In praise of going slow
When the drumbeat of your heart isn't quite the same as the world tells you it should be
When I grew up, one of the popular TV shows was Family Ties, where mom and dad were (ex-)hippies and their kids, played by Michael J. Fox and Justine Bateman, somehow turned out to be conservative (the boy) and materialistic (the girl). For me, this show really captures that moment when the dominant cultural narrative started to dig into me. Maybe it’s because I was a teen while watching it, or maybe it was because the Reagan years were unfolding. But, the cultural narrative Family Ties brought into my living room and psyche was that buying things was the way to go, even though the show supposedly mocked the kids. That there was a right way to do things (go to a dance at a country club). Be preppy. Yuppie. High achieving. Fast. Get It Done. My peers fell in line, and I watched people get married in their mid-20s. By age 30, they had children. Jobs with a capital J. A single family home, with a yard to mow on the weekends. I couldn’t even manage to go to college “on time.”
Oh, I wanted home and family and college —so very much—but it didn’t fall into place for me until much much later. I always felt out of step or left behind. (As a white, cis-het woman, I was just one small click away from that idealized norm and it still hurt like hell. How much more damage the “norm” does to people with multiple intersections of oppression.)
Looking back, I can see that I wasn’t late or wrong or even strange. I was, and am, a slow bloomer. I quite like the phrase “late bloomer” but I think “slow bloomer” is more accurate.
In addition to being slow, I also have big feelings. Lots of them. So many feelings! It can be inconvenient to have so many feelings, all needing to be named and felt and experienced before I can let them go. (Maybe it’s the feelings that make me slow? Or, maybe it’s just that my heart moves to a slower rhythm?) For whatever reason, I know this to be true: I like being slow. I like slowly making things. I like sitting outside and watching small things. I like growing plants and watching and cheering for their slow process of growing, just a tiny bit, day by day. I like to draw small things. I love the macro lens on my camera and I like to photograph small details.
I love my slow life.
Realizing that I love slow things, and that I am a slow bloomer, has been like slowly peeling back paper-like layers of an onion. Each one brings me closer to the me who has been there all along.
This is what making is for me. Knitting every evening, taking a month or more to make a new sweater or pair of socks—this helps me counterbalance the narrative out there that says go fast, be productive, build your business, make more, do more, be more.
I am learning to tell myself that it’s okay to go slow. It’s okay to be me, for you to be you, too. I think this is why racial justice, gender equity, and LGTBQIA+ rights matter so much to me. I want all of us to be able to just be. To be able to live without the cultural narratives or oppressive systems that tell us we have to be different, or conform, to survive. To all my Black, Indigeous, People of Color, queer, trans and gender fluid friends, I know it’s extra hard to survive within our deeply racist and oppressive systems. I see you. And, I want us all to thrive.
What to do when your work is making and selling things?
Early on in the pandemic, an amazing, long-time customer of mine sent me a big box of my own kits, yarn, and notions—things she had bought from me, still in pristine condition, some of which had been purchased years before. She included a note explaining that she was older, her arthritis had worsened and her eyesight had failed significantly enough that she was no longer able to knit. She expressed how much she loved all I had created and asked if I could distribute it to another knitter who would enjoy it. (She was doing this with all of her stash, and had kindly sent a portion to me that included, but wasn’t limited to, purchases she had made from me.)
Oh the big feelings I had about this! Sadness for her, as she had lost the ability to knit. Amazed gratitude that, during such a hard time, she was still thinking about other knitters and reaching out. Honor, because she asked me to help. Responsibility, as this was a precious request. And also confusion. Some of the items I remembered rushing to make, with late nights or packed afternoons of glueing, striving to meet my promised shipping timelines. But then, that yarn, those stitch markers, those kits, had just … waited. Patiently waited in stash.
Something started to shift in me.
It’s true that large corporations are responsible for overproducing and damaging our planet, and mass media is responsible for driving home the idea that consuming is our purpose. But. But. I felt that I, too, had had a tiny hand in that awful stew.
In the pandemic-enforced shut down of early 2020, I felt a tiny layer of the flower that is me begin to stir. It didn’t feel good, but it felt true. It took a while to name the feeling. I wanted to slow my business. Not dye quite as much. Not exhibit at big fiber festivals. Not chase growth. To just be small. To be slow.
I am still figuring out what this means for me, because livings still need to be earned, and groceries cost more all the time. (I know you know.) But I am fortunate enough to have a bit of a runway, and right now, I am following where this leads.
If you, also, are a slow bloomer, if you have big feelings, if you crave a small life, or a quirky life, or a life that the world out there ::waves hands:: tells you is too different, I want that life for you.
When your heart says: knit a book
I have a new project launching next week, and it’s been about two years in the works. That’s the best part of this story: two years. The reason why is because my collaborator, Hunter Hammersen, and I have done it uniquely and specifically our way, which is small. We have honored the two humans we both are, trying to live and survive and give ourselves the best chances to thrive in the midst of all that makes the world scary these days. So, when I tell you about this project, I want you to feel all the love and honor and respect that’s gone into it. It’s a nifty, sweet little project, but it’s also something more. It’s about going slow, being authentic, and trying to thrive in a world that isn’t made for you.
The project is a set of adorable tiny knitted books with secret compartments that are perfect for holding your notions. (I’m not showing off Hunter’s final photos, because they are hers to debut, but I’ve seen them and you’re going to squee “oh my gosh, that is SO FLIPPING CUTE”) — but you can see sneak peeks on her Instagram feed.
For my part, I riffed off of her idea of knitted books to create an antiquarian book-inspired palette of colorways, to reissue a favorite shawl design (created by my friend and designer Karalee Harding) that’s named Bibliophile, and, of course, to create my signature kits that include every tiny little detail and treasure you’ll need to make these knitted books and kits for the shawl, too.
Here’s a sneak peek of what the “everything” kit for the knitted books contains:
The Bookmarked pattern (the specific instructions on how to knit the little books) will be live on Hunter’s website on Wednesday, November 9.
My collection of yarn and kits will be live on my website also on Wednesday, November 9. (For those of you who like a time: it’s auto-loaded to go live at 6:00a Pacific Time.)
I am opening up (relatively) unlimited preorders, so you don’t need to rush. It’s super contrary to conventional marketing wisdom to say “don’t rush,” but it’s very much in line with my ethos. You can take your time; you can consider if this is the right purchase for you given your budget and your making preferences. You can plan for a sweater, if it’s in your budget. You can contribute as little as $1 to my Community Fund if you just want to say “great work, but I don’t need to add to my stash.” If your budget is squeezed, you can share about it on social media.
For the 10 days or so, I’ll be sending out a few more emails than usual as I share more about different parts of the collection.
If you would like to skip this launch sequence, for whatever reason, here’s how to do that:
Go to your Settings page
Scroll down to Subscriptions, and click on “Anne is Making”
In the middle of the page, under “Notifications,” untick the box next to the topic “shop updates” (or any topic you want to skip)
I have sorted my newsletter into three major buckets: my regular Sunday letter “Anne is Making” (this goes out most Sundays), “Anne loves books” (which is specifically about my book club and goes on out some Sundays instead of my regular letter), and “shop updates” which is new and will house all of my launch content for new products and such.
As I get ready to enjoy my own Sunday morning, please know this: I wish for you the life speed that makes you feel most alive, whether that’s fast or slow. I wish for you all the right conditions to bloom in the way that is uniquely you.
PS: Preorders for A World of Octobers end today
If you would like a skein or a shawl’s worth or a sweater’s worth of this gorgeous autumnal russet, please order by tonight. (Honestly, though, I’m not going to get up at midnight to deactivate the listing, but I will zero it out when I wake up, because I’ll also be mathing out how many skeins to order, and then emailing the mill. I might love my slow life, but I also groove on meticulous organization!)
Annie I love you! But you already know that.
Also I love slow bloomer. Makes me think of those rare flowers that bloom slowly and people watch and wait and once it blooms it takes everyone’s breath away with its beauty.
I also love it for practical reasons for I told several of my nephews to not waste time and money on college if they were not ready for it. Go work, pay bills, and develop a work ethic. This will serve them well in life as they will have years more worth of experience over their peers and save more money/get raises before the peers show up. But also college is all about being self driven and I feel that for most people that is developed by going to work, and paying bills on time. When it’s all on you!
I Love the thoughts that goes into these letters. They are my regular Sunday morning inspiration.