Distance learning – my thoughts on how I stayed motivated and on track. (sometimes you can even surprise yourself)
My name is Michelle Roberts, 37 years old, and a few months back I completed the level 3 diploma in patchwork and quilting in just under 2 years, with school of stitched textiles.
I chose to do distance learning, so I could study in my own time as I am a mum to four boys, wow I hear you say, as I often do, when I say it out loud, but I think when you become a mum you can end up becoming just a mum (which is awesome, but my kids are getting older now, and like to do their own hobbies) and I was forgetting all the things I use to enjoy.
I wanted something creative to get stuck into, and I knew if I just made things out of books I wouldn’t stay motivated, and would drift into doing the mundane things in life – cooking, cleaning etc. Too be honest I loved being able to use the excuse, I have college work to do today, it also showed my children that mummy could do stuff too, and learn new things.
My kids were great, whenever I showed them something I was working on, they would have so much advice which would encourage me, I enjoyed showing them that you can do anything if you put the time and effort into it.
I have always been a creative person, with math’s and languages never being my strong point, and although I use to get mocked for being ‘blonde’ and a bit ‘stupid’ because of this, I’m so glad I have found my sewing machine and have been able to show people and myself that I can be someone, who’s good at something.
When I started the course, my husband was having to help me thread up my machine, as I knew nothing about sewing/quilting, two years down the line, I have learnt so much, my tutor Gail Cowley has been brilliant throughout the two years, always so quick to reply to my emails. I think I asked a lot of stupid questions (sorry) and sent emails when I was at my wits end, and ready to throw my machine out the window 😉 Gail always replied with such helpful advice, which motivated me to continue.
I owe a lot to my husband and kids for helping me stay on track, they were always so encouraging. Each module that I completed was celebrated with a bottle of prosecco… I think if this had been a course that I had to attend in person, I wouldn’t have done it. I’m not a particularly confident person, and so being able to learn in my own space at my own pace was great. I would absolutely recommend this course to anyone with a love for creativity, and no I have a certificate to be proud of.
Since completing the course, I have started my own WordPress site at www.creativeblonde.co.uk where I write step by step tutorials. I am currently competing in the #100days100blocks2017 challenge on Instagram, where I have met so many lovely people, who leave such lovely comments on my Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/creativeblonde66/ I have gained almost 300 followers in just a few months.
I’ve been extremely lucky to be given a job with Alicia at www.sewwhatalicia.com which I applied for soon after completing the course, I write step by step foundation paper piecing tutorials for her blog.
One of my quilts went on show at the NEC Birmingham quilt show and at the quilt show in Cologne, earlier this year, which I’m very proud of.
I love where I am right now… long may it continue 😊
I have been very fortunate to stay in touch with my tutor, and she was kind enough to write the following article, which I just had to share with you guys
As Managing Director and Head of Centre at School of Stitched Textiles, a distance learning provider for creative craft courses, I’m often asked by prospective students ‘how do I move on from my course and turn my skills into a job”?
Well, I did it – it wasn’t an easy or quick route, but it is certainly possible. I’d been teaching City & Guilds classes to attending students at weekends. One student mentioned that she was moving back to Denmark and desperately wanted to finish her course. I told her I’d do a correspondence course free for her if she gave me feedback on the materials I sent her. She completed her course and I went on to do the same for a couple of other students and then, once I felt confident, I put an advert into a couple of magazines. Things progressed from there, but it wasn’t easy or instant. I don’t want to sound gloomy, but I do want you to be realistic about considering a career in creative crafting, so I’ll start with a few ‘don’ts’
- Don’t Give up too quickly or expect it to be easy.
The single most important thing. I know it sounds so obvious, however it is so easy to be put off by a set-back or harsh remark someone makes. Learn from it and try not to take it personally. You know you’re good and qualified at what you do (and if you don’t then you need to pay us a visit at www.sofst.org to look at our courses!) I know it is a cliché, but you’d be surprised how often unpleasant or derogatory remarks are made out of jealousy – everyone likes the idea of doing something creative and making a living from it – but remember, you’re achieving their dream and they won’t love you for it!
- Don’t underestimate the cost
I’ve seen so many people set up a small shop and take on large overheads they can’t afford longer term. They think they will be coining it within 3 months. This is unrealistic and dangerous to your bank balance. Plan it will take 1 or 2 years, not months, and budget accordingly.
- Don’t underestimate the time
If you’ve been employed up until this point, working for yourself can come as a big shock – no holiday pay, no sick pay, no minimum wage and lots of very long hours doing un-creative things like accounts, so it really is a labour of love. Be ruthless about costing your time and reflect it in your prices. If it takes too long and you can’t charge much because, for example, it’s only a card, dump it now or think of another way of doing it that’s faster. Never make yourself endlessly busy for the sake of it – find several repeatable lines that have several variations and stick with them. One off’s are to commission and are costed accordingly.
Right, I’ve got the gloomy over. So, what can I say that is more positive? It’s hard to be specific as it all depends on which path your follow, so I’ll give some general pointers instead. There are so many ways to make money from creative crafts and they don’t all involve sitting behind a table at a craft fair! Think blogging and vlogging, designing kits, writing for magazines, working to commission, craft TV, film work, authoring books, teaching in FE, giving talks and running workshops to name but the obvious ones. I’ve known students who have gone on to design bespoke handbags for one of the top New York stores and set up import/export businesses for textiles. The only limit is your imagination. So, embrace it and;
- Follow up on every lead.
You never know where it may take you or who you may meet on the journey that could give you a hand up. At its best it can open doors to a completely different, but still very fulfilling career. We can’t like everyone, but try not to slam any doors shut too quickly.
- Promote yourself
Most of us don’t like tooting our own horn, but when you’re in business you don’t really have a choice. You need to find a way of self-promotion that you can live with and keep up with regularly, maybe social media if you don’t like doing it face to face?
- Do stand back occasionally and review travel.
Lastly, make a pact with yourself to review every so often and measure how far you’ve come. I personally do it when I’m on holiday. I help myself to a couple of sheets of hotel writing paper and put down, not just where I want to go, but also what I’ve achieved over the past few months. None of us do this often enough and give ourselves a pat on the back for all we’ve done well. It really is a huge confidence booster and it’s great to keep the notes and look back over them whenever you’re feeling low.
For City & Guilds, Master Practitioner and Beginners courses delivered online visit www.sofst.org