Endings and Beginnings

How did you feel at the end of 2021? I felt like I was running on an empty tank, on fumes. My 2022 started out wearily. Words I used in my journal for 2021 this time last year: frazzled, burnt-out, depleted. I’m only half-way through my 2022-year review but the list will be a bit more cheerful this time round.

Last December I deleted my Instagram account as a first step towards trying to repair my broken attention. As I said in my newsletter at the time, “being present, paying attention, listening and careful making lie at the heart of my creative work”.

Show up + Be Present - bright colourful words against a rainbow backdrop, in watercolours

For several years before that decision I’d found it increasingly difficult to maintain the careful focus I need for my work while also being present on that platform. There is much to say about this and a little creative plan has begun to take shape at the back of my mind (podcast… possibly… maybe…) but the main takeaway is that though leaving Instagram has brought me some peace, it hasn’t been a total panacea. I still end up using my smartphone more than I want, not always in ways that feel creative and intentional; I still end up squandering my limited focus, hope and energy on various timelines. These are habits I want to break in 2023. I chose VOLITION as my word for the year last year and it will be my word again for 2023. I like the definition of VOLITION as “the faculty or power of using one’s will”.

January 2022 was deeply enriched by Salina Jane’s Daily Draw – a short class conducted via Zoom by Salina Jane – exploring different drawing prompts each day.

A drawing of Joey Muffkins sleeping on our bed, his paws over his face, the duvet buckled and folded underneath him

Looking back in my journal from this time reveals sparkly washi tape, crystal-themed stickers, vibrant drawings and amazing collages… Riches.

Journal pages with iridescent crystal sticker and tiny crystal rubber stamps

A disturbing magazine collage where a woman's face and mouth have been replaced with crystals and diamonds and the words SHINE - THE GLORY OF GLITTER are emblazoned over her cheeks and nose

Make your hobby your career - two women wearing handknits have their faces cut out, and behind them is a forest; between them, a record player - the image is collaged from magazine pages cut out and rearranged

Sticking stuff in my Bullet Journal and drawing, note-taking and doodling there at every opportunity were themes that continued through the year, replenishing my empty pot of spoons. I love Bullet Journaling and if you’ve done my course you’ll know I advocate making your own journal into whatever you need it to be – a support, a place for lists, somewhere to order your thoughts and projects, a place to track whatever you need to track (or not). In 2022, above all else, my journal was a sacred place to PLAY.

A cartoon in my bullet journal, describing the horrors of the building work in our house - 40,000 IKEA boxes showing up; Joey getting under the floorboards and covered in dust; the house getting smothered in brick dust; eating cold pizza on the bed, hiding from the building work and wreckage

We went to Hastings for our Anniversary, exploring it as one of the two coastal towns to which we plan to relocate in 2023.

a view of the sea from Hastings - bright blue skies with trails of clouds, sea like a mirror, low and milky sun

In February I went back to (online) Music School to return to working with sounds and music. I produced my first dance music tracks and enjoyed 1. Working with twinkly sounds 2. Recording sounds again 3. Being challenged to think about recorded sounds in new ways.

Mark and I had COVID again and I knit endless peaches whilst recovering.

knitted peaches, on top of a wooden box, with a card in the background with TURBO on it

In March we said goodbye to our old kitchen…

the old kitchen - the colour of a cheap brie - seen as looking towards the painted over fireplace, the tired units on either side of the frame, the shabby lino floor. There is a rubbish bag filled with rubbish halfway up the frame

…and welcomed in our new one (WHICH I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART).

the magnificent new kitchen with stripped back bare brick fireplace, shiny new units on either side, and rubbish neatly held in rubbish bins in the newly-revealed fireplace recess

In April, I cut off all my hair: short hair life is joyous.

My very long plaits, soft and coiling across the photo

Around these necessary personal and home developments, in 2022, my work energy largely went into producing the Colour to Knit eBook. Myself and my collaborators – Bev, Patricia and Nolwenn – launched it as a club in April, and I spent the greater part of last year laying out its 164 pages of content, producing the illustrations, and editing everything to make it feel cohesive. I’m immensely proud of the inspiring, flexible, adaptable and enabling book we created together with its wealth of charts and colouring-in resources, essays and insights.

Through the summer months, releasing each new chapter to club members was rewarding and fun. Best of all was seeing our projects used by club members as frameworks for playing with colour (woohoo!) and building the confidence to branch out and design new stranded colourwork motifs and shading sequences.

beautiful playful workings of motif and shapes, in a journal, with lots of trying out of colours and shades on the page

Sue's glorious Cheers! mitts, the palette for which is based on a precious skein of green/yellow WOLLMEISE yarn

Joy's photo of a skein of Old Maiden Aunt yarn, with coloured pencils picking out her favourite shades within

May marked the release of Patricia Kimmitt’s glorious Brightlingsea scarf design.

Taia peeps mischievously out of her scarf while wearing matching eyeshadow in gold and blue and a lovely bright yellow raincoat

On a personal note, Patricia’s beach-hut motifs inspired many coastal adventures in our quest for our new home by the sea and now I see them everywhere and think about turning them into stranded colourwork to wear. 2022 will be forever cemented in my mind as the year of the beach hut.

beach huts at Mudeford; wide, fancy beach huts with white trims and window frames, with blue skies in the background and brambles in the fore

Beach huts of Barry in Wales - vibrant shades of green, red, neon yellow, royal blue... stacked directly next to one another and seen as looking horizontally across their fronts and on an angle

Beach huts at Hayling Island - soft pinks, blues, greens... on flat land, weathered by the sun, foregrounded by battered sandy pathways

June was all about Nolwenn’s nifty Cheers! mitts and colour mixology.

James holds up a luminous blue beverage, while wearing perfectly matched nail polish and joyous blue, purple and turquoise textured and stranded colourwork fingerless mitts

I love Nolwenn’s pattern as a framework for appreciating the variations of colour within a hand-dyed skein of yarn and working on my version in starbust/opal fruits colours when I could brought a bit of summer to last year’s darker months.

June also marked my return to in-person teaching and saw some glorious days in Devon with friends.

Photograph taken in a Devon Restaurant of folks associated with the John Arbon Mill Open Weekend, we all look happy and well-fed and are bordered by garlands of dried hops

At the John Arbon Mill Open Weekend I gave my first in-person talk about my work since before the global pandemic and remembered both how fun (and terrifying!) that is.

John Arbon Textiles Mill Open Weekend - a banner on a pillar

Standing with my EDIROL swatch, talking about KNITSONIK and my practice at the Mill Open Weekend

July was made of healing Shetland magic. It was a month of sock and hat knitting; of Da Heoghland Rodd; of coffee pots and freezing swims; of laughing with amazing friends; of feeling at home in the world again.

Swimming in the sea at Minn, a silly grin on my face and the water and weather around me

up Da Heoghland Rodd with Caroline Simpson and Jubi

I finally got the hang of baking sourdough bread.

An amazing sourdough loaf looking crusty, golden brown and delicious on the side in the kitchen

In July I released my Flombre chapter in the KNITSONIK & Friends: Colour to Knit eBook.

Heidi peeps out of her Flombre accessory set from the KNITSONIK & Friends Colour to Knit eBook - she is wearing dark blue denim, against which the pink and blue gradient sets of mitts, cowl and hat really stand out. The background is pink.

I finished knitting a new version of the Flombre cowl in extremely sheepy wools… Gotland greys in four shades from dark to light hand-spun by my friend Mel, and soft and peachy corals and pinks, naturally dyed on a Cormo base produced by Sincere Sheep.

Flombre worked in hand spun grey yarns (background) and pink and coral flowers (pattern)

August had more hat-knitting, house-hunting, and the release of the final project in the KNITSONIK & Friends: Colour to Knit eBook – the Japonica wrap by Beverley Dott.

Heidi (left) and Taia (right) hold up the large rectangular Japonica wrap; it falls forward on one side so that you can see how neat and interesting the stranded back of the work looks, and the reversible ribbed edging which borders the whole wrap. Heidi and Taia both wear bright red dresses and the background against which they stand is a joyous leafy green colour - the red and green are both picked up in the colours of the wrap.

I love this design – it’s so bold, dramatic, warm and vibrant; creating a palette for it offers a satisfying and juicy challenge; and the photos taken of the design by my brother Fergus with Heidi and Taia modelling are some of my favourite knitwear images of all time.

Heidi wears Japonica by Beverley Dott (Fair City Knits) - a statement wrap in corals, purples, browns and rich and verdant greens. Heidi wears a bright red dress under the wrap and is leaning on a matching bright red walking stick.

The Japonica wrap is a big commitment – it’s huge, it’s steeked, it uses many colours, it requires a great investment of time. I love how our book builds you up to it thinking first of all about editing colours from inspiration sources; (Brightlingsea) practicing looking at colours and matching them; (Cheers!) exploring contrast and temperature between background and pattern; (Flombre) and finally, going full maximalist and bringing all the knowledge together in one show-stopping piece (Japonica).

Heidi wears Japonica secured at the back with the edging turned down like a lovely collar. She gazes whistfully over the edge of the collar while the colourwork that is wearing GLOWS.

In August our eBook – the culmination of our work together – finally went on general sale and I had to take a short break from knitting as wrist problems put a stop to my glorious hat-knitting spree (BOO). Prior to this, 2022 had been a great year of HATS!

Bam and Pops stand outside J&S with their beautiful sign featuring the red logo and the words HOME OF REAL SHETLAND WOOL

A view of the hat and its glorious glowy blue crown

Barney's new hat - this one, like its predecessor, features bands of blue bisected by different greens, with flags upon it - this time the flags are the Shetland flag - an asymmetric white cross on a blue background - separated by the X and O shapes more commonly found in Fair Isle Knitting

Jeanette's SWW hat - Linda Shearer's Da Bonnie Isle pattern, worked in shades of pink and orange

I consoled myself with project-planning and knitting-adjacent activities (hat tip to Brenda Dayne for introducing this phrase).

In September I saw the amazing Althea McNish: Colour is Mine exhibition at the William Morris Gallery (now on at the Whitworth until April 2023).

Althea McNish: Colour is Mine - an exhibition of printed textiles designed by Althea McNish, arranged together in a space, alongside cases with artefacts that put the textile designs in context

This exhibition brings textiles from Althea’s vast body of work together with archival film footage and personal artefacts that place her designs in context.

film still of Althea McNish painting in her studio

It was curated by the William Morris Gallery and Rose Sinclair, Lecturer in Design Education at Goldsmiths, University of London. Rose Sinclair is researching Dorcas Clubs – female textile networks used by Caribbean women on arrival in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s – and her practice has recently been focused on the power of cloth to tell stories and to engage the public with textiles by ‘Windrush Generation’ women. Rose’s expertise and research is evident throughout the exhibition. I cherished the opportunity to see Althea’s work beside special clippings, photographs, leaflets, publications and other artefacts that place it lovingly within the context of her life.

Althea McNish textile design in blue and green starbursts of vibrant colour

black and white photograph of Althea sat in a room surveying her vast collection of printed textile designs

Althea McNish's glorious multicoloured stripes design

This show deserves its own post, but I wanted to mention it here as a cultural highlight of 2022, because Althea’s work is amazing and this exhibition is a brilliant tribute to her lasting legacy on textile design. If you did my Knit Stars Masterclass, you’ll know she’s one of the artists whose legacy is celebrated in my Think Like An Artist cowl.

In September we also had an amazing funshine holiday…

Funshine in Mykonos: my foot peeps out of the water, that is lit up by the sun in the bright sky

…and I went to Shetland again – this time for Wool Week and to model for Nielanell Knitwear with Jeanette and many wondrous friends of Nielanell.

Jeanette modelling a Nielanell scarf in a lovely old white-walled shed (one of Niela's several sheds)

Grinning in a big pink Nielanell Rigg cardigan

behind the scenes at the Smookie photo shoot on the beach at Hoswick: many Nielanell friends wearing Smookie tops and looking out to sea.

As well as wearing ALL THE AMAZING NIELANELL KNITS (another topic that needs its own post…) we made jewellery with Mike Finnie; went to Hazel Tindall’s steeking class; wore our Wool Week hats; and had a great time with Niela and the wondrous folks with whom she works.

at Mike Finnie's workshop with Jeanette, making silver buttons; Mike and Jeanette are poring over the silver pieces and discussing technique, and Jeanette wears an amazing bright lime green cabled dress, handknitted and probably designed by her amazing mother, Marjorie Trotman

There was much bread-baking with Caroline and John Wm, several bracing swims and at least one short walk up Da Heoghland Rodd.

View from on top of Da Heoghland Rodd - the weather reflected in wet patches in the peaty landscape, clouds and sea and grass looking off to the left from the road

A view straight along Da Heogland Rodd with mountains and sky in the background, the road and its verges in the fore

I spent October and November resurrecting The KNITSONIK System as a self-paced online course and testing my ability to produce informative video content within a short time-frame. Both The KNITSONIK System and a free colouring-in course to support your stranded colourwork design came out in November; I wrote a piece on the POP! Colour for the KDD&Co. Allover Club; and we discovered Boscombe – the other coastal spot where we may move in 2023.

the POP! colour - an image featuring Janine Bajus's sea and sand sweater, with colours from its two sequences arranged in a palette to the left - the main colours are blues and browns and sandy shades; an earthy red is highlighted as the POP colour

the view from Boscombe pier in Bournemouth - an overcast wintry day, a sandy beach, and a lone surfer silhouetted against the sky

December was largely eaten by festive crafting and decluttering our house…

The living room before decluttering - a total mess with things and objects and stuff and clutter on every single surface

the spacious and clutter free improved living room following a massive clear out

…ready to sell.

However, there was one truly joyous day of note at TATE Modern: seeing Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms with one of my brothers and three of my niblings. Yayoi Kusama is another of my favourite artists, whose legacy and work is explored in my Knit Stars cowl design. I created some classes for my niece in 2020 exploring the legacies of Yayoi, when we were doing “Aunty Felix’s Art Classes” over Zoom. It was wonderful to go from celebrating the work of this artist together via computer screens to experiencing her shimmering, dissolving and infinite universes together in time and space.

in Yayoi Kusama's Inifinity Mirror Rooms - tiny lights, pools of water and mirrors reflecting the colours to infinity create the sense of being in an infinite world of lights

my niece whirling like a dancing star in the Infinity Mirror Rooms while wearing polka dot Yayoi Kusama inspired clothes

Looking back over 2022, the threads of joy connecting the best moments together are the sea and making more time to notice things, to think, to make.

My mental health has deteriorated greatly in the past few years – whose has not, given the general shape of the world? – and I have been struggling a lot with a sense of feeling mentally crowded by too many unfinished projects, too much clutter, no personal space and nowhere quiet and vast to go. We are moving to the sea in 2023 for many reasons but my main one is for a sense of space and light.

The sea in Shetland - infinite water, space and light

I’ve struggled to find the creative spark through the last few years, and to physically sustain it with wonky wrists; being wrecked 2 out of every 7 days from medication side-effects; and balancing new ideas against the demands of keeping KNITSONIK LTD. going. However, in 2022, I caught a precious ember here and there. The glow has been fanned into flames by dear friends and time spent sharing phone-calls, walks, recipes, creative joy; by time spent playing and making music; by time beside the ocean. I’m struck by how little of my life ended up on here, but that is one of many things I hope to change in 2023 – starting with this rambling round-up of the year that’s been.

At the end of 2021 I found it immensely helpful to review the year. To look back at what I’d done, what I’d finished, what I’d read, what I’d knitted, what good things happened. I don’t know about you but at this dark and grey time of year and with everyone else’s glittering year end appraisals I can end up feeling quite bad and like I didn’t do enough and like everything I did manage to do was crap. But it’s always more than you think when you look at it all together – and it’s always better, too.

How do you feel at the end of 2022? I feel hopeful. Words and phrases I might use for describing last year in my journal when I write in there later today include by the seaside; with friends; playing; baking good bread. I will remember it as a year of endlessly fussing over the new kitchen and fermenting stuff in it. As a year of doing my first full book design and producing dance music tracks. As a year of collaboration, online teaching, and managing to stay afloat with limited capacity.

As the year when we decided it was time to leave Reading and start a new life somewhere else, together, by the sea.

Hastings pier photographed in the lovely pink blue winter light

4 thoughts on “Endings and Beginnings

  1. Oh my! What a wonderful post!! It was so delightful to hear how rich, challenging, and clarifying your year was. The sea is calling.

  2. What a full and inspiring year, of people, places, colours and emotions. Your recordings are great, too. I can relate to your thoughts on loss of focus – such a battle. I enjoyed your John Arbon talk this year – hope there may be more to come? Wishing you happy and productive times in 2023, perhaps in your new seaside location!

  3. Oooh, Felix I have very much enjoyed reading this blog post to which many will surely relate, I definitely do and you put into words our sentiments so eloquently. I love the different words, emotions, and journey that you have been through. It’s very inspiring and encouraging indeed. I love the reasons that are taking you to the seaside. My heart is happy for you but my heart is also sad to know that you will no longer be a short drive away. I shall miss you so very much but I am cheering you on. Continue to be amazingly creative❤️❤️❤️

  4. You have inspired me as I begin this new year with my own goals of decluttering. Not just of things, but also decluttering my mind. I am planning to organize my WIPS and UFOS. But even more important for me is to organize the writing I did in 2022. Before taking more classes, focused on writing poetry, I want to consider what I have done. I also feel the same about my fiber learning. Instead of jumping onto the next course, I could benefit from working through projects I started for some knitting classes. Thanks for being an inspiration and good luck with your move.

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