Sabbatical Recap, and a Business Pivot!

Last Sunday I returned from my 3 week honeymoon bike tour of Ireland, hence ending my self-granted 2-month sabbatical.

Ruby stands over her bike with her arms outstretched, a scenic mountain pass road behind her.

 

My spouse and I had a terrific time traveling throughout “The Emerald Isle,” admiring new landscapes and relishing in a culture that values a slow pace, friendly conversation, and warm hospitality. Some highlights included staying one week with Travis’s grandmother on her farm, cycling around The Ring of Beara (though some of the hills were so steep we had to mostly walk our bikes up and down them), and taking our bicycles on a small boat through Killarney National Park to the foot of the Gap of Dunloe, one of the most scenic mountain passes I have ever biked through!

Ruby stands in front of her bicycle, just off the road behind her. Just past the road are green mountains and blue skies.

Ruby and her spouse are sitting in a small boat, smiling, wearing bright orange life vests. Behind them is the river and mountains of Killarney National Park.

Ruby is walking her bike down a winding mountain pass road. The road is empty except for her and some sheep that have wandered into it.

It felt so good to “just be” in a new place, and put all thoughts of my business and career aside for a little while.


Now that I’m back, having gained some distance, I’m able to take a look at Spokes & Stitches with fresh eyes. To be honest, the past six months have felt like a total slog. I’ve had a hard time motivating myself to work on new patterns, and I’ve felt lonely and listless in my studio.

I’ve been fixated on this idea that if I stop what I’m doing, or pivot, I’ll be disappointing people. But that’s hardly the motivation I need to keep at something that just doesn’t quite feel aligned for me.


So what’s next?


While I was in Ireland, it seemed that nearly every small coastal town we rode through had a local tailor or sewing shop. A modest storefront with a cute window display advertising their services: “tailor and alterationist, first communion, weddings, custom dresses, repairs, etc. etc.”

I was charmed, and also surprised to find I was quite a bit jealous!

Ruby's spouse stands in front of a storefront with a window display of sewing machines. A handpainted sign reads "Merlin Designs."

 

Something about it felt like a scene out of a movie, a romantic old-school way of life that has been forgotten (or relegated to the shadows cast by big box retailers here in the United States).


What would my life be like if this were my business? I imagined waking up, having a coffee and toast in my sunroom or on my patio with a nice sea breeze ruffling the curtains, and then heading downstairs or down the street to unlock my shop and start my day. I imagined the customers I would interact with, the white board on the wall where I would write all of my projects-in-progress, the interns and eventually staff that I would hire to help me… and most of all, spending my working hours at my cutting table, growing more confident and competent with each new commission, and earning enough to invest over time in new machines and equipment. 


Truthfully, I’ve always wanted this, but in each iteration of my business, I’ve woefully undercharged, taken on projects I didn’t really want, and ended up burnt out and exhausted.

Choosing to focus on sewing patterns when I started my business in 2020 felt like the “safe” option; I could hide behind my computer, and make passive sales without having to assert myself to anyone or risk my ego on projects that pushed my creative limits.


I am realizing that what I really want to do, what really excites me and inspires me most of all, is the prospect of returning to custom work (with the caveat that I don’t run myself ragged by undercharging for my skills and labor, which is why I stopped doing this kind of work in the past).

Some of my proudest projects over the past decade have been creative commissions that I did for other people. 

The fact that I’ve been stuffing down jealous thoughts any time I see other custom clothiers coming into their own, flaunting their skills and awe-inspiring custom pieces on social media is a sign that I should probably jump in the pool and at least give it a shot instead of sitting on the sidelines teeming with envy, getting myself all tangled up in thoughts of self-doubt and self-admonishment.

I may be lacking the sea breeze and the coastal view, and South Philly might be far from a bucolic paradise, but so many of the other pieces for a business like this are already in place. I have a storefront (I just need to open it). I have the equipment and tools, I have the skills.

I can continue to make and publish sewing patterns, but it doesn’t have to be the only thing I do. In fact, I think that I will enjoy it more and find it easier if I’m pushing myself creatively in other ways. 


So all of this to say, if you’re one of the folks who has asked me about making some fun and exciting custom pieces for you in the past, you’re in luck. 

But before you rush to email me in an excited fervor… hold that thought!

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be updating my website with pricing and a formal intake process for new projects. 

I just can’t do all of the email back-and-forth anymore, it’s totally exhausting and I’ve wasted so much time talking with folks about hypothetical projects that never came to fruition. So please bear with me as I build and implement a stress-free system that will allow us to communicate more seamlessly about your project, making it easier for both of us to set and agree to expectations, and get the ball rolling.

If you’ve made it this far, I just wanted to offer a final “thank you” for reading, and say that I’m so excited to have you along as Spokes & Stitches evolves.


Stay tuned for more news and info on what’s next and how to work with me in the coming weeks. 

To stay in the loop, make sure to join my email list!

2 comments

  • I think it’s great that you’ll follow your interests in custom clothing! I’m excited to see what you create. ❤️

    Nancy
  • This sounds fantastic! I have 3 custom shirts made by Ruby that are beautiful.

    Bruce Gertz

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