I always take two weeks holiday at Christmas, and one of the nice tasks I set myself is to have a reminisce about what I made, enjoyed and generally got up over the past year, aided by a scroll back through Instagram.
When I started looking back at 2023, I didn’t feel like I had worked on many sewing projects, but I think it’s just because I took my time with those I did make. I began the year making tees to wear to the gym, featuring screen printed images of 80s workout attired Jane Fonda. I made two outerwear projects, a Hello Kitty print Tamarack and a dp Studio Bomber jacket (which must be my most worn garment this year), made in the same fabric used for a key costume in Our Flag Means Death. I sewed two special projects, a V1735 dress (the one with the low v-neck) and a matching headpiece to wear to my cousin’s wedding, and a blouse and dress set from a (reprinted) vintage Laura Ashley pattern, which I started on my birthday in 2022 and completed almost a year later. Finally, I sorted and rationalised my repairs and UFOs boxes during the Autumn (down to one basket) and completed a long abandoned V1558 knit dress, just in time to wear it on holiday in Paris.
I have less completed knitting projects to show at the end of the year, as I mostly undid and redid the same projects. My main project was a Novita moomin jumper (I’m on approximately my fourth attempt), with breaks to work on a vintage swimsuit (which needs reducing in body length), and a cotton jumper (which I need to start again and size down). I never mind unravelling knitting, since the projects will get there in the end or, if they don’t, I’ll use the yarn for something else. The only downside of my slow knitting progress is that I’m not making much of an impact on my plan to use up my existing yarn stash, and only buy yarn for specific projects in future. Having said that, I did complete a nice simple The Winter Crop jumper by Jessie Maed Designs back in January, using stash yarn, and two pairs of socks over the summer, using yarn I acid dyed at a bi-annual dyers day held by my guild. At the same dyers day, I naturally dyed lots of linen squares which I’m currently using to make a pair of patchwork shorts which I’m quite excited about, although I won’t be wearing them for a while yet (snow expected next week).
After buying a table loom back in 2019, 2023 was the year I finally started actively weaving. I attended my third week-long Weavers, Spinners and Dyers summer school this year, weaving double cloth with Margo Selby, but the real motivation to weave regularly was starting to attend a regular informal weaving class (from July onwards). The class takes place for half a day once a month, with everyone working on a project of their choice. Even though it’s only half a day per month, it means I always need a weaving project on the go, and it’s helped me to complete four weaving projects this year. I started the year weaving a bath mat (before joining the class), and then wove three scarfs, over the autumn and winter, to give as Christmas and birthday gifts. For my next weaving project, I’m planning to utilise the skills I learned at summer school last August, to weave a double cloth cushion for myself.
Alongside weaving on my table loom, I also attempted tablet weaving for the first time, over the Christmas holiday. I bought this magazine (Little Looms, summer 2021) inspired by the idea of weaving shoelaces, and have been meaning to learn how and tackle the pattern, ever since. I borrowed an inkle loom from my guild, followed a John Mullarkey online workshop to learn the basics of tablet weaving, and carried out a practice run of the shoelace pattern using some stash yarn. One of my first projects for 2024 will be weaving shoelaces, having since ordered cotton yarn in the correct weight.
I only released one pattern update in 2023, a crew neck update for my Clove Vest, but I kept busy organising the eighth Sewing Weekender, and the tenth annual SewBrum meet-up! As it was the tenth SewBrum event I went all out, commissioning a new logo, hiring a venue in Moseley and organising a market of vendors. I’m really glad to have done something special to mark the anniversary but it was a lot of work, particularly as my day job was quite full on for parts of this year. I also continued as Programme Secretary for the Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and organised a programme which included talks on millinery and the history of carpet weaving, and workshops in spinning art yarns, weaving with waste, and making a hand painted leather pouch. The 2024 programme is now live, if you’re local and interested do come and join us as a visitor or member.
There were other special birthdays during 2023, as I turned 40 and my nan turned 90. Phil and I went on two 40th birthday holidays this year, to Marrakesh in November to celebrate my birthday, and to Osaka and Tokyo in April to very belatedly celebrate Phil’s birthday which fell during the peak of covid/isolation and prevented the Japan holiday he was aiming for. We also visited St Ives with my family in March, and Paris in September, where we happened to be in Paris at the same time as my parents! Phil says the highlight of the Paris trip was an amazingly dramatic fringe trim I received in a little local salon called Pat’s Coif (just one we happened to be close to when I decided my fringe looked a mess), but an autochrome exhibition at Palais Galliera was mine. Closer to home, I attended more events than ever during 2023 Birmingham Heritage Week, and am really hoping it goes ahead in 2024 despite council cutbacks.
Thanks to audiobooks and to my local libraries, I read lots of good books (30+ library audiobooks). My very favourite books read during 2023 (not necessarily via the library) were ‘In Memoriam‘ by Alice Winn (WWI-era queer love story), and two WWII-era non-fiction books, both about acts of resistance: ‘The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World‘ by Jonathan Freedland, and ‘Secret Pigeon Service: Operation Columba, Resistance and the Struggle to Liberate Europe‘ by Gordon Corera. I was also fascinated to learn about Orwell’s wife Eileen Blair from ‘Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life’ by Anna Funder, although I didn’t love some aspects of the book. Other favourite things this year included Katy Kirby’s album ‘Cool Dry Place’, seeing Sparks, Kiss, and Big Special live, in each case for the second time, playing various Pikmin games on Switch, and – of course – Our Flag Means Death tv series, which inspired me to create in various ways, and started a new-to-me love of fan fiction. I read loads of great fan fiction writing last year, but my top recommendations are ‘Pina Coladas‘ (OFMD) which started my love affair with fan fiction, ‘Demonology and the Tri-Phasic Model of Trauma: An Integrative Approach‘ (Good Omens) which is superb writing, and The Reno Cure (OFMD) which does a fantastic job of integrating historical material around the story.