In a world where we are surrounded by advertisements for the latest and greatest pill to treat mental health problems, it takes specific resolve to seek alternatives. While I believe that medication has a vital place in the world of mental health, what is arguably just as important is intentionally finding activities you enjoy.
There’s amazing therapeutic value in giving yourself permission to do something simply for your own pleasure. Some of the best are ones that engage your creativity — and even better, can actually turn a profit!
Jennifer Osgood’s shop, StitchedChic, started as a hobby, which turned into therapy, which turned into a thriving business! Here’s Jennifer to tell us more:
“I became interested in sewing well into my adulthood, at the age of 30. I had two small children at the time: my son was 4, and my daughter was an infant. (They are now 11 and 7 — how time flies!) At the time, I was struggling with my mental and emotional health, due to some extended family issues that were beyond my ability to fix. I knew I was in a downward spiral, and needed a way to get back to being my best self.
I was determined not to go the pharmaceutical route for help, so I needed to keep my treatment as natural as possible. It was at that point that I decided I needed to find a creative outlet to help keep my mind off the chaos that surrounded me at the time. That’s when I started researching creative and fulfilling hobbies; I soon came across a Youtube channel for Melanie Ham, a creative entrepreneur and sewist. I watched every video on her channel, and also visited her website/blog. I had never known that there was an entire world of modern sewing out there — from that point, I knew I was hooked.
The first thing that caught my eye on sewing blogs was the vibrant colors and beautiful designs of modern fabric. But what really sparked my interest was quilting.
I had absolutely no idea how much work and love went into a quilt. I had never thought of myself as one with a knack for choosing complementary colors — but once I started looking at fabric in person, I had about a million different ideas running through my head! I couldn’t stop thinking about all the different patterns and techniques I could try, and all the cute things I could make for my kids. For the first time in months, I felt the mental fog release, and it gave me hope.
I felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and that this was something I could love. Since it was around November at that time, I talked to my husband about it, and asked him if he would get me a sewing machine for Christmas. He looked at me like I had ten heads, and eventually had a good chuckle about it. My request was so out of the blue that he didn’t know what to think of it. But he did come through, and I found a shiny Singer Stylist 100 under the tree that year.
I am a self-taught sewist, and learning the skill of sewing was so much more complicated than I ever anticipated. I don’t say that to scare anyone, but I had nobody to teach me how to sew, and I was not prepared for all the math that goes into sewing- particularly quilting.
From fabric yardage to seam allowances, there is math involved in every step of sewing. I’m not going to lie, my first several projects were ugly — VERY ugly. They were so bad, I wanted to throw them away; but I decided to save them, so that once I improved, I could look back on these and see how far I had come.
There were many times where I didn’t do things right, or where my machine would act up, and I wanted to quit; but I was determined not to let myself give up. I put my entire heart and soul into this craft, and overcame so many obstacles. I finally had a good grasp on my sewing machine and quilting, and I was making a quilt for someone every chance I got.
I could not believe the positive effect that quilting had on my health. I tell everyone that sewing is my therapy. The happiness and joy this hobby brings me is something I have never quite experienced. Studies show that sewing can cause your brain to release a neurotransmitter chemical called dopamine, which acts as a natural happiness booster. I can vouch for this a million times over again. My sewing studio is my happy place. Some days, if I didn’t need to cook supper or start laundry, I could stay in that room all day.
As my journey continued, I went from giving away quilts every chance I got, to having friends and family request quilts to purchase. After multiple people told me I should sell my quilts, I decided that I’d actually give it a try.
I opened an Etsy shop intending to sell only quilts. Selling quilts then led to selling fabric as well; it was so much fun to be surrounded by big beautiful bolts of fabric! I sold quilt fabric in my Etsy shop for over a year, then felt that I was at a crossroads. While I had a lot of sales in a relatively short amount of time (and was ever so grateful for the experience), I had become very limited in my sewing time — and it was starting to bother me. I wanted to be able to sell my handmade quilts, but producing a quilt requires a lot of time, and I didn’t have enough to spare. I began to think about other avenues I could take.
Bag-making was something I had contemplated before. I had even made a handful of handbags and pouches over the years. While my first love will always be quilting, I found myself being drawn to bag-making more, simply because the end result is much quicker. In the amount of time it takes to make a quilt, I can finish several bags.
Friends and family had put in a few custom orders, and had specific ideas of what they wanted in a handbag. I started playing with lots of different upholstery weight fabrics, and fell in love with the ideas that I came up with. I continued to perfect my bag patterns, until they all came out exactly the way I had envisioned — then it was time to make my dream a reality.
I made a decision last spring to sell the remaining fabric in stock, switch gears, and concentrate my handmade business specifically on bags and accessories (with a quilt thrown in here and there). Oh, and that sweet little Singer that I started out with? Well, that was five machines ago. Quality is essential to me, and I have found it necessary to upgrade my machine to fit my current needs, to create a product that others will love as much as I do.
I am the type of person who constantly has a million ideas running through my head. Because of this, I tend to procrastinate — there are so many projects I want to start, and I have a hard time choosing which one I should start first. While my procrastination will probably always be a part of me, what I have found to be invaluable is using a Quilter’s Planner.
You don’t have to be a quilter or even a sewist to use this planner. It provides me with a weekly overview of what I need to accomplish within a day, and also a space where I can write down any creative ideas that are flowing through my non-stop brain. I’m also forgetful at times, so it’s nice to be able to check my planner on a hectic day see how many priority items remain. I even write unrelated things in it, like groceries I need to pick up. It helps me stay organized, which in turn helps me focus and ensure I achieve everything that needs to get done.
Since my studio is in my home, I’m rarely alone while sewing. I have learned to work around the distractions, and have come up with some creative ways to keep the kids entertained so I can get my work done.
My son is into sports and can entertain himself most of the time, so he’s easy. My daughter, however, still likes to “help” me whenever she can. I actually got her a sewing machine of her own a couple of years ago. When she wants to help me sew, we roll out her sewing cart, and she makes pockets and Barbie blankets while I work on my current project. It works out pretty well for us.
While some sewists prefer their sewing space to be outside of their home to limit distractions, I much prefer my happy place to be in my home. All the good vibes that come out of that space can then flow to other areas of my home as well. I am so excited to be starting this new chapter on my creative journey! I can’t wait to see the great things that come from it.”
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