Winter’s End

Happy Wednesday and welcome to our My Place project! Bonnie Sennott is an artist and designer whose work is, I’m sure, already very well known to many of you. She’s produced patterns for Brooklyn Tweed, Quince & Co and Interweave, as well as creating a wide range of beautiful designs for her own line, Blue Peninsula. Whether she’s working with texture, traveling stitches or lace, whether designing socks or sweaters, Bonnie has a way of mixing clean structure and sinuous, flowing lines to create a contemporary, balanced look that’s both fresh and distinctive. There’s a focus on line that’s similarly thoughtful and precise in Bonnie’s wonderful art (which, if you enjoy embroidery I suggest you immediately explore) and I love the way that Bonnie uses the medium of stitch, in many different contexts, to explore the creative potential of negative space.

Bonnie Sennot, Daily Embroidery (24 Days), 2020,
perle cotton on linen dyed with oak galls, 8 x 8 inches

For her My Place design, Bonnie took her inspiration from what many of us might regard as the negative space of the year: that time right at the end of winter when the landscape can seem completely wasted by months of cold: a time of bare branches and spent grasses, when a palette of bleached-out fawns and greys slowly emerges from beneath the frost or snow. For many of us in northern regions, Winter’s End is a seasonal moment whose apparent desolation can sometimes prove rather difficult. Yet, it was at Winter’s End that Bonnie discovered inspiration in her place, and from that, created a truly beautiful piece that simply sings with life and joy. Over a year that, for Bonnie, as for so many of us, has been marked by loss and dislocation, her gorgeous scarf serves as a reminder that inspiration is everywhere, as long as you look carefully and attentively, and that the enlivening work of creativity can help carry us through the days of Winter’s End. Here’s Bonnie to tell you more about her process.

Every week, from June to November, I go to the Brookfield Farm in Amherst, Massachusetts, to get my weekly share, roam the pick-your-own fields, and chat with fellow shareholders. Slowly but surely, during the past 25 years, the farm has grown deep roots in my heart. So when I pondered designing an accessory on the theme of “My Place,” my thoughts naturally turned to the Brookfield Farm.

My design, a scarf called Winter’s End, began with a walk I took around the farm’s West Field in March 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown. Located off an ambling path west of the main property, it’s where strawberries are often grown. I was struck by the field’s tawny late-winter colors and the wild look of the winter rye—crisp stems tossed this way and that by snow and wind, seed heads flattened into the ground. I’d found my inspiration.

At home, I consulted my stitch dictionaries and was drawn to a lace stitch that looked uncannily like the rye’s seed heads. I arranged the lace into three distinct columns, like the rows in a farm field, and inserted between them two narrow columns of wrapped clusters—a visual nod to the farm’s delicious strawberries.

Last of all, thinking of the bleached-out plant stems, I decided to add fringe. For the yarn, I chose the pale Hirst shade of Milarrochy Tweed—a perfect match for the color of the West Field that day.

In 1996, when I was living in Chicago but preparing to move to Massachusetts, my sister Jackie—who lived in Amherst with her growing family—mentioned that she and her husband, Andy, were going to join a place called the Brookfield Farm. She asked if I’d like to split a share with them. At the time, I didn’t know anything about CSAs (community-supported agriculture). But it sounded like fun, so I said yes without ever having set foot on the farm.

Through the years since, I’ve enjoyed many sunny Saturdays meeting Jackie at the farm—picking berries with her and my nephews, chatting while gathering flowers and herbs, delighting in the butterflies and goldfinches all around us. She even modeled some of my sock patterns there (Couplet and Hulst).

Last year, during the coronavirus pandemic, the farm was still open to shareholders, but with measures in place to keep everyone safe (signing up online for a pickup time, wearing masks, social distancing, following a one-way route through the barn). But, for the first time, Jackie wasn’t able to be there. After nearly three years of treatments for cancer, she passed away on July 26, 2020. I’ll always be thankful that she invited me to join the farm. It’s been one of the happiest experiences of my life. And in my mind’s eye, I can still see her among the zinnias and cosmos, smiling and so glad to be there.

You can’t help growing attached to a place where you spend so much time—not just getting your weekly share of freshly harvested vegetables in the barn, but also in the fields, picking an ever-changing array of herbs, veggies, and fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherry and plum tomatoes, snow peas and snap peas, green beans, and more). Every year, I’m excited when the watermelon harvest begins—we have two kinds, red and yellow. The yellow is my favorite, because I’m convinced it’s sweeter. How to tell the difference? The yellows are light green with dark markings, while the reds are dark green with light markings.

Children play in the yard behind the barn, clambering up and down slides and “pretend farming” in the sandbox. Parents hang out, catching up on how their summers are going. The barn on a busy Saturday is a great place to pick up cooking and recipe tips from fellow shareholders. If a new person asks what to make with celeriac, they’re sure to get some good ideas. Plus, the weekly newsletter and the farm website offer recipes for using the veggies on offer.

The model for Winter’s End is my friend and former coworker Victoria Quill, who joined the Brookfield Farm a couple of years ago.

Earlier this month, we met up at the farm on a mild afternoon for a fun photo shoot. The ground was muddy but we didn’t mind, because the sun felt so deliciously warm. It was great to see her again, after nearly a year of social distancing due to the pandemic. We agreed we can’t wait for life to get back to normal, and we especially can’t wait for June, when another beautiful season at the farm begins.

Winter’s End is available at Ravelry, Payhip, and Etsy. Use the code BROOKFIELD when checking out to save 20% on the pattern. The sale ends Sunday, March 28.

Can we all come and visit Brookfield Farm? Thanks to Victoria for modelling, and thank you, Bonnie, for your words and a truly beautiful design.