Dabbling in indoor gardening during the winter whetted my appetite for a larger project. I soon found myself asking my landlady if I could tear up her garden, hoarding compost and ordering seeds online. I even bought a gardening-themed necklace.
Here are a few of the seedlings taking over my house.
- Various seedlings in my mini greenhouse
- Tomatoes and Brussels sprouts
A mistake I made when I tried to grow pumpkins was not preparing the soil. To be fair to the me of two years ago, the only tool I had was a hand trowel. However, it was ludicrously optimistic to think that I could just chuck the plants into the ground and be rewarded with an abundance of fruit.
This time, I spent a lot of time digging out my vegetable patch. I picked stones and I yanked roots. I dug in organic matter and two types of compost.
I realised the other day that I have only become interested in gardening since beginning intensive psychoanalysis. Something that I especially like about psychodynamic theory is its links to literature, and use of association and metaphor. I could hardly think of a more apt metaphor for analysis than taking the time to transform rough earth into something that can bear fruit.
I’ve written before about how my psychological state can be seen in my creative pursuits, a very obvious example of art imitating life. When I tried gardening before, I was unsuccessful due to a lack of preparation. I didn’t have all of the tools and equipment that I needed to turn my sandy London dirt into a garden that allowed my seedlings to thrive.
Two years on, I find myself researching and making plans to give myself the best chance at success. I took the time to observe my garden to put the vegetables in the best spot. Could this represent..growth?
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, my obsessive passion for knitting has taken a nosedive over the past few months. I think that this is partly due to becoming a highly competent knitter. I don’t feel particularly challenged by prospective knitting projects. Another part is dissatisfaction with some of the garments I have created. Since you are creating shaped fabric as you knit, once an item is finished, it’s finished. If there’s something you don’t like about it, often that’s a case of tough luck.
There’s also a limit to the number of knitted garments that a wardrobe can take. Realistically, I don’t wear knitted jumpers that often. They are a bit casual for workwear, and if I’m looking for comfort, I usually reach for a RTW sweatshirt or hoodie rather than one of my creations.
I think this is why sewing has started to interest me so much more. You can create a much wider variety of clothing, and home-sewn items are less radically different to shop-bought than handknit to machine knit.
However, the experiences of knitting and sewing are vastly different. For me, sewing is highly immersive and addictive. I fly through the steps, desperate to discover the result of my fevered work in front of the machine. I scarcely breathe. This is partly my personality- being outcome- rather than process-oriented (something I try to work on). It’s also a side-effect of my being a relative novice. When I first started knitting, I would occasionally stay up all night working on a project. However, I also think it’s partly due to inherent differences in the two activities.
This is a very long-winded way of saying that I miss knitting. As an attentionally impoverished millennial, I am basically incapable of sitting still. I’ve noticed that I’ve started playing stupid games on my phone while I’m watching TV. This used to be knitting time.
I haven’t forced myself to do any knitting during my fallow period. But recently my interest in yarn has started to pick up. After reading a very interesting blog post by Tom of Holland, I picked up a copy of Indigo Knits, a wonderful book about working with denim yarn.
I also bought Inspired by Islay, Kate Davies’ most recent publication.
This jumper is everything to me. I’m holding off on starting because I need to consider whether there is a gap in my wardrobe for her. I would like a cropped sweater to wear over skirts and dresses, but I’m not sure whether this is the right candidate.
I also bought some of Kate’s Buachaille wool. I’ve been wanting to try it ever since it was released. So far I’ve just made a swatch.
So, some stirrings of wanting to knit, and a small project to work on are positive signs. I think that even holding off on starting Port Charlotte represents progress. A mistake I’ve made over and over is starting projects without sufficient thought and research. Knitting a garment is slow, labour-intensive and expensive. I owe it to myself as a craftsperson to put in the legwork to have the best chance of ending up with something I love.
I’ve had quite a tough start to 2017, so I didn’t have much time to think about my goals for the year. Here are some thoughts, that I think will be more of a jumping-off point than a static list of things I want to achieve.
2017 craft goals
- Sew nine beautiful garments in 2017 (#2017makenine)
- Wear handmade as much as possible in May
- Make a terrarium that I’m proud of
- Plant a bee-friendly garden
I feel like my goals are somewhat lacking in ambition. I think part of the issue is the ongoing crushing sense of ambivalence in my life. I’m really struggling to find a good balance between my job and my passions in life.
2017 make nine
Some people seem to have planned all nine of their makes in January, but that doesn’t fit with the way I make. I like to be inspired by fabric or patterns and make up a garment quite quickly, rather than planning too much in advance. This is something I’ve learnt over time. When I first started sewing, I had a bad habit of cutting out patterns, then leaving the pieces lying around for ages, unsewn. Example. To be fair, this was partly because I hadn’t yet bought a sewing machine, so cutting out was one of the few sewing-related activities I could do at home.
Anyway, my point is that I will update this post as I go on, and decide what my makes will actually be.
- Mushroom print Cleo
- Liberty print Ultimate Shirt
- Liberty print Southport dress
- Raindrop print Bettine
- Space oddity Southport dress
- Turquoise striped top/dress
- Floral Macaron
- Pineapple Tulip Skirt
- Hidden panda Lark tee
I think it’s promising that I feel like I’m challenging myself on this Make Nine. I have made some tentative steps away from working with basic cottons and I will learn a lot by starting to sew with more challenging fabrics.
I finished sewing my fairytale Cleo dress just in time for my thirtieth birthday, which was yesterday. Hence a finished object being presented on a day other than a Friday. Gasp! Behold my now-haggard form.
There’s so much discussion when you’re a woman turning 30, and plenty to think about. When is it time to worry about settling down and having kids? Do I want to settle down and have kids? Am I happy in the life I have created for myself over the past three decades? Am I too old to wear a mini-dress with little mushrooms on it?
I have few comments on the Cleo dress pattern. Overall, I think it’s cute though I’m still not sure whether the style actually suits me. The dress was a quick make- two evenings in total, including plenty of mistakes and unpicking. I think the most time-consuming part was sewing all the patch pockets. I found Tilly’s tips on working with corduroy very helpful.
I made the size 2, but I probably should have just gone for the 3. I let the side seams out a bit as the dress looks nicer on me with a bit more room around the hip area. I made the dress quite short, the hem was over two inches.
I can see no reason not to add in-seam pockets to this dress. I may add afterthought pockets to this mushroom dress if I feel it’s going to get a lot of wear.
Pattern: Cleo by Tilly and the Buttons
Fabric: 2m needlecord in print, plus 0.5m in plain. I had leftovers of both
I don’t think I need to comment on what a strange year 2016 was. There were also many ups and downs for me personally. I’m not really in the mood for lots of reflections, so let’s get to the meat- reviewing the goals I set in January.
Win Olympic Gold medal for knitting.
Last year I completed ten knitting and crochet projects, which is a drastic reduction on the previous year (twenty). As I noted in last year’s round-up post, I think I developed so much in 2015 as a knitter that I feel I’m lacking in places to go.
This year was a mix of projects I’m happy with, and disappointing results.
Continue to improve my sewing, and make some garments that I am happy to wear
I’m very happy with the progress I have made as a sewist last year. I went to a couple more workshops to develop my skills, but importantly also bought a sewing machine so that I can make things independently.
When I went away over the Xmas period, two garments stood out as super useful and wearable.
My zebra shorts
I’m ashamed to say that I only finished three books in 2016. What was that about? They were all by women, though.
Work on finding balance
No idea whether I achieved this.
Focus on health. Eat well and be active in ways I enjoy
Last year, to my own surprise, I took up running, and managed to run 5k, which was a massive personal achievement.
Take more and better photographs
I think I achieved this.
Specific project goals
Finish Princess of Power hat
Finish crocheted baskets
Add belt loops to Cigarette Pants
Make something out of my beautiful Indonesian silk
Overall, I would say a moderately successful year. Next year, I want to work more on making things that truly fill gaps in my wardrobe, rather than buying fabric/patterns on a whim. I’m hoping to feel that more of my projects are successes rather than learning opportunities.
This week I cooked the food of my native land for the first time in several years. I made rice and peas and chicken, a staple of Jamaican cuisine, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
I can’t provide a recipe because, unlike almost every other kind of food, I never use one when I’m cooking Jamaican. For me, Caribbean food is all about eyeballing the spices, estimating measurements, and tasting as you go. I learnt how to cook Jamaican from my mother, to whom recipes are anathema. Cooking is a constant process of experimentation, fortunately mostly successful.
When it comes to foods that are not in my blood, I am very reliant on recipes. As a perfectionist, I can’t stand the idea that I could spend hours cooking and end up with something sub-par (though this has, of course, happened to me lots of times). With a recipe, if the food is bad, it means that the recipe was bad; I am not a bad cook. With Jamaican food, I can let myself take a risk a little more. I can focus on the process and not just the outcome. Each pot of rice I cook is unique.
The rice and peas wasn’t perfect, but then I did use tinned kidney beans (the peas) rather than dried. Using dried beans is what gives rice and peas its characteristic colour, but I couldn’t be bothered soaking peas for a midweek meal. I also couldn’t cook it in my Dutch pot, because that is currently being driven around Kent in the back of my aunt’s Vauxhall. Long story.
If you believe in psychodynamic ideas, you believe that many aspects of a person’s life can reflect their inner conflicts. Sometimes it strikes me that my approach to craft reflects what’s going on in the rest of my life. Last year, knitting was often a form of escape for me. Having finally finished my doctorate, I sought a sense of achievement from completing highly complex and technical knits, which were also a way for me to avoid other aspects of my life that I find stressful and distasteful. Some people bury their head in the sand. I bury mine in five skeins of the finest cashmere and alpaca blend.
I had some unexpected knitting time a couple of weekends ago and I noticed a common theme in my works-in-progress. I am currently in the middle of:
At the moment, all of these projects seem like they’ll never end. All of them have been on the needles or hook for a while, not seeming to get nearer completion. I’m not feeling hugely satisfied with any of them. Especially with the sweaters, I’m not even sure if I like the colours.
Many of the questions that I have about my knitting projects could also be asked about my life. Will the finished project resemble what I hoped it would? Will I be happy with it? Am I rushing through the process, not really enjoying it, focusing too much on the outcome? It can be difficult to be at the wrong end of your twenties and still uncertain about whether you’re on the correct path in life.
For the time being in life, to borrow an unbelievably overused phrase, it’s a case of keep calm and carry on. In craft, I must keep calm and carry yarn.