Challenges and Frustrations with Starting an Etsy Shop

A couple months ago, I reached a goal I’d been working towards for about the last year: I opened an Etsy shop! I started knitting about a year ago now, and built up my skills over the last several months, learning something new with each item I made. And then finally, I opened up my Etsy shop in October :).

I started out with just four items because as you can imagine, it takes time and money to knit things! And my photographer friend has been taking the (beautiful!) product photos for me, so I coordinated with her schedule and worked out a day for her to trek out to this side of the Bay. Once we did our first session, I wanted to knit several more things before we arranged another time for her to come out for another photo shoot.

I aimed to have 5 more items Etsy-ready for our second shoot, but the 60 inch long infinity scarf I made took way longer than I had anticipated. And then came Election Day, so…you know… And then I had just a couple days left before our shoot, and I only had 2 things done. I was making good progress on my third product, but then I decided to buy the original color yarn I wanted, rather than the ombre shade that I had gotten online. I just wanted it to be perfect, so I thought it was worth it.

And I am glad I got the color I wanted. But I ended up staying up until 4:00am that night finishing up the product before my friend Alex came to photograph. And it was Thanksgiving weekend and the new Gilmore Girls episodes had just come out! I hadn’t felt that tired struggling to meet a deadline since grad school (nor do I want to repeat that any time soon). I’m happy with how the product turned out, but I actually had envisioned the measurements to be quite different…I just didn’t take the time to knit a gauge swatch when I really should have (lesson learned!).

But I’ve had some good news since then! I’ve made 2 sales, I’ve been re-posted on Instagram by SF Etsy (the Bay Area Etsy team), and I was invited to do a craft show (which I can’t attend), and my friend Gwynessa and I are planning a pop-up craft show in the Mission at the end of January. Small steps :).

I am itching for more though, and wishing I could already have a shop with a wide selection of items ready to go, and enough of an inventory to participate in the holiday craft fairs. But I’m not quite there yet. And I’ve started and almost finished knitting 2 more items recently that I’ve had to undo for various reasons. AND it’s the holidays and adding expensive yarn to my list of things to buy adds up quickly.

On top of knitting for Etsy, I’m also knitting some gifts and making a sweater (my first one!) for myself, and then there are my endless sewing projects.  There’s just not enough time for everything!

I thinking I’ll feel better once I get a couple more things up on Etsy. Until then it’s just relishing the small successes 🙂

How Knitting and Sewing Have Helped My Mental Health <3

A couple years ago I stumbled upon a beginner’s knitting kit at a Barnes & Noble around the holidays. It was on sale and looked like a fun project to start while I had some time off from work.

Learning a new skill is daunting, and it takes some dedication and patience to really get started. So, not surprisingly, it was a few weeks before I even opened the kit. Much to my dismay, it didn’t include any instructions for actually learning how to knit. Instead, it came with a booklet of some patterns. I had no idea what any of it meant!

So I decided to refer to Youtube for video tutorials for casting on and learning the basic stitches. And I was hooked! I was giddy with excitement for learning something new, and was proud of completing even the most simple tasks. I carried my needles and orange practice yarn with me wherever I went, making nothing in particular but simply enjoying the movements of knitting.

But soon eager to make something super cool, I was dead set on learning how to knit the waffle stitch. Unfortunately it was too much too soon, and I just couldn’t get it. Frustrated, I eventually lost interest in knitting for several months.

Last fall though, I came back to knitting with renewed energy and more patience. I took things step by step and gradually built my skills by working on projects with increasing difficulty, but careful not to get too far ahead of myself. And I was hooked yet again! This time, I think it will last 🙂

I was very crafty as a child, but I somehow got away from it as I got older. I used to be chock full of DIY projects: hand sewing pillows, making pencil holders, making magazine holders. I even made a doll house, complete with handmade furniture, out of cardboard!

Once I started knitting again last fall, I feel like I tapped into my childhood energy and enthusiasm/obsession for creativity. The more I knitted, the more I wanted to knit. And I was itching to learn even more! Last winter I bought a sewing machine and took a couple sewing classes, and now I’m sewing clothes for myself too.

I’ve never really thought of myself as artsy or creative, but there’s a real art to creating patterns, combining colors,  selecting yarn and fabric, and naming/describing my Etsy products. The possibilities are endless and the world is a blank canvas waiting to be painted in whatever strokes and colors I choose.

And this creativity instills a new confidence in me. I’ve struggled with depression in the past, and anxiety remains a daily battle for me. I’ve had periods of deep depression for as long as a year at a time. The kind of depression when your whole body aches and it takes so much strength just to get out of bed in the morning. When you can’t bring yourself to eat, and when you find yourself alone every single day, alone with your irrational worries, and relieved when the day is finally over.

But it’s been almost 8 years now since I’ve been hit with a depression like that. I slowly started taking more control of my life: I got into the graduate program I wanted and moved to beautiful Madison; met the love of my life; spent a year living in the incomparable Turkey; moved to beautiful San Francisco where adventures are always awaiting; got a job that is deeply fulfilling and is so connected to the core of who I am; started seeing a therapist; surrounded myself with friends who always have my back. And now I have my crafting to keep my mind occupied and that above all, helps me feel like I have a talent.

Crafting has become my latest building block of resiliency, adding to a wall that is getting increasingly higher as time goes on. As Brené Brown mentions in “The Gifts of Imperfection,” we have the tendency to become anxious and fearful when we feel happy about something, for fear of losing it. But the trick is actually to relish the good times, because holding on to that is what will get us through the inevitable tough times that are to come. <3

I opened an Etsy shop!

Ever since I started knitting obsessively about a year ago, I have been talking about opening up an Etsy shop. I thought I could give myself about a year to get some practice and skills under my belt, and planned to launch this fall (2016), in time for the busy holiday shopping season. And last weekend, I finally launched!

Check out my shop here: www.etsy.com/shop/AnisaJahan

As I’m sure is the case with most crafters, I got so busy knitting gifts for family and friends that I could hardly find the time to devote to knitting things to sell. But over Labor Day weekend this year, I caught up with a friend in DC who had recently begun making her own jewelry and also had plans to open an Etsy shop! We excitedly brainstormed ideas for our respective shops: names, prices, marketing strategies, etc. We set a deadline for a launch date (early October), and also agreed to keep each other posted on our progress. Having a friend going through the same process made it even more fun! (Check out Whitney’s shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MinimalistElegance)

To launch by early October, I had a lot to do in a short period of time. Thankfully, lots of friends gave me some great advice. One who previously had an Etsy shop recommended this book: The Handmade Marketplace. I actually haven’t even finished it yet, but it’s full of great tips for launching a business of handmade items. Another friend has been coming up with great ideas for marketing and promoting my listings. And yet another friend, who is a photographer, offered to do a photo shoot of my products!

Last weekend, my photographer friend and I got together to photograph my items. I had been wanting to learn more about photography anyway, so it worked out perfectly! And now I know a little more about fiddling around with my own camera for the future.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at our photo shoot:

Perfecting the display of the Tahoe Blue Hat
Perfecting the display of the Tahoe Blue Hat (Photo credit: Alex Orozco)
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My sweets adjusting my bangs 🙂 (Photo credit: Alex Orozco)

We thought it would be helpful to not only have photos of the items laying flat, but also some photos of me modeling them as well. As you can see with my recent posts, I’ve gotten my feet wet with modeling outfits, so I didn’t mind modeling my knits at all.

I’m starting out with four listings on my shop, but I will soon have more up, since I knit just about every day :). After I get a few more items completed, my friend and I plan to do another photo shoot.

While opening the shop alone was a huge personal success, it also symbolizes so much more for me…stay tuned for my next post describing how crafting has helped improve my mental health.

 

Sewing with Knits: Elmira Wrap from Seamwork :)

Ever since I started sewing back in April, I’d heard that sewing with knits (versus woven fabrics) was a lot more challenging. As a result I have been avoiding patterns working with knits and had built it up in my head to be something so challenging that it would take a long time to be ready for it.

But then along came the Elmira wrap by Seamwork–I fell in love with it and decided to give it a shot. I picked out a marled gray lightweight knit from Fabric Outlet in San Francisco, where good deals are abundant 🙂

Seamwork patterns are designed to be completed in 3 hours or less, but being fairly new to sewing it takes me much longer! I’d been working on this wrap almost every day since last weekend, and finally did the finishing touches this morning. I’m so happy with how it turned out! Turns out working with knits isn’t so bad after all 🙂

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Tips that helped me

One of the biggest things that helped me was using ballpoint pins and needles–these have slightly rounded tips that help prevent the fabric from tearing.

Another helpful tip was using a zigzag stitch rather than a straight stitch, which helps prevent the seams from coming out.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Sleeve cuffs: This pattern has sleeve cuffs that are sewn on, but I had a hard time keeping them even because my seams wouldn’t be exactly straight. The first cuff I sewed the edge of the sleeve slipped out from the seam, and when I tried to salvage it, I accidentally made the sleeve way too small. The pattern instructs you to stretch the fabric slightly as you go, but I forgot to do that. In the end I spent almost an hour taking off the cuff (I had already finished the seams!) and re-doing it. Neither sleeve cuff was perfectly even, but at least they weren’t too small anymore.

Back neckline: This was the first time I sewed with a twin needle, which is really simple and gives the garment a more professional look. I misinterpreted the directions though and folded the back neckline over just a quarter inch too much, which meant that the shoulder seams didn’t exactly match up. I ended up with small gaps on each shoulder and decided to hand stitch them. It looks a little messy but it’s not very noticeable anyway.

I love that with each new pattern I make, I learn new skills. With the Elmira wrap I not only learned to sew with knits, but also how to sew with a twin needle, and how to make a thread chain (for the button loops).

AND knowing now that I can sew with knits, this opens up so many more opportunities of patterns to try! Can’t wait!

Foggy San Francisco Day Outfit

The (only) downside to living in San Francisco is the unpredictable weather–which often means foggy summers. This summer was typical, with foggy and misty mornings and evenings, with little bits of sunshine in the afternoons. While most of the country is wanting a break from the heat, I’m busting out the sweaters…

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I love this sweater from Maison Jules–the lace detail at the bottom gives it a feminine touch. It’s also light enough to wear in slightly warmer weather. I’ve even worn it with shorts on a cool summer day.

Thankfully, the sun has come back to San Francisco, and now that it’s officially Fall, it’s hitting 80 degrees here 🙂

So many reasons to love Modcloth!

To everyone around me, it’s no secret at all that I adore Modcloth. It’s been about 3 years since I’ve started shopping at Modcloth, and I’m still going strong. Not only do they have adorable, quirky, unique clothes for reasonable prices, but they also are committed to celebrating women of all body shapes, sizes, and races. Above all, they really aim to empower their customers to be true to themselves.

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The Modcloth Style Gallery  allows users to submit their own outfit photos, showcasing a number of different personal styles, body sizes, races, and lifestyles. Every so often, a frequent Style Gallery poster will be highlighted in an interview for the blog, like this recent travel post of Sumeyye, and this #Fashiontruth post of Rye. What I love about the Style Gallery and the blog series is that they celebrate people being authentic to themselves, and how their personal style is a part of that.

Another really cool, empowering feature of Modcloth is their Hot Tub Round Table series, which features Modcloth founder Susan Koger having personal conversations with other women on topics such as body image and empowering young women. How cool is that?? Especially coming from a clothing company. What an important role model!

I spent 2 years volunteering for a San Francisco-based non-profit called About-Face, which does media literacy workshops to help young women and girls understand and resist harmful media messages that so often affect their self-esteem. Each year About-Face holds a fundraising event called the Embody Awards, which honors individuals or companies that are a positive role model for young women and girls in the media. This year, Susan Koger of Modcloth was an Embody Award recipient! How appropriate 🙂

I literally have dozens of items from Modcloth by now, so I’ll be posting more outfits soon 🙂

Simple Wool Knit Beanie

Almost immediately after finishing the chain link slouch beanie, I decided to knit a hat for my brother’s birthday. He’s not much into fashion and likes only wearing very simple things, so I tried to find a very basic hat with no “fancy” stitches that would be too much for him 🙂

I chose this lettuce knit bulky hat from Love Knitting. This was a quick knit, and I finished knitting everything except the the very end on a cross-country plane trip:

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I didn’t have scissors or my darning needle with me on the plane (obviously!), so I quickly finished this after I got home:

Finished product!
Finished product!

The yarn I used was Rowan Big Wool (100% Merino Wool) purchased from Imagiknit in San Francisco. I used US 13 16in circular needles, and US 13 double-pointed needles to shape the crown.

This uses the stockinette stitch all the way through, so it is easy to do fairly mindlessly. Without a brim, the end rolls up a bit.

Next up, bootcuffs! 🙂

Embroidered Alice dress from Tessuti Fabrics

After making two versions of the Alice top from Tessuti Fabrics, I finally made the Alice dress!

I recently took an intro class on embroidery at Workshop to complement my new sewing skills, and had been planning to embroider this dress before I even made it.

Dress: self-made, shoes: Jeffrey Campbell

Continue reading Embroidered Alice dress from Tessuti Fabrics

San Juan Island: Orcas, Alpacas, and Lavender!

Last month we were lucky enough to take a second trip up to Seattle. And this time, we added a trip up to the San Juan Islands–a cluster of beautiful islands about an hour ferry ride off the coast of Washington and close to Victoria, British Columbia.

We drove up north from Seattle for about an hour and a half to the Anacortes ferry terminal. You can make a reservation to bring your car on board, which is what we did. That made it pretty easy to get around the island. It took about an hour to reach Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the most commercial of the San Juans.

There is endless beauty on this island! My favorite spot by far was Lime Kiln State Park on the southwestern edge of the island. Orcas are frequently spotted here (though we didn’t spot any from there)!

Lighthouse at Lime Kiln
Lighthouse at Lime Kiln
Slightly outside of Lime Kiln, but a beautiful spot on the coast
Slightly outside of Lime Kiln, but a beautiful spot on the coast

Although we didn’t see any orcas from Lime Kiln, we did a 3 hour long whale watching tour and spotted several members of the J-pod, one of the resident orca ponds in the area! They were absolutely incredible, breaching the surface quite often and putting on a show for whale watchers all around. The guides on the tour were able to identify many of the orcas we saw, including J-2 Granny and little J-49 T’ilem Inges. Granny is the oldest known living orca (estimated to be about 105 years old!) and T’ilem Inges is a young one, about 4 years old.

The orcas travel together in their extended families (called pods), and hunt for salmon. Very sadly, the salmon supply is at extremely low levels due to dam construction and the southern resident orcas are endangered as a result. The whale museum in Friday Harbor has a whale adoption program to help support orca research. We very happily adopted little T’ilem Inges and now receive monthly updates about the southern resident orcas 🙂

Another highlight of the trip was visiting the beautiful Pelindaba Lavender Farm. Rows and rows of lavender make for amazing photo ops:

Pelindaba Lavender Farm, Friday Harbor
Pelindaba Lavender Farm, Friday Harbor
Matt in the lavender fields
Matt in the lavender fields
Me in the lavender fields
Me in the lavender fields

Pelindaba also has a gift shop with endless lavender goodies: tea, soaps, lotions, essential oils, cleaning products, you name it! Definitely worth checking out.

A surprise fun trip on the island was the Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm. I didn’t even know it was there until we happened to drive by it!

Matt Crystal Acres Alpaca Farm
Matt at Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm

Apart from watching the alpacas graze on the fields, the farm also had a nice gift shop with knitted goods and homespun yarn from the alpacas onsite! I of course had to get some to knit a few things 🙂

Yarn from Crystal Acres
Yarn from Krystal Acres
Pleased with my purchases :)
Pleased with my purchases 🙂

While wandering around the little Friday Harbor downtown, we stopped in the Griffin Bay bookstore, since we’re both suckers for bookstores. The store featured a collection of books and novels about the region, and I stumbled upon a gem called “Eliza Waite” by Ashley Sweeney. This novel takes place on Cypress Island (in the San Juans) during the Yukon Gold Rush. It has quickly become one of my favorite books of all time, telling the story of a young widow who has endured and overcome so much tragedy and has essentially been cut off from her family. I cannot recommend this book enough! I finished reading it in just a few days and have been raving about it to anyone who will listen ever since 🙂 Another unexpected pleasant surprise from this lovely trip <3