Winter Haven KAL – Week 1
Hello! And welcome to week 1 of the Winter Haven KAL!
In the northern hemisphere, we’re in the throes of mid-Winter. We’ve recently had the Winter Solstice and the shortest day, and although the nights are very gradually getting lighter, it’s going to be a long time before those bright nights of high Summer are here. Over on the other side of the world, you’re the opposite way around and it must seem as strange to you thinking about Winter when you’re in the middle of a heatwave as it does for me thinking about the sunshine on a grey and dismal Friday in Winwick! In the words of a character from a famous TV show, though – “Winter is coming” – so I hope that the ideas that I’m going to share will be useful to you both now and in the coming months.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Winter and what it means to me. It means celebrations with Christmas and New Year, spending time with friends and family – which can be both fun and exhausting, no matter how much you love them. It means the weather will be cold and wet (I still can’t bring myself to give up hope of snow, though!) which is a good excuse to wear lots of woolly layers. It means that the garden will look neglected and bare, although there is life beneath the soil just waiting for the warmth to return. It’s a time to make new plans for the coming year which is both exciting and sometimes overwhelming – and that’s OK.
It’s a time of rest and renewal.
It’s a time to prepare the ground for the seasons to come.
It’s a time when you need a Winter Haven.
So what is this Winter Haven, then? Is it just a chair by the fire, or some other place that you like the look of?
On the face of it, yes – but it’s also a place for thinking and just being. It’s your safe space, your command centre, your eye of the storm. You don’t have to sit there for hours but you know that the minute you are there, it’s as if you’ve been able to step off the world for a few moments to get your breath back. I don’t know about you, but I need some place like that every now and again!
The Winter Haven KAL is about making that space and that time out a habit, at least for this month. It’s about knitting (or crafting) a project that makes your heart sing, certainly, but it’s also about more than that. For me, it’s about fitting my own oxygen mask before helping others, and whilst knitting is a vital part of that for me, there is more that I can do to prepare the ground for the coming seasons.
Each week, I’ll talk about what else I’m doing to recharge my batteries during the dark Winter days, and I hope there will be something useful in there that you might like to try too. There’s no rush here, no deadlines, just ideas to consider whilst you sit in your space and let your fingers work their yarny magic.
🕯 My space
This is my space for the KAL. It’s a rocking chair by the fire complete with a footstool that also rocks (we inherited both and I’m so glad we did!) – small daughter used to see if she could take off on them when she was very small, but luckily she didn’t and they are still here for me to use. I like having this as my space because, unlike the sofa, I don’t have to share it. I can also come and sit here if someone else is watching TV and I don’t want to watch the programme with them. It’s close enough to the CD player to change the music when I want to and I can see out of the window too, so I don’t feel as if I’m shut away. Obviously, if I’m sitting here at night then there’s not much to see, but I think that a Haven should be an anytime of day space because we never quite know when we might need a minute.
The lamp arm that you can see is a general reading lamp, not a hobby lamp of any kind, and it’s a bit temperamental which is why I’ve got it pushed out of the way!
Lauren shared a photo on Facebook of what she’s got ready for her Winter Haven space and has very kindly let me show you.
|Source: Lauren via Facebook|
Here’s her comfy chair and a basket full of treats – her yarn (Dale Alpakka Forte for those who want to know), a scented candle, a notebook (that’s caused a few questions – all will be revealed very soon!), a book (that looks like it’s a treasured one) and some sweet treats and teas. She’s all set to get started!
What does your space look like? Is it somewhere that you think you can sit and have a few minutes to yourself? Have you chosen it yet? Part of creating a Winter Haven is making it feel as cosy as you can. Embracing Hygge, if you like, which loosely translates as “cosy” but is much more than that, because it’s as much about experiences and feelings as about blankets and candles. You might not want to evoke “cosy” quite so much if you’re in 40 degree heat, but you can be comfortable and still have your own Haven space for sitting and knitting and thinking.
Well, that sounds very good but how is the KAL going to work if I’m sitting and thinking? And how is it going to work if everybody is doing their own thing?
It will work because it’s one of those magic things where everybody is connected by the yarn and by intention, even if they’re doing their own thing. Actually, I think it will work brilliantly well because we’re not all going to be doing the same thing. One of the things that I love most about the internet is being able to see life in another part of the country or even the world and I hope that we’ll be able to share some of that through the KAL. I’d really like you to be part of my blog posts – let me know what you’re up to, show me your photos and let’s make sure that we’re all connected.
The knitting (or the crochet, macrame, weaving or whatever you choose to do) is part of the whole; a way to sit and be creative even as your hands are busy, because all the best ideas come when you are relaxed and there’s some thinking to be done over the next couple of weeks – it’s not all about sitting and knitting whilst we eat treats!
And whilst we’re on the subject of knitting …
Have you chosen your project yet? Thank you so much for all your lovely comments on the Sanctuary Socks – I’m really looking forward to seeing lots of pairs of those!
If you downloaded a PDF copy of the pattern before 7pm UK time yesterday, please check it as the 64st and 68st charts were the wrong way round. They’re fine now, but you’ll need to make a note on your pattern if you have the earlier version.
Although I designed the Sanctuary Socks for the KAL, I’m also looking forward to seeing what else you might have chosen to work on – remember that it doesn’t have to be the Sanctuary Socks or even socks at all. I’d love to know what you have picked that’s going to make your heart sing, what yarn you have chosen – have you bought new? Have you used stash? You can let me know through social media on Instagram (use the hashtag #WinterHavenKAL) or Facebook, or send me an email (you can find the email link in the sidebar with the social media icons on the left). If you have photos, I’d love to share them on Instagram and also through the weekly blog posts so do get in touch!
I’ve chosen two projects for the KAL. The first is a WIP – I wrote the other day about the guilt that can surround the projects that we are keen to start but then never finish for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, another project takes precedence; sometimes we can’t resist the siren call of another yarn or another KAL, and sometimes we just fall out of love with what we’re knitting. Sometimes, we just have startitis and want to cast on All The Projects (I’m certainly guilty of that one!), and somewhere in the middle of all of that is my pair of Seascape socks.
I certainly haven’t fallen out of love with them, but the urgency to get them finished couldn’t compete with commission deadlines and gift knitting. Now, though, is the perfect time!
They’re a pair of Basic 4ply Sockalong socks; I’m half-way down the first sock and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t get them finished by the end of the month.
My other project is a new cast on (see, what did I tell you about startitis?!) and is a Sockhead Slouch Hat by Kelly McClure. This is a free pattern on Ravelry and I loved Vanessa’s so much from this post about Winwick Mum yarn projects that I couldn’t resist casting one on for myself. I’m ignoring the fact that I don’t look particularly stylish in beanie-type hats as I’ve got short hair and they are often not quite as flattering as I’d like them to be – I think it will be perfect for when I’m in the garden and I know that the robin that comes to talk to me will think so too 😀
Yes, those are DPNs that I’m using. I don’t tend to use them for socks as I love my short circular needle, but I didn’t have the right needle tips for my 40cm circular cable and decided to cast on anyway whilst I’m waiting for them to arrive. I’m quite enjoying it, actually – I haven’t knitted anything on DPNs for quite some time! It’s even given me the opportunity to practice my Continental knitting a bit more, and I have to say that at last my purl stitch is coming along quite nicely! Not fast, but I can rib pretty smoothly now and that’s something for me to proud of!
🕯 This week’s recipe
Ha! I knew this would surprise you! I did mention treats to eat in our Havens, didn’t I? It won’t suit everybody as January is often a time for cutting back and some people just don’t have a sweet tooth, but for those who might like some baking ideas, I’ve got a few to share!
My treat this week is Maple Syrup Flapjack and the recipe is here. It’s a variation of the flapjack made with golden syrup that big daughter loved so much she persuaded me to ask the cook at her primary school how to make; it always turns out well and never lasts for very long! I started making this years ago in an attempt to cut down on our sugar intake, although to be honest now that I’ve read up on it more I think I just swapped one form of sugar for another – so rather than stop eating it, I just make sure we don’t eat it all in one go!
This flapjack will last us for the whole week, and I’m doing my best to eat more fruit so that’s something that I’ll be doing this week too.
What’s your treat for the week? Are you a sweet or a savoury kind of person?
🕯 Something green
Did you manage to find some flowers or a plant for your Haven? My poor begonia was distinctly sad so I’ve brought some greenery in from the garden.
I’ve really missed the smell of the Christmas tree since we took it down, and it’s been nice to take the time to go around the garden to see what I could find that might have a scent about it. Actually, it was just really nice to be outside and smell all the smells! I usually prefer a pot plant to cut flowers as they last so much longer, but there’s something about bringing the outside inside that feels more important to do at this time of year. It’s easy to lose the connection with the outdoors when you spend your time hurrying from one indoor space to another to avoid the weather – and that can happen in hot places as well as cold places.
🕯 Light it up!
More than anything, I think it’s lighting the candle that makes me stop and take time out from my day, and I hadn’t expected that.
I know that you need to burn a scented candle for a length of time to get the best from it, so I’m less inclined to light it for ten minutes and then blow it out – and it’s not safe to leave burning candles when you’re buzzing about the house and not keeping an eye on what’s going on with them so I won’t do that either. “I’ll just have another few minutes”, I think, “because it smells so lovely.”
There’s also something about the flickering flame that always attracts my attention. It’s the same with the fire – I can watch the flames for a very long time!
My candle’s scent is Festive Spice – it’s a blend of smells that evoke Christmas for me, and even though Christmas itself has come and gone, the smell of the candle still makes me feel warm and comfortable. And, to be honest, I’d rather feel festive than dismal which is how the rain which never seems to stop often makes me feel! 😀
I’m really enjoying the lights around the mirror too. I’ve put those there specially for the KAL – we don’t usually have lights there – but everybody loves them and I think they might be staying out for a bit longer than January!
I might have gone on a bit of a candle-fest frenzy as well, but I love the soft glow of the tea lights and even in the daytime they add to my sense of well-being.
🕯 Listen up!
What do you like best in your Haven space – peace and quiet or something to listen to?
I find it hard to work with music or talking going on in the background, especially if I have to write something like a blog post (I find myself singing the songs which isn’t always helpful!) but I am enjoying listening to music in my Haven space. I did think about choosing podcasts or TED talks to listen to, but I decided that my Haven is about switching off and listening to someone else talking doesn’t work for me in that space. Instead, I’m listening to Classic FM on the radio, and this week I’m playing favourite CDs by David Tolk, Ludovico Einaudi and Everything But the Girl.
Next week – it may be quite different! I’m still getting back into the swing of things this week and it’s OK for it to take time to get back up to full speed. Gentle piano music and evocative lyrics are just what I need right now!
So what about you? What do you like to listen to in your Haven? Music? Talking? You might even play an instrument yourself and take that into your Haven. I play the piano but don’t spend nearly enough time practising so that might well be one of the things I want to think about over the coming weeks – I enjoy playing and I know it’s good for my hands to move in a different way to how I hold them to knit so I should play more.
Now, is this the point where you expect me to tell you to take a bubble bath and let your cares float away? Well, that is a good way of expressing self-care, but to be honest, there are some days when I’m just too busy to think about taking a bath – and then when I do have time, it’s too late and I need to go to bed, so I’m not going to suggest that to you in case you’re just the same!
Self-care isn’t just about pampering yourself, although that’s a good thing – and there’s no reason at all why your Haven time can’t involve painting your nails if that’s what you’d like to do. However, I suspect that you’re one of those people who is very good at looking after those around you and forgetting to look after yourself in the process – because many of us are – and as appealing as the idea of taking time out to pamper yourself might be, it’s not always practical.
Self-care is also about looking after your best interests and being a friend to yourself. We’re often harder on ourselves than we would ever be to someone else and I’m hoping that we can all take time in our Winter Havens to think about that, and perhaps be a little kinder to ourselves. Being kind to myself at the moment involves not having to do everything at the last minute so that I actually end up with more time because I’ve taken more time to plan. It’s not quite worked out that way this week and I’ve been more last minute than I have for a long time – which is all the more reason for me to spend time in my Winter Haven deciding what I can do to make my life easier next week.
So, in the interests of self-care this week, I’m going to be writing up my menu plan for the rest of the month. It’s always a faff to try to think of what to make on the hoof, I always end up buying the wrong things in the supermarket and whenever I ask the family what they might like for dinner, I get three different answers and none of it involves any ingredients I might have!
Writing a plan in advance definitely takes away the stress of mealtimes and makes it more likely that I’ll try something new as I have time to look in cookery books for recipes. It also lets me see if there’s anything that I can cook more of to freeze for another day – as not having to cook every day (unless you really love it) is also another form of self-care!
There’s not that much to try to plan for me – we always have a roast dinner on Sundays, we have fish on Fridays (not for religious reasons but so that it’s easy to plan!), a big pan of soup or a casserole at least once or twice a week … and then there are only a few more days to add in. I’ve also got a column to write in who’s around – whether my husband is working late or if big daughter is home from uni. I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier in the month, but what matters is that I’m starting again now!
I’m also doing my best to follow along with The Organised Mum method of keeping on top of the housework. I used to follow the Flylady method but fell off the wagon so often that in the end I thought I needed to change the system I was using. It’s always much easier to tackle things in short bites than to leave it all until it becomes a huge job, and cleaning is no different. I let it all slide a bit over Christmas so this week I’m going to make sure that I get back into it so that it doesn’t become a big stress.
I’m going to add my book recommendations into this Winter Haven category as well, and because book choice is such a personal thing, I’m going to stick to non-fiction rather than fiction books. Ugh, text books?! Well, yes, I guess they are, but I’ve read these ones and I’m happy to read them again so they can’t be that bad, can they? They also didn’t take as long to read as I expected so I’m going to pick them up again this month because I’m making the time to do that.
I’m going to start by re-reading Playing the Matrix by Mike Dooley. I like Mike Dooley; he’s the man behind the free Notes from the Universe – emails written by the “Universe” which appear in your inbox every weekday, and which can be surprisingly insightful. I’ve been getting the Notes for years now, and I think they’re an important part of my own self-care because they, more often than not, make me stop and think about my place in the world, and it’s good for me to do that. Playing the Matrix is a book about how we can be happy, and what stops us from living the life that we want to, and it’s written in an accessible and non-patronising way. I’m looking forward to re-reading this one.
🕯 Thank you
Thank you for being here! But as well as saying thank you to you, this is also an important part of our Winter Haven. We can get so busy living life from day to day that we forget to be grateful for what we have, and that’s where your notebook and pen come in. You thought I’d forgotten about that, didn’t you? 😀
It’s become very fashionable to have “gratitude journals” and you might groan at the thought of it, but the idea of remembering what you are grateful or thankful for actually brings you more of the same because it’s what you become tuned into. Have you ever noticed that as soon as you buy a new car, everybody else seems to be driving the same car even though you’d never seen them before? It’s because you’re tuned into your new car, and tuning into what’s good in your life will mean that you notice more and more good things.
So go ahead and open up your notebook and think about what you want to write. You can call it “gratitude”, or “blessings”, or “positive thoughts”, or whatever you’d like to, but write something that you are grateful for. And there’s always something to be grateful for – even down to the air that you breathe, the clothes that you wear and having food on the table. See if you can find three things over the week to write down. You might think of more and that’s wonderful, but don’t feel pressured into writing every day if you’re not inspired to.
You might also choose to write down something good that’s happened to you, or a compliment that someone paid you – these are also something to be grateful for, but again it’s that thing that the more you tune into the good things, the more of them you’ll have, and noticing positive experiences is definitely something to cultivate!
Here are mine. This week, I have been grateful for sprouts …
No, I never thought I’d ever say I was grateful for sprouts either, but I am! These have come from my garden grown with the last of the sprout seeds from my Dad’s seed box. I’m both happy and sad to see them – happy because we’ve actually got some sprouts and they haven’t all been eaten in a caterpillar massacre, but sad because that’s another connection with my Dad gone – although I know there will always a be a sprout connection with my Dad no matter what seeds I grow.
I’m grateful for the yarn buyers at John Lewis …
I was in John Lewis at the Trafford Centre with small daughter and I knew that they sold West Yorkshire Spinners yarn so I thought we’d just go and take a look … I wasn’t sure whether I would burst with pride or burst into tears to see my yarn there in the centre of the display. “Awesome!” said small daughter, and indeed it was.
And I’m grateful for these little chaps …
They’ve gone away in the Christmas decorations box now, but they remind me of a holiday we took one Winter where we bought this candle holder (that is a candle in the middle, not a nuclear explosion), and I’m grateful that we are able to go on holiday and spend time together as a family.
So there we are … Week 1. I hope this has given you some ideas for your time in your Winter Havens! Next week, I hope to have more of your projects and ideas to share, so do tell me about your Winter Havens and your projects because I can’t wait to hear all about them!
Until next week xx