I cannot count my day complete
'Til needle, thread and fabric meet.
~Author Unknown

Sharing a common thread with those who love the art of hand embroidery

Friday, May 4, 2012

There is a rug on the floor of our living room

that is getting close to being 20 years old and

I love it for it's design and color..............but even more so for what it represents to me.
This rug made me determine "my worth" in the work that I create and do. When I first started with the idea of designing and working embroidery to sell................I was a young stay at home mother.My husband was a garage mechanic and what money he was able to bring home, was spent on important things, like food and the children's needs. There was no room or extra $$$ to spend on home decorating.However, I would walk up to admire this rug hanging in the store and vowed that I would somehow make enough money to purchase it...........without feeling guilty about it.  I was hand embroidering small towels and pictures and selling them in local stores for extra income. The small change I made on these items, did not match to the late hours I worked on them while my children were sleeping. However, I had not established faith in myself to dare ask what I really thought they were worth. I was thrilled and grateful that anyone would want to purchase them. I did this kind of thing for months.............this was long before we had a computer and long before I heard of Etsy. One day, while flipping through a sewing magazine, my eyes landed on a want ad from a designer up in the Boston area, looking for someone to be part of their "creative team". Now I knew there was no chance ever that my husband would allow us to pack up and move on a whim from Texas to Boston, MA.
However, I could not get that ad out of my mind.  So I came up with a plan, held my breath, dialed the number and prayed while the phone on the other end was ringing. To my relief, a pleasant voice answered. I told her where I lived, why I could not possibly move to Boston, but if she were willing to listen, how I could be a exciting part of their "creative team". She was willing to listen! I told her about my embroidery and about my design work and how through the wonderful world of snail mail, I could embroider for them. She liked the idea!! I sent her samples of my work and ideas, and within the next week I had a job embroidering for a husband and wife team of fashion designers. They would send me garments that they created and I would embellish them with my hand embroidery.  When asked what I expected to be paid for my work.............I froze." What if I ask too much and they decide I'm not worth it" ......I thought to myself.  But no, I decided to take the bull by the horns and proclaim my work to be worth every stitch I placed into it.  I worked for these people for 5 years..........enjoying every moment of it............and realizing not to settle when it came to what I thought about my work being worth.  The first check I received.............I ran out and bought this rug.
When I work at night, it is here, reminding me to have faith in myself and my work............Since that time, I have had my hands full of embroidering for various customers..........deciding that I want to only create what I want to stitch and if someone likes it, they can  purchase it..........no more custom orders. Another step............I opened my Etsy, created this blog and have just now finished writing my embroidery book............which is still in need of a publisher.  I have changed and grown in this embroidery journey...........and so glad I have arrived to where I am now.
How about you?
Have you struggled in deciding what your work is worth?
I would love to hear!

This week I am working on a cross stitch design by Paula Vaughan............I just love her, don't you?
What are you stitching or working on?


Linda said...

I can see why you love that rug so much...lovely! The cross stitch design looks nice, too!

Mimos da ClaralĂș! said...

Good night my dear friend!
I was thrilled with his story, you're awesome! A winner!
Indeed, this carpet has a huge sentimental value, has no price, right?
Oh friend, that your beautiful story ... I spent my youth, age 16 to 39 years, working in Bank.
I think my greatest achievement was my first real job at age 16, my salary was great, I bought a TV for my room, did some reforms in my parents' house where I lived until I married at 28, helped my father to pay some household bills such as telephone, water and energy.
Then, at age 19 I bought my first car, then another, another even buy my first car 0 km, brand new ...
And there were several material achievements, because until today, with 41 years of age, I still have not realized ... as my professional life was in the Bank I have not had the opportunity to make money with my crafts, because here in Brazil people do not pay what the craft is worth.
Good friend, that's it! Have a lovely weekend!

Anonymous said...

Kathleen...WOW! What an amazing story. I was thrilled to read it, and I could relate perfectly to the dilemma of pricing ones work. I've struggled with that for so many years, I've stopped counting. I've prayed about it hundreds of times. And it's true...afraid if it sounds too much it won't sell, but if it's too less, well, you know.

What a leap of faith you took with the ad, and it turned out perfectly for you. Your rug is so beautiful, and I can see the sentiment you have for it.

My knittington fairy designs were accepted by a prestigious online company a few years back. As I had never licensed my work before, they wanted to pay me outright for the use of 20 designs. They were going to be used as embroidery designs. I didn't want to give up my rights to them, so I refused the deal, which would have paid $500 for the term of the contract (which we hadn't discussed yet). I thought I was giving up the rights totally, but I believe it was only giving up the rights to use them on any sewing materials while they were using them for embroidery designs. I am now sorry I didn't go for it, but live and learn.

Thank you for your comment. My fairies are offered as cards, and I agree that these ink designs should be, too. I have had cards made from some of my other ink designs and they were great. So I think I'm going to offer this design in card form, and sell them in my shop. Thanks for the idea.

I hope you find a publisher soon. In fact, one is already waiting for you. Just speak it out, and receive it. That's what I'm doing with my life. It's not easy playing the waiting game. but believe you've received, and you shall have it. Your work is beautiful and definitely will be published.

I am very glad I've gotten to know you. And I will think very positively about your book.

Marianne xo

Miss Holly said...

What a fantastic story!!! You are so so so inspiring me to get my act together......and your Larkspur!!! Wow..so beautiful!!!

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Interesting post. Nice to know a little bit about your history. I think most artist start out thinking their work is worth less monetarily than it really is. I used so sell items I made, not as a "job" but for cash when Terry was out of work. It didn't matter then if I was paid a "fair" amount for my time. It mattered that I could supplement my 40 hour job income to pay bills.

When we were back on course financially, I didn't sell anymore. But I do donate items for my favorite charity's fundraisers and make gifts.

Your rug is beautiful. I'm glad they still had it when you finally were able to buy it.

lil red hen said...

This is absolutely wonderful! We all need a "rug" to spur us on. Your work is beautiful. I usually don't sell my quilts; are they good enough? will I charge too much? (with the price of fabrics and battings these days, quilts are expensive to make, not to count the work.) So I give away baby quilts as shower gifts (wondering if the person really wants it) and stash away the big quilts for the grandchildren.

Maybe you could self-publish your book and sell it in your Etsy shop.

Thanks for your story of success.

janice15 said...


Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

Now that is a wonderful story of faith and commitment. Opportunities do seem to present themselves when we need them but we don't always follow through because of our lack of faith. So glad that you took the bull by the horns. Your work is absolutely beautiful and worthy of attention. wishing you a wonderful weekend. Tammy

Hill Top Post said...

Your wonderful story brought back so many memories of our struggles through the years. Hard work does usually pay off. You are such an inspiration!

Bev said...

That is so wonderful! And I LOVE that rug too..!!

Joanne said...

Kathleen, what a wonderful story.... very inspiring. There was a time in my life when I sewed clothing and made quilts for money. But never had the nerve to charge what I knew my time was worth. Then a lady asked me to sew her a wardrobe ... she was almost 6 ft tall so I was going to have to get creative. I told her I would have to charge for designing as well as the sewing. She said YES and I was thrilled !!.

Then about a yr or 2 later I was hired to make a king size quilt (Lone Star design) I quilted a feather design all over it by hand. It took forever but they paid me a whopping $1,000 for it! It was my single most exciting sale/design/project. It felt so good to get paid for the work done! Altho even at that nice price if you factor in the hours worked it came out to less than $1/hr. But I was thrilled!!!

Karen said...

Kathleen, your stories are always so interesting and I can certainly see why you wanted that beautiful rug! I'm so anxious for your embroidery book, too, I hope you get it published soon!

Unknown said...

A beautiful rug and a wonderful story. You in Tx me in Ohio...both CarGuy's (mine is a Chrysler mechanic)...I am still struggling to make my embroidery pay off but it will. You are inspiring. When I found your Blog a while back and read thru I couldn't help wish we lived closer and so I became a 'Friend' but Wow, I realize we are friends stitched together by embroidery threads! LOL
Glad you came by my blog the other day and also join the Market again!
See ya later!

A Colorful World said...

Oh, Kathleen, this was such a wonderful post! I loved reading about your journey into the world of embroidery sales, and how you were able to buy that gorgeous rug because you took a leap of faith! It was such an inspiring story, and I know that publisher will come with prayer! You have a wonderful talent!

I tried selling ceramic pieces I made and glazed myself, and then decided I should concentrate on tiles. I had a big vision for what I wanted my home business to be. The problem was, I didn't own my own kiln, and I had to pay to have my pieces fired (sometimes repeatedly, depending on what I made or glazed) It was very cost prohibitive! The work took a long time and with glazing you are never sure exactly how it will look until after it is fired. I probably spent hundreds of dollars on this endeavor and never made more than one hundred altogether. The idea was to spend money in the beginning, so that I could eventually do entire projects for someone needing a kitchen backsplash or bathroom wall design, and make all the spent money back...and eventually make a profit. If you have seen my Piggy Bank Gonzales post, you can see one of the pieces I made for my grandson of which I am very proud. To see the tiles, you can connect to Blue Lotus Tile off my sidebar and you will see when it all finally ended. I had one "big" sale and some smaller ones. But, I was way behind in my goal to finally just break even, so I had to stop. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy it immensely, because I did, but it was a hobby I spent money on, like quilting. :-) I also tried to charge enough for my pieces to cover my time and a little of the cost of firing, so I had some "higher" prices marked on my things, but when you can go to a tile place and buy a mass-marketed design tile for just $5. apiece...well. It just wasn't meant to be! It was fun while it lasted though! I have good memories.

A Colorful World said...

I was so busy telling you my long story, I forgot to say that the dogwood cross-stitch is divine! Absolutely LOVE it!

Sharon said...


This post really touched my heart!
Just from following your blog, I've always known that you are a very special person. I'm so inspired by your story!

Thank you for sharing!

Cora from Hidden Riches said...

I just love reading stories like this! This was so inspiring, and I thank you for sharing your heart here! It's amazing how a rug can just bring back a lifetime of memories, isn't it? I have struggled all my life with the worth of my work. Sitting at craft shows, I would watch people pick something up, look it over, and put it down again. They may as well have dropped my heart and soul on the floor! I took it so personally. But I've learned, like you, that my work does have value and to ask a fair and honest price for what I do. Thanks again for sharing this!