Quitting the business of blogging

I’ve been blogging since 2010 and have gone through lots of changes as a blogger.

How and why did I start? I had taken a trip to Paris alone with my one year old to visit my friend who married a Frenchman and recently had a baby. As I sat in a cafe, I decided I wanted to write a blog about sewing and living a sustainable life. A couple years before we’d gone to Thailand  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. I didn’t really read too many blogs and so I thought I was doing something new. I was a little late to the tech world.

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 goodness of handmade living. I was honestly thrilled to be a part of a new, vibrant community, although it was mostly online.

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.” Priorities….  at one point I hired an au pair to watch my kids as I pursued my dream of becoming a film actress. 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 auditions. The rejection was fierce and it really started to get to my head. My marriage was on the rocks. I quit. In many ways, trying to make a name for oneself as a blogger brings out similar insecurities to those acting days. You are putting yourself out there, and people either like you, hate you, or just don’t care.

Moving here and the coming recession was good for me. I needed to let go of that old image of who I was back In LA, 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 or pro blogger. I signed up with Blog Her, then dumped them for Martha’s Circle, 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 became almost obsessive over my page views. I started joining in on pattern tours to get traffic, hosted giveaways, and started a link party. I met lots of cool bloggers on my Sew &Tell Saturday link parties but it wore me out, posting the featured projects with links, etc. every week, so I quit.I was spending hours every Friday night organizing those posts, sending out emails reminding folks to post, and commenting on as many people’s posts that i could.

I started getting paid writing for other bigger blogs, magazines and craft company blogs,and also wrote sponsored posts. Suddenly I was working a lot. Sponsored posts were the most exhausting. Often i couldn’t figure out a good project but had to just post something , because of the deadline. The 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 my photographer dad for a craft kit that never was released…

I decided I was going to become an indie pattern 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 and my girl was acting out . Blogging 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. Was it all just a big ego trip?

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. 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 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. 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.

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 a site I won’t give any SEO juice to.. 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 when I was working on a play, but part time costume design job. It was just too much sewing for one person and 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.

    • says

      Deadlines can really duck the joy out of creating but on the bright side they do a great job of getting me off my butt!

  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!

    • says

      Thank you Brenda! I know you’ve been a long time reader and I appreciate all your support. Happy Holidays and a great New Year to you!

  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. Mie says

    Merry christmas Justine. You are passionate and honest which forever will be appealing to me 🙂 Hugs!

  10. 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!

  11. hilary says

    I love reading your posts and following your journey – in whichever direction you head. I hope you and your beautiful family have a happy Christmas and all the best for the year ahead. xx

  12. says

    Hi Justine,
    I was a long time follower and often participated in your show and tell. I used to enjoy your posts on sewing and vintage finds. Then we both changed. I had too many serious real life issues to deal with that so my time on-line was very limited. You started becoming way to commercial for me. It’s nice for you to get free stuff but that wasn’t why I read your blog. And to tell you the truth, I sew in the basement and I constantly battle with my weight.
    I stopped following your blog. I found out about this post on GOMI .
    My life seems less stressful now and you have made some changes. Let’s both get back to sewing and blogging about what we love! Merry Christmas

  13. says

    Hi Justine,
    You have been a true friend and I trust your wisdom on your blog. I also love your honesty. I just yesterday was writing out my goals. This time I made them more realistic. I spread out over 6 months what I would have set up as a goal for 1 month. Thanks for sharing what is truly worth spending your time on. Merry Christmas! See you in the New Year.

  14. Joen says

    Looking forward to following along in 2015 for more sewing projects and adventures! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  15. Jody says

    Justine, I love reading your blog and the way you put yourself out there. Merry Christmas and I look forward to your writings in 2015.

  16. says

    Love you post Justine!! I´ve also been away from the blogging world for some of the reasons you mention: It feels great to be good at something, make it and getting a lot of pats on the back, but it is really time consuming and sometimes you end up sewing more things than you really need and spending more time working for the blog than for more important things. I think for me it was a way of keeping my mind busy and blocking other thoughts that were more important. I haven´t stitched a single thing during the summer and very little this autumn but I don´t care my numbers dropped…at least I´m paying attention to what´s important.
    Happy Christmas!!

  17. says

    Justine, you have a mind of your own and don’t follow the crowd – a good thing in my mind and makes your blog refreshing to read. Have a fab Christmas!!! See you back in 2015, tackling projects for as long or as little as you like.

  18. Judy says

    I’m glad you decided to quit the hoopla. I enjoyed just seeing you being a Mom, Wife and daughter with what you had around your house. Sewing for your kids, dining with your family, caring for your animals. Sharing your life and ideas with us. It made me want to learned from what you shared. I refinished and reupholstered an old foot stool that I gave to my sister for Christmas. I made a little skirt for my grand baby and took pride putting my own label that said “made with love by Grandma” on it.
    I never really paid attention to the outside stuff you did and I’m sure it gave you some pleasure to see your efforts grow by popularity with other sites, but I like this little farm size blog you have and will always cherish what you shared with me.
    Thanks Justine

    • says

      Thank you so much Judy. It’s  really uplifting  to hear that. I’ve  been sort of down in the dumps about blogging. Happy new year!