September 16 marks 11 years since I bit the bullet and bought handsoccupied.com before signing up for @handsoccupied on every social network I could think of. I built my website myself, sort of knowing what I was doing, but motivated by the idea of spending more time with a growing number of crafty internet friends. It might not mean much to some, but this was all the way back in 2010, about a year before Pinterest was a thing anyone had heard of, and a couple years before Instagram blew up. 11 years later, and I increasingly encounter crafters who aren’t even aware of what a big deal crafting blogs were to the community 5-10 years ago. Knitters and crocheters had Ravelry, but if you were in to other crafts, blogs (and to a lesser extent message boards) were your best bet for finding maker friends online.
One thing that makes me sad about the shift away from independently-operated blogs is that sharing instructional information on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter… well it sucks, particularly if you’re a crafter interested in pursuing information related to technique. A saved insta post is pretty annoying to find two years later when you just wanted to remember the name of a stitch or technique, let alone looking for a Reel- or story-based tutorial to learn from. (And be able to pause without having to hold your thumb down, like on Insta. Our hands are already occupied with crafts! 😆 ) There’s also a huge accessibility issue for this sort of content as well, but as I’m no longer a Librarian I will refrain from stepping onto this particular soap box and encourage the curious to google the subject for yourselves.
As you might have guessed from my absence and this wee rant about social media platforms, burnout has been a struggle since finishing my book last year. It got to the point where I took the summer entirely off, and didn’t even send a newsletter or post anywhere about it at all. As someone who used to barely be able to take a weekend off from this project, the sudden need for a complete break was a shocker to me. I spent a lot of this summer considering whether I was entirely done with crafting as a career. It got and stayed pretty close, but to be honest, it had been close for a long time. Sometimes you just need a break, and sometimes that sh*t needs to be a third of a year while you focus on something that (gasp!) is not work.
What’s next for Hands Occupied post-book and post-break
Now that I’ve gotten this break, I’m back, but I want to be back with intention. If I catch myself considering a design gig or project that doesn’t feel like a good fit, I just won’t do it, and I’m dropping things that no longer serve the direction I want to take my creative career. I’m focusing my Hands Occupied-related efforts in this eleventh year on things that don’t burn me out. For me, that means leaning in to what did NOT burn me out in the past couple years.
Here’s a run-down of what to expect on social:
Only posting to the blog when it’s useful, particularly for aggregating multiple useful of pieces of inspiration or tutorials in one place.
Posting to Instagram regularly, but remembering that follower counts are a poor measure of whether I’m successful as a Craft Designer.
The Hands Occupied email newsletter (you can sign up here) will now be monthly, focusing on rounding up what’s new that month, sharing recent inspiration, and teasing what’s to come from Hands Occupied. It used to be weekly, but monthly feels less overwhelming for both your inbox and me.
Pinterest will continue to be where I save and organize my favorite internet finds, especially craft ideas.
I will continue to have a Facebook and Twitter account, but don’t intend on posting much.
One platform that is going to have a lot of my attention this year is YouTube. I enjoyed dipping my toe into YouTube last year, but I need to learn more about how the platform works. It’s the platform I have the most interest for from readers based on requests, but it’s also the one that I find the most intimidating to pursue due to the workload (video production is hard 😆). I have a few videos shot and ready to edit now that I’m back at work, so in addition to publishing those soon, I’ll be taking advantage of the YouTube Creator Academy to learn more & make better and better video tutorials for you.
Maybe fellow creators/long-time bloggers will have some kind of stress attack just reading this, but I’m taking summers off from now on. June-August is often a cruddy time to get traffic and build anything, so instead of trying to produce summery yarn content or desperately try to make people care about Christmas in July yarn crafts, I’m just not participating. That will give me time to focus on a larger design project every year, which at the end of the day, is significantly more creatively satisfying and doesn’t leave me feeling like I’m reinventing the wheel all the time. Whether it’s the next book, a significant design project for another publication, or developing a more in-depth video series for YouTube that takes time to produce, I think that time will be so much better spent being intentional and striving for growth as a Craft Designer (heck yeah this is a real job worthy of a capitalized job title!), rather than feeling like I’m living on a content production carousel I can’t get off of to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t.
There is no one way to be a professional creative. Thanks to the aforementioned burnout, it’s been probably two years that I’ve been aware I needed to adjust my career approach if I’m going to have one at all. I’m not the best at listening to my gut, but part of taking the time off in the summer was learning how to let go and accept that there’s no way to be totally in control of a creative career. As long as I keep working intentionally and keep growing creatively, I know I’ll be okay.
Plus, it doesn’t take a brain genius to know that I’m known for my work as a yarn crafter. I can show you 11 years of Hands Occupied site analytics that confirm I shouldn’t be working so hard to produce new content in summer – a lot of folks shift to sewing or just don’t do wooly crafting in summer. I kind of want to see what that’s like some time. Of course, I’ll be doing plenty of making during the summer, but just not putting out tons of new content.
Evolving aside, I want to end this update by saying I love you all. I’m so grateful you’re here (especially if you’re a long time follower!), but I’ve learned, kind of the hard way 😅, that my wellbeing comes first. In my opinion, the best way to run, not sprint, the marathon that is a creative career, is to pace yourself and make sure you’re only saying yes to what you want to be working on. Right now, I’m really prioritizing the pacing myself part, and I hope my fellow anxious makers out there can understand. <3
Yours in yarn,
And congrats on 11 years! I was not aware of your blog, but I’ve really enjoyed your YouTube videos and IG posts. My husband watched the one where you made your wrestling belt. He loved it!
I loved making that one too, even if it was a little different than some of my other work tends to be! I haven’t made that large of a just for fun project in awhile, and it was nice to indulge in that way creatively. :) If you’re new to the Hands Occupied Blog, this is home base, so to speak. I think I’ve got more than 1300 posts or something insane on this site, including tutorials and free patterns. Welcome!
Your sock tutorial was life changing for me. Learning to knit in your late 50’s and being left handed was a challenge. I am proud to say I just started my 21st pair of socks. I still wear my first very simple pair as a reminder of how far I’ve come. Now, striping, contrast heels, patterns..no problem! Thank you for your easy to understand method!
I saw no mention in VSC…. Please go back, it’s not the same without you!!
Love you too Heidi! As someone who has pushed herself to burnout in *all* her endeavors, the idea of looking at your workload across an entire year is very useful (and certainly not at all how I have been using my time). Perhaps time for a reevaluation over here too!
Here’s to another 11 (burnout free) years ❤️
Thanks, Allison! The burnout struggle with anxiety can be a pretty constant challenge, and I appreciate how many folks in the craft community understand. <3