“I mean, how can you really express your appreciation for that kind of support? For me, the work of packing up each kit by hand, was the best way I could think of to say thank you.”
As we enter the last working week of 2023, we’re celebrating.
But first, buckle up…this is possibly the most vulnerable blog post we ever share. Usually a very private person, Pam opens up about her medical condition for the first time and shares why she had to be the one to pack every single Hearts for Pam package.
837 Hearts for Pam (HFP) bundles made, packaged and in the mail to all the stitchers around the world who supported us when life threw a curve ball.
‘Hearts for Pam’ was Katie’s (Pam’s daughter and general manager of CGT) call out to the stitching community for support during the most challenging time Cottage Garden Threads has ever faced. Katie approached designer friends from around the world and was blown away by the response. Together they created the Hearts for Pam bundle of 22 designs using a palette of 10 threads. Keep reading to see all designs and how you can get them as well as a celebratory special offer on the Hearts for Pam thread pack.
Here is the release video we posted back in March for Hearts for Pam. Please note that the Full Bundle and PDF bundle are no longer available to purchase but do not fret, all designs are listed below along with links to the designers websites for ordering.
April 2023 seems like such a long time ago and we’ve been wanting to send a final heartfelt thank you! to our stitchy community. Because many of you have waited far longer than we would have liked to receive your HFP packs and because we are endlessly grateful for your support and your patience.
You see, what you didn’t know was that our Pam, genius dyer of thread, decided to say thank you by packing every single one of the 837 HFP kits herself at home in her studio as part of her recovery.
Now, with the job done, we sat Pam down for a quiet talk about how the last 18 months has felt:
“I couldn’t believe the response to HFP – I really couldn’t”, says Pam. “So, I decided to do the packing myself. First, because I knew I’d get so much pleasure out of doing it – just being able to stand and work – it’s such a milestone to be strong enough to do it. And also because I wanted to appreciate, one pack at a time, just how kind people are. If somebody else at CGT packed them, then I wouldn’t have got that feeling. I found it really overwhelming, in a positive way.”
So the last few months has involved hours of quietly packing boxes in her home studio and reflecting on the fact that every one of the boxes had been ordered by someone who wanted to support her (and CGT) when things looked tough.
“People from all over the world, people that I don’t know and will likely never meet! I just felt so humbled by it.” she says now. “I mean, how can you really express your appreciation for that kind of support? For me, the work of packing up each kit by hand, was the best way I could think of to say thank you.”
Actually, we have to confess that when HFP was launched April – Pam had no idea it was happening. By then she’d been diagnosed with aortic stensosis and her condition was rapidly deteriorating.
And just as well she had no idea about HFP, because Pam being Pam, if she’d realised she’d been made the centre of attention, she’d have shut it down quick smart.
“I had no idea - Katie didn’t tell me until a while later. She knows me too well!” she laughs. “It’s so strange for me to be made the centre of attention. When I did finally find out about HFP, it kind of blew my mind. I wasn’t too happy with the idea – but by then HFP had taken off and I was getting really sick and I couldn’t do work at all”.
How Hearts for Pam came about
It was a case of Katie thinking on her feet. Not only was Cottage Garden Threads down a head dyer, multi tasker extraordinaire in Pam, it was also down a multi-hat wearing general manager Katie who needed to step away to care for her Mum. When Pam and Katie had to step away, the CGT team did what they do best and they stepped in. “Cottage Garden Threads would no longer exist without the hard work, spirit and determination of the team. They got us through this,” says Katie.
“It was hard because it wasn’t just Mum’s health in Jeopardy, it was also the business that we had built together." Shares Katie, “The idea for Hearts for Pam came to me in the wee hours one restless night filled with worry. It came from a place of equal parts despair and hope,” recalls Katie, “very much like a philosophy that has come to be known as the Stockdale paradox that helped us a lot during covid, another tough time for our business - from the quote ‘You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.' — Admiral James Stockdale on surviving the Hanoi Hilton P.O.W camp.”
As often is the case, the seed of an idea grew over a cuppa with a friend who’s expertise is in helping businesses tell their story through social media. “My good friend Sarah from Social Grind Media helped me take a breath and detangle the emotions from the ideas to form the HFP concept and how we were going to communicate it to the stitching community” says Katie.
The response was so powerful it crashed the website several times – a present wrapped in sandpaper. Although it created a lot more admin work (some of which the team is still working through), the sales of the Hearts for Pam bundles got our business through it’s most challenging time yet.
Pams medical journey
Pam’s medical journey started with a routine visit to the local medical clinic in August 2022. She was having difficulty sleeping and tiring easily. Something wasn’t right. Her usual Dr wasn’t available, so she saw a visiting locum Dr who listened to Pam’s symptoms and suggested testing her heart and blood pressure. Totally routine examinations, except that the outcome wasn’t routine at all. The new Dr found something no one else had diagnosed before – a very loud heart murmur.
More tests followed and a referral to a cardiologist, and Pam found that she’d had an bicuspid aortic valve since birth – never before diagnosed (born with two valves instead of three). She was straight on the wait list for open heart surgery – but in the meantime, inexplicably, her condition continued to deteriorate to a life threatening level and she suffered several heart attacks due to the stress that simply pumping blood was causing. Her body went into survival mode and stopped pumping blood to her extremities, focusing only on her vital organs – bringing her dangerously close to slipping into a coma and losing her life. Little did Pam know at the time, she had lost a large volume of blood internally and would require 5 blood transfusions.
It was only at this point in April 2023, after Pam was admitted critically unwell, to The Victorian Heart Hospital that she was diagnosed with Heyde’s syndrome - an extremely rare and dangerous condition related to aortic stenosis which causes internal bleeding. It definitively ruled out open heart surgery. Instead, Pam received life-saving cardiac catherisation treatment (transcatheter aortic valve implant or TAVI). After a week’s stay in hospital, Pam got to come home she’s been getting progressively better ever since.
Pam’s philosophical about the recovery journey. Anyone who has suffered acute cardiac illness knows that it carries all kinds of consequences. One of those is loss of energy and fitness. “I’m used to being someone who never got sick”, she says, and yes, Pam’s capacity for hard work was legendary – 7 days a week for hours every day. But no more.
Another consequence which has caused Pam lots of distress – though it’s gradually reversing now - is loss of eyesight. “It went to the point where I couldn’t see to stitch any more – so I was just sitting around – losing motivation by the day and feeling very low.”
Cardiac illness also goes hand in hand with low mood and depression, and all the sitting around often results in chronic back pain. Pam hasn’t been spared these either. But she’s resolute. “When you have a business – and you can’t run the business because you’re not well enough – it’s hard”, she says. “And when you’re sitting around not doing anything and you’re a person that’s used to being active – you have a lot of time to think. Learning to pace myself has been the hardest thing of all.”
Gratitude is the thing that’s been occupying Pam’s thoughts lately. As well as gratitude for every stitcher who bought a HFP bundle or thread pack, she’s grateful to the (number) designers who gave their creativity so willingly when the chips were down. “A lot of the designers of HFP don’t know me. Sure, they know my threads, but to be willing to design pieces for me? I’m just overwhelmed.” She’s grateful too, for the medical team who treated her. Even though her aortic valve implant won’t last forever, and she’ll be facing down the prospect of open heart surgery sometime in the future. And she’s grateful to the CGT team – “Katie and I are so very lucky that we have the team we have in order to be able to keep our business thriving”.
And what about the future? We ask Pam whether she has any new projects simmering away in her head:
“I’m not quite back at 100% yet – I still get tired easily” says Pam. “But because I’m on my feet and able to stand for periods of time, it means I’m able to get back into the dye room doing what I love. Somebody asked me recently for a black range. A solid thread range of blacks with different underlying colour hues”.
The alchemist of Cottage Garden Threads is back on the job! We’re so delighted. Watch this space!
Hearts for Pam designs
Jeannine McGowan – The Blue Flower
Pattern: Seasons of the Heart, Hearts for Pam - available now
Pattern: Hearts a Flutter
Pattern: Love Bugs - available now
Katie Dawson Stitched
Pattern: Jewel Hearts & Instruction Leaflet
Molly & Mama
Pattern: Ribbon and Roses Stitchery
Pattern: The Queen of Thread
Pattern: Ace of Swords
The Witchy Stitcher
Pattern: Anatomical Heart No 13
Veronique’s Quilt Designs
Pattern: Hearts for Pam
Darling & Whimsy Designs
Pattern: Stitched for a friend
with my heart and my hand
Fig ‘n’ Berry Creations
Pattern: Love Birds
Pattern: Zelda’s Heart
Fox and Rabbit
Pattern: Bathtub of Blooms
Jan Hicks Creates
Pattern: Hopeful Heart Prayer Flag
Rebel Stitcher Designs
Pattern: Heartfelt Posy
Hugs ‘n’ Kisses
Pattern: A Hearty Cottage Garden
Heart in Hand Needlecraft - Cecilia Turner
Pattern: Choose Hope
Petals & Patches
Pattern: My Book Bag
Pattern: Hearts Entwined
Jeannette Douglas Designs
Pattern: Heart for Pam
Pixel Pixie Stitch
Pattern: Wild at Heart