grew into the label. This year that development continued and in many ways eclipsed it as I grew more into the multiple crafts and arts that I spend time doing and the things I spend my time on became even broader. I’m perhaps also growing more fond of the moniker as I in a sense am more abstract about the things I do and increasingly less want to put a label on it. In part because I do many different things and it is easier, to the point and true to just summarize that as maker or crafter. However I also think putting a label on it as in “I do this specific thing” instantly brings wave of things to the table: suddenly there are expectations (of myself and others) about what it is you do and make, suddenly there is a standard your work needs to adhere to, how often you should be doing it, there are supposed to be goals tied to it, a style or aesthetic needs to be developed and there need to be reasons, explanations and a justification as to why you are doing something. This year I spend a lot of time just doing things without trying to fill in those questions. Perhaps no longer being active on social media has influenced this as well as I increasingly see my makes and creativity as separate from the show and tell phase.
I also feel trying to put a label on it sometimes is just less accurate as a lot of what I do interacts and feeds and grows of and with each other. So I increasingly just like to think of it along the lines of being a creative and crafty person who does a lot of different creative pursuits that are different but also have a lot in common. Sometimes that translates to a woven piece, a knitted fair isle allover, a sewn dress, a drawing, a baked bread, a plot or pot in the garden, a pieced quilt, an embroidery, or a sculpted mushroom and sometimes it takes the form of something else altogether. Increasingly it doesn’t matter to me how good I am or should be at whatever or how my urge to make things expresses itself as long as it does because that is where there is magic, movement, inspiration and growth.
So there we have it my year in birds eye view, and I managed to end with a sort of overarching reflection on the year after all as I apparently just cannot help myself. I hope you enjoyed reading about my favourite things this year and revisiting some of the projects that popped up on the blog. I want to thank you all for your readership of my blog. I hope you found some inspiration and companionship and enjoyed visiting this online space of mine this year and enjoyed reading about what I’m making, what I’m seeing and what I’m up to. I wish you and yours a very happy, secure, loving and creative 2023. May it shape up to be what you want it and need it to be. See you on the other side!