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”.
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.
Looking back in my journal from this time reveals sparkly washi tape, crystal-themed stickers, vibrant drawings and amazing collages… Riches.
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.
We went to Hastings for our Anniversary, exploring it as one of the two coastal towns to which we plan to relocate in 2023.
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.
In March we said goodbye to our old kitchen…
…and welcomed in our new one (WHICH I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART).
In April, I cut off all my hair: short hair life is joyous.
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.
May marked the release of Patricia Kimmitt’s glorious Brightlingsea scarf design.
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.
June was all about Nolwenn’s nifty Cheers! mitts and colour mixology.
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.
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.
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.
I finally got the hang of baking sourdough bread.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
I consoled myself with project-planning and knitting-adjacent activities (hat tip to Brenda Dayne for introducing this phrase).
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.
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.
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…
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.
There was much bread-baking with Caroline and John Wm, several bracing swims and at least one short walk up Da Heoghland Rodd.
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.
December was largely eaten by festive crafting and decluttering our house…
…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.
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.
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.