A stylish spin on old-fashioned needlework

Getting laid off is no picnic. Even if your company hands you a generous severance package, it can take a few months to stop the world from feeling like it’s falling down on top of you. But if you can get your head above the fog, if you can stop the spinning insecurity, getting laid off can also be the much needed opportunity to turn your life around.36_jennyh_185x165

Jenny worked at a museum, and, like most of us, she liked that it was steady, dependable work. Also, like most of us, she felt unhappy, underpaid, underappreciated and creatively paralyzed. Finally, she was laid off. Instead of using the pink slip to dry her tears, she used it to light a fire and start a needlework business with a modern twist.

“I had been working towards the goal of leaving my job, but it’s kind of like, one foot on the dock, one foot on the boat, and you really don’t feel like you can make that leap,” she said. “I just kept telling myself, ‘People do this all the time and make it work.’ I really felt that I could, and I knew the resources were out there. Not only that, I really believed in what I wanted to do. I loved it.”

Jenny had started embroidering with some reservation years before her layoff. She was curious about it but also thought it would be tedious, boring, time-consuming work.

“When I actually tried it, I realized it was relaxing,” she said. “I had, in a very short period of time, several family members who either died or were in hospitals. I started needle working since it was something that I could do when I was in the hospital. It was the only thing that really dealt with my anxiety and nervous energy in a way that nothing else had.”

Jenny found herself wanting to do needlework every day, and she wanted to be able to have unfettered time to be as creative with it as she wanted to.

“It was like this new found passion that I discovered,” Jenny said. “I looked at the market and thought, ‘Well, you know, the market does not really offer a creative platform for hobbyists my age and younger. They’re not doing this type of work.’ I thought maybe this would be a way to gain some independence.”
Her layoff was just the push she needed.

When Jenny started working on embroidery, there was such a response to the work and the ideas that doors just started opening. She started getting attention from magazines and realized that her contemporary approach to a traditional craft could be a new way of life for her.

“The first media outlet that contacted me was Entrepreneur and I thought that was a good sign,” she said. “I was really amazed when Chronicle Books contacted me. They said that they had been watching what I was doing – and it had only been about a year – and that they had a line of craft kits. The knitting one just came out and they thought I was the person to do the embroidery kit. That was a pretty huge.”

Jenny never thought that she would become an embroiderer, much less someone who runs a small business. But now she has reached a point where her project has become even bigger than her own vision of it. With two assistants, a bookkeeper, an accountant, a financial advisor, a web developer, and even a warehouse to process inventory, orders, and customer service, calling Jenny’s needlework a success would be an understatement. It’s more like a craft revolution.

“When I was working a 9-to-5 job, I was far more stressed out, and I was not satisfied,” she said. However unconventional and interesting working at the museum was, Jenny knew it was not what she wanted to be doing. She didn’t want to be working for someone else, or make less than a livable wage. Since childhood, Jenny knew that she wanted to be an artist, “I knew that there was a practical, very real way it could be done.” After she lost her job, it was time to find out.

With motto’s like “Get to it and do it” or “Failure is only guaranteed if you give up,”Jenny’s advice is simple:

“Persistence is the key. It really is. This is only going to end if I decide to stop doing it. Really, I think that you’ve got to find your pathway to bliss. And it’s not easy to find it. You just have to be true to yourself.”

What about you, if you got laid off today, what dream would you pursue?

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Jenny’s Website
Due to an overabundance of bunnies and dull, outdated instructions, embroidery badly needed an update. Sublime Stitching is the original company to offer hip and (gasp!) edgy Embroidery Patterns and customizable all-in-one Embroidery Starter Kits.

Recommended Reading
If you are interested in starting a small business, check out Small Time Operator by Bernard Kamoroff . “It was my bible… That was my starting point, and it has always been a book I recommend,” said Jenny.

Cross-stitch and Needlework
Check out America’s Favorite magazine for cross-stitch, needlework, embroidery, and more!

The 5 biggest landscape blunders… and how to avoid them

Shirley was a stay‑at‑home mom with, crazy as it sounds, lots of leftover energy. When her kids would take naps, she would go to the front yard and start gardening — putting a fruit tree here, mounting a fallen branch there. Basically, it was her playtime.

Shirley didn’t have any formal training, but she used plants and flowers to express her own sense of style. For her, gardening was artistic expression.

“Eventually, my neighbors got curious,” she said. “They would knock on the door and ask, ‘Who landscaped you?'”

That’s when Shirley realized that she had a knack for landscape design. After her kids started school, she decided to pursue some formal training so she could turn those curious neighbors into clients.

For Shirley, there isn’t anything that can stand in the way of her creating a beautiful garden for somebody.

“I think it’s part of being a creative person,” she said. “I don’t see blank slates. I see trees. I see flowers. I see succulents. I see sculpture.”

In her line of work, she also sees mistakes people make when trying to landscape on their own. Here are some of the most common landscape blunders Shirley encounters:

1. Starting without a plan.

It’s not a good idea for a homeowner to start making holes and start tearing things down when they don’t know exactly what they’re doing, especially when they haven’t called utility services first. They may not know where the gas line or sewage line are, and it’s not fun to find them by accident.

2. Forgetting that plants require care.

People forget that plants need to be taken care of. Ask yourself, am I willing to keep up with the garden I have planned? If I want to go on vacation, is there a way to properly irrigate so I don’t come back to a dead garden?

3. Overlooking seasonal changes.

Trees and plants change with the seasons. A beautiful deciduous tree may seem perfect in the spring, but it could leave you feeling exposed in the fall and winter when it drops its leaves. Think through these seasonal changes so you’re not regretting your decisions later.

4. Working without a focal point.

Whether it’s an existing tree or a whimsical piece of art, it’s really smart to plan and design around a single focal area. By making everything around the focal point really subtle and quiet, you force the attention onto the item that you want people to pay attention to.

“When I moved into my house, I inherited a beautiful 40 year old pepper tree, and I absolutely love it. I knew that tree was going to serve as a focal area because it’s so grand,” Shirley said. “I decided to put in a pond and waterfall that would meander right to the side of the tree. Now, when you take in the tree, you also take in a beautiful feeling, a setting. It’s more of a package deal instead of a la carte.”

5. Not anticipating growth.

When you put a plant or a tree in your garden, you have to remember that it is going to need to put down roots, they is going to need room to grow. Many people put in plants without considering how they’re going to mature. When you first install your landscape design, you may finish putting it in, but it’s not in its finished form. Gardens get better with age, and you have to plan for the growing up that they do.

For Shirley, success is having a garden. And she would encourage anyone to try and plant one for themselves.

“With a garden, you see something through from start to finish,” she said. “Gardens, like people, go through ups and downs. They get sick. They look ugly. Sometimes they look beautiful. The point is, hang in there with your garden. Nurture it. Address your problems and issues. Don’t run away from them. Take care of them. And in the end, you’ll have a little bit of heaven on Earth.”

For more stylish insights into landscape design, visit Shirley’s website.

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