Stacey of FreshStitches on Sew-viving Academia

Finally finishing graduate school this year was the hardest thing that I have done in my life. Working through the challenge, I learned so much about myself. Part of that was learning how important it is to me to sew – to work with my hands, to design, and to create. Sewing is my rock that gets me through hard times. Curious to see if others have had similar experiences, I asked some other sewists to share their personal connections between sewing and making it through graduate school. I’m excited to introduce Ph.D. linguist and crocheter Stacey, who blogs (and sells delightful amigurumi crochet patterns) at FreshStitches.

I’ve always loved working with children, so after doing my undergrad in Linguistics, I decided to continue and get my Ph.D. in Child Language Acquisition. At the start, it’s a lot of fun because you use toys and playtime as a way of documenting and understanding children’s language abilities. However, as you progress, you typically hand off the fun part (hanging out with children) to your undergraduate assistants so that you can turn your attention to the important stuff: like writing papers and giving presentations. Sigh.

I finished my Ph.D. because I knew that being a professor (with even more paper writing and presentations) wasn’t for me. I started thinking about what I really liked doing, and I’d always liked crocheting. Self-published patterns were just becoming a ‘thing’ (this was 2008), and through grad school, I had developed technical writing and website design skills. I also did a fair bit of graphic design, as well. In addition, I’m extremely good at managing my time (you have to be in order to finish a Ph.D. in 4 years!) and I knew that I liked working from home, so I decided that starting a business would be the right fit for me.

Fresh Stitches Amigurumi Designs

And did I mention that I love toys and stuffed animals? So, I started designing crochet toy patterns and I’ve never looked back!

I had always crocheted during grad school- I’m a big believer in the need to have some ‘down time’ each day. It’s a skill that serves me incredibly well now that I run a (very busy) business. The work is never done… there’s so much to do, but you have to take a break and some time for yourself or you’re on the fast track to burnout.

Not everyone who excels in grad school is developing skills that will parlay into running a business. My husband (who also got his Ph.D. in Linguistics and is now a professor) loved grad school because it gave him the chance to discuss ideas with others, and be in a work environment with lots of other people doing similar things. Working at home by himself would drive him crazy!

Due to the nature of what I did, I spent a lot of time managing assistants, communicating with parents and developing user-friendly tasks. These skills all help tremendously in the customer-service end of my business, but it’s not a key component of grad school for everyone.

I continue to love learning, and that appetite for knowledge is key in running my own business. There’s always a new social media network, tool for formatting patterns, app to promote your work or change to the facebook algorithm. People told me I’d be bored when I left my career path… those folks have no idea how intellectually challenging running a business is!

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