Hello, 2023.

As a “start as you mean to go on” sort of thing, I suppose having a finished project on January 1st ain’t so bad! I actually bound off my Pressed Flowers Shawl on December 30th, but the blocking process pushed it into the new year.

Pressed Flowers Shawl

Pattern: Pressed Flowers, by Amy Christoffers
Yarn: Ysolda “Lichen” yarn in bright green (about 1.5 skeins); Madelinetosh DK in “Esoteric” (about 1.5 skeins)
Needles: Size 6 Chiaogoo circulars
Time to knit: Just over two weeks (of fairly obsessive knitting!)

It’s been ages since I’ve knit a triangle shawl, so it’ll be interesting to see how much wear I get out of this. Here’s what it looks like worn bandana-style:

Pressed Flowers Shawl, worn bandana style.

And here it is wrapped around my shoulders, which is how I’m currently wearing it while typing this post:

Pressed Flowers Shawl, wrapped around shoulders.

It was a very fun knit, though the length of the rows towards the end was a little crazy-making. And it was great to be able to turn a couple of not-quite-sweater-quantities from my stash (some newer stash, like the Lichen yarn, and some deep stash, like the Madtosh DK) into something wearable.

Speaking of turning stash into wearable things, that’s a big part of what I want to do in 2023. I mean, that’s kind of always what I want to be doing, not something unique to this year, but since January 1st is a day where a lot of folks talk about their goals for the coming year, I figure I’ll use this space to talk about mine. (Even though January feels like “mid-year” rather than a “new year” to my academic brain.) Since this is ostensibly a knitting/crafty blog, I’ll start with the knitting and sewing stuff I’m hoping to do this year, and then I’ll turn to other reflections on what I’m hoping for out of this year. Knitting-wise, here’s what I’m planning:

1. Finish Vita de Vie, Birch, and Waterbearer. I have those three sweaters on my needles right now, and I don’t want any of them to still be on my needles in January 2024 – I want them to be in my wardrobe! (I also want to finish Turtle’s shell, which has been on my needles since late summer; it’s a much smaller sweater but I’ll throw it in with the me-sized ones!)

2. Knit at least 2 sweaters from “deep stash” yarn. Right now I’m tentatively planning to turn the Antarctic White Peace Fleece DK that didn’t work out in the Ursina sweater into a (cropped) Minimalist Cardigan instead; my hope is that a cropped cardigan will be a better fit for me than a cropped pullover, and I also think that the set-in sleeves will suit me better than the raglan ones did. For a second deep stash sweater, I have several options: I could knit one of many sport-weight sweaters from either the dark blue Rauma Finullgarn or the dark green Beaverslide sport/sock yarn, or I could turn some of my remaining Eco Wool into another Farmhouse Cardigan, since those get so much use in my wardrobe.

3. Knit at least one “new stash” sweater. I broke my promise to myself to not get new yarn towards the end of last year and took advantage of Purl Soho’s 25% off sale to pick up some of their Linen Quill yarn, because it was the called-for yarn in the Daily Pullover, which I thought might make a really nice light sweater to wear over dresses or with higher-waisted skirts. I got it in black and in an icy light blue, and as much as I love light blue, I think I’ll knit the black one first because I could really use a black sweater!

(If you’re doing the math, I’d end up with at least 6 new sweaters this year if I actually follow through with these plans.)

4. Knit at least one Pressed Flowers hat. I have some yarn in blue and yellow that makes me think of the Ukraine flag that I think will become the first one.

5. Knit at least one pair of hand-coverings for myself. I love my Joy Mitts and my Fiddlehead Mittens, but I’d like to have a lighter mitten for the days when I don’t want to have bare fingers but don’t need the bulletproof warmth of the alpaca-lined Fiddlehead Mittens. I’m thinking that I’d like to knit the Kiperoosa Mittens from the Traditions Revisited book, and I could use the leftover teal Beaverslide Sport/Sock from the baby sweater I made for M along with some of the leftovers from my socks (perhaps the acid green and grey ones?).

6. Knit at least one cowl for myself. While digging through stash to find yarns for Beelore, I found 3 skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca in a charcoal grey that I remembering getting years and years ago with plans to make a Zuzu’s Petals cowl. I think I should follow through on Past Me’s plans for that! I’d also like to try to make a cowl using the same tuck technique as in Beelore, and I think for that, I’d like to use the dark (almost black) and light grey Old Maiden Aunt yarn that I’ve had for ages and ages…I think it was part of kit for a hat or mittens or something, but I’ve long since lost whatever plans I originally had for it. Is this the year of black & grey?

7. And of course, I’ll keep knitting socks as my go-to portable project. I’m currently working on light purple ones, and after that, I think I actually will be making black ones, so perhaps this really will be a year of black and grey! I have some Cascade Heritage Sock in “pitch black” and while I think it might be a little crazy-making to knit socks in pitch black yarn, I do think I would have use for black socks. And then after that, we’ll see what color strikes my fancy of the sock yarns I’ve got.

Taking some outdoor photos of my Pressed Flowers shawl.
I deliberately picked my dress and shirt today to color-coordinate with my shawl! I love pairing handknits with the clothes I’ve sewn for myself!

I’m also hoping to do more sewing this year. I mentioned this in some previous posts, but I got myself a couple of online classes from Sew Liberated when they were on sale around Thanksgiving, and am really hoping to “level up” my sewing skills this year. Here are my plans on that front:

1. Sew at least 2 “Studio Tunics”, following along with the “Beyond Sewing Basics” class. I’ve got some acid-green Brussels Washer linen that I plan to use for my first one, and some nicer, heavier linen twill in a dark grey that I want to use for my second, once I’m feeling a little more confident in the technique. I will probably lengthen them a bit (but might not need to since they’re drafted for someone taller than me) because I hope to wear them as “dresses” over leggings and shirts, and I’m a little prudish about skirt lengths.

2. Sew at least one “Estuary Skirt” in the chambray linen blend fabric I’ve had sitting in my fabric pile for ages; possibly an additional one out of another fabric. As much as I enjoy the Cleo Skirts, I think I’d like some slightly more “interesting” skirts, and I love the look of the buttons and pockets on the Estuary Skirt. It would also allow me to practice flat-felled seams, which are something that I think looks really nice but am intimidated by. Which would lead me to my next item:

3. Taking what I learned from the Estuary Skirt, try to sew at least one pair of Arenite pants. I have some undyed Brussels Washer linen that I plan to use for my first pair; I like Brussels Washer because it’s relatively inexpensive, especially on sale (so if I totally screw up, I’m not out a ton of money) but still looks nice as a clothing fabric. And linen pants seem like something I’d like to wear in the summer.

4. Watch through the “Fit and Sew Bodices” class and use their lessons to modify the Hinterland dress pattern to really fit me. I’ve really enjoyed making the Demeter Dresses, but they don’t actually fit me that great in the bodice (hence preferring to wear them in the winter with sweaters layered over them!), and I do want to learn how to make sewn stuff that actually fits me as the broad-shouldered, big ribcaged, but flat-chested petite person I am. I have some purple linen fabric that I’d really like to use for a Hinterland dress, though I may want to start with a less precious fabric.

All snuggled up in my Pressed Flowers Shawl
So many crafty plans, but perhaps writing them out will help me feel less scattered?

As for my other hopes for this year, well…2022 was a very hard year all around, as I said in my previous post, but in some ways turned out brighter than expected, given the very grim possibilities that were in play; Ukraine still stands, and we did a much better job of preserving our own democracy here in the US than it seemed like we might. For me, personally, though, 2022 was just…hard. As were the last couple of years. Basically, the new reality of my job and life in this not-actually-post-pandemic world that we’re in has sucked a lot of the joy out of things for me, and I’ve ended up in a place where I just feel scattered and exhausted and bitter a lot more often than I’d like to. I feel like my spark has been snuffed out, and I want to figure out how to light myself up again. I want to find more joy. 2023 will be the year I turn 40, which feels like kind of a big deal, but also not? In any case, what I’m hoping for in this next decade of my life is to find better balance; the realities of the last few years have overwhelmed me, and it’s felt hard to create space to slow down and just BE, because it’s felt like one crisis after another. But I want to build patience, and I want to be more intentional with how I use my time, and here are a few things I’m thinking about on that front:

Reading: I love reading. I love books. But one thing that has gotten much harder in the last few years is reading physical books. If it’s on my Kindle, I’ll get to it eventually, because I read on my Kindle in bed every night before going to sleep. But if it’s a physical book, I end up never really reading it. I don’t think there’s anything inherently better or worse, in general, about reading ebooks vs. physical books, but they do have different affordances, and there are some books that either make more sense to read in their physical form (because of the art and design elements that get lost in the ebook) or that we just already own as physical books, and I want to create space in my life that’s compatible with reading them in that format. Perhaps some evenings could be physical-book reading time instead of watching TV time? Perhaps Sundays could be offline days (or at least mostly so), where in between all of the chores I do to prepare for the coming week, I read from a physical book instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media?

Language learning: I also love learning languages, and Duolingo is a big piece of that for me. But I’ve slipped into some bad habits around that, in part because of some of the particular choices Duolingo has made in relation to gamifying language learning. I want to be more deliberate and intentional with my language learning, and one thing that I think will be good for me is if I can go back to writing things down in a notebook as I’m learning them. This will, of course, slow things down (which makes it harder to use things like the “15 minute XP boosts” and such), but it will be so much better for my own learning. I may also need to prioritize languages, because right now I’m bouncing between like, 9 of them, and that’s not super productive. Although perhaps I don’t really care about being productive? In some cases, I’m mostly interested in learning the writing system (that’s the case for alef-beys in Yiddish, for Cyrillic in Ukrainian, and for the Arabic and Hindi writing systems; Chinese fits in here too, but it being a logographic rather than alphabetic/syllabary system, I can’t separate learning the characters from learning the rest of the language in the same way). Whereas in others, I’m most interested in learning a wildly different grammar (that’s Finnish), or in being able to read things on social media (that’s Swedish), or connecting with heritage (that’s German), or understanding more about a large percentage of my students (that’s Chinese again), or being able to usefully communicate with the people who speak the language that’s most widely spoken in my country other than English (that’s Spanish). I guess I need to decide if my interest is in becoming more fluent in just a few languages or in learning a lot about more languages, because those aren’t entirely compatible.

Music: I’ve written a whole bunch here about my violin practice, and I just started yet another round of 100 Days of Practice, in which I’m trying to establish a better balance in my practice between focused technique work (etudes and scales), improving how I play familiar pieces, and learning new pieces; I tend to neglect the first of those in particular, but when I try to focus JUST on technique work, I lose a lot of my interest in playing, so balance is the key. But I’m not just a violinist: I also play ukulele, and would like to get better at that, and we’ve had a full-size electric keyboard since the beginning of the pandemic, which I would also like to learn to play. I think I might sign up for “short-term” lessons on piano at my daughter’s music school this summer; I know that’s a thing they offer, and I think it would make a lot of sense to have a teacher introduce me to the instrument and then see whether it’s something I can continue learning on my own. On ukulele, I’d like to play more “sing and strum”-type songs so that I expand the set of chords I can comfortably play, and then perhaps work on some of the songs from the Baroque lute music book for ukulele that I got a few years ago, which use a combination of chords and melody. This would also be easier to make space for if I made Sundays a mostly-offline day. (Which perhaps means that this might be the only Sunday blog post this year?)

Housekeeping: Our little neurodivergent family really struggles with housekeeping. We all have a tendency to let things pile up, and then the piles are hard to move and that makes it hard to clean and y’all, it’s gross. One of the things we’ve been working on over the winter break, and will continue to work on throughout this year, is organizing things so that they’re visible (because we forget about things when we don’t see them) but also fairly easily moveable (so that we can clean floors and surfaces without spending a full day moving all the stuff that’s piled and cluttered on them). And then we hope to get ourselves on a manageable rotation of housekeeping tasks. I’m really good at staying on top of laundry, but we definitely need to build better habits around dusting, vacuuming, and mopping.

Pressed Flowers Shawl, all folded up.
At least this spot on our floor is (relatively) clean?

Well, this post has gotten very long, hasn’t it? Here’s hoping that writing it all out helps me to feel less scattered as we move into a new calendar year.


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