2022 In Review: Change and Generativity

2022 had two very distinct halves for me: before the May RV trip, and after the May RV trip.

At the end of last year, I sat down and made a meta-make 9.

Yeah, so, I was in fantasy land when I made that. It happens to me sometimes that when I’m sick, I get into planning mode. I imagine all the things I’m going to get done, because when you can’t do anything, you can tell yourself you’re going to be so disciplined and productive when you can do things again. But yeah, I was out of my gourd.

I figured out before the end of January that this was not going to happen. I don’t think I guilted myself about it very much; at least, I don’t remember doing so. I’m not even going to dignify this Make 9 by reviewing it as it stands, or listing all the things I did not get done. Instead, I’m going to look at all the things I did do, and at the massive shift that happened in the middle of this year.

Spinning

I am really amazingly proud of the spinning I did this year. I set out to explore colour handling of handpainted braids while spinning analogous and semi-analogous sock yarns. In my wildest dreams depicted above, I thought I’d spin six pairs’ worth. I spun twelve.

Two of them were quite small and fast, being for my daughter. But they were all quite fine, and the last one was a very long spin. Doing some quick and dirty math, that’s something like 19,000 yards of spinning and plying all together, out of over two pounds of fiber.

I didn’t finish many other big spins. There was some serious sampling for the Wool Circle (more on that below). I believe the only other actual project I finished was the 1 lb of Gotland. That ended up rather thicker and with less yardage that I had hoped. But, when I get around to knitting this up one day, I’m hoping the yardage fairies have mercy on me and let it be enough for the sweater I’ve been dreaming of for over five years now.

Knitting

For the first half of the year, I was quite focused on knitting up my secret projects. I can tell you that there will be five big bits and five-to-ten small bits, and I finished the third big bit, with a really good start on the fourth bit. It’s been a long while, but I’m hoping to finish the actual knitting this year. It would be faster if I were treating it like a real full-time job, but I’m not.

This might be the first year in a while that I didn’t finish any sweaters at all. I’ve hacked away here and there at the Weel Riggit, but I’ve been finding it really difficult. I keep running into roadblocks and losing the will to work on it. After a third try, I think I’ve finally got the right sleeve circumference. But when it comes down to knitting time, I just want to knit socks. Socks, plain socks, just socks.

A year’s worth of socks for me!

And knit socks I have. If I finish the pair on the needles right now, I will have done ten pairs (two of them being shorties for Stringbean).

I did finish something that was not started last year, in the form of Dooner’s shawl. I have to celebrate that.

There was a weird episode of crocheting flowers, but at this point I’m chalking that up as a sort of seizure. Although, would this not be a perfect use for all the teensy colour spinning experiments I’m going to produce next year???

Sewing

Not a lot of sewing happened last year. I did finish Dooner’s quilt top, but there I stopped.

She asks me occasionally when it will be done. To be honest I’ve been a little discouraged by the fact that MiniMighty doesn’t like hers and doesn’t use it, though Stringbean does use hers.

The trouble right now is that I’ve given up my dedicated sewing corner completely in order to make my podcasting office. So when I want to sew, I have to haul everything out again, and that’s always a big issue. Also, once when Stringbean was trying to reach something ont he shelf above the sewing desk, she went and stood on the light cover of my machine, and it’s totally broken now. Like the screw spot is stripped, so I can’t even replace the part. It makes working with my machine feel pretty ghetto. And the less I use my machine, the more temperamental it is until I get going with it again, so… it’s a downward spiral.

The sewing guilt shelf

I don’t know. I have the quilt top up on my supply shelf, next to the pieces I cut to make the backing, pieces cut out for sewing two aprons, and my untouched EPP project. If it weren’t for Dooner wanting her quilt, I’d just shove all that stuff in the basement and forget about it. But yeah… I’d like to finish her quilt this year. Ooo… maybe I can put the backing together, then send it down for long-arm quilting in the summer… now we’re talking.

Weaving

I did manage to weave off one thing this year. I successfully made a piece of fabric from a skein of hand-dyed sock yarn that lined up the colors in the warp. I think it looks really cool. Unfortunately, my calculations were not great, and it came out an impractical size. Too narrow and long to be a scarf, too short to be doubled for a shorter scarf, it appears I’ve accidentally made myself a new stole.

I mean, I am a priest. I’m on a short list of weavers who could actually use something like this. But I’m weirdly self-conscious about it. Raise your hand if you think I should get over myself and just start wearing it come Epiphanytide.

I’ve rejiggered the whole playroom so that my loom has a space in here now. I think that will motivate me to get a warp on it, and maybe the kids will throw a few shuttles for me. That’s my hope, anyway!

The Big Shift

So, the above represents my “normal” crafting life, such as it is. But a few Big Things happened after our trip in May that changed the tenor of my life.

I think what happened was, Dooner started preschool, and for me that meant entering a new phase of life. I would never ever say that I was “just” a stay at home mom, or to belittle that calling in any way. But I found myself with this drive to start putting my work out in the world. I have always wanted to make things, but before it had mostly just been for my own enjoyment. Something changed. I wanted to start making things that contributed to the world. I wanted to generate some income, out of respect for the level of excellence that I bring to craft, and to one day far down the road contribute to my family’s income.

The trouble is, Dooner starting preschool didn’t mean that I suddenly had oodles more time than I did before. It meant that I had, at best, ten extra hours a week. Realistically, since they closed the school down so often due to sickness, and we were required to keep her home every time she coughed, it was a lot less than that. (I was shocked at the end-of-term party that she got an attendance award, because it felt like we were never there.)

And, I did not take on ten hours a week of extra work. Ten hours a week would have been what I was already doing, with my secret projects. I took on about four times that.

Ministry

I don’t talk about this a lot, but this year I spent a lot more time doing ministry stuff. Two years ago, I started preaching every other week and leading the service every other week. That’s been mostly a really good thing; I like preaching. Also, as kids started coming back to church more and more, I’ve developed our Sunday kids program to be a little more robust. It’s still not much – a short kids talk early in the service, and a cut-and-paste-and-color craft in the back, but it’s a little work to put together every week. I’ve got a good workflow with all that stuff that I’m happy with.

Then, in October and November, Jared and myself and another dedicated volunteer put together a family program that lasted about seven weeks, culminating in a baptism service in the beginning of December. That was intense. I wish I’d had the sense to make it a whole lot simpler, but I make these plans and get excited about them, and sometimes stick to them a little too stubbornly. That’s OK when it’s a craft for my own pleasure, but when it’s a program involving other people, I end up creating a lot of stress for myself. It’s a personal failing.

Stringbean and her recreation of the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea.

But in the end, I don’t think I can call it anything but a success. The kids who come had a lot of fun. My kids keep asking when we’re going to start it up again. Probably the biggest takeaway is that we came out of it with a pattern of prayer that we’re using every night, so our kids are actually praying. That’s the one thing that makes me say, yes, this is worth it. I need to face my personal failings and try again, a different way. We’re praying about how to do that in January and February.

Cake

If I am brutally honest, my biggest regret this year is starting a cake business. By my count, I’ve made about 75 cakes since June. It started out really fun. But quickly, I found myself driving a runaway train. My skills in decorating and marketing – and the demand for cakes – were way ahead of my skills in baking, and this caused a lot of problems. Plus, the time I spent baking took a huge bite out of the time I was putting into healthy habits, like cooking healthy food, spending time with God, and exercising. At the beginning of this year, I had lost 25 lbs since the previous summer. I’ve now gained about 15 back. I got completely out of the habit of exercising my dogs, and cake appointments made it really difficult to schedule outings to the cabin.

I’ve been slowly letting go. I went from saying yes to almost every order, to only accepting two orders a week, to at this point taking no new orders. I have a lot of actual cake supplies left, so I’m thinking about operating on a spots system in future. Like, if I have a month with some time, I might post that I have a few spots for X month, and that’s it. Instead of saving cake scraps for future use, I just throw them out.

One of my favorite cakes that I made this year, for my friend Janine. It was one where I learned a ton, and it still came out really nice.

There were some really good things about it. I liked how it connected me to a lot of people I never would have met otherwise. It allowed me to put my name out there in Rankin, and become more a part of the community. People in Rankin were very reliable, and for the most part pretty darn understanding of my many mistakes.

I also was very thankful for the money. That sounds mercenary, yes, but without that income, I never would have been able to make some of the investments I did to start working at Wool n’ Spinning as quickly as I did, and continue to set aside savings for big future projects. It also forced me to learn more about the budgeting software we use, and has helped me wrap my mind more around small business accounting. This will continue to serve me as well.

I value what I learned from this intense season of cake baking. There are lots of others who bake cakes in Rankin, and I’m hoping I can maybe turn some of that knowledge towards empowering others.

Wool n’ Spinning

The other big job decision I made this year was to start working for Rachel at Wool n’ Spinning. That has been incredibly life-giving and rewarding, for both Rachel and myself. It basically allows me to do the things I was already doing, but ratchet them up a big notch, and get paid. It makes use of skill sets I already have, and work I already really like enough to do for fun. It doesn’t take nearly as much time as the cake stuff, it makes way less mess, it’s a much more flexible schedule, and it doesn’t affect my waistline. There’s still that customer-serving aspect, but it’s in a community setting that is more about relationship than product, and I’m not the person carrying the weight of the business and setting the tone. And above all else, I trust the tone that Rachel sets. She is a born community leader. I get to be the assistant, which suits me very well, and helps me think more clearly about my assistant role in our church ministry as well, and what Jared goes through carrying that burden.

Here’s a supercut that Rachel put together of the episodes I did from September to November. It’s sort of a trailer, and gives you an idea of what my episodes are like, and you can see as the quality slowly improves! I’m putting together a bonus episode that will be released publicly at the end of the month, and I’m excited to share that with you.

Are we still in the honeymoon phase? Absolutely. I’m sure I will have seasons that I’m not as excited about it, where it’s harder to find my get-up-and-go. But I’ve been at this for a few months now, and I’ve only gotten more excited about it, so I have real hopes of being in this for a long season.

Dogs

Finally, there’s Diamond. Going from having “a dog” to “dogs” was really the first thing to happen as part of the Big Shift, but I put it at the end because they have been the ones most affected by it. I managed to walk Sisko all last winter, and since this summer I just have not. It’s really frustrating feeling like you can’t give your animals what they really need, and then they (especially Sisko) start acting out in ways that make it less fun for the rest of the family to have him around. I think we’re through the worst of his bad behaviour, and we have a pattern that we can all at least live with. But all seven of us really need for ME to exercise THEM, so I’m praying for the will and the way to make that happen.

A Year for Growth

There are other things I could talk about – the garden we grew, our RV trip of course, the lovely visit with my mom in February, the 250+ hours I spent playing Stardew Valley. Those were enormous accent pieces in our year, of varying value and affect!

In the end, I don’t think I can put a label on this year like “good” or “bad.” I mean, we certainly didn’t have any tragedies or major illnesses that would have made it a really “bad” year in some objective sense. The last couple of months we have really been struggling with burnout, and probably seasonal affective disorder, which has made it seem “hard.” We’ve taken on some big new things as a family – our RV trip being one, and the family discipleship night being another. I’ve really shifted in the way that I think about my work, as being something strategic and valuable that’s part of my contribution to the world, rather than just an endless churn of making that is really just another kind of consumption. It feels like adulthood. It feels like accepting limits, but also testing them. It feels… okay. Deeply okay.

I’m going to try hard not to “should” on myself next year. There are a few priorities I really want to get back in place, though they won’t look the same as they have before. Ideals are nice, but life is lived in the via media. I have some very concrete goals and obligations that will guide my creative work. Beyond that, I would like to be open to whatever comes, but slow to rush into new things…. and be more aware that when that manic drive takes over and I want to plan, plan, plan, that it’s probably indicative of something else going on that I need to stop and sit with.

I’m thankful for these, my people. And the time to remember that even though it’s dark and cold, and the car just got stuck for the umpteenth time this week, blue skies and long summer days will come again. Into the darkness, Christ is born, and faith is the spark that keeps us looking up for the morning star to dawn.


6 thoughts on “2022 In Review: Change and Generativity

  1. Thank you once again Rachel. I was struck by the idea of how “Making” can become another form of consumption. How true that is – I need to reset!

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    1. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? We get so caught up in the churn.
      and no worries! People have called me Rachel by mistake all my life so I answer to it πŸ˜€

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