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2023 - A Year of Highs and Lows

2023 has been an absolute rollercoaster of a year. Nothing steady, nothing as planned, nothing like I expected! This was my first full year of self employment, and I dove into it with so many plans and goals.... many of which were not achieved.

I began 2023 by finally releasing one of my most requested kits, Illuminations On The Wall featuring Sycamore Gap in Northumberland. I'd had this kit designed and stitched for almost 4 months by this point, but the 2022 Christmas period was just too manic so I wasn't able to release it any earlier. But when I did, in January 2023, the reception was incredible!

sycamore gap at night with northern lights cross stitch kit completed and framed on wood shelf with blue wall

Personally, the start of the year was also brilliant as we jetted off on our honeymoon to the glorious Caribbean island of St Lucia which was simply dreamy, a proper holiday of a lifetime! I was so sad it was over that I genuinely sobbed in the taxi on the way to the airport on our way home. My absolute favourite memory of the trip was going horseriding along the beaches and in the sea, and more excitingly, getting Jonnie on a horse!

horseriding on the beach in the Caribbean

I then spent a fairly quiet couple of months doing lots behind the scenes including organising a gift wrapping service, updating and improving the website, creating stitch guides, updating kit instruction leaflets and packaging, creating single page pattern options for all those who purchase PDF patterns, as well as planning thread bundles and hoopless kit options, designing summer workshops, and fulfilling orders including for new stockists like The Sill in Northumberland. I think this was the only portion of the year that felt even remotely calm and under control!

river tyne, tyne bridge, baltic, sage and millenium bridge, at sunrise, cross stitch kit completed and framed on white shelf against blue wall

April saw the release of The Tyne Bridge kit, another highly requested kit, to yet another great reception, before May brought the first of what was supposed to be two spring/summer workshops. However, after the highs of the first few months, the first low of 2023 appeared. Unfortunately, the second workshop of the summer was cancelled by the organiser due to a lack of bookings before I'd had a chance to tell anyone about it myself. It was upsetting at the time, but actually it turns out the universe was trying to help me out as it would have landed right when I was very unwell (reason to follow!).

May also brought the start of the clearance section of the website. As the business has grown and I now have a whopping 17 single landmarks kits (!), space in my workroom (aka spare room) is becoming tight! So, I made the tough decision to put a couple of kits on clearance. This was a bittersweet moment because while it's sad saying bye to something you spent a long time creating, it's also exciting because it frees up space for me to move forward with new designs. And to be fair it's not goodbye forever as any designs being moved to clearance will remain as PDF downloads and thread bundles, so they will still be accessible if people want to stitch them.

free beginner friendly cross stitch kit home is where the heart is

Then it was June, and from here on in, almost nothing went as expected! In June (on Father's Day to be exact!) we found out I was pregnant which, don't get me wrong, was amazing, and exciting, and everything we had hoped! But the fatigue, anxiety and sickness that the 1st trimester brought hit TSK hard. I managed to fulfill orders, and complete the events I'd already booked, with the help of very caring and understanding stall neighbours and organisers, not to mention my mum who took over during one for a couple of hours so I could have a nap in the car in the carpark midway through the afternoon!

Also, luckily, I had already designed and created the two kits due to be released through the summer. However, everything else fell by the wayside. I released the Whitby Abbey and Cleethorpes Pier kits as planned, but then didn't seem to have the brain power to promote them as much as they deserved. Poor Cleethorpes Pier got released then nothing else said about it for an entire month! So just to give it a bit of limelight, here it is!...

cleethorpes pier with donkeys on the beach cross stitch kit completed and framed on white shelf against blue wall

Over summer I went quiet on Facebook and Instagram as I just didn't have the energy for it, I had to take almost two months out of stitching the new bauble kit (I had luckily designed it back in May) because focussing on it was giving me a headache and making me feel nauseas, I wasn't able to do the Pinterest training I had planned to actually begin to make something of my Pinterest page, and I just didn't have the brain power or energy to design and organise anything else I had planned, like the summer sale, the Christmas workshops, or the charity craft and coffee morning I wanted to run. All in all, summer left me feeling like a complete and utter failure!

Luckily, I started feeling more human towards the end of August, because when I released the previous years baubles at the beginning of September, I was taken aback by the sheet number of orders, particularly for the Newcastle and Gateshead Baubles Kit! I spent a very busy couple of weeks trying to keep up with those orders (with a lovely long weekend away in the middle of it for our anniversary to Doxford Hall, which helped!) then getting about a week working at normal pace before everything went crackers.

couple standing in front of doxford hall hotel, northumberland, entrance

In the early hours of 28th September, the Sycamore tree that had stood at Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland for more than 300 years was maliciously felled, causing heartbreak to many and an enormous rush in orders of the Sycamore Gap kit. Within the space of about 3 days, I had orders for just over 200 of them, including a number of large wholesale orders that were needed 'tomorrow' because my stockists were running out rapidly too. Cue working 14hour days and weekends just to keep up! Typically, just 3 days after the tree was felled, 2nd October, I had also planned to release this year's bauble kit, the Hadrian's Wall Bauble kit, which included a bauble of Sycamore Gap. I couldn't delay it because I had promised you all a new bauble kit on that date, so that just added to the madness!

trouvaille stitch kits pop up shop at john lewis in newcastle selling cross stitch kits

To add to that, I released the Limited Edition Angel Of The North Needleminder in mid October, and also had two big events (my first pop up at John Lewis in Newcastle (see pic), and my annual appearance at Living North Christmas Fair) at the back end of October that I needed to prep lots of stock for. Both events went so well I ended up having to make more kits on the evenings, assisted by my mum and Jonnie.

I'm hugely grateful to both of them for their help through those events, and the other events through the festive period, (and my Gran for all the dog sitting!) but I do find it very frustrating as someone who is used to being so independent, and also I feel very guilty as I can't afford to pay them. I do treat them to a good lunch though and a sweet treat at the event, or a McDonalds on the way home!

Speaking of events, I ended the year in December on a huge high with Made Up North Winter Market. Not only was it just a brilliant day in an amazing space with fabulous people, but it was, by far, my most successful market to date!

Then, to round of the year, I was featured in the World Of Cross Stitching Magazine released on 27th December (Issue 342) which was very exciting!

So, after this rollercoaster of a year, I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who have kept me and my little business going this year. You, the customers who have bought from me and left kind reviews. You, the supporters who have spurred me on on social media, and shared my business to help others find it, and come to say hi at events. You, the event organisers and fellow traders who looked after me and my stall at events through the summer when I was feeling horrendous. You, my friends who regularly checked in on me because I'd gone quiet. And you, my family who worked tirelessly for free to make the autumn and winter events a success. You all mean the world to me and I can't thank you enough!

As for the goals that weren't met, and the plans that took a back seat... I'm slowly learning to not see them as 'failures'. There are, after all, more important things in life.

Next year is going to be a whole new minefield to traverse, but I'm eternally grateful that whatever happens, I know you lot have my back!

See you next year!

J xx


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