January is hot and humid. The pasture is tall and golden, seed heads flying. The cows have been ailing with eye infections and my farmer man is out working long hours in the heat. We've watched rainclouds build and roll over us without giving a drop. We've savoured dips in the dam and ripe summer fruit. I've put ice cubes in my coffee and begun a special quilt project using only linen scraps. Twice I've gone for a walk and watched the same wedged-tail eagle perched, perfectly still on the branch of a tall gum tree. We've stretched our hands into the soft fur of our new maremma pup, Pippin. He is the first puppy we've owned, and although a working dog, he is full of delight and fluffiness. I cannot help but smile when I see him. It's summertime - when the days stretch on and on, and we sigh audibly with relief when the evening breezes come in. We have nowhere to go and not much to do, which is to say, we're content to lay low in this beautiful and exhausting season //
2021 was another year of frequent making; sewing, stitching and knitting things to wear and give away as gifts. I found having a craft project going at all times helped with the constant changing and unsettling of routines. It tethered me to the confines of a thing - something to hold in my hands - to start and finish. To wear with joy, to give away with love. I was able to fill some gaps in my wardrobe and make use of scraps and offcuts too.
Here are my favourite me-made things from the year:
Hinterland Dress + Lark Tee
The perfect combination! I ended making two hinterland dresses this year - the first in a beautiful terracotta/clay coloured linen cotton and the second in a natural oatmeal hemp-linen. The pattern by Sew Liberated is well-written and easy to follow, but it's worth taking time to make sure the fit is correct, especially in the bust and shoulders. I opted for the sleeveless version without a button placket and the thin waist ties. The pockets are deep and generous.
I also made 5 long-sleeve lark tees (pattern by Grainline Studio). This felt like a real accomplishment - the pattern itself is very straightforward and easy to follow. I loved being able to modify the arm and torso length to fit my body perfectly and the rounded boat-neck (which has always been my favourite neckline). Not to mention being able to use natural knit fabrics that suit the seasons - cotton jersey and merino wool jersey. I reach for them day after day! They are wonderful worn on their own and under sleeveless dresses like my hinterland and washi dresses.
Someone once told me knitting in colour work was like painting; it is so enjoyable! And stranded colour work is not nearly as difficult as I always thought it would be - the hardest thing is holding an even and relaxed (but not too relaxed) tension with the different strands of yarn - and like most craft techniques it becomes easier and more natural the more you do it.
I loved this pattern inspired by traditional fair isle designs the first time I saw it. I extended the ribbing on the brim so that it would cover my ears a little better - I can't stand a hat that doesn't do that - what is the purpose?! I was also able to use yarn already in my stash.
Seashell Mitts and Fiddler Mitts
Warm fingerless mittens were a saving grace for me this year over the cold months when the circulation in my hands got so poor I was getting blue and white fingers and chill blains on my knuckles. It seems my thyroid is no longer functioning as she should and that is affecting a number of things, including circulation in my body.
Melissa's seashell mitts pattern is free and wonderful to follow. The other pair were requested by Archie - I used the Fiddler Mitts pattern without the frilly edging.
Seaside Shawl + Felix Cardigan
I finished this shawl at the beginning of 2021 and have worn it non-stop through every season - it is so versatile! I love the subtle sage green colour and can wear it with pretty much everything I own. The cotton-silk yarn is soft and durable and doesn't pill at all. The pattern is by Carrie Bostick Hodge.
And the Felix Cardigan. It is perhaps my favourite knitted garment yet - it was a simple and quick knit and is flattering over dresses or tops. I used wool yarn unravelled from a wrap I made years ago held together with a silk + mohair blend. The result is soft and warm and snuggly. It does pill but not too noticeably thanks to the halo of the mohair. I love this dearly.
Wiksten Oversize Jacket
Thus was a very luxurious and technically challenging project for me. I have admired versions of this jacket using the Merchant & Mills jacquard cotton for a few years. When this clay-rose hued version of the fabric came on sale I purchased just enough to make one for myself. The jacquard was quite fiddly to sew neatly with, but I got there in the end. The jacket is also lined with a medium weight cotton-linen fabric - the result is a very warm and quite heavy, snuggly jacket. You really do feel like you are pulled down into a hug - or wearing a quilt around your shoulders. I love the pockets too. Pattern by Wiksten in Making Magazine.
I love these camisoles. They are the perfect summer layer - lightweight and almost silky cotton lawn from Liberty of London and the elegant and simple camisole pattern from True Bias. I was able to cut them from just 1 metre of fabric with generous scraps left over. Highly recommend the pattern too which is easy to follow.
Flying Geese Cushion + Prayer Quilt
I also have to include these: a flying geese prayer cushion and also reflective blanket as a collaboration with my friend and artist Adam Lee. It was an invigorating and enjoyable creative process to play with linen and cotton and the traditional geese "triangle" design. The cushion was to accompany a commissioned painting of his and the prayer blanket will be part of an exhibition Adam is doing for Kyneton Contemporary in March. The latter will include five of Adam's mesmerising, beautiful paintings with five accompanying blankets that have been made by local makers and artisans and are in conversation with each his painted works and themes. I cannot wait to see them all sharing space together.
Winter + Spring Making
How about you friends, what have you loved making this past year?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847)
Read for my bookclub. It was so strange reading slowly and dissecting it with others. I realised how much I had forgotten, or overlooked in past readings. I loved this book so much as a young adult and found such beauty and consolation in Jane's story, and yet now reading it, I was frequently troubled, especially in Jane and Rochester's relationship and romance. Charlotte is a master storyteller. So worth reading if you haven't before.
Assembly by Natasha Brown (2021)
Lent by a friend. This was a fast read - maybe over two nights - and seemed to end too soon! I found it really engrossing, interesting, horrifying and thoughtful. Highly recommend.
Right to Sex by Amia Svinivasen (2021)
I have been wanting to read book of essays for some time. I was delighted when it was lent to me! Svinivasen explores issues of sexuality, consent, pornography, incel movements, desire, racial injustice and more - she looks at how feminist and philosophical theory has sought to understand these issues over time, and where such theories are lacking or unsatisfactory for our times. Her essays are intelligent and personable, thoughtful and arresting. Svinivasen skilfully balances her own views and questions with those of other academics and I was left with much to ponder and examine further. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Gift From the Sea By Anne Morrow Lindberg (1955)
A re-read after many years. It was the perfect book to take down to the sea side on our holiday in November. I found Anne's reflections on life and shells, on motherhood and faith, as profound, beautiful and timeless as I did the first time. So worth reading.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer (1999)
Read for my studies last semester. I found Palmer's life story fascinating and his thoughts around vocation and coming to more contemplative (yet practical) faith really fresh and compelling. He writes: "Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
A Spacious Life: Trading Hustle and Hurry for the Goodness of Limits by Ashley Hayles (2021)
Mum gifted me this book and I took it away on holiday. I savoured it slowly, and appreciated Ashley's honesty and vulnerability. She weaves in personal stories, scripture, reflection and practical suggestions carefully and beautifully. We are not called to lives of hustle and hurry, of stress and bitterness Ashley argues - but to spaciousness and healthy limits, to healing through play and rest, community and connection, to faith that renews and refreshes our whole beings - body, soul and mind, Highly recommend.
The Last Guests by J P Pomare (2021)
I don't usually read this genre (suspense, crime, thriller), but after reading an interview with the New Zealand born author I was intrigued and requested a copy from my local library. I ended up reading it over the two days I was stuck in bed with a stomach bug at the beginning of December. It was the perfect escape - a thrilling, quick read with rather unexpected twists and intriguing characters. It definitely made me think twice about air bnb's and house surveillance~
The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage (1967)
I loved this. It was a quick and thrilling read over a couple of nights. The language is spare and evocative. It makes me want to delve into the world of American gothic westerns! The dialogue seamlessly slips from spoken words to thoughts and stream of consciousness in the main characters. It is as much a portrait of personal relationships and family as much as it is a thrilling Western. I read it after watching the film (which is beautifully composed and acted) - but definitely enjoyed reading the book and getting so much more from the characters and back stories.
Top 9 books of 2021:
1. The Tall Man
2. You Are Not a Gadget
3. Adam Bede
5. Hold Your Fire
6. This Golden Fleece
7. The Year of Magical Thinking
8, Right to Sex
9. The Power of the Dog
Find more details of books read this year in the posts below.
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...