2018 in review
Whenever I think of a calendar year, I see it in my mind’s eye as a clock with each of the months around it like the numbers that we use to tell the time. December and January are both at the top, separated by the stroke of midnight, and here we are again, only a few ticks away from the old year ending and the new one starting.
This New Year, I have decided, will be on one of looking back as much as forward; of appreciating what I have rather than always looking to see what I want next. We can be so driven sometimes, always working on the next project, planning the next adventure, that we forget that we already have so much of what we strive for right at our feet. And why wait until next year to do this when I can start now by looking back at 2018?
So what was 2018 all about for me? Oh socks, of course! It wasn’t until I was prompted to count up how many pairs I’d knitted this year that I realised just how much a part of my life socks are now. I don’t even think about it; they’re as much a part of me as eating or sleeping. There’s at least one pair on my needles all the time (I currently have 4 WIPs which is quite a low number for me, but a good thing as I intended to start next year by doing some finishing off!) and I will knit my socks pretty much every day. Knitting those rhythmic rounds is what keeps me grounded; they bring me comfort and stability during tough times and they make me happy, releasing feel-good hormones as I make my down those familiar neural pathways. Picking up my needles is like coming home, and I don’t ever intend to stop.
I worked out that I’ll have made 25 pairs this year. 25 pairs! I nearly fell over when I counted them all, that’s definitely a new record for me and if you’d told me I’d knit that many at the beginning of the year, I’d have told you it couldn’t be done (by me, anyway, I know some people knit far more pairs than that). But it has, and practically without me noticing, too! Not all these socks were for me – only 3 pairs out of all those found their way into my sock drawer, and the others were either gifted or were commissioned, such as the Fairy Lights socks for West Yorkshire Spinners that you may have seen around this Christmas and, of course, all the pairs that I knitted for More Super Socks. There are more pairs in that total that are part of an exciting new project for next year too, and I’m really looking forward to sharing that with you in a few weeks’ time.
I spent time this year learning more about no-nylon yarns and how well they work for socks. The last review that I did was in January last year, although I’ve knitted a couple of pairs since then so I’ll need to get those written up and posted on the blog. What I realised this year is that no-nylon socks don’t have to be an alternative so that nylon in sock yarn isn’t necessary, but they can be an alternative so that we can learn about and appreciate the sheep breeds that have fleece which is more suitable for certain purposes. There is a place for sock yarns containing nylon, even in these times when we’re trying to reduce our plastic use, because those socks will still be going strong many years later which certainly doesn’t put them into the single use plastic category, but there’s a place for no-nylon yarns too. We need to know about yarns that shine, that are silky soft or are tough and hardwearing because that’s how the sheep grew the fleece, not how the yarn was manufactured, and I think there is a growing thirst for that knowledge as we remember that we’ve only got one planet and we need to appreciate what we have. (Hmm, there’s a theme here! 😀)
I published two sock patterns on the blog this year: Patchwork Socks, which are created using intarsia and lots of small, irregularly-shaped patchwork blocks. They’re perfect for left overs and I was really proud of this pattern as I’d wondered for a while how to make socks that didn’t have regular shapes as part of the pattern. Along with the in-depth photo tutorial, there are videos for these socks so that it’s easy to see what you have to do.
The other pattern I published was the Easy Colourwork Socks, which were intended as a first foray into using more than one colour. All of my patterns are intended to be for beginners or those who are looking to expand their skills but want a slightly more detailed road map than many patterns offer, so there’s a photo and video tutorial for this pattern too. For me, it’s not about designing the most complicated or intricate patterns but it’s about knowing that someone can do something that they couldn’t do before – and waving them off as they go to look for something new a little further along the road. There will always be beginners – we were all beginners once – and I see my job as being to offer a helping hand to get people started, just as others helped me when I was first starting myself.
I also published four brand new patterns in More Super Socks. After being asked many times whether Super Socks had more than one pattern in it, I decided that the new book which was published in September this year would have those extra patterns that aren’t available elsewhere. This was a new adventure for me: writing patterns that would fit with the tutorial patterns (Easy Cable Socks, Easy Lace Socks, Patchwork Socks and Easy Colourwork Socks) which also feature in the book but yet not publishing them on the blog. I worked with a tech editor to make sure that I’d got the patterns right which made me feel like a “real” designer! It was quite an achievement to get the book ready for launching at Yarndale – the thing about being self-published is that you do everything (and that’s everything!) by yourself and I may have under-estimated the time it would take (my family would say that’s a slight understatement but I think the meltdowns were minimal considering the circumstances 😀 ) to meet my own very high standards. But ready it was, and I was touched by how many people pre-ordered a copy ready to pick up when they came to Yarndale.
I am enormously proud of these new patterns, as they stretched my own designing skills as well as being intended to stretch those who knit them. I deliberately wrote these patterns with less instructions than the tutorials but still with more detail than many other patterns – designers are often constrained for space so it’s not easy to give extra information but when it’s your own book, there’s not the same restriction (just as well, as I’m a wordy person! 😀).
Drunken Cable has three cables which weave their way down the sock. These were good fun to knit and I loved watching the cables as they grew, almost touching but not quite and then weaving off in another direction as a group of people who’ve had a beer or two often will …
Beatrice is a lace sock – oh, I loved knitting these! Whether it was the yarn or the pattern, I don’t know but they worked beautifully together and I was sorry to reach the end of the second sock …
Flow Through is another intarsia sock and I had fun choosing the colours for this pattern. It will work with any leftovers – I’ve realised that’s the beauty of intarsia patterns and I might well use it again in the future.
Rainbow Zig Zag. Are these my favourite socks? They very well could be! I just loved the way the rainbow yarn created these stripes and that sole – delicious! I’ve been asked so many times about the complicated stitches involved in the sole, but honestly it’s just a case of knitting with one colour and then the next and it comes out looking like that. Sock magic!
What else did I do in 2018? Oh yes, the Yarndale Sock Line. I am immensely grateful to the Yarndale team for letting me string socks up around the Auction Mart during the Yarndale festival, and I’m immensely grateful to you for sending me socks to give away.
This year, over 200 pairs were sent to people who needed some socky love in their lives; if you are new to the Yarndale Sock Line and what it’s all about, you can read more here and if you want to read about this year’s Sock Line and what happened to all the socks, you can find that here.
Through the blog, you’ve also come with me on dog walks, done some baking (I’m still baking a good sourdough loaf!), started to make an effort to reduce plastic, been on holiday to Granada and Stockholm and spent time in the garden. You’ve also nominated me for awards which has been truly amazing, thank you, although it does mean that now you’ve encouraged me, you’ll be getting more of the same for some time to come! 😉
This year has been a great year. It’s been a year of fun and friendship, of creating and doing things that I love with and for people that I love. There have been days that I have never wanted to end, and days that couldn’t end soon enough because that’s the way life is, but I wouldn’t have swapped any of them.
This year has also brought me you, dear reader, so thank you. Thank you for sticking around if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, and thank you for finding me if you’re new. It’ll be good to spend 2019 with you.