Real Women Real Lives: Meet Sandy Higgins from Vintage Stitches

Real Women, Real Lives

Who inspires you? Who do you use as your motivator to get things done or to make valuable changes to your life?

There are thousands of women who stimulate our need for greatness. They appear on our television and movie screens, we listen to them on the radio, or we read their encouraging stories in articles or books. It’s easy to put a celebrity on a pedestal and desire their lifestyle, skillset and strength of character, but we don’t need to turn to the glossy magazines, or the big screen, to find inspirational women who can motivate us to succeed. They live next door, work alongside us, and talk to us at the supermarket.

The Real Women, Real Lives feature highlights the incredible individuals who have succeeded on their chosen path, or turned misfortune into positivity. Ladies who have conquered illness or gone above and beyond to help others, and made a difference. Women who have stepped out of their comfort zone and launched a business, or ventures that have an impact on their environment, or community.

These remarkable women are your friend, co-worker and neighbour and I’m delighted to be able to share their stories with you.

Today’s story is from Sandy, a fabulous lady I met on social media who is a mum, carer, and small business owner dealing with fibromyalgia.

Tell us a little about you and your story.

My name’s Sandy. I’m 40, and I own a historical knitwear company called Vintage Stitches, and I do the occasional lecture, workshop or written article. I live in Redditch, Worcestershire, with my 10 yr. old son, my parents and a Hungarian Puli rescue dog, named Apollo. I am part time carer to my parents, and Apollo has separation anxiety.

I love History, particularly Social History, and I am fascinated with what a woman my age would have been doing at different points in time. For the past year, I have been a 1940s historical re-enactor and can be seen at most of the West Midlands 1940s events (And some further afield).

My business came about shortly after my Nan passed away in 2016. She was a massive part of my life, but she also taught me and my mum to knit. Gradually, over the first few months of 2017, my mum and I realised that we were amassing lots of old patterns. I had been through a massive personal change in 2016, leaving my husband of 12 years and my house of 17 years in Coventry. I also had to leave my job and find something to suit me as a single mum with school runs to do! In March 2017 I was lucky enough to have supportive parents who enabled me to jump in to self-employment, both feet first.

The business is going amazingly well, and we make costumes and outfits for theatres, museums, living history and also as fashion pieces. Everything is researched and as accurate as possible to the materials available in the past. I have had a rollercoaster year, but I couldn’t be happier with how the business is running. Mum helps me a lot, and we sometimes wonder what my Nan would have made of it all! Prior to self-employment, I had a long career as a Funeral Director, and as an Enterprise Coach/Adult Education tutor after the birth of my son, and subsequent redundancy from the funeral profession.

On a personal level, I had a tough time in Coventry. I have been on anti-depressants since 2007, had much counselling and diagnosed with PTSD as well as other mental health issues. I always felt like a caged bird. Eventually, I decided I wanted to live my life, not just exist throughout it. I now have a very healthy mind but my body has given up, and I have Fibromyalgia.

What’s your biggest dream in life?

To stay free. I am never having that caged bird feeling ever again! My business is purposely set up so that I can do it from anywhere, with the odd access to the internet.  I am planning to buy a caravan and a 4 x 4 (Second hand of course!) soon so that I can carry on camping and doing Living History events, now that the Fibromyalgia is making sleeping on a floor in a tent difficult.  I love the Scottish Highlands, and I hope I can spend more time up there when I get the caravan. I’m not really into possessions, money or material things. I have lived off virtually nothing for two years now, but I have the most important things in life already.  I have little dreams, but I tend to have them as actions to do, rather than as a dream with no plan to get there.

If you chose a power word for this year what would it be and why?

BETTER. As in, “a better way of life” or “managing the Fibromyalgia so that I feel better”. Most importantly, I had some client feedback from someone in Las Vegas, USA, who said my business was the most amazing thing he’d ever seen. I now have a printout I made saying “Better than Siegfried & Roy” in my room!

Who inspires you and why?

I am inspired by the past. Things were hard, but so much less complicated. Fashion was also functional, products were made to last, people had conversations about real things. We valued things, not constantly trying to keep up or be better than other people. You used things until they wore out. Beer was beer – you didn’t need thousands of different types – and chains like Subway and Nandos weren’t there to over complicate a ham sandwich or a chicken dinner.

What, in your experience, motivates you best? Can you give an example?

My primary motivation is to make a life, and have control over it. My son is a great motivator. Not just in the way parents exist for their kids, but because he is good at giving me a kick up the behind when I need to get moving or if I am moping too much, and also very good at reminding me to chill out.  I used to drink lots and lots of coffee to get going but I have had to cut caffeine out of my diet on Doctor’s orders (and alcohol, junk food, spicy food, white bread and pasta…).

I have to do so much in a day anyway between parents, son, dog and myself that I am generally up and running about 8 (with a glass of warm squash!). A good day is one where I don’t have a couple of painkillers for breakfast, and then I start checking things off the mental list. By about 10, I look at what needs to be done on the business, or have a little sleep! 2 pm is another “work or sleep” moment. A bad day, I get up, do the necessary, and go back to bed with a crochet or writing project and watch Jeremy Kyle on catch up.

What actions/events/environments would adversely affect your motivation? Can you give an example and how you coped?

With the Fibromyalgia, and everything I have to do, energy is valuable. Someone told me the  “Bucket” Theory in that you wake up with so many buckets of energy to get you through the day, you can rest or sleep to fill the odd bucket back up again, but you will use more than you make. Getting out of bed and getting dressed some days can take two buckets of energy. I have to store buckets up, so if I know I have an appointment and it will take up most of my energy, I plan the rest of the day to be quite easy on the brain and body.

I found I was trading at a lot of 1940s events but weekend trading takes so much energy I would be wiped out completely for two or three days in the week afterwards. Whilst I made sales, they were to people who already knew me or followed me on line.  This last month, I stopped all my trading at events, re-enacting only. This means I can lie down and rest when I need to, and I am not ‘on the go’ the whole time. It also means that I still have a presence at events. However, I am currently switching all my trading to online only, using the buckets of energy more effectively.

How do you ensure that your personal level of motivation is high on a daily basis?

I have a confession… some days it’s not high.  Some days, just the fact I get up and dressed is a massive achievement. Sometimes I do just lie there in my room wondering what happened to my life. How come I live in a room full of stuff everywhere and what happened to my house I used to have? Why are my parents ill? Why am I ill? Blah blah blah.  ‘Where have we come from and what are we doing here’ is one of the oldest human questions. I think it is useful to ponder it sometimes. For a bit. A short time. No wallowing in self-pity!!

I do a short to do list. Shorter and achievable, generally speaking. That way, I feel like I have achieved or over achieved if I manage it or manage it and do more.  I have days when I want to get out and about, days I feel creative, days when the mind is bright but the body isn’t willing and days when I am away with the fairies or being awake hurts. This way, I am not spending a day where I have energy doing something sedentary and then having to lose work when I feel poorly.

I also had a massive friends and associates shift in 2016. Now, I generally spend time with those with the same mindset (though not opinions necessarily). Everyone has to enjoy life and respect each other if they spend time with me!

To find out more about Sandy you can connect with her here:

Website

https://www.vintage-stitches.co.uk/

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/vintagestitches1940s/

9 comments

  1. Another truly inspirational woman . Sandy, you’ve been through so much, with your split, depression and fibromyalgia… I applaud you for getting out there, finding a way to be not only a great mum, but to start your own business too. 🙏🏼💜

  2. Wonderful, inspirational story. Sandy is an amazing woman who truly shows that in the face of adversity her indisputable strength, courage and positivity helped her get on the path to success and may it continue and grow to greatness! I salute you Sandy! 👍🏻

  3. Sandy, I too felt very inspired by your life events. Well done you for taking the bull by the horns so to speak. I love your attitude about being free and no longer accepting the life of a caged bird. Brilliant analogy and one I can very much relate too, without going into details, I spent too many years in a self-destructive mode this, of course, was over 30 years ago. This series is great Shelley, it has certainly made me think this Friday morning!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Suzanne. I think many of us can relate to how Sandy feels and that’s why I wanted to give inspirational ladies like Sandy a stage to share their story. Living in self-destructive mode is so hard but having the insight to recognise it and make changes is fabulous. Glad you enjoyed the post x

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