Monday, 14 January 2019

January Things

I love this time of year so much. I feel like, now that that Christmas and New Year are out of the way, I can really relax and enjoy these slower winter months. I like getting out as often as I can at the weekend, I like the wintry light and bare trees, I love that if you look carefully you can spot so much colour in amongst the monochrome winter palate and subtle signs of spring to come. I like weekends that involve cooking, crafting and walking in the woods or by the sea, and I love the feeling or refresh and reboot that January brings. No ridiculous lifestyle changes, and certainly no Dry January thank you very much (if ever a month called for a glass of red in front of the fire it was this one), but there is a new energy and a sense of anticipation for the coming year. 

I recently finished a crochet shawl, or rather re-finished it. It was - is - the South Bay Shawlette, which I made almost four years ago and, despite thinking I was never a shawl wearer, have probably worn it more than any other thing I made, ever. 

Unfortunately, a couple of months ago, a certain whippet got into a bit of a tangle with my shawl. It's unlike him to go for woollens, preferring as he does shoes and sunglasses, but this lovingly crocheted item ended up with a big hole about a third of the way in. 

I was able to pull back the shawl to just beyond the damaged area, saving most of the yarn as a I went, and then re-crochet it. I'd lost a couple of rows where the hole was so I bought another skein of the lovely yarn but in an off-white and added those at the end as a border. 

The re-used yarn was a little crinkly after spending so long set in crochet stitches and I was worried it might look funny but blocking was, as ever, transformative, and gave the whole shawl the most beautiful drape which it had started to lose through such regular wear.

And now I feel like I have a whole new handmade item of clothing in my wardrobe and I think I love it even more with this white edging than I did before. Thank you Ziggy, but please don't ever chew up my reading glasses again.

I have a renewed focus on this Goldenrod Sweater and have been working on it a little every night. I am determined that this will be a sweater that is not finished at the start of summer, and that I can wear it this winter. Or spring, at least.

After all that Christmas baking, my food cupboards were full of opened and half used packets of dried fruits, nuts, pulses and all sorts besides, and I was getting sick of wondering which badly-sealed packet of seeds was going to fall out on me as I rummaged for something, scattering themselves all over me, the worktop and the floor. So I spent a very pleasant couple of hours at the weekend emptying out these cupboards, wiping the shelves and the bottoms of jars (golden syrup gets everywhere), checking use by dates, and decanting these plastic packets into jam and kilner jars, whatever I could find in the garage. Of course, so that I didn't get my marshmallows muddled up with my lentils, my new toy, a Dymo embosser labeller, was essential. This little thing is the most fun, I want to label absolutely everything with it.

I have recently started making my own kitchen cleaner from vinegar, water and lemon essential oil, and the labels were used here too. I am pretty far from being an eco warrior but I am deeply suspicious of any cleaning spray - kitchen or bathroom - that makes me cough, as so many of them do. I'll let you know how we get on with my homemade cleaner. Incidentally, if you use Instagram and  are interested in reducing your waste and living slightly more simply, I cannot recommend enough this account: Small Sustainable Steps by Amanda (who used to blog as Vintage Sheet Addict many moons ago, some of you may have followed her then). It's full of the most practical and useful advice and suggestions, and I have found it very inspiring, especially her recipes for kitchen and bathroom cleaner and chemical free cleaning. I'm not ready to chuck out the bleach just yet, but baby steps.

Finally, here's a joyful pop of rainbow colour after all those tasteful, muted tones:

I recently made this colourful woven wall hanging for my friend Abigail, lover of rainbows, as a late Christmas present, using lots of small amounts of mulitcoloured roving I bought some time ago.

It reminds me about that roving I bought a couple of weeks ago, and that big old picture frame that I want to re-purpose as a loom....yes, I definitely have that new year feeling. 


  1. Love the new edging, nicely done. You have reminded me that I have one of those embossing things tucked away somewhere. A cupboard full of opened packets can be a nightmare can't it, always falling down at the wrong moment. I love the sound of the more natural cleaner, well done you. Hope you have a good week. CJ xx

  2. Your shawl is gorgeous! Yes, this time of year has a beauty all of it's own. Look past the dull, grey day and you see all the 'bare bones' of nature and your photos have captured it beautifully. The fern leaves, the tree branches, the catkins. Work has kept me busy and I haven't had time to get out much. Hopefully the hours will settle down soon. Best, Jane :)

  3. I've been following the organised mum and stumbled upon small sustainable steps too, Amanda is great isn't she. It's all so simple really, I love her decluttering challenges. I also love moral fibre on instagram, Wendy Graham's book - Fresh Clean Home has lots of recipes inside for cleaning naturally.
    Glad you managed to repair your shawl, very pretty. Cathy x

  4. The shawl looks like it could be made out of the dry, brownish fern leaves and small twigs found in the woods this time of year - beautiful!
    Yes, winter is definitely not the monochrome time it often is said to be. There are greens and browns everywhere, and if we are lucky, we see some blue skies and golden sunrays - and eventually, the first flowers.
    I can just imagine how you now want to label everything :-)

  5. Gillian, I sorted my spice/cooking cupboard last week too because my mum bought me 3 Kilner spice jars for Christmas. I am getting more from here They are quite big (twice the size of swartz jar) so I decanted spices from bags into them. I really want a label maker now! Jo xx

  6. I remember those label makers, I didn't realise they are still made! Your old/new shawl looks fab, well done for mending it rather than handing it over to Ziggy for complete destruction. I would have been tempted! I enjoy winter time with all its dreich days, I feel it is ok to stay inside and potter when it is not so great outside. x

  7. Thats such a pretty shawl, love the earthy colours like the bracken...I was just saying to my other half (stevie) that Christmas is always sucha hive of activity and getting things finished off before break up hols and obviously going to see my Dad the Christmas week too it all seems such a whirl wind. Its lovely that peace in January and a few hours here and there to gather your thoughts and enjoy things you love doing instead of the mad race to get things done/finished. I have followed 'small sustainable steps' since her blog days as Vintage sheet addict. I really find inspiration from her de-cluttering and echo wellbeing. WE had a mad day clearing old unused kitchen , bedroom items. sometimes i think i'm lucky to live with a partner who comes from a family of 'throw it outers' family roots are more along the 'hoarding' line. so we suit each other perfectly i let him 'relax' more he helps me to get rid. When we first moved in together 5 christmas's ago I think he had four box's of life time 'things'...he was in for a shock when my moving van turned up!!!! i still laugh when i picture his face. But I need him so much for that because he's made me see to not to have such an emotional attachment to things. Im getting better. Oh' my days and to see the floor in my wardrobe still fills me with joy. The charity shops around here have been blessed with my things and the local food bank too for unwanted tins, christmas biscuits (we had 10 tins).
    I love the idea with the labels...Oh my id be adding them to everything such great fun! ;) x

  8. Your crochet is looking beautiful! I have a shawl WIP that is very similar to yours and really should finish it one of these days. The re-blocking did wonders, it really looks good. Your cupboard is so neat and organized! I love it. I keep all my food in a large pantry closet and would really like to put in those sliding wire bins on tracks, but they can be so expensive. Maybe just a few of them, even that would help. I love your gift to Abigail, very cheerful and interesting to look at. Happy January!

  9. What a truly gorgeous shawl. I need to do my kitchen cupboards too.

  10. January appears to be a nice gentle month for you! I had no idea you had a goldenrod on the go when I saw your best nine. I have been eyeing that one for a while and now I can't decide between that and the new Lau sweater she is releasing. I'm still leaning towards goldenrod in a lovely mustard. Shall we have a race? ;) Naw...that would take the gentle part out of crochet, wouldn't it! Happy January :)

  11. What a beautiful post. Wonderful photos. I wish I knew how to crochet...and how do you wear the shawl? Like a big scarf with dressy clothes or wrapped around yourself to snuggle under? Or?


    1. Hi Lizzy. I wear it like a scarf, with the point at the front and then then long sides wrapped around and trailing either side. It's not really thick enough to be something I would snuggle under - I get out my poncho when I'm that cold!
      Gillian x

  12. I love this time of year, too! I feel like I can finally relax from all the busyness of the past month. January is a nice, slow month and I like it. I love that you are making your own cleaner now, I really need to do that myself. I'm very sensitive to scents, especially artificial ones, so this would be perfect for me. Your cupboard looks so nice and organized - I love it!

  13. So much beauty in these quiet shades of winter. And well done with the cupboard tidy-out. Cupboards have a secret life of their own...
    Will give the home-made cleaner a go. Like Julia above I'm very sensitive to artificial scents, especially air "fresheners', some scented candles, and many women's perfumes. Poison by Dior smelled across a room is enough to bring on a migraine!

  14. I do like the cosyness of January, and the urge to knit or crochet all the things. Just not the mud. So much mud. Gorgeous shawl!

  15. The 'new' shawl is beautiful with the off white border. I hope you get on with your vinegar cleaner. I leave squeezed citrus peels in a jar of white vinegar for at least a week and use it on pretty much everything! Somehow the citrus makes the vinegar smell disappear as soon as it dries.


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