Hello Everyone! hope you are enjoying your Friday :) I finally had to stay longer in bed. This week was full of uni workshops,, so ready for the weekend!
Today I am featuring a dear friend, and a big inspiration. I met Mel in Manchester in a local knitting group that we both went to. She really encouraged me to take my hobby further and she was the one who told me about Etsy (my starting point!). We shared so many wonderful craft-noons eating cakes and crafting. She just moved back to the US, and redid her shop.
Read on and be inspired :)
Tell us a little bit about your shop; how did you start? How did you learn your craft? Why did you start? What do you sell?
Well hello Esra! Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed! I’m Mel of SweetShop Creations, which can be found at
. I started the shop in December of 2010. At the time, I was unemployed and having a pretty hard time of things—I was staying in a friend’s spare bedroom, I couldn’t find a job, my health wasn’t great and so on. I wanted to do SOMETHING, however, so I went and raided my grandmother and great-aunt’s closets for spare yarn and started making crochet hats and accessories. I sold a few, and listed a few more on
which then started bringing in a few sales. It wasn’t enough to replace a full time job, but it kept me from going crazy while I was looking for one, and it opened up this incredible world of professional crafting to me, which I really enjoy.
I sell hats, scarves, and earrings currently, all hand-crocheted by me from original patterns I write for my slowly developing SweetShopCraft brand. I learned to crochet a simple chain years ago from my grandmother on a family vacation, but I didn’t learn to actually create garments until I picked up the book Stitch N Bitch Crochet; The Happy Hooker in 2009.
What inspires you? Is there a special place that you like to go to get inspired? What is it? Any favorite galleries or exhibits that inspire you?
I’m a musician, writer and herbalist as well as a yarn crafter, so my original hat-making inspiration came from sitting down with some good music and a cup of restorative tea. A lot of people get their ideas from looking at other people’s work, going to museums, galleries and plays--and I do that too. I think that creativity is a flow, and enjoying other people’s creativity just makes your own flow that much stronger. But I enjoy less obvious sources of creativity too. I just made a hat that was partly inspired by looking at a surveyor’s grid of the streets in Denver. I guess I don’t have one specific source of inspiration—everything is inspiration, when looked at in the right way.
Who is the biggest supporter of your craft/Art & business?
I am incredibly thankful to my friends and acquaintances who’ve ordered from me online and in person and kept me going these past few years. I won’t mention anybody by name, but these folks will know who they are by their descriptions—a college friend who once ordered a scarf all the way from Qatar, a fellow traveller who custom ordered a fabulous woolly turquoise hat, and an old colleague who is the fiercest earring and eye shadow wearing diva EVER have all touched me enormously with their support and kindness, especially recently. The owner of
ordered a loc soc for her son that he apparently wears everywhere, and it tickles me and makes me secretly proud every time I see a facebook post of him wearing this funky hat I made! There are a few people who never order online but never fail to order custom items from me whenever I’m in their city in person that really encourage me as well. There’s also the friends who put up with me trailing yarn all through their house and turning their back bedroom into a makeshift studio when I was unemployed and tired of life—their patience and un-judgmental support got me started on this and many other things, and I will always be grateful to them.
Honestly, there are too many people to mention. Lots of people have supported me in what may seem to be small ways, but it has meant the world to me. I can honestly say that the best thing about doing this is that I’ve never really sold to a stranger—every person I’ve made something for or sold something too has become a little bit of a friend, if they weren’t already.
Are you part of a crafting group?
I’m a little bit involved with the Denver Crochet Guild at the moment and have posted about it on my blog, but I’ve been in the process of moving countries for about six months and haven’t really had time to get hooked into a crafting group consistently. I hope to be soon though!
What do you enjoy making the most?
I have to say that I LOVE making sweaters. A hat is nice, but a sweater is a massive accomplishment, and a sweater pattern is truly a labor of love and effort. There are so many different styles and ways to create large garments like that. The strange thing, though, is that I never really make sweaters to sell—I only ever make them for myself or for friends. (I have one friend who has about four SweetShop sweaters, lol!) The only reason I don’t really make them to sell is because they are time consuming and expensive to make and I don’t know if I could market them effectively enough yet. That may change in the future though.
Do you craft in public? Where do you do it?
I do…I don’t have a car right now, so I take public transportation a lot. I do have a big handbag, so it’s easy to stitch a bit while on a long bus or tram ride. I also spend a lot of time in coffee shops waiting to meet up with friends, so that’s the perfect time to finish a few stitches too.
What do you like to do for fun?
Besides crafting? I LOVE music and usually do a little singing wherever I can. I also really enjoy languages, reading and long walks on the beach. Scratch that last one—I don’t even live near a beach. What I meant to say is I love learning new languages, reading, writing, cooking, and hiking.
Do you have a crafty room?
I wish! Like I said, I’ve been moving or planning to for about a million days (it feels that way, anyway) so no crafty room for me right now. I hope to get at least a crafty corner set up when I finally finish moving and am a bit more settled, though. I like light, open space, and easy organization—I’m looking to have a nice wide table with a measuring tape blocked out on two edges(like the ones they have in fabric shops), a few large clear bins and crates to organize all of my brightly colored yarn by color and weight, and a dressmakers’ dummy. I’d also make a few hanging hook and needle organizers to hang on the walls so that everything would be reachable. Right now all of my hooks and needles and things live in a shapeless denim bag and it drives me nuts. Add a comfy chair, a stereo, and a kettle and I’m set. While I’m dreaming, by the way, I’d also like a pony and a hot pink 2013 Fiat Spider so that I don’t have to take the bus anymore. :-p
Do you participate in craft fairs or do wholesales? Is there enough support for these types of things?
I don’t do wholesales for anything but earrings because I craft far too slowly to make lots of similar things and because I also like to think that a handmade, one of a kind, original pattern hat is a work of wearable art and wholesale isn’t really the market for that. I do craft fairs, but once again, I’m a slow crafter and I don’t really keep enough stock perpetually on hand to do a lot of fairs. I find that craft fairs are a lot of fun and a great networking opportunity, but I don’t think people come to craft fairs expecting to buy hats and scarves and sweaters, necessarily. For my personal business capabilities and state of constant international transience, I find that online sales and custom orders in person are just more appropriate.
Where do you get your supplies; online, local shops, vintage stores, from friends, recycled materials or others? How easy/hard is it to get supplies & why? Are craft shops missing something?
I get my materials from craft shops and online mostly. I also have a grandmother and a great-aunt who hoard yarn seriously and every time I go to visit, I walk away with a bag full of yarn. I can’t even lie—that’s my BEST source. But as far as buying supplies, I tend to stick to online sources, chain hobby stores (like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s in the US or Abakhan and HobbyCraft in the UK) just for cost-effectiveness. I hate to say it, but I tend to avoid specialty yarn shops like the plague. They’re lovely for atmosphere and for buying patterns, but for yarn and supplies—the prices tend to be too prohibitive for me unless it’s for a custom order. There is a specialty shop in Denver called LambShoppe which has an excellent clearance section, reasonably priced yarn, and an onsite café that is the exception to the rule—I go there fairly often.
How do you find selling offline? How is it in comparison with selling online?
I tend to get a good amount of custom orders via word of mouth, and that is actually my bread and butter, craft sales-wise. If you look at my etsy shop, you can see that I don’t actually sell that much online—but what I do get is people who see the shop and e-mail asking if I can make something specific for them. In person, I tend to sell reasonably well at craft fairs, but they’re such a huge investment of time and craft that I only do them rarely. Honestly, even though I’ve been doing this for a few years now, I have yet to really figure out the best sales model for me. I appreciate every sale I’ve made, but I don’t really know what works best because everything so far has been so diverse! Sometimes I get a lot of custom orders, then I’ll have a rash of sales online, then I’ll do a craft fair, sell everything, and have to start all over again by making stock. It’s a process, and not a perfect one.
Do you have any tips for people who want to start making their hobby into their business?
I’m sure this is what everyone says, but the biggest tip I have is to figure out what works for you and do that. The world is a big place, the internet makes it accessible, and if you have a solid business model and are very aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll find a market. It’s fine to be teachable and learn from what other people are doing, but don’t get too caught up in other people’s ideas and business models. People buy handmade, hobby craft items because they are high quality and individual—remember that and focus on what makes your work high quality and individual. Do that, and network, and the rest will follow.
I miss Mel after this feature now! hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did, make sure you follow her to read more about her items, and adventures