Learning to Sew, Creating a Career

BlogHer Original Post

I have always made setting and achieving goals a priority in my life.

Growing up, I was driven to succeed in my education. I had the top grades, immersed myself in activities that would get me into the best colleges, and then graduate programs. I first wanted to be a psychiatrist, but once I realized that I'd never be able to stomach medical school, I shifted to child psychology. It didn't occur to me then that a demanding medical career wasn't in line with the lifestyle of the stay-at-home-mom that I also pictured for myself. I never allowed myself to explore more creative avenues that appealed to me. I watched the people around me enrolling in photography, woodworking, glass-blowing, and fashion design classes, but with a full-time job and school, I didn't have time for that "fun stuff."

Stefanie's wedding day

I got married when I had one semester remaining in graduate school, and never returned. My goal was to start a family, and focus on my children and husband. Olivia was born 11 months after we were married, and we shifted our focus to supporting our family with one income. We had three girls in fewer than four years, and I finally transitioned completely out of the "workforce" just after my youngest, Addison’s, first birthday. I was SO relieved to finally focus all of my attention on my family. At the time, it was the culmination of everything I had ever wanted.

Stefanie's family

Spending 24 hours a day with three very little children soon turned out to be no small feat. I struggled to define myself as an individual separately from who I was as a mom. This ultimately led me to the great joy and accomplishment I found in learning how to sew.

I had always enjoyed crafting, decorating, sewing, and baking, but suddenly, these activities nurtured me. I started my blog, and found that documenting and sharing my creativity fulfilled another newly-recognized need -- connecting with other people who shared my passions for family, sewing, writing, and photography. I thrived off of the compliments I received from sharing my most-loved creative projects on my blog.

Stefanie's designs

I started spending a lot more time sewing, which became my favorite creative outlet, and found a sense of belonging in the online sewing community. Any free time that I have now is usually spent sewing or learning new techniques. I might spend days researching online, studying sewing books, and practicing how to perfect one specific skill. I lie in bed at night and dream up clothing I'd like to make some day. When I share something that I've made, particularly something that I designed myself, the response I receive from the online community leaves me feeling like I'm walking on clouds.

Stefanie's dress design

Over time, I've realized that I have aspirations and goals beyond raising my girls and taking care of our family. Don't get me wrong -- I love being at home with my girls, and I know that it's a huge blessing to be present for them every single day. But as they spend more time in school and in activities outside the home, I have my sights set on a new career path. It's taken some time to get here, but it's consistent with how I've always operated -- looking to my next goal, and aspiring to achieve, and be, more.

This year, I made a conscious decision to move my blog from "just a hobby" into something more professional. I've turned my love of sewing in a similar direction, focusing on pattern-making and developing more original designs. This has meant a lot of late nights and dedicated hours reading, working, practicing, and learning. When an opportunity recently arose to work on writing a pattern book with several other pattern designers, I didn't hesitate. I knew that it would be a lot of work, but it was directly in line with my goal to grow as a person and a professional, separately from my role as a mother.

After months of work, I finally published a collection of sewing patterns in collaboration with four other talented designers. It feels amazing to have a tangible representation of our commitment and success. It’s a huge accomplishment!

I'm turning my attention now to defining my next goal, and I'm keeping an open mind about where this might lead me. I don't always end up on the same path where I began. Starting anything is half the battle, sticking with it is hard, and so is knowing when to change gears. I'll continue to focus on the things I absolutely love, and when I again reach my goal, I know that it will feel just as good as learning to sew, and joining others in publishing a book.

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