my blog. past.present. and future.

. I’ve been blogging since 2010 and have gone through lots of changes as blogger. How did I start? I had taken a trip to Paris alone with my one year old to visit my friend. As I sat in a cafe, I realized I wanted to write a blog about sewing and living a sustainable life. A couple years before we’d gone toThailand  where I saw a run down clothing  factory and that had inspired me to start sewing my own clothes. Starting a blog was the next step. When I first started blogging, I was so excited to share a new way of life for me. Sewing, thrifting, using vintage fabric and patterns, and making jam. I was meeting lots of other new friends online and it was so exciting. I was a handmade convert, ready to.spread the gospel of the goodness of handmade living.

Before we moved to the country, I’d led a very fast paced life. I went to lots of parties and night clubs. I was a young hip LA native and it was important to get on “the list.”. I had nanny to watch my kids as I pursued my dream of becoming a film actress as well. The competition  was intense and I realized it was not something I could keep doing with two toddlers. I was gone at nights at class, and spent my days going to endless auditions. The rejection was fierce and it really started to get to my head. I quit. Soon after that, Richard had an amazing year in LA commercial  real estate and we bought a summer house in France. I spent five amazing years taking my kids there every summer. After 9 11,flying became seriously expensive, we had Lily and the house was a 17th century death trap for toddlers. So we sold it. That’s  when we decided to change our lifestyle and move out of LA. I had been living a fast lifestyle since I was a young 13 year old punk rock kid in Hollywood and wanted out.

Moving here and the coming recession was good for me. I needed to let go of that old image of who I was and create a new one. And that’s  what the blog was about. Less consumption and more creation. And inspiring  others to do the same. I was sewing and gardening and home schooling and making jam. I felt like a refugee who had finally found peace. Life was slow now and I loved it. Moving here was like magic for my creativity.

Somewhere along the way I decided that I wanted to become a big blogger. I signed up with Blog her, i went to SNAP and The Sewing Summit where I learned how to work with brands and optimize the SEO of my blog and how to use social media to grow it. We even had an organized blogger meet up in Los Angeles. That was fun. I started joining  pattern tours to get traffic, and started a link party. Sew & tell Saturday. I met lots of cool bloggers on my Sew &Tell Saturday link parties but it wore me out, hosting every week so I quit. But I miss that sense of community.

I started getting paid writing for other bigger blogs, magazines and craft company blogs and also sponsored posts. Suddenly I was working a lot. There were stressful deadlines to be met and posts needed to be shared across all the social media channels. This took up lots of time, obviously, and I wasn’t spending enough time with my girls. If I wasn’t  making something, I was photographing it or editing photos. Then of course the writing and time taken up on social media. Then there was the two weeks I spent designing ten kids sewing projects, and taking all the photo’s with a photographer for a craft kit that never was released…

I decided I was going to become an indie designer too , since that seemed the logical progression. I produced one pattern, but don’t really possess the meticulous  attention to detail needed to be successful in that business. I love to design, but creating sewing patterns is so much more than drafting a pattern. I’d  need a partner for the business stuff.

One day Lily cut off Gigi’s hair, without asking, and we started going to counseling. I learned I was spending too much time online . It felt like an addiction. I had a problem. I decided to cut back on my outside writing gigs and slow down on blogging a bit. Yes, my numbers would drop, but it was what I needed to do. I needed to be present with my family, not be some person on the computer saying “in a minute,” all the time. My income wasn’t enough to be sacrificing time with my family.

It was  paying for my supplies and fabric and a few fancy sewing machines. And the trips to Los Angeles. Buying binges at Mood and Micheal Levine and the jobbers. And fabric shopping in Tokyo. Not to mention the thrift shops , flea markets, and estate sales where I bought oodles of vintage patterns and notions. I was doing a lot of consuming. Was sewing an addiction that was just replacing my former shopping addiction ? Bins and bins of fabrics in the spare room answer a resounding ,”YES” “please make us” they seem to whine, as I pass by on my way to the closet.

So I’ve  quit the pattern tours and sponsored posts, and link parties. I don’t  want this blog to be a commercial for the companies who send me free stuff. Although getting free stuff is fun! But there is a price to be paid. I was recently sent a shaggy fake fur coat, and I’m  supposed to put it in a blog post. Loss of integrity? You decide. If I like a pattern, I’ll try to buy it and sew it and let you know how it went.

Last month, I flew out to Denver to be a guest on Sew It All TV. It was a bucket list moment for me. Being on a sewing TV show . A show I used to watch too! I wouldn’t  say no to that opportunity  if it came again. What it did do was validate the idea that if I choose to pursue a more professional  route, I can.

Then there was a certain post I wrote in the heat of the moment that pissed a lot of people off and made me lose lots of readers. A black smudge on Sew Country Chick. How I wish I had never pressed publish on that one . In one day I became known as a sizist, ageist, bigot, and ignorant jerk. I even got my own hate thread on Gomi. I apologized on the blog but the abusive comments kept rolling in. So I deleted the whole post. If any of you read that post and were offended, I apologize for my callous remarks . Obviously, I didn’t get the point I wanted to get across, which was how I felt the whole blogging scene has become a bit gossipy and unkind. My post was also unkind. The moral of the story is sleep on a potentially controversial  post and edit it carefully before you press publish.

So now here I am blogging still after 5 years. No book deal, no pattern line, but that’s  OK. I quit my all consuming costume design job. I had a disagreement with the director. I’m a little sad about it because I love making period costumes. I suppose when one door closes another one opens.

I’d  just like to create with joy again.

Merry Christmas  and see you in the new year.

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-McKenzie

Comments

  1. says

    I love your posts, Justine. You live with passion, you take risks, and you aren’t afraid to say “hey, this isn’t working, let’s change!” I admire you for it. It sounds like you are at a turning point in sewing and life and I look forward to hearing whatever snippets that might come my way. Best of luck! And have a merry Christmas!

  2. says

    What a journey! You have dipped your toes in lots of waters. Crazy how the definition of business success has changed. 20 years ago success in business meant working your way up the ladder and specializing in a field. For our childrens generation, they need to know a little bit about a lot. A standout resume now will have a different job every couple years. Remember when that looked bad on paper? Today the world moves so fast that it’s not about what you know, but how fast you can learn and adapt. You are ahead of the pack:) my favorite thing about this blog is constant evolution. Seems like everytime you get comfortable, you get bored. That means your definition of success isn’t money, it’s knowledge. People who define success by knowledge or experience are never quite satisfied…because there’s always more to learn. So there’s no finish line for people like us, but it sure makes an interesting blog:)

  3. says

    I loved hearing your story. Thank you for sharing. You’ve had an exciting life. I think it’s wonderful that you value your family over fame. Children really do grow fast. So it doesn’t mean never, just not now. You have a whole life ahead of you. So if you really want to do some of those more involved projects, you still can later. But I think it’s great if you can create for your own enjoyment without pressure of deadlines. You will be much more relaxed and fulfilled and enjoy your family as well. I’m so glad that you are taking a step back and not just quitting blogging all together. I really do love your blog and I am so happy to know you.

  4. migdalia says

    Justine, yo veo la vida como un gran libro. se termina un capitulo y se comienza otro. disfruta tu vida en el campo, tus hijos y el presente. ve patrones, escoge y cose por placer, no porque tengas que cumplir con una fecha. que el 2015 te traiga muchas bendiciones a ti y a tu familia. un abrazo desde el Mar Caribe.
    Justine, I see life as a great book. one chapter ends and another begins. enjoy your life in the countryside, your children and the present. see patterns choose and sew for pleasure, not because you have to meet a date. that 2015 will bring many blessings to you and your family. a hug from the Caribbean Sea.

  5. says

    I would rather sew than do most anything else, and I only recently discovered your blog. I think it was the Ojai Wrap that got me.

    I am divorced with no children and would LOVE to move out of the city like you did. It’s my hope to be able to do that one day, but for the forseeable future, I’m in Houston’s suburbs wishing for the life. I have fabric and patterns everywhere. . . .

    I write a foodie blog, and have reserved a name for a sewing blog, but haven’t really done anything with it yet. HeatCageKitchen is just me writing, no commercial sponsorships; I need to learn how to do that myself. Not really looking for free stuff, but certainly wouldn’t mind the commissions! I may put together a cookbook one day. . . .

    I never got to use my sewing machine to make a living, but I sure wish I could. I sat behind a desk until I was laid off 2.5 years ago; I have gotten some sewing done, though.

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only person who still sews, and better, I’m not the only one who wants to move out of the city into a new lifestyle. I’ll have to do it alone, but I that’s OK too. I’ll have plenty of room for you to come and visit.

    Amy

  6. karen says

    I like your post. It’s genuine and resonates with the reasons I’ve felt I never wanted to start (and potentially get sucked into) a blog. GOMI is so negative. I went on there a few times and wondered to myself, “why are these people expending energy spewing acid with their criticisms of others who are actually creating and doing something positive?” Baffling. Glad to hear you’re being true to yourself and focusing on what you feel is important.

    • says

      Ah well, thanks. It’s not all negative over there, well a lot of it is, but it was a learning experience to read what some people felt and thought about my blog.

  7. Brenda Kimberlin says

    This is the whole reason that I follow your blog. I look at so many sewing blogs for tips and advice when I’m working on something, but this is the ONLY one that I subscribe to and read every single week and the only one that I really trust. (And by the way, I’ve never found ANY of your posts offensive in any way. The people who did don’t deserve to read you anyway.)

    I found myself in the same boat after I decided to stay home with my kids and freelance — I took on way too much work because I thought if I said no to something, I might miss out on some big opportunity down the line. But like you, I’ve finally started to realize that my kids are the only ones who REALLY need me … and I don’t make enough to work or stress out as much as I do. And the truth is, when I make more, I just spend more.

    So thank you for being so truthful and genuine — so few people are these days, it’s such a gift to get that AND good sewing advice in one place!

  8. Leslie says

    Hi, Justine. Yours is one of the few blogs I regularly check from PR&P. I think it’s because you have a viewpoint and are not saccharine sweet. If you have any personality AT ALL someone will disapprove. Try to remember “other people’s opinions of me are none of my business”…

    Merry Christmas!

  9. says

    I really like you. So glad you are choosing to spend more time with your beautiful family! I also have piles of fabric that i am ready to pass along. I am trying to be more mindful of what we bring in our home and putting our house on a serious diet. Hugs to you and merry Christmas!

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