Episode 323: The Happiness Project: 2020 review and new plans

Blue fabric with beige yarn, a cup of coffe scissors & spectacles with some greenery

As we settle into the swing of the New Year, I’m still taking stock and making plans. On this week’s episode, I have a fun review of how I did on my list of Happiness Projects last year. It wasn’t a normal year for anyone, but I think the results still add up to some significant happiness! I’m also chatting about what I’ve put on the list for 2021, and how that’s shifted. And of course, as the first pattern of The Handmade Sock Society comes closer we’re chatting a bit about that too.

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Show Links:

Get the Handmade Sock Society 4 at a special early bird discount until the first pattern drops on Feb 4th!

The Handmade Sock Society 4 on Ravelry

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Simply Curious Socks: Free Beginner Sock Knitting Pattern & Workshop 

A Short History of the Handmade Sock Society Past HMSS Seasons 

The Handmade Sock Society 1 – Single Patterns

The Handmade Sock Society 2 –  Single Patterns

The Handmade Sock Society 3 –  Single Patterns

Magic Loop Tutorial 

THSS Season 4: Yarn Spoiler Thread

House Quilt Block Tutorial

#januarydresssal on Instagram

The Habitation Throw

The Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft

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Knit20for2021 Printable PDF

January #knit20for2021 FO Thread

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Píosa Cardigan by Renée Callahan

From Cinthia on Instagram

Cinthia Vallet Patterns on Ravelry

#sadiesouris on Instagram

Liberty Fabrics 

The Strawberry Thief

Grow Embroidery from Brynn & Co.

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Show transcript:

Welcome to the Curious Handmade podcast. You’re listening to episode 323. 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 our show notes and transcript on my website at curioushandmade.com. I’d like to say a big thank you to my sponsor, A Yarn Story.

Hello, and welcome to the show this week. I’m feeling like the year can start in earnest now, as I’ve made all my plans and lists, and the girls are back at school this week as of Wednesday. I’m telling myself to allow lots of space and time for the first two weeks or so for us to settle into a new routine and activities, and get through the various information evenings, and signing up to activities, or those beginning of school year processes that seem to happen, and I usually don’t allow any time for. I’m just so immensely grateful that they’re able to go back to school relatively unrestricted by COVID. We’ve had a few outbreaks over the holidays, thankfully they didn’t get out of control, so far. So fingers and toes crossed so that situation stays the same. We had a lovely, lazy last couple of weeks of the holidays.

The weather has been mostly hot and sunny with a few hot and rainy days. So it has guided a slower pace, and I think we’re all feeling quite rested and refreshed, which is wonderful. Last week, things at Curious Handmade headquarters got off to a buzzy start for the year with the launch of the Handmade Sock Society Season Four, and it’s currently open for presales at a great early bird price offer. If you’re new to the podcast and my designs, the Handmade Sock Society is a subscription to six sock patterns that will be released one per month for six months. The presale offer is available both on Ravelry and my Gumroad platform, and you’ll be able to find links to both of those on my website and in my Instagram link tree profile. The early bird offer is, as I said, about 30% off the regular price.

There’s no code needed. It’s just automatically at that price. It will go up to the regular price on Thursday, the 4th of February, when the first pattern is released. So now is a good time to jump in, but obviously you don’t have to, you can wait and see what the first patterns are like, or the first few patterns are like. If you’re interested, I have just released previous two collections of the Handmade Sock Society as single patterns. They are available to have a look at, and previous seasons does probably give quite a good idea of the style and what the designs will be like. They’re all new and fresh of course, but my style is my style. I haven’t any sudden changes. I will just answer a few frequently asked questions that have come up about that the society, the SOC society. Five of the designs are top-down and one is toe-up this time, which is a first for me to do toe-up.

I just wanted to stretch my skills a little bit and take you along with me for the ride. But if you have already tried toe-up and it’s not your bag, then you can still knit that one top-down. It’s easily adaptable. Generally, the skill level is I’d say intermediate or adventurous beginner. The basic recipe for the socks is fairly straightforward. I personally like my knitting to be fairly relaxing and potato chippy, so my designs usually reflect that. I write the sock patterns for Magic Loop because that’s how I knit my socks. But if you prefer using DPNs or nine inch circulars, it’s easy to adapt. I’m sharing yarn details on a spoiler thread in my Ravelry group. I will post the yarn that I’ve used for the socks in there upfront. I haven’t organized updates with the yarn dyers for these.

It’s just a suggestion. It’s not an organized yarn option particularly, if that makes sense. I will try and coordinate with the dyers to do some updates around the same time as the design is released, but that’s not really the intention of sharing the yarn there. It’s more just a suggestion to highlight the yarn dyer. You can just maybe, I don’t know, get some ideas, but I really just feel with socks it’s … any yarn is really suitable, any sock yarn. Because these socks do have patterning on them, I’ll probably tend to go for a more muted colorways in the sense of semi solids or nothing too wild, but if you love wild yarn, then just go for it and you probably have accepted by now that the pattern doesn’t show up as clearly when you’re using highly variegated yarn, but that’s okay if that’s what you love.

I just think it’s personal choice when you’re choosing yarn and colors. It’s so personal, but in any case, I’m sharing what yarn I’ve used for the sample a couple of weeks before the pattern comes out, and that is shared in my Ravelry group at the moment. Just a word on that. One of my projects for this year, hopefully before the option to use the old interface ends in March, is to find an alternative platform for the chat and community aspect, but I don’t have a solution for that just yet. I just find increasing the number of platforms that I use, I’m not very keen on. Because the Ravelry website redesign has caused health problems for people, and even with some changes having been made, I think an alternative is needed. I’m very sad about that; I’m still hopeful it will be remedied, but I haven’t seen much communication about it lately. I don’t know, but I just wanted to address that here. That’s what I’m using for the time being, and I am conscious and looking into it. In the words of Heraclitus, the only constant is change. And as a business owner working online, I have to be adaptable and change quite regularly.

I’m just grateful to be able to run my business from home at the moment. I’ll just leave it at that for now, and I’ll keep you posted on that project. Just a little update this week on my current works in progress. My main projects have been focused on getting the girls ready to get back to school with some new shoes, haircuts, and a list of what will be acceptable in lunchboxes. We used to have school lunches in the UK and London, but now I have to come up with meals every day for them, and that’s a bit of a challenge, trying to embrace it. I’ve asked them what they will actually eat. The list is quite short, but I can work with it. In crafty projects, I’ve spent some time working on my House’s Quilt.

I’m currently making the blocks, which are fairly simple, the three pieces in a block to make the little house shape. I’m very much enjoying that. I haven’t made any progress on the #JanuaryDressSALthe January dress sew-along that I’m doing with my friend, Julia, and some other people have joined in. Knowing myself, I probably should have called it the all of 2021 dress sew-along, but just know that there’s not really an end date for this sew-along you can join at any time, and just think of the #JanuaryDressSAL as representing when the makealong started. I am looking forward to that. I have some lovely fabrics and patterns to start, and I have a big roll of tracing paper so that I can reuse my patterns, because I think some of the dresses and tops Sophie would really like to wear as well.

That will enable us to use them for various sizes. I’ve done a few rows on my Habitation Throw, but most of my knitting this week has been swatching for upcoming top secret designs, so I can’t tell you too much about that yet. This week, I thought I would share a review and upcoming plans for my happiness project. I have come up with a list for 2021 projects, after lots of pondering. This is a meme that I heard about on The Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft, I think back in 2018. I’ve been doing this since 2018, and refining my lists and how I think about it. The idea is that you just basically come up with a list of things that you’d like to do this year that will make you happy. Lots of people do different approaches to it, of course and I thought it would fit in with the January theme and third part in an informal January planning series I seem to have created.

The first week we had the knit 20 in 2020 review and a kickoff for knit 20 in 2021. Last week I talked about my word for the year. By the way, thank you to everybody who contacted me after I shared about my review of last year’s word, which was ‘healing’ and sent me lovely messages. Thank you very much, I appreciate it, and for sharing your stories as well. I thought this week, I’d give you a brief review of last year’s happiness projects, and then my plans for this year. Last year I had 20 things on my list. Four of them were travel related and couldn’t happen because of COVID. I’ll just quickly address them.

I had a quarterly friends date with my friend, Joe, who’s one of my best friends from university days, and she lives in New South Wales, so we literally haven’t been able to cross the state border and see each other for all this time. She did come up once. When was that? Maybe September? The borders opened … or maybe it was later. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I saw her once, for a day, when she came up to mostly see family, but did a flying visit up here. So the quarterly thing didn’t happen, and I had a relaxing holiday (?) Bali Villa. I absolutely love Bali. I think it’s so beautiful. I was thinking maybe I could organize a trip there, but that did not happen and we also didn’t. I thought maybe we could do something locally, but we didn’t really do that.

We’ve been up to Noosa for three days in the holidays, and that was about it. It was relaxing, but I don’t really think that that ticks the box of what I had in mind. I had an Ireland wedding trip, my lovely friend Amanda, who is also my copywriter. She had her wedding scheduled and had to cancel. That was quite sad. We were looking forward to catching up with friends in the UK, so that didn’t happen. And I also had a Shetland trip that had been booked for about four years with some friends, and that was also canceled. But, to be honest, I had already canceled that trip because it was just looking like too much, now that we were on Australian school schedule rather than the UK school schedule, that became not very … it didn’t fit in with the routine as well.

I had already planned to cancel that. So it wasn’t really COVID’s fault, but I’m still blaming COVID. There’s some things that I didn’t manage. I’ll just quickly talk about them. Digital declutter and organize I didn’t really do at all. I’m not exactly sure what I meant by that, but anyway, I didn’t really do any of that. A coast walk with my family. I imagine doing a significant length walk along the beach trails with my family. That didn’t happen. I did do a walk with Sophie along the beach. I wanted to do a beach clean. We didn’t do that. I had joined a music group, an orchestra or a band. My dad is a member of a band locally, and I’ve been thinking about joining that. That was also quite disrupted by COVID last year, and they’re back and able to practice again now, but I didn’t do that last year.

The things that I partially did were my 40th birthday quilt, which I’m now calling the Houses Quilt. I’ve made progress on that, although not finished. I had KonMari on the list and it wasn’t very well defined what that meant, but I think it meant a very complete declutter and simplification of the whole house. I did a lot of work towards that, I’d say maybe 75 to 80% achieved, maybe. I’m not sure. I kind of got a bit stuck at the unstash, to be honest. But yeah, I did, I mean I did my thousand item declutter and that was huge. I did do a lot towards that, but I don’t feel like that’s completed. I also had … No these maybe fall into the not achieved category. Five dinner recipes we all like, and three new, easy breakfasts. No, I didn’t achieve that at all. In fact, we’ve kind of gone backwards since moving from the UK to Australia, because Lexie doesn’t like the sausages here, which was one of my staples. They taste different and I agree with her. We haven’t really managed to find meals that the whole family will eat, which was my goal.

So, some significant partial successes, I would say. And then the full successes I am counting, set up my studio/office. I feel like there’s still some fun to be had shuffling things around and making it even better, but it’s definitely set up. Friday, me-time. I had the goal of just taking Fridays a bit easier, maybe getting a massage and doing things that I want to do. I did that fairly often, so I’m counting that as a success. Gray hair don’t care, fully transitioned, got rid of all my dyed hair, that happened, which is very freeing and feels great. I had ‘grow lettuce and tomatoes’ so I did do that. Not very successfully, but I did do it, so I can tick it. The lettuce got bugs in it and the tomatoes just went a bit wild and I stopped picking them, so it was okay for a very beginner gardener. Create and print photo albums. For about 10 years, I’ve been wanting to create printed physical albums. I managed to do one in the week between Christmas and new year.

I thought I won’t give up on all these projects that I haven’t achieved, so I achieved that one that the very last minute, which was fantastic. I’m going to make that an annual tradition of making my album for the year that week, in the week between Christmas and new year, which I absolutely love that week. I don’t know why. I just think it’s so … I don’t know, it’s a bit magical for me. I think I’ll make it an annual reflection on the year that’s been, and put a photo album together. Create and tend houseplant family. Yes, I did that. I’ve got lots of house plants and they’re going pretty well. I’ve had a few fatalities, but generally they’ve been pretty good. I’m happy with that. I’ll wait till I announced my list for this year, but that’s going to make a reappearance because it was very happy project for me.

And then I’ve ticked streamline routines and systems. I don’t know on what basis I’ve said that that’s done, but definitely has improved, I’d say. We had kind of a year of getting used to the rhythm of things here in Australia, and it’s a completely different school year cycle. We start in January and have four terms, and don’t have half terms like we did in the UK. In the UK it was three terms, which were all split in half with a half-term week’s holiday. So there were six school holidays in a year, and now we have four, which I much prefer, it seems to be a lot easier to manage.

So yes, I’d say we did quite well with that. I think that covers my 2020 items from last year. I’m pretty pleased with that. It’s quite a lot better than some years, and I feel, given the year we had, it’s not bad. I’m feeling really good about it and very happy about it, which is the whole point. My happiness projects for this year, I’ve gone for 20 again, just trying to get a bit better at formulating the list each year. So, I wrote my list and it’s taken me ages, and when I look at it I think, yes, all those things would make me happy if I did them. I feel that’s a good start. The first one is finish my House’s Quilt, which is the quilt previously known as the 40th birthday quilt from last year.

I’m turning 49 this year, so I feel like it might get finished by the time I’m 50, which would be quite cool. The number two is finish three personal knitting works in progress. I’ve listed the Píosa Cardigan by Renée Callahan, Sadie Souris From Cinthia and Habitation Throw, which is my design. So I’d like to … well Actually, the Sadie Souris isn’t really a work in progress except that I have the kit, so maybe that counts as a work in progress. But I’d like to complete all of those and I think that’s doable. I’d like to prepare and possibly take my Grade 6 flute exam. I picked up learning the flute again a couple of years ago. I learned as a child and was probably approaching Grade 6 level. I feel like it’s taken me two years to get back to about where I was, although my fingers are a little bit stiffer and slower than they were at that stage, but I don’t know. Hopefully, that’s just practice.

Picking up the flute again has made me super happy and I feel like I need a bit of a goal to keep me on track with practice and progressing with that. Then, number four is simplify my stuff, and that’s kind of an alternative to KonMari from last year, really probably KonMari in the sense of the process that Marie Kondo suggests is not realistic, so I think I’ll take a more peel-the-onion approach of just working towards having a more simplified space. I don’t know that I’ll ever be a minimalist. I really am drawn to the Boho look of things. I like collections of things and displays and lots of color and visually interesting things to look at. I’m probably never going to be a minimalist, but I would like to pare back the stuff I have to what I love. It’s a little bit of a combination of KonMari and minimalism, and it reflects my journey of this, which I’ve been talking about on the podcast for many years now.

So yes. Simplify my stuff is number four, then number five is my Liberty Hexie quilt project. I saw that this year after seeing a, new to me, fabric shop here in Australia, which is called The Strawberry Thief, doing monthly subscription kits for Liberty Hexie, hexagon, English paper piecing kits. And so I signed up for that and I’ve been working on that most of this year, I think. I don’t have any particular goals. I’m very, very slow and that’s fine. I just enjoy working with the beautiful Liberty Lawn fabric. Number six is Friday me-time has made a reappearance, and this year I’m trying to schedule my time so that I don’t work on weekends as well, so I’ve added Friday me-time/weekend fun projects. My idea is that I get my work done during the week and then work on my personal quilting and knitting projects on Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

So we’ll see how it goes, it’s flexible if I need to do some work on the weekend, it’s not the end of the world, but that’s my vision for how I like my life to be. Hopefully, if I work towards that, I will waste less time during the week. I tend to be just been very … kind of poor concentration and lots of faffing around, and distractions too. I’m just trying to gently move myself to a place where I’m concentrating a bit more, I’m a bit more focused during the week and then can really enjoy my relaxation time on the weekend. I’ve got a bushwalk, which is kind of like a hike or a tramp and other lingo. In Australia we call it a bushwalk when you go out in nature and walk through nature, usually in the bush. There’s lots of easy walks around here and I’d like to explore that a bit more, and I’m setting the bar nice and low with just one to start with, and we’ll see where that takes us.

I have two writer’s retreats with my sister, I don’t know why we’ve called it a writer’s retreat but, anyway, it’s like a little bit of time away. A day or two, or a weekend, or something like that. And I’ve also put four business retreats with another friend. I just went on a little weekend away, a couple of days away with my other dear friend from university days. She’s recently started her own business. We were planning on just having a friends’ couple of days together, but ended up chatting a lot about business and thought it would be fun to have the accountability buddies with each other, and maybe do that weekend again a couple of times during the year. So one of those is already done, and so that’s a nice successful tick in one of the boxes.

I’ve put five new yummy recipes, and I’ve given up on trying to find something that everyone will eat. I’m just aiming to find something that I like to eat. If other people like them, then fabulous, but I thought it would be … I do love cooking and I love food. That’s what I’ve put down, let’s see how that goes. For number 11 I have try dad’s band. I’ve downgraded that one from definitely joining a group to just trying it. I thought I have a bit of a barrier committing to that. I’m just not sure if I want to join or not. I thought, why not just go once and see. That’s what that is. Number 12 is a girls outing once a month. I would hopefully get out with friends once a month for lunch, movies, something sociable, which kind of ties in with my word for the year, which is ‘connect’. Tend to my houseplant family, that’s a reappearance from last year, which was a success, so I’m keeping that one. Do a project with Lexie. I’m not sure what I mean by that at this stage.

Number 15 is make Lexie’s first year photo album. When Sophie was born, the first child got her own very carefully curated and lovingly prepared photo album from her first year of life. Lexie is now nearly 10 and I still haven’t done hers. That has to happen this year, if nothing else, that has to happen this year. Celebrate another friend’s 50th. Book club, which is something that my friends in London and I have started doing a virtual book club this year. I am loving that, so I am keen to keep that going. Hopefully everyone else is too. I put number 18, finish my Grow embroidery.

I’ve talked about this on the podcast in the past, this has been a work in progress, I don’t know, three or four years now. I bought it from a company called Brynn & Co, who is a lovely designer. She designs these embroidery kits based on the Sunshine Coast here. At the time I was living in London and ordered it from her. It wasn’t till it arrived that I discovered where she was based in Australia. She goes to the local Sunshine Coast markets here, so I got to meet her in person when we went to one of the markets last year. I’d like to finish that. I’ve made a little bit of progress on it. There’s still quite a lot of work to do on that. I don’t know if it will get finished this year, but I’d definitely like to progress it.

I’ve put 19 and 20 projects that will wait till December. So vlogmas with Sophie, again, I had so much fun doing vlogmas with her and doing a 2021 photo album, and I’ve put in brackets in December so for that last week of the year that I talked about. That’s my list for the year. I think it’s pretty ambitious. I don’t expect to do all of that, half would be fab. I think it really helps to write it down and put some thought into it and set your intentions at the beginning of the year though, because then it gives you something to refer to and aim for. Even if you don’t achieve all of it, you can achieve probably more than you would if there was no defined intention. I enjoy the process. It’s lovely thinking about what you really want to spend your time doing.

I think that’d be fun. I would of course love to hear about your projects. If you’d like to follow the hashtag that Gretchen Rubin hosts or the Happier Podcast hosts, the hashtag is #21for2021. And if you’re anything like me, you love seeing what other people want to do and think about, and get some good ideas from. I like looking at other people’s lists. Their hashtag is #21for2021. There’s probably other hashtags that you can find similar things, and I’ll keep you updated with progress every now and then. So that’s all I have for you today. I’ll wrap it up there because it turned into a longer than usual episode for me. 

So sending all my love and good wishes to all of you, I hope that you’re safe and doing okay. I know things are really, really tough at the moment and just hoping you’re like, “Hey,” enjoying some knitting, crafting, and I’ll talk to you again soon.

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