Many parents worry, legitimately so, about the long-term effects of the COVID-19 quarantine on their children. For seventeen-year-old Anna Greer Ballentine, the forced social isolation created space for her to develop a new skill, to understand more about herself and her purpose, and eventually to start a new business.
Anna Greer explains, “My whole life I have never had a hobby. I’m not a sports person. I would end up injured (laughing). My depth perception isn’t great. I’ve always been super crafty, but I wasn’t good at doodling, so that wasn’t great. My grandmother taught me to knit when I was six years old. But the thing is, she would have to cast on for me. When I would mess up, she would fix it for me. I never made anything. During quarantine I got bored. I don’t do well with boredom at all. So I baked 20 different recipes, I taught myself to play the piano, I cleaned out my bedroom which is no small feat, and finally I had nothing left to do. So one day when I was cleaning out my room, I found some old yarn and two needles. And they weren’t even the same size. I pulled up a YouTube video on knitting and thought, ‘Let’s see what happens.’”
She continues, “I fell in love with it. I always like to keep my hands busy even when I am watching TV. Then it became a challenge – almost a game with myself – about how far can I go. The first project I ever did was a blanket for a friend who was pregnant. It took me about three weeks to make this baby blanket. And I do remember when I would knit it, I would pray for the baby. The song “The Blessing” had just come out so I would sing in my head, ‘May His favor be upon you and a thousand generations.’ That was really special. She was my babysitter for so many years, so I was glad that that was the first thing I ever made.”
She says, “Lockdown had been hard on our family. The tight quarters, hard to get around, hard to get used to it. A big theme in our family is Ebenezer stones and Ebenezer moments. [Editor’s note: The word Ebenezer literally means “stone of help.” The stone that Samuel erected was a constant reminder to the nation of Israel that God had protected them and led them to victory. Whenever the Israelites walked past that stone, they would remember God’s kindness to them and praise him for it.] When Ebenezer moments come up, we highlight them. We started to see the goodness that was coming out of lockdown and the importance of the time we were getting as a family. I made a blanket to commemorate this time. I challenged myself to make a full size 6’ blanket. That one took me a month. It brought our family close together. To this day, just walking out and seeing my sister snuggled under the blanket in the morning is so special.”
She continues, “The blanket represents trying something new and how God was so in 2020. I think a lot of people started 2020 thinking ‘This is my year’ and God said, ‘This is MY year.’ I miss a lot of what was before. I haven’t walked into a store without a mask in months, but I wouldn’t trade the time. It was a horrible time for our country, but God was with us through every moment. I also think about how God can take this pandemic and change the dynamics of things. That’s what the blanket represents to me.”
Once she started knitting, she ventured into other projects like hats, headbands and stuffed animals. And in September of 2020, she got an idea to make knitted pumpkins. She says, “I just ended up with a pile of stuff. What if I started selling on Instagram and Facebook? But these things take awhile so I thought I should build it up first. I decided to do made-to-order pumpkins and got flooded with orders. I set up my Instagram and my logo. I Googled how to market, how to get your stuff out there, how to start an Etsy shop, what are taxes. I did research on how best to price products and even research on when to post on social media when there is the highest activity. There was a lot of research that went into it. Then buying the stuff to ship it. It was a long process. I finally opened my Etsy store on Thanksgiving day. So the pumpkins are really how it started.”
She states, “The cool thing about it is that it’s an odd talent for a teenager to have. You don’t often see teenagers knitting. So I think it’s a God thing that I picked this up and I took to it. I was meant to have this, so it was self-care that was a gift from God. So even if I didn’t make a penny, I would keep doing it.”
The realization of a greater purpose hit home when a stuffed bunny Anna Greer made for a relative helped that person get through the death of her parent. She says, “ I have always loved doing stuff for people. I know that everything I make is going to be so personal to that person. Something I made sitting on my couch is something (her relative) used to get through her mom dying. If it affects one person it would be worth it. It really matters to me. I want to be a nurse one day, but I never want to lose this. I always want to keep it going, and I always want it to be special to people. It’s personal. I made this, and this was always meant to go to you.”