We can meet again in private gardens in Leicester, so this afternoon I really enjoyed a cup of tea in the rain - with a friend I hadn't seen for months. His garden is a very bird friendly one so there was the added pleasure of robins, blue tits, blackbirds, and gold crests (the latter right above our head in a birch tree) busily eating everything they could find. The combination of the relative privacy of a garden with conversation underlined for me how often it's relatively little things which make a big difference.
Going to Shetland in September was a big thing in the context of this year, but it was the simple luxury of being able to step outside and walk for miles without seeing anybody, coupled with the long views, and the wild things to watch that made it so special. That, and being able to spend a bit of time with immediate family - none of which I will ever take for granted again. Altogether it rebooted me into a much more positive frame of mind.
I'm lucky in that I have hobbies well suited to spending a lot of time in relative isolation - knitting, reading, painting, planning spreadsheets of all the weird tales in the various anthologies I have which can act as a master index... None of these things demand (or encourage) company. Buying yarn in Shetland was another activity that demanded a certain amount of privacy - I didn't spend too much (in my opinion) but a critical audience (such as my father) may have disagreed. It was also a lot of fun - even more for the anticipation that went into it, some of which was fueled by the teaser images on Instagram for the patterns.
When wool week was officially cancelled for this year I was one of the many people who vocally hoped that the annual would be produced anyway. It's always been a publication to look forward too - another small thing which could be rescued from the chaos of this year and become something to look forward too. I hope it has also helped some of the people in Shetland who's wool based income will have taken a hit this year.
I really have been looking forward to it, and when my copy finally landed with me on Wednesday morning I was delighted. There's a good range of patterns again - a Donna Smith Jumper which is tempting, Alison Rendall's sock pattern which I'm determined will be the first pair of socks I make, leg warmers, mitts, and hats which are all very accessible patterns for Fair Isle novices, and perfect for making as Christmas presents. They're great patterns for not novices as well, but as discussed with The Shetland Wool Adventures Journal it's great to have patterns which are broadly inclusive for basic knitting abilities that actually look like things you want to make and wear.
The pattern I'm most attracted to though is Ella Gordon's Radiant Star Cowl. It's featured on the cover and is very much the sort of thing I want for myself. I like everything about this cowl, especially the nods towards vintage knitwear and Shetland's working history. Ella wrote an excellent blog post about her inspiration and process which is well worth a look. Something else to hope for is that one day she might write a book which brings all her knitting interests together.
There are articles I'm looking forward to spending more time with in the annual too - and altogether it's a really good buy at £21. I see some of the older volumes are also being offered at serious sale prices on the website HERE. I recommend any and all of them.