I was overjoyed last week when you shared the good news that Jane Brocket of Yarnstorm fame is back! These days she’s on Substack, but I first met her in the heyday of the domestic blog, circa 2005. In the early days of the early aughts, Jane’s focus was knitting (hence the blog’s name), but she quickly branched out into quilting and baking and all sorts of crafty pursuits. I came for the knitting, but I stayed for all of it. Whatever Jane did had my full support.
I’ve always liked that Jane takes domesticity seriously without sentimentalizing it. The Victorians believed that wife and mother should be the Angel of the House. Jane believes she should be the Artist of the House. She insists that utility isn’t the enemy of beauty, that everyday things can be and should be aesthetically pleasing, and that there’s value in the homemade and handmade.
Many years ago, before I got married and had children, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to spend my life writing things and making things. By and large, I’ve done just that. I don’t know that I’ve actually ever considered myself a homemaker, at least not in those words, but over the years I’ve tried to create a space for my family that’s comfortable and cozy, filled with art and quilts and books. I’ve done all sorts of crafting and created some wonderful things and some really big messes. One of the reasons I loved Yarnstorm was that Jane inspired me to look at my home as a kind of canvas–one great big art project!
These days, Jane is an empty nester, and as I read through the backlog of Yarnstorm newsletters, I’m especially interested in how having more time to herself has affected her crafting and homemaking. She’s made some beautiful rag rugs (which I think I’m going to try) and done some very interesting smocking (who knew smocking could be interesting?). Jane’s given up some crafts (for instance, she says she’s stopped making quilts because she has all the quilts she needs) and tried and abandoned others (pottery didn’t pan out for her).
(An aside: what crafts have you abandoned over the years? I tried and quickly gave up on lace shawls. In fact, just thinking about attempting to knit a lace shawl gives me a headache!)
A recent Yarnstorm post has me digging deep into the art of Carl Larsson, who largely painted water colors of his family and his home in Sweden. Clifton has been doing a lot of watercolor painting lately, and now I’m thinking maybe I’ll give that a try as well, at least when I’m not making rag rugs and knitting socks and buying huge bouquets of peonies’ at the farmer’s market …
So, what’s your Yarnstorm story? What do you feel inspired to try?
I remember the exact moment when I learned about Jane Brocket and her blog Yarnstorm. I had successfully integrated myself into a knitting group I noticed in a coffeehouse one evening. (I noted the date and time and came back a different week with my knitting and pretending to be surprised to find a knitting group there. Smooooth!)
Anyway, I met a woman in that group who was a Master Knitter. She asked me if I read the Yarnstorm blog, and immediately opened it up on her phone and showed it to me. And the rest is history! The inspiration found in that blog cannot be overstated. Quilting, knitting, baking, gardening, reading wonderful domestic books, and looking at amazing domestic art—it was all there and beautifully photographed to boot.
And then there are her books. Or more specifically, one book.
The Gentle Art of Domesticity was a pivotal book for me in my child raising years. I have read it cover to cover multiple times, but my main takeaway from it is that “domesticity” does not mean cleaning! It means all the “other” things that make a home a home. As you know, I can get a little hyper-fixated on cleaning and sometimes feel like I don’t have time for all the baking, quilting, gardening, stitching, etc. I felt like this book gave me permission to set down the dusting rag and make some cookies, or spend some time knitting dishcloths, or sewing a quilt.
The Gentle Art of Domesticity is also a feast for the eyes. The photography and vibrant colors make it a book that I love to pick up and leaf through randomly. I actually did just that when I had covid recently. What’s funny to me is that my personal taste/style is quite different than Jane’s. She loves intense color palettes, like Kaffe Fassett fabric and definitely comes from the “more is more” school of thought. She piles way too many pieces of candy on top of her cakes. But no matter! I still find her pure inspiration.
I do, however, love her taste in art. She favors domestic scenes, especially if there is a mother knitting or sewing in a charmingly messy room (probably with a child or two at her feet). And so do I. I find that type of art informs the kind of home I like to create. Her (and now yours and my) obsession with Carl Larsson has given me the freedom to leave my stitching on the table along with piles of books that I want to page through. I’m usually a “put it all away at the end of the night” kind of person. But I’ve been enjoying my domestic messes. If only I had known about Carl Larsson when I was in Stockholm! It turns out the National Museum has a ton of his art! (shakes fist in the air)
I feel like she is living the life that I was supposed to have. Advanced degrees in lovely things like Victorian literature, wine, and French, for heaven’s sake! She makes lovely sourdough bread, gardens, sews (clothes vs quilts), and now regularly visits Sweden to see her son and daughter-in-law. It’s interesting to see the things that she has gravitated away from, like quilting and a lot of baking. You asked what hobbies I’ve abandoned, and I’m not sure. Maybe sewing clothes, and like you I have no desire for lace knitting. But who knows what the future holds!
I was so thrilled to find out that she has picked up the thread of Yarnstorm in the form of a Substack newsletter! I’m hoping that our readers will get as much enjoyment out of her writing as we do.