2020: Sewing, Balcony Garden and Outside Explorations

December greetings friends! I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas had a warm, meaningful, merry and safe holiday celebration and for the rest of you I hope you’ve had a few restful loving days. Ordinarily I would have taken the train and travelled south to spend the holiday period with my family but this year I spend it at home with just my partner and cats. This was already the plan before the new hard lockdown was announced, but obviously now that we are in a full lockdown until the end of January we’ve been even more careful. We made Indonesian food for one day and a dish super specific to a tiny regional area that both me and my partner grew up in for the other, both flavours I associate with home. We baked, watched Jingle Jangle and gazed at the open star filled winter sky in the night time coldness. Mostly we’ve been resting and it’s been good and needed.

I’ve had some careful thinking about how I wanted my year look-back to look like this year. I’m usually weary of some of the side effects a highlight reel at the end of the year can have and this year even more so. Equally I’m not a fan of twee pieces that try to elevate ‘the good things to be had from suffering’ or the lessons learned. At the same time I don’t want to treat this as a wasted year. This year was hard and full of pain and grief for everyone. For us it was an uncertain and stressful year and we mostly haven’t seen anyone outside our household since march (save for masked and socially distanced encounters in the supermarket or on walks). Some big things happened without the usual bells and whistles. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that there were people in my life who had to bury their parents and loved ones while others still refused to wear masks and did nothing to socially distance. For me that is part of the collective trauma that will be with me for some time after all this is over.

I still want to reflect on the year, here on the blog as well as in my personal journal. I am contemplative by nature and think reflection is an integral part of processing for me. I think it is no small part of why I even have this blog. That said, I can understand not everyone wants to see a reel of other people’s accomplishments at the end of the year and if that is you I’m going to send you away now with hugs and ask you to come back some time in January.

Like last year I’m splitting my year look back in two. In this post I’ll be looking back at my sewing and at what happened in the balcony garden, The second post will be about my knitting, spinning and baking and will be up in a few days.

Sewing

As with other years looking back at my makes this year I can confidently state I’m a slow sewist. The fact that I am able to discuss all my makes in a single post should tell you as much. I’m not pushing for that to change, there is value and magic in slow making. The biggest overall takeaway from this year in sewing is that I feel much more comfortable and have more freedom in my sewing practise. The type of comfort and ease that comes with time and experience. I now tinker, modify and hack much more naturally in my sewing. I’m also able to judge better how a pattern will perform in my wardrobe and how it will suit my style before I sew it. This was something I’ve always felt wasn’t there with my sewing in the same way it is there with my knitting which I’ve been doing for longer.

Shirt dresses are among my all-time favourite garments both to wear and to sew. They are the Octobers of my sewing life. So unsurprisingly the two shirt dresses I made this year are also among my favourite and most worn things I made overall this year. What’s more, is that in making them I worked with two patterns that have a lot of potential of becoming patterns that I see myself return to over the years.

The Toasty One With Pockets

The first one was my cosy flannel Hinterland dress that I kicked off my year with. This has been a successful make and has seen lots of wear. It fits me well, the fabric feels great on the skin and is a delight to wear and the colours pair easily with the rest of my wardrobe. With its round collarless neckline, this dress layers really well especially with jumpers, tops and shirts (yes shirts over shirt dresses!).

This flannel Hinterland also one of the few things I sewed specifically to wear for colder weather and therefore it is sadly also the only cold weather dress I regularly wear these days that has pockets. Admittedly this has been a point of slight annoyance for me in these colder months and something I have vowed many an early morning to do something about. So lets see if I can make more pockets in my colder months life happen by the time the next year look back rolls around.

The dangerous one

My Dinosaur Isca is the other shirt dress I made this year. It was the most involved shirt-like garment I had sewn until then and I’m proud of the result and the effort that went into it. The dress is packed with details and feels like one of my most polished sewn items. The Isca is one of my favourite patterns I have ever worked with, and the dress itself is basically the embodiment of what I love about shirt dresses.

My dinosaur version is made of a denim that is on the heavier side, giving it a bit of an utility style feel. I wear this on its own or with thinner cardigans like my driftless cardigans on warmer and mild days and with lightweight or heavy knitted cardigans like the blue one in the photo or my harvest moon cardigan during the colder months of the year.

The lockdown make

I made this Bo Top during our first lockdown when Covid-19 had just hit Europe. I was in desperate need of a easy, low stress make that didn’t need any brain space. This oversized boxy top turned out to be a good choice and it was the no stress make I wanted it to be. The top layers well over dresses and under cardigans and that has been my main way of wearing it.

I used leftover double gauze from my well worn Myosotis to make the top. I have been making more of an effort to use up smaller leftovers and remnants, a direction I want to move in more with my sewing, and this project was part of that.

The one that goes “swoosh!”

My most summery make of this year was the Ogden Tier Dress Hack. I have spoken before about my lack of enthusiasm to sew and dress for Very Warm Weatherâ„¢ but between this dress and the Bo top I feel I faired quite well this year. The lightweight fabric and ease built in the dress makes it the perfect breezy summer dress.

This one got a lot of wear during the summer and because I can layer it well over tops or under cardigans even stretched its mileage to beyond the “shoot, it is stupidly warm” months. The fabric is too lightweight to continue that layering strategy deeper into autumn and winter but will work again once spring rolls around I think. The long flowy silhouette and dark floral fabric gives it a bit of moody local old hag foraging and purposely giving wrong fortune predictions atmosphere and I don’t know, it’s a vibe I’m leaning into more as the year is ending.

Plaider on the inside

The Wiksten jacket was an unexpected make for me, as woven jackets didn’t feature in my everyday wardrobe beyond actual outdoor coats and jackets. So hold on to your hats, but this has been my most worn make of this year! In part this is because it can easily be worn year round. I’m a big fan of layering and this garment proved to be be super versatile for me. I’ve worn it as a light jacket for going out and over tank dresses in the summer, then over flannel shirts, shirt dresses and light sweaters as I started to dress for the changing seasons and now layer it over my thicker knitwear when I want to be extra cozy and/or want to have big pockets (not even kidding, this is a consideration!).

So I think I can confirm that this type of oversized garment works well for me. I can also confirm (once again) that pockets are important to me and I get tons of use out of them. Additionally I just really love the fabric used to make the jacket. The nubby linen mix remains beautiful with wear.

Selfless Sewing

One of the more tangible ways in which my sewing skills expanded this year is by sewing garments for someone else’s preferences and body. The one that made it to the blog is this flannel Negroni shirt. I spoke about how I had some squibs with the pattern and how some of the features or ways of sewing those features did not have my preference. Overall I don’t think this is the best sewing I ever did, but given that it was also the first time sewing for someone else I don’t want to judge it to hard. Despite all my self critique, the shirt does get worn and sewing it was a really good learning experience for me.

The most repeated

And also the most used one, this must have been facemasks. My partner and I had a few sewing sessions since March to make us a pile of masks from pieces of quilting cotton I had. They have seen us through almost a year of mask wearing. They have gone through a lot in that time, I never wash my regular clothing in hot water, let alone boiling, but these have seen it all. As a result some of them have faded quite a bit, but otherwise are still in working condition. My needs as a glasses wearer differ slightly from my partner’s needs for mask but we ended up using the same one anyway (made a pile of which we just grabbed one as we needed). The ones we used are quite big and they are a bit bigger on me so I can tuck them under my glasses. This minimizes fogging, but it does not prevent it. From what I’ve hear from fellow glasses wearing crafters I heard that is basically the best you can aim for so I just live with it.

Garden & Balcony Guests

The Balcony garden grew into a great source of distraction and comfort this year. We added some extra herbs and strawberry plants to the balcony. The latter yielded a big harvest which was really cool to experience in the first year of having them. The tomatoes conversely did not perform well this year (it happens). Additionally we had a huge lavender bloom extravaganza on the balcony, which is maybe my favourite thing to have happened over the summer in terms of balcony stuff.

Otherwise the most exciting thing of this year’s balcony garden activity was seeing our apple tree blossom for the first time! We didn’t have any harvest though, but that’s ok, I knew that would take a while. Usually, both first bloom and first harvest can take a few years, so we’re already ahead of schedule! I’m excited to see what next year brings for the tree and the rest of our little balcony garden.

The birds visiting our balcony has been a source of infinite joy. We first had birds visiting last autumn and winter and they hung around till the spring and early summer during the breeding season. It was wonderful to see the birds who visited us during the cold months nesting and raising a family. Unexpected highlight was of course having them take their offspring along and visiting the balcony for a few weeks while they were learning the ropes. Seeing baby birds trying to learn how to fly on your balcony while you have cats inside watching this spectacle is as chaotic as you can expect it to be.

After their chicks flew out we didn’t have them visiting for a few months during the summer and early autumn, but with the seasons changing and the arrival of the colder weather they returned. It’s mostly great and blue tits who are now visiting pretty much daily. I think we have more birds in total and bigger groups that are visiting us this year, and some of them could be returning visitors (or offspring of last year’s visitors). Which is really cool.

Outside the house

A lot of this year centred around the home and not going anywhere really. We tried to make the most out of nature, the fresh air and green fields in our close surroundings. Especially in the spring and summer it could sometimes be a bit of a puzzle to go out for some fresh air and not stumble on too large groups of people doing (understandably) the same. We don’t have a car and have avoided public transit as much as we could this year, so when I say near surroundings I do mean near surroundings. As a result we explored more and found lesser known patches of woodland and heather. Places that are relatively close by but we hadn’t been to before.

Another thing we started doing often this year is bike to some place and then go for walks there which opened up some more places for us. It’s been humbling to see what wildlife lives so impossibly close to us. I spotted a variety of different birds of prey; we saw our first overflying owl (!!!) and plenty of buzzards as well as some rare geese and smaller birds. In the autumn we spotted a glorious diversity of different types of fungi and autumn nuts and berries. I’m super happy with these personal discoveries and explorations. It has made all the difference in this year that has otherwise been so hard; a reminder how precious these places are as well as what is possible. It truly has been a light this year.

That’s it for my first look back on the year. I hope you enjoyed revisiting my makes this year and have a peek at some favourite moments. I’ll have another blog post in a few days in which I look at the knitting I did this year, and I reflect on some new ways I learned to make things this year. See you there xx

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