Contributor post by Michelle of EviesToolEmporium
Tell us about yourself.
As a child in the hills of southern Scotland I was surrounded by sheep farms, set against the pastel heathers and brackens of the higher peaks. The traditional skills of spinning, weaving and knitting wool, as well as sewing and embroidery, were passed on to me by older generations. Living in a little whitewashed cottage miles from any town I had plenty of time to practice these crafts without modern interruptions.
Then I grew up, left home, went to college, got married and got a proper job. My crafting skills became just a hobby. I made a few things for myself or as gifts for friends.
Now I live in the town of Blackpool in Lancashire “the Red Rose county” on the North-west coast of England. My house is red brick with huge bay windows, and just five minutes from the sea.
When did you open your business and what make you decide to do so?
I had left work and gone back to Uni to study for my Masters degree when recession hit the UK. I could no longer return to my previous employer at a higher grade as planned, but instead joined the thousands struggling to find even temp jobs.
One day I was stopped in the street by a complete stranger. “What a lovely hat” she said, “can I ask where you got it?” “I made it myself” I replied. “Do you sell them? You should you know.”
I realized she was right, and I had a new career ahead of me. A business start-up course helped with the planning and admin, and I started my business on 1st September 2011.
Tell us a bit about your products.
I love working with natural fibers, especially wool, so this is the main influence in my products.
I still knit hats, and also gloves and scarves. I choose the softest yarns such as Merino, Blue-faced Leicester, and Alpaca for greatest comfort.
For home wares such as cushions and tea cozies I use slightly tougher wool for durability, such as Shetland, Herdwick, and Jacobs.I also support the work of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and enjoy using the wool from unusual native sheep such as Manx Loaghtan, Castlemilk Moorit and Hebridean.
I source my materials within the UK whenever possible, so you will find my range includes items made from stunning hand-woven Harris Tweed fabric, and buttons are often hand-made by British crafters.
What inspires your work?
The wool, fabrics, colors and textures.
In my imagination I can see the natural toffee color of Manx Loaghtan wool as the perfect cushion for a warm oak rocking chair.
I search out buttons and trims to bring out the best of a design.Sometimes this means an item is unique. There were just enough of these handmade enamel buttons for a pair of cushions.
What are your future goals for the business this year? What is your dream for this business?
Over the last few years I have ploughed my profits back into the business. My goal for this year is to take a little out for myself, perhaps for a holiday.
For the future, I would obviously like the business to grow. I love my work! If it ever gets to the stage that I am no longer enjoying it, then it will be time to think again.
What makes your business stand out from businesses that sell similar products?
Every item that I make I would be happy to use myself.
It has to be good enough. The stripes line up, matching items truly match. I am happy to make custom orders, sometimes in color combinations I would not have thought of, but always with the quality and attention to detail that I would want myself.
Tell us a bit about your work space. Do you have a separate studio?
Originally just a workbasket and a laptop, my work space has grown with the business. Now I have a whole spare bedroom allocated. Yarns and fabrics are in clear plastic crates stacked around the room. Small items such as buttons and trims are in ice-cream tubs and microwave containers.
A sturdy metal framed office desk is my sewing table, with the sewing machine at one end and the cutting board at the other. The computer, printer, and packaging is in a separate area.
I still have a knitting workbasket though, so I can take my work outside on a sunny day.
What have you learned since opening your business that you wish you had known before hand?
Advertising takes more time and money than you would think, but you cannot do without it.
Any advice for those thinking about selling on Etsy?
Unless you live in a part of the world with year-round sunshine, taking photos in winter will be difficult. Invest in some good photography lights and a suitable backdrop. Or if all else fails, hire a professional!
When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind and have fun? Do you have any hobbies?
My garden keeps me busy. I grow my own herbs, salads and vegetables in tubs and window-boxes. And I have lots of roses of course!
What is your favorite quote?
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Where can people find out more about your business?
Please email me with any questions or custom requests firstname.lastname@example.org
Best of all, come and meet me at one of the many Craft Fairs and Events that I attend throughout the year. http://www.rosesworkshop.co.uk/calendar.asp
If you would like to be featured, please go to the CIJ Etsy Forum and fill out the questionnaire. Please note you must be a member of the CIJ Etsy team to be featured.