My creative year 2023

Three years in a row is a tradition, so I’m now making it a tradition to write about my creative year in a blog post. If you have a look at my instagram, you can already see a video roundup of my favourite 2023 knits by designers Poisongrrrl and Tailoress Studio. 

2023 was a year full of travels for me. 

Taipei, Taiwan

In February, I finally returned to Taiwan after many many years and roadtripped around the island which was absolutely fantastic. I knew from the outset that I wanted to go fabric shopping, because I’ve always adored the big floral print cottons that used to be very popular for home decor and clothing in the 1960s, but then turned into a grandma-associated fabric until their re-discovery in the early 2000s as a material expression of Taiwanese art and identity. 

In Taipei, I visited the Yongle Fabric Market (永樂布業商場) which is the biggest (indoors) fabric and haberdashery mall in Taiwan, and I was quite overwhelmed with the offer. The Market is located in the historical DiHua Street which has been a buzzling merchandize street since the 1850s and is very worth a visit irregardless of your interest in fabric or cloth. 

I had considered to be looking for silk fabrics, but finally settled on Taiwan flowers on cotton, because with my limited knowledge of Mandarin it felt like a safer option (I would like proper recommendation when shopping for something as exquisite as silk or brocade). Within the budget that I had given myself (100€) I ended up getting two types of beautiful floral cotton (1.5m and 3m) and also 2.5m of some wool (with a thread of stellina) in my favourite geometric pattern: houndstooth. By the end of the year, I have sewn two dresses, a matching bolero, two purses and a sunset that I don’t quite like and I am waiting for the courage to sew a coat from my beautiful wool fabric.    

While in Taiwan, I of course also wanted to get a glimpse of the local knitting scene, but the opening hours of a seemingly more popular yarn store in the outskirts of Taipei didn’t match up with my itinerary. Instead, I visited a little yarn store that was conveniently right next to my hotel. I only heard about it, because Anna from Along Avec Anna mentioned it to me as a stockist of her yarns. It was quite an experience to get to as it wasn’t a traditional store with a street-facing storefront. Instead, I had to go up a few floors above a bar and then walk down a hallway that looked like a residential building, but had little stores with all kinds of products hidden behind open or closed doors. The doors to the yarn store was closed, but opened when I knocked and I entered a room the size of my home office with walls full of yarn and a table inside and an incredibly friendly owner whom I had a very nice chat with. I didn’t pick up any yarn as most of them were imported from either Europe or the US, but it was great to meet a fellow knitter in this part of the world. 

Toronto, Canada 

Next up, I was travelling to Canada to spend a few weeks for my PhD, and while it not only boosted my thesis writing morale, I also got really into the local Swing Dancing Scene and made a lot of friends very quickly – conveniently, the wife of one of my dearest dancer friends from the scene was a knitter and we hit it right of. Even more unexpectedly, a knitter who is just as big a Poisongrrls fan as I am, is friends with that dancer too and it was a great experience meeting her for knit (and rockabilly dance) dates. 

Because the going out and dancing was such a central part of my experience in Toronto, I wanted to materialize that experience through a knitted project. The Soundtrack Cardigan, with its nod to music and past decades, by Poisongrrls was the perfect pattern for it and I picked out yarn in a local yarnstore and carried it to all the bars and dance venues to be infused with the music as I was knitting along to the swinging tunes in between dances. 

Outside one of my favourite bars and dance venues in Toronto, showing off my Soundtrack Cardigan

For the first time, I joined knitter meetups (in another local yarn store) and really enjoyed those chatty afternoons – I wish there was something like it in Graz. I picked up some of their hand-dyed merino yarn to take home and recently finished an Elisabeth Blouse from it that’s a real standout garment. 

My Elisabeth Blouse in Krakow, November 2023

Also for the first time, I attended a yarn festival which I honestly didn’t love – too much yarn in one place. It was hard for me to enjoy the display of what felt like overconsumption. But it was nice to have a chance to touch different fibres that I had not yet been familiar with as I tend to stick to merino, Mohair, silk and Alpacca yarns. I did pick up yarn and while I love the pink one I got, I really don’t know what to do with the other – a speckled sweater quantity I panic purchased at the sight of so much yarn and so many people … 

My pink cardigan in the Austrian countryside, August 2023

New York 

At the beginning of the year, I had been really excited to go fabric shopping when in New York – finally check out all those stores and districts that my favourite sewing pattern designer Gertie Hirsch always mentions and shop from. But then I got so overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities in the big city and focused my energy elsewhere. Looking at the amount of fabric I have at home it doesn’t feel like a big loss. 

I did wear some of my handmades around New York and it was great feeling fashionable and unique in Carrie Bradshaw’s city 😉 

After I returned to Europe I did not buy any yarn for the rest of the year, and even if I popped into fabric stores here and there on my many European travels I did take any more material souvenirs home. 

A year of working with my yarn stash 

At the beginning of 2023 I was looking to motivate myself to work through my leftover yarn so I decided to do a #TwelveLittleKnits Challenge where I would knit one little things with leftover yarn a month. 

In the end, I made several little knits like christmas tree ornaments, mittens, hats, one skein summer tops and a toy cardigan,  in addition to numerous (I think 8) pairs of socks and (at least 6) Sophie Scarfs. 

What felt like a chore in the beginning quickly came to be a fun exercise and turned into a mentality about knitting. Where I would before start into a project with a set plan I became a lot more flexible by trying to first see what I have and then maybe substitute the original idea with a good compromise. 

While my yarn drawers are far from empty it is nice to see some gaps opening up and I really hope to continue reducing my yarn stash. In terms of yarn, I honestly think that I am well equipped for another year of not buying any new yarn (maybe some cream mohair to tone down that funky yarn from the Canadian yarn fair). I want to move away from being a Stash-person to becoming a “buys what she needs”-person. 

In 2024, I want to continue with the mentality to work with what I have, and also expand it to my fabric stash! I’ve put myself under a fabric-buying ban until at least the >1m quantities have been worked with. 

2023 statistics 

In 2023 I created a total of 56 garments, half of which were for myself. 

More than anything else, I made T-Shirts: 18 in total of which 7 were for my husband and 5 for my father. They were also the main beneficiaries of all the sweaters I made: my father received 3 sweaters (they really make a great gift) and my husband 4 sweaters and two sweater zip jackets (both of which I hated making). 

Just one of many Basic Shirts (Pattern by Lotte & Ludwig) I made this year

I was surprised to see that I made “only” 6 dresses, all of which I really love and have worn loads already. 

My top designers this year are (unsurprisingly) Lotte&Ludwig whom I love for Wardrobe Staple patterns, Gertie Hirsch and her brand Charm patterns of whom I have been a Patreon supporter for 4 years now, Poisongrrls who designs the best retro knitwear and Tailoress Studio who has no-fail chic comfort knitting patterns. 

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