From 2015 to 2016

Happy new year to all my blog readers! Now that it is 2016, I would like to reflect on what 2015 brought me, and my thoughts about the year ahead.

Tea Hat with toast, marmalade and Wood's Ware in Beryl

A knitted ‘tea hat’, made from my handspun yarn, was the start to 2015

The year just gone has been really rather busy for me, despite wanting to take it a bit slower. But then there were so many exciting places to go, amazing people to see, and creative projects to make! Here are some recurring themes in my year:

Community

pitt rivers class picture

Darning Master Class at the Pitt Rivers Museum

First and foremost I feel part of a textile community, and 2015 really reinforced this belonging. Attending events and venues such as Edinburgh Yarn Festival, Shetland Wool Week, Pitt Rivers Museum, and In the Loop 4, where I managed to meet up with friends old and new played a big part in this.  They all provided fertile ground for discussions about knitting, fibre, and wool. But it wasn’t all serious, it was a good way to catch up with old friends, and meet others for the first time, even if I knew their work well, or knew them through social media. It always feels good to meet like-minded people, discuss shared interests, and continue the conversations afterwards. It was nice to see friends taking on new projects and run away with them, and being able to help them out.

Creativity in Technique

Heraldic Sweater Front View 2

Creativity in technique: my Heraldic Sweater, combining sequence knitting and patching

In 2015 I learnt a lot of new things and many of these revolve around technique. Some bigger than others, ranging from a new-to-me superstretchy cast-on (double needle cast on, see June Hemmons Hiatt’s Principles of Knitting) to a whole new way of creating complicated textured fabrics using simple techniques, called Sequence Knitting. My interest in 1980s knitwear has blossomed last year: once you can see past the boxy shapes, a heady mix of technique, colour, and texture is revealed, and nothing was deemed too complicated. A collaboration with Wolf & Gypsy Vintage allowed me to explore the repair of woven textiles.

Wolf and Gypsy Trousers VMP Detail

hand-stitched patches, and a tailored buttonhole in this piece for Wolf & Gypsy Vintage

‘Slowness’

Handspun from Shetland Wool Week 2015

Handspun yarns from a workshop I attended at Shetland Wool Week, with apologies for the poor picture quality

Last year I’ve been thinking a lot about taking time in my creative practice. In a shift of focus from trying to keep things looking new and perfect to favouring the old and imperfect, means I’ve stopped looking at repair as a chore, but as a creative challenge in its own right. Instead of fixing something that is broken, which implies the item was finished, I now continue working on something that wasn’t complete yet.

Slowtober‘ has given me a lot of thought about the materials I use, whether these are secondhand or new, and as I explained in the linked post, there is lots of food for thought. One material that made me really happy, though, is Louise Spong’s South Down Yarns. The sheep that provide the wool roam the South Downs near where I live, and if you read my interview with her and Jenny Dean over on the Wovember blog, you will learn about the provenance of the yarn, and the sensitive way how it is dyed.

And this leads me neatly to the year ahead.

And for 2016…

Darning sampler 1892 diagonal slash darn back

Frozen in time: a mend on an antique darning sampler that will never be completed

In 2016 I will continue walking down the slow path I’ve turned onto, taking step after thoughtful step. Some of the plans I had made for last year didn’t come to fruition, so this year I’m going to be even more careful with the time I have for being creative. As I want to take things slow, it doesn’t bother me unduly that I didn’t start certain things, and it’s always good to have plenty of ideas. Here are some of them:

I would like to spend more time spinning; I have plenty of fleece to keep me busy, and I’d love to spin a sweater’s worth of yarn.

The Wolf & Gypsy Vintage collaboration, my interest in antique darning samplers, and my old books on clothes repair mean I would like to spend more time teaching myself more sewing skills, and I’d love to make a modern version of a ‘plain sewing’ sampler.

I also have more ideas for creative knitting, and like the Heraldic Sweater pictured above, they combine technique with elements left to chance. As always, I look forward to sharing my pursuits here on my blog, and I hope you will enjoy strolling along in the most leisurely fashion. Happy new year!

7 Replies to “From 2015 to 2016”

  1. Thanks for saying something nice about 80s knitwear! I have a large number of Vogue Knitting magazines from that era, and much of what is shown is wonderful. The hairdos not so much, but the knits, yum!

  2. Tom, I enjoy your blog and thoughts so much. I love to knit, darn, and repair. I was a professional net mender in Cordova Alaska for many years, repairing commercial fishing nets. I have a booklet that was my Grandmothers from the early 1900’s when she went to a “finishing school ” in Kansas State Agricultural School. It has samples of darning and patching everything from damask to stockings and lace. Repairing cloth and garments were apparently part of their basic skills. My sister got the gardening booklet. I wonder how I could send you some digital images from the book for your use? Her old handwriting is so lovely, and I think of her young hands doing the work. Your thoughts on slow and authentic hand work, and the beauty of repairing and not being consumed by consuming new all the time, are very profound and inspiring. Thank you. Warm Regards for the New Year. A Slow Friend in Wyoming, USA, Bonnie Phillips

  3. Your spinning is beautiful! I too, would like to spend more of the next year spinning. I try to spend about 20 minutes every morning with my wheel – it’s not too much, but it adds up and is such a lovely way to begin the day! Here’s to more wooly adventures!

  4. Love the sound of your “plain sewing” sampler Tom. If you start, let me know, I may join you! More repairing and re-using is on my list too. Let’s hope we both manage a slower pace in 2016.

  5. “Mindfulness” is such a clichéd word these days that I struggle to use it, but your posts always inspire me to just that. My heart is totally with the slow and the sustainable, but when I see shiny new fibre blends and patterns I flit from one to the next. Thank you for reminding me to slow down and focus, and for another lovely post.

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