It’s a very exciting week for the Curious Crew! Our newest mystery collection, The Handmade Sock Society 4, is available for presale from today. On this special and rather personal episode I’m going a little deep. Of course, we have some chatting about the theme for the collection and how the KALs will work. But I’m also looking back at my happiness project and word of the year went last year, and the surprising ways it has changed my life. And I’ll reveal my new word for 2021.
Alongside an eclectic yarn range, which includes Hazel Knits, Icelandic Lopi & CoopKnits, we stock a carefully chosen selection of needles and notions. We’ve also recently launched ‘hand dyed by meadowyarn’, our very own in-house, hand-dyed yarn range. Working in our tiny dye studio, nestled in the Suffolk countryside, we are able to indulge our love of colour, producing complex tonal, kettle-dyed shades across a range of weights and bases. With regular updates our collections evolve and grow, inspired by the landscape and people around us
Find all your favourite luxury yarns and discover plenty more at A Yarn Story, Bath’s premier yarn store based in Walcot Street, Bath, UK. From gorgeous skeins by The Fibre Co and Walcot Yarns to a fine selection from Shibui Knits, La Bien Aimée, House of a la Mode, and Julie Asselin, there is plenty for the discerning knitter to enjoy. With friendly and knowledgeable staff to help you browse, there is plenty for the discerning knitter to enjoy. Visit the store at Walcot Street, Bath or shop online at www.ayarnstory.co.uk.
Get the Handmade Sock Society 4 at a special early bird discount until the first pattern drops on Feb 4th!
#thehandmadesocksociety on Instagram
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#thehandmadesocksociety4 on Instagram
Simply Curious Socks: Free Beginner Sock Knitting Pattern & Workshop
Join the Curious Crew; Stay up to date with the Curious Handmade Newsletter
A Short History of the Handmade Sock Society Past HMSS Seasons
Resources I’ve found to help with reconsidering a relationship with alcohol
Holly Whitaker on Instagram
This post of Holly Whitaker’s in particular resonated and was one of the sparks that has lead me to where I’m at today
Sober Mom Squad on Instagram
TED talk: Gray Area Drinking by Jolene Park on YouTube
Drink Free Days App (particularly great if you’re not giving up completely just want to have some alcohol free days each week)
Welcome to the Curious Handmade Podcast. You’re listening to episode 322. This podcast is all about crafting a life of happiness and creativity. I’m your host, Helen, and you can find me on Ravelry as HellsBells and on social media as Curious Handmade. You can also find the full show notes and transcription my website at curioushandmade.com.
Hello, and thanks for joining me for a chat about knitting and life. Today I have a big announcement about The Handmade Sock Society, Season Four, a chat about current knitting projects and my word for the year. I’ll share a review of last year’s word and plans for this year. I’m super excited about The Handmade Sock Society, so let’s start with that. If you’re subscribed to my email list, you will have had some emails this week sharing about the theme for this season, and also links to my Simply Curious Sock
Workshop, which is a free sock knitting pattern and workshop series of emails that you can sign up for on my website. They’re my favorite version of vanilla socks in three sizes and are written in the Curious Handmade percentage checklist system. I published these back when I published my new website, or revamped my website, launched, I guess is the better word, and I haven’t really mentioned the socks, so I thought I’d just mention it now, in case you’re interested. You can sign up for that on my website, if
you missed it in my recent emails.
One of my favorite parts about designing a collection is coming up with the theme. I usually start with a seed of an idea and this time that was the word ‘fresh’. And then I have a lovely play on Pinterest just to see where that leads me, and this time it led me off on quite a tangent. So let me read you the description and set the scene for The Handmade Sock Society Season Four.
“Do you ever feel the urge to run away to a simpler life of gardens and chickens and endless walks through the tall grass, fresh eggs, fresh cut flowers, outdoor dining and early nights? I know I do quite frequently. It’s a totally romantic notion of country life, but I think that’s the point. It’s such a powerful daydream. So for the new season of The Handmade Sock Society, let’s live together in that daydream for a little while. The Handmade Sock Society, Season Four is a pattern subscription club for anyone who
loves socks, secrets and making wonderful things in the company of other big-hearted knitters. With six mystery sock knitting patterns released over six months, it’s an adventure in creativity and community.
The full season of The Handmade Sock Society celebrates life lived close to the landscape, whether it’s just a few days, escape from the city or a family tradition, stretching back generations. As makers, we know that slow living and slow work carry a beautiful paradox. It grounds us and it frees
us, it awakens our sensitivity to small details and the passing of time. It offers us a sense of endless possibility and shows us the pleasures of little rituals and routines repeated day after day. Out in the middle of nowhere, your senses wake up. A cool breeze on your face for a few moments in the early morning gives way to the sense of lavender and eucalyptus as you brush past on your way up the hill. There’s the crunch of grass and gravel beneath your shoes and the slow contented croon of chickens waking up. The rising sun makes quick work of a few lingering clouds and suddenly you can see for miles. If your heart is yearning for adventure, it’s waiting for you over the next rise. If you’d rather stay and potter in the garden all afternoon, there’s plenty to discover right here under your feet.”
If you are new to the podcast and my designs, I’d like to invite you to join us for The Handmade Sock Society. It’s six sock patterns that will be released one per month for six months. In past years, sometimes I have released them every two months, and this year it’s going to be every month, but I was reminded by someone on Instagram this week that it makes it a little bit hard to keep up. So I will make a note to extend the knit along at the end. And I’ll probably extend that for an extra couple of months, just so that people have time to catch up if they want to knit all six patterns.
If you’re wondering what the designs are like, I think looking at past seasons one to three will give you a quite a good idea. And this time I’m introducing one or two new techniques to keep things fresh, which was my original concept, but nothing too dramatic or scary. And if you’d like to have a look at those past designs, I have a handy blog post on curioushandmade.com. So the main thing you need to know is that pre-sales for the collection are open today and it’s available at both Ravelry and Gumroad, my stores there. I will link both of those from curioushandmade.com. if you want to find an easy way to find them, or probably put links in Linktree as well on Instagram.
For the past few weeks I haven’t had a complete break from work, but it has definitely been a nice reduced schedule. All the kids are on holidays, it’s our long summer holiday here in Australia, and I feel like I’m getting a lot closer to a better work life balance than I used to be. And I’ve been able to spend some quality time with both the kids and some of my crafty projects, which has been nice. For knitting I’ve been working away on my Habitation Throw with the Sweet Fiber advent set, which is just so beautiful. It has been lovely evening TV knitting, and an easy to pick up project here and there, when the opportunity arises. I’m now on to color 15 as I record this, and I did end up including the neon yellow mini.
If you watched my Vlogmas videos you would have seen I had a little bit of indecision about whether to include that one or not, but both Sophie and several viewers chimed in to say I should go for it, so I did, and I’m really happy with it. It just gives a lovely pop of bright color, which is very nice. Just makes all the other colors sing somehow. So I am glad I trusted Melissa from Sweet Fibers curation of her colorways for that. And now I’m getting well into the decrease side, so it feels like I’m on the downhill slope and I imagine I’ll finished this in the next few weeks. I’ve been keeping it in my Joji and Co. festive, cranberry pamper bag and it starting to outgrow that bag now, so I will need to move it to my Joji and Co box tote, next time I’m knitting on it. I think I’ll do that, make that transition.
In other crafty pursuits, I’ve been slowly getting my sewing space organized. I’m feeling very drawn to sewing projects lately, but I just haven’t got into them yet, I’m not sure why. I guess I’ve just been busy. I was talking about making my Houses Quilt top before Christmas, and I have done a tiny amount of work on that, but really not very much, so I’m just itching to get into it, but yeah, just haven’t got there. And I was talking about sewing a dress recently, again on Vlogmas and I have put a few more dress sewing patterns and this morning I actually managed to find some Merchant & Mills linen that I knew I had somewhere, I bought at Ray Stitch in London a couple of years ago when I was shopping with my dear friends, Bowen, Stuart and Elizabeth one day. And I just couldn’t find it in my fabric stash, but I eventually found it in the spare room in a box of blankets that had all got shoved in together in the movie from the UK. So that was one step forward.
My friend, Julia, got in touch on Instagram recently and suggested we do a dress sew along to motivate us because she’d seen me talking about it on Vlogmas , and so we’re going to do that with the #JanuarydressSAL, full sew along. Although at the rate I’m going, it might be February and March before I get to it, but the idea of the sew along is to motivate us both to get into our dress sewing projects that we both have lined up. So of course, if anyone wants to join us, you can just post your dress sewing projects on JanuarydressSAL hashtag on Instagram. Feel free to join in with that. I think the post for me will be a bit scant, but you never know, you never know. I think this dilemma highlights the difference between sewing and knitting for me, that knitting is so portable and a little bit more sociable. I can just quickly grab it and do a few rows while watching TV in the evening or chatting to someone on the phone, not that that happens very often, except with my mom these days. Does everyone feel really surprised now when they get an actual phone call from someone except their mom, or perhaps a dentist wanting to know why you haven’t shown up to an appointment? Or maybe that’s just me, the last one.
Anyway, that kind of brings me on to my word for the year. So it’s kind of a nice segue, which you’ll see why in a bit. I have been choosing a word for the year for many years now. And my word for the year is kind of as an alternative to resolutions. It is a simple word that gives me some guidance, perhaps a theme, something to reflect on, and mostly to help guide indecisions. And I just went back to figure out what my past words were because I couldn’t remember how long I’ve been creating a word for the year, and it felt like it had been a while, but I wasn’t quite sure. So I went back and listened just now to several January episodes of the podcast and I went back to 2016 where I hopefully announced what my previous two words for the year were, so I’ve gone back to 2014 and I listened to maybe three episodes where I was chatting about my word for the year. And it just made me laugh because I’m exactly the same person as I was back in 2014, and beyond, that perhaps hopefully a little bit older and wiser. I’m definitely evolving very slowly in a bit of a zigzag pattern, but I quite enjoyed listening to my thought processes from past me and what my feelings were at the time. And it did make me appreciate having the podcast as a bit of a record of my thoughts and mix and life. So that was quite nice from a selfish point of view.
I found out that my words for the year since 2014 have been ‘dream big’, ‘simplify’, ‘ease’, ‘abundance’, ‘breathe’, ‘intentional’. And that is up to 2019. And I think looking at that list, some were definitely better than others. I think ‘ease’ was my favorite. I ask myself throughout the year, how can I do this more easily? How can this be easier? And that had a great impact on my life. And I think in 2019 ‘intentional’ was also very helpful because I had a lot on that year. We were preparing to move, we moved to Australia that August and so I was having to be very intentional about my time. We did a lot of travel that year. When I look back at it, I think it was crazy, but we got through it and I didn’t feel too stressed. So I think the ‘intentional’ word was super, super helpful.
And then last year it was ‘healing’, which turned out to be, I think the most powerful one yet. And when I set that word at the beginning of the year, I didn’t really know what it meant. I think I just felt that need for it and I had a lot of very practical things come from that word. And I’ve been debating how much to share here, but if you’re up for it and possibly can cope with a bit of TMI, a little bit of too much information, here it goes. I feel like we’re all friends here and maybe my experience can help some of you, so I’ll deal with the shame hangover later. I’ll just basically share my story as that word has applied to my year last year.
So I started off going to see my doctor and asking her if I could sort of get a general checkup, I wanted to have a bit of a baseline and get some checks that I hadn’t ever had before, such as a skin check, which is very important here in Australia for skin cancer. It’s one of our biggest killers and something we have to keep on top of. So I got some blood tests done and I guess I have exactly being completely neglecting my health for the last X years, but I haven’t really been paying particular attention to it either. And I just wasn’t feeling that great. So the first thing the blood tests revealed was that I had such low iron, that I did the test and then as soon as my doctor got the results, she phoned me and said if I felt lightheaded or particularly bad, I had some particular symptoms, to call an ambulance and go to hospital until, if that evening I was in trouble because they needed to do an urgent iron infusion for me, which I think they did like the day after.
So my iron was horribly low and yeah, I had been doing Pilates and walking as my exercise, and was even feeling exhausted, lying on the reformer machine. So I guess that explained quite a bit, and this was not the first time I had extreme low iron. So I’m not sure why I didn’t realize sooner what was going on, but I had a lot going on at the time, and so was probably distracted by all that stuff, moving and travel and all sorts of stuff. It seems like a lifetime ago now after 2020, but anyway. So I had been diagnosed with a condition called adenomyosis about five years ago, and that is very heavy periods and it had been getting worse. I’ve been trying to avoid a hysterectomy by pursuing every other sort of treatment and medication and things, but it wasn’t working. So I ended up going through the process of seeing a gynecologist and booking in to have the hysterectomy which I had in October. So throughout the year, I had also worked on my nutrition and building up the iron by taking supplements and eating a good diet and dealing with a few other more minor, or less extreme deficiencies. And so that was all going quite well and was dealing with a major health issue that I had, I guess.
And also alongside of all of that, in June I started another project that became quite a major change for me. I started cutting back on alcohol after consumption had crept up over the past few years and then even more through COVID and lockdowns and the stress of 2020, crazy things happening. And so I started cutting back using Tiny Habits. I’ve mentioned the Tiny Habits book before on the show, which is…I’ve just really embraced, that philosophy or that program. So I started by cutting out booze one day a week, then two days a week, over a period of a few months until I was just down to two days a week of drinking, and then I stopped altogether in August. So I’m not sure if it’s a permanent decision, but I’ve decided to keep it cut out of my diet for this year and to see how I feel at the end of the year about that.
I’m very much enjoying being alcohol-free, that clearer headspace, it’s helped reduce anxiety quite significantly. I didn’t realize how high my anxiety was until it fell a lot when I stopped drinking. And I’ve since read that anxiety is a side effect of alcohol, which I was completely unaware of. If you’d asked me, I probably would have thought it was the other way around, that it helped relax you, but that is not the case. So I am sleeping a lot better and I have to say though, that those beneficial effects probably took around four months to really feel. So for the first month I was like, “I’ve stopped drinking, I’ve done this big thing and I’m not even feeling that much better. So like, is it really worth it?” But I stuck with it and now four or five months later, I’m feeling really good and yeah, I’m loving it, so keen to keep going.
And if you’re thinking about doing something like that, even just reducing a little bit, or I don’t know, whatever you feel might be good for you, I found a lot of helpful resources and support on Instagram and YouTube. I’m happy to share those if anyone is interested. I obviously don’t want to preach or say that other people should do this as well, but I’m just sharing what I did this year and I’m very happy to chat to anyone about it. I’m definitely not expert, but very happy to share my experience.
So then, more recently, I’ve started focusing on getting more sleep. Previously my sleep was not great, I was getting interrupted quite a bit by my kids during the night, and just not getting enough hours. And so I’ve been focusing on trying to get better asleep as my latest tiny habit, and that is definitely starting to have a great effect. I’m very pleased with how that’s going, and so I will continue working on that this year. Because of all of that and because I have only just started, I guess feeling the benefits from some of the major changes that I made last year, I was thinking about just continuing with the word ‘healing’ this year, because I feel like I still have a long way to go. But I was just walking out the door one day before Christmas to do some shopping, and Sophie called out, “Your word for the year should be, connect’.”
And I was like, “Oh, okay.” And then I went out shopping and I was thinking about it as I was driving, and it really resonated with me because last year I had been doing the opposite of connecting. At the beginning of lockdown, I thought I would really connect a lot with people online, but somehow sending a text or replying to a text, became a super hard thing to do. And I became quite reclusive really. And in a way it was fine, I mean, everybody was having to be a bit like that. And, you know, we weren’t able to socialize in person and, but just even online, connections became quite difficult for me. And so when Sophie said that, it just sort of sparked a little light bulb moment. And I thought, “Yes, that is what I need to do this year.”
And I had been wondering why she came up with that, and then she gave me a candle with ‘connect’ on it for Christmas. So I was like, “Oh, that’s where you got the word from”. So ‘connect’ it is, and I’m embracing that for 2021. That’s definitely not going to be easy for me as an introvert, and I’ve become even more extreme introvert over the last, I’d say, two years, but I think it’s going to be good. And I love my friends, my knitting community and all my online friends and in-person friends. And I do love being sociable, but I just need to get back into the swing of it, I think.
So this guiding word is going to support that this year. Already it seems to be working its magic, as I had two phone calls from dear friends who I’ve known for 20+ years, and people I hadn’t heard from for about five years, so it was quite uncanny. And going back to my comment earlier about not getting phone calls from anyone except mum, it was quite startling, but in a really, really good way. We had really good catch-up and it was so nice to hear their voices. So, and that was wonderful. And I was kind of like, “Wow, I’m really connecting and I’m not even trying.” And I think perhaps if it hadn’t been my word, I might’ve let the calls go to voicemail because phone calls, I don’t know if I can handle them, but then I realized that I could.
So I’m not quite sure how the word is going to sort of permeate and manifest through the year, I haven’t set any particular goals. I did think about making goals of trying to send my friends birthday cards and thank you notes, something like that, like a deliberate practice of connecting. I’m not sure yet, the jury is still out on that one, whether I commit to that or not, but I might just let it be there in the background and prompt me to take opportunities as they arise and prompt me to initiate some connections. So if you’re still listening, thank you. And I look forward to connecting with you more this year. And just before I sign off, I’d like to thank my lovely sponsor, A Yarn Story.
So have a wonderful week. I would love to hear what your word for the year is. So I will make a note to set up a thread on Ravelry and we can share our words for the year. Or tag me on Instagram. If you’re sharing your word for the year, I’d love to see what other people are choosing to focus on this year. Happy knitting and I’ll talk to you soon.