I just read my “goals” post from January 2020. My goals were practically feasible, but emotionally lofty and idealistic. If I could talk to myself a year ago, I’d just say, “Oh, hon. You are enough. Just hold on.”
I don’t really know how to write this post. Jared joked to me about a month ago that a post I was working on was “humble-bragging.” That put me right off, and I deleted the post. He apologized, but said, isn’t the whole craft blogging thing all humble-bragging to some extent? I suppose it is. If all I really wanted to do was to record my work, I could make this blog private, or just record my projects in a journal. But something about putting the process of making into words, into words comprehensible enough to publish, even if no one ever reads them, completes the creative process for me. It helps me to understand the story of my making. This helps me to (a) give thanks, (b) check my focus and priorities, and (c) see what my crafting is trying to teach me about my spirit, psyche, and life. It’s not so you can all tell me how great my projects are, though your kind words are deeply appreciated.
So I record what I make, and reflect on this year of making, not to impress, but to look back. Crafts seem inconsequential in a year that has brought so much suffering to so many. Seriously, they are inconsequential. This year should be a reminder to all of us that, as the old saying goes, “you can’t take it with you,” and the work of our hands ought to be subservient to the service of eternal souls. I am ashamed of how often I forget that.
But crafts can serve eternal souls, in their own roundabout way, when they are properly ordered. God has reminded me again and again this year that He made me a maker, and making is a gift. So I share, not to honor myself, but to honor Him, and to consider the ways making has marked the days and the changes of this crazy year.
Like many of you, I can divide my year into discrete chunks. Jan-Feb normal (+ impeachment drama), March Vancouver trip, then March-December COVID-tide. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed since Stringbean and Minimighty were regularly having friends over.
Without our annual trip out, our year was marked by the turnings of the arctic weather. Spring, summer, and Fall (read June – September) were extra beautiful this year. It was our first summer entirely in the north, and we loved it.
This year I knit four sweaters for myself (three from handspun!) and one for Stringbean. You can see in these pictures my transition from long hair to short, and photographic lighting from poor indoors to nice outdoors to poor indoors again.
I also knit one hat, one pair of socks, and two shawls (one of which I’m not telling you about yet, haha.) Usually I knit a lot more accessories, but I just stayed focused on big projects this year. That reflects the lack of travel and in-between times, when those small projects are so useful, and the general lack of time. A grand total of eight projects, which for me isn’t a ton, but there’s a lot of knitting in them!
I didn’t end up making matching sweaters for the kids, because (a) Stringbean was the only one agitating for them; (b) they don’t wear sweaters very often anyway; and (c) I’m just deep into stashbusting country. I couldn’t make matching sweaters for them without buying yarn, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Stringbean is the one kid who kept asking for a sweater, and seemed hurt that I wasn’t making one for her. So I made a quick one, and it suits her.
I just love that stash-bustin’ feeling. I’m down to two sweater quantities of yarn and four and a half sweater quantities of fiber. I can smell the finish line of large amounts. There will still be lots, don’t get me wrong. I have lots of small batches of fiber, and my cedar chest is about half full with leftovers. I’d like to use those too. But having ZERO sweater quantities remaining will be a huge turning point. I think I might reach it in two more years.
The Big, Epic Project was spinning the remainder of 51 Yarns. Since I was behind at the end of 2019, I did more than half the book this year. I’ve written about it a lot!
One happy surprise was spinning three sock spins this year. Two were part of 51 Yarns, another was just for fun.
I stashed down somewhat in terms of sweater quantities and random older stash, but I also added to my spinning stash a lot. I bought a ton of braids in Vancouver with the idea of spinning for socks. I’d like to get to that by the end of 2021, but those sweater quantities are on my mind first.
What I learned about spinning this year is that a spin takes intention to complete. Being multi-craftual has taught me to count the cost of a project before I start it, and a bit of experience seeing spins through from start to finish has taught me better what the cost of time is. Granted, I have also grown much faster in my spinning this year.
Knitting is something I have on the go all the time; sewing and weaving I do in short bursts. Spinning is somewhere in between. I love it so much that I want to keep it as a regular practice, but I can’t stand to have spins languish over months. I like to see them through.
My number-one goal for weaving this year was to weave cushion covers for our dining room table benches.
Those done, my loom was disassembled and hidden away for almost the rest of the year. I didn’t let it bother me; being genuinely multicraftual means I have to accept different seasons for working intensely on different crafts. Startlingly, it was my husband that gave me the impetus to weave again. He reorganized his office so that I could have a corner for my loom.
I finally got it warped up late this fall, and used it to make a pair of curtains, and about thirty fun Christmas scarves that we shared with our friends and family. We spent many happy evenings in there, him playing an adventure game on his computer while I watched and wove.
I had to face down my sewing machine issues this summer, when I made the commitment to sew cushion covers for the couch and chairs at the cabin. The long and the short of it is, I have learned a ton about my sewing machine. It’s in the best working order that it’s ever been in, and I know a great deal more about how it works and how to maintain it. In short, I’ve gained a great deal of confidence as a seamstress.
This was the precursor to something else, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
This year I found myself possessed several times with the desire to start something new. Not just a new project, but a new process. Being a beginner, learning from experts, starting well, has just such an orderly and exciting feeling to it. It became its own form of self-care.
It started in March with homeschool. Like so many people, we were thrown into homeschooling in March, even though we didn’t get any cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut until October. Unlike many people, I happened to be prepared to start homeschooling right away. I once read a book about the “DIY movement” that characterized homeschooling as a kind of DIY craft. This is a fraught statement, but there is some real truth in that for me. I love getting to know a process, to see it through, and what could be more engaging or meaningful than being a part of the growth and shaping of my own children’s minds?
Between my growing interest in homeschooling, and some of the specific difficulties Stringbean was having at school during grade 1, we made the decision to homeschool her for grade 2. I was playing around with the idea of using Ambleside Online, and had drafted a schedule to integrate it into homeschool in our context. It just so happened that we needed it right away!
We did AO Year 1, Term 1 as the completion of her grade 1 year. Grade 2 will be Year 1 terms 2 and 3, and Year 2 term 1. We’ve also integrated Math-U-See Alpha and Beta, A Reason for Handwriting T, Sonlight Science C (she particularly loves Science), Donna Reed Canadian history, and some improvised Inuktitut lessons based on what Jared and I learned at Pirurvik. It sounds like a lot, but it takes 1.5-2 hours a day. I came up with a spreadsheet system that allows me to make those schedules I love so much, but also adapt them on the fly. Basically I am a great big planning nerd.
In actual practice, it’s been pretty fun most of the time. Stringbean complains about some things, especially handwriting, but that’s only to be expected. She’s grown a ton just this first year in her narrating skills; she says she doesn’t like it, but does it well and with a good attitude. We’ve discovered some books we both truly love. She lives for the science experiments.
Also in the kid department: Minimighty started Kindergarten (at public school). We put her in the Inuktitut class, and she’s picking up so much. That kid is scary smart. Dooner’s big achievement is potty training, though she has been no slouch in 2-year-old academics. She talks a blue streak, and is already drawing people and shapes. She is Minimighty’s mini-me. They get up to all kinds of hijinks together.
Homeschooling was the entire impetus for bookbinding. As soon as I got back from Vancouver, when COVID rules were just imposed and everything was changing, I coped by making books. This was a way to get the classics I needed to homeschool Stringbean cheaply and quickly. Ambleside Online is perfect for us for many reasons, one of them being that it is specifically designed to be usable as cheaply as possible. The bulk of the reading is classic literature available in the public domain on sites like the Gutenberg Project. I was just idly googling one day to find out what was involved in bookbinding, when I fell down the rabbit hole of Sea Lemon‘s YouTube channel. It so happens that I had pretty much all the materials ready to hand, including a lifetime supply of legal-sized copy paper, and I have lots of experience in super-basic publishing layout.
As I’ve gotten into more and more crafts, I’ve noticed there’s a kind of crafting critical mass, where it becomes easier and easier to get into new things, because many crafts have an overlap in fringe materials. To trim weaving fringe, I had acquired a cutting mat, rotary cutter, and quilting ruler. For combing fiber, I had acquired some sturdy clamps. I had bought some mod podge for a Sunday school project that we never got around to. The cutting mat, clamps, and mod podge turned out to be essential to bookbinding. I bought a bone folder for bookbinding, which came with another unknown tool, which I found out later is called a hera marker. A hera marker is useful in quilting, along with the rotary cutter and ruler, of course. What will it be next? Woodworking?
Quilting happened completely by accident. I got a Craftsy membership for a few bucks on a crazy discount I saw on facebook, which I checked out half thinking it was a scam. I bought it on impulse, and since then we’ve been watching crafting videos almost daily. I started watching quilting videos just looking for some entertainment while I was sewing couch cushions. My specific thought was, “This is something I’ll never do, so it’ll make good background entertainment.” FAIL. Complete fail. I had found fabric and was piecing a baby blanket within a week.
That rabbit hole spiraled straight down. My second project was a table runner made from all the leftover scraps from making book cloth. All I had to buy was the white background color and some thread. Again, crafting critical mass.
The third project was the throw-sized quilt and matching pillows. These I bought the material for myself, in town, but only for the top. The batting and backing were found items.
Next I’m going all the way down. On Black Friday I ordered all the materials to make three queen sized quilts for the girls. I KNOW. I’m so excited. I’ve written a little bit about why I seem to be so attracted to quilting right now. All I can say is that I hope that the world calms down enough that by this summer, I’ll be more attracted to messier pursuits.
A cool thing that happened just in December was that I carved a sewing space out of the playroom. The closet area was functionally just a dumping area for the kids, so I cleared it off and set up shop. I had originally thought this would be a temporary operation, since I needed the dedicated table space to quilt, but I’m loathe to take it down. It’s just as refreshing as the weaving corner in Jared’s office. Both these little spaces feel like integration.
I’ve saved this category for last. I think it does deserve a mention. I think I am growing in my mindset regarding housework. I’m not sure how it started, but I would say now that I see it now as my job, rather than some kind of measure of my self-worth. The latter is what it’s been for my entire married life, so it’s not surprising that I’m pretty anxious and neurotic, and therefore unreliable, about getting it done. Now it’s just a job. Not always fun, but satisfying in its own way, and of real service to my family.
I’ve tried FlyLady a couple of times, but I’m just not there. Maybe I will be in future, maybe not. It’s taught me a lot, but I can’t systematize my housework to that level yet, and the gamification aspect feeds my neuroses. I would really love to go beyond a weekly maintenance level of housekeeping, and into a state where the house actually gets cleaned. Where the shower and oven and the grout and the baseboards get cleaned. I’d like that just because I like beautiful spaces, even if they are simple. But I’m not making it a goal or a timeline or anything. It’s just a hope, and that hope will proceed through awareness into action at the right time.
I love the hilarious dumpster fire arts and crafts that have flooded the internet. Knitted dumpster fires, crocheted dumpster fires, embroidered dumpster fires, glued or sewn fabric dumpster fires, dumpster fire kits, dumpster fire ornaments – they’re all amazing. In conclusion, we thrived during 2020, a year that has been a metaphorical dumpster fire for so very many.
We have so many privileges, not least among which is where we live. Sometimes all we have to share is our prayers, our positivity, our puddleglum-faithfulness, a little beauty, a little heart. All we can do is our bit, and entrust the rest to the sovereign, provident Lord. Our perspective changed a great deal, and we are all going one month, one week, one day at a time. The other side of this crisis will not find any of us unchanged.
What are you thankful for this year? What did you accomplish that you’re proud of?