Last year, I decided to take a sabbatical. The dictionary defines a sabbatical as “a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.” It is meant to refresh, rejuvenate, and refocus, the individual so they can get back to the challenges of their day-to-day job.
For the nearly six years I’ve been freelancing, the majority of my income has come from doing projects for other yarn-related businesses—yarn companies, publishers, associations, non-profits, manufacturers, and the like. I wrote market copy, created informational videos, ran events, hosted focus groups, designed marketing and strategic plans, taught business classes, and was a general content-creating gal Friday. I was a silent partner in helping the business put their best foot forward, much as I’ve done my entire career, yarn or otherwise.
In 2013, I launched Yarnworker as a side project and a way for me to have a home in the vastness of the yarn universe. I had big plans for it that never seem to quite happen the way I envisioned them. During my sabbatical, I decided to take a risk and make my relationship between you and I the focus of the work for one year to see if I would like it and still pay the bills.
This is what I did:
I wrote my first self-published book, A Weaver’s Guide to Swatching: How to Fail Faster and Weave Better. Since collaborating with Purl & Loop to make the Swatch Maker Looms, I knew there was a need for more than the tool, weavers also wanted to know how to use the tool for the purpose it was intended. This book is a very practical approach to the subject of design. It focuses on why to weave a swatch (a small sample of cloth), the mechanics of how to weave a swatch (often discussed but not really addressed in practical terms), and then what to do with it once it is complete. This is the kind of micropublishing that has a long tradition in the weaving universe. I wrote about it in the very first Yarnworker blog post.
Collaborating on the Swatch Maker Looms also meant I started selling product, not just patterns. This required adding new functionality to my website. I also got more serious about my newsletter, increasing the frequency from quarterly to monthly.
I continued to write my Knitty.com feature Get Warped, which allowed me to write with knitting weavers specifically in mind. I’ve love this challenge.
I spent a great deal of time during my year writing another book for Interweave and creating two new video workshops. The focus of the new book is on weaving for the home, but it also addresses next steps for the rigid heddle weaver, a follow up to Weaving Made Easy, if you will. It is due out in a few months. This is a partnership of voices, and involves working with many of the folks I’ve worked with all along. This was the most traditional part of my sabbatical year.
Ironically, I started teaching at a university, and, in fact, taught more than I’ve ever taught before in a single year, keeping up an unexpectedly aggressive travel schedule. Along the way, I lost half of my teaching samples, which led to a fruition of my hopes—the weave-alongs. When you make room, unexpected things happen.
What I’ve learned is that focus is a good thing. Duh. I think of myself as someone who likes to do lots of different things, and I thought that by focusing on one thing, I might get bored, but I learned that focus doesn’t mean I would give up variety.
While my self-described sabbatical is over, I think I’ll keep at it. I like our conversations. The weave-alongs has given me some ideas about how we can be keep in touch in ways that don’t spread us out all over the place, allow me to be your weaving teacher no matter where you are, and pays the bills. We have two more projects left in the weave-along queue, and then I’ll regroup and see where to go from there.
Thanks for hanging out with me. There are many troubles in the world, and I aim to not have your weaving life be one of them.