Contributor post by Michelle of EviesToolEmporium
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Fatima and although I was born in Portugal I’ve lived in England for over a quarter of a century. After originally qualifying as a chemical engineer I worked for many years on software development. A few years ago I felt I needed a break to do the things I have always loved to do, although it looks like it is becoming permanent!
When did you open your business and what make you decide to do so?
I have a friend who sells natural dyes and who first told me about them. When I started using them to dye fabric and yarn as a hobby, I was totally won over by the beauty and depth of the colours.
There is a growing interest in natural dyes and some years ago I looked at selling naturally dyed products and created my first website, added a Facebook page at the end of 2013, and in 2015 I finally opened my Etsy shop.
Tell us a bit about your products.
I started out by dyeing ready-made “blanks” (such as white silk scarves) and yarn with natural dyes. As time went by, I started sewing my own products. That gives me greater flexibility and enables me to upcycle garments which also helps to preserve our valuable resources.
I often dye silk fabric to make silk scarves and I’m currently finishing sewing an organza patchwork scarf which was printed with onion skins. I have also recently started to make bags from scratch, which I love and I’ll soon be adding cushion covers and men’s ties to my shop.
I do everything myself, from dyeing in my kitchen, to sewing, to taking the photos and posting on Facebook and Instagram. It really is all about saucepans and sewing machines! I feel truly honoured when people buy something I dyed or made.
What inspires your work?
For my dyed products the inspiration mostly comes from nature but I don’t normally start knowing exactly what the finished item will be! Rather, I adjust the design until I get the right feeling from the piece I am doing (for example, shades of green to reflect the sea in Portugal on a winter’s day).
Natural dyes and prints respond beautifully to “over-dyeing”. So, I start by dyeing a scarf in a certain colour. If for example the colour is not deep enough, I give it another bath.
What are your future goals for the business this year? What is your dream for this business?
I will always work on a small scale. My main goal is to increase sales to the point where it becomes a viable full-time business, my other goal is also to inspire people to learn about natural dyeing, try it, and have fun.
What makes your business stand out from businesses that sell similar products?
We all create products according to our personal taste, I just hope people will like my own designs and sense of fashion enough to buy!
I am constantly re-evaluating my methods and materials and thinking about how I can make them more eco-friendly. I’m increasingly moving towards recycling materials wherever possible, using local plants and home-prepared dyes. I’m also just starting to try sourcing organic fabrics.
Tell us a bit about your work space. Do you have a separate studio?
I have a small room which I use mostly for storage.
I dye in my kitchen and normally work on the breakfast room table next to the kitchen. We will hopefully be moving to a larger house soon and my dream is to have a dedicated dyery and a huge work table!
What have you learned since opening your business that you wish you had known before hand?
The power of pictures. After a slow start in 2015 I asked for help on Etsy groups on Facebook and was kindly advised to look again at my pictures. It took me a while to re-take them but I started to get more sales after that.
I’ve also learned to be methodical. I need to get better but I am trying to post on my Facebook page, share the post, and post on Instagram as regularly as possible. I have had sales coming directly from my FB page.
Any advice for those thinking about selling on Etsy?
Do not lose heart! Most businesses take a while to build.
Make sure your photos are yummy just to look at.
Ask for help in Etsy groups and do the changes they suggest.
Every week, take a look at your pictures, titles and tags and decide which ones need improvement.
Decide which social media suit you best and build up an interested audience.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind and have fun? Do you have any hobbies?
I love the English countryside in all seasons. Going for a walk with my camera – and maybe stopping for good pub food – is something I always look forward to.
What is your favorite quote?
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” – Henry James
Where can people find out more about your business?
Website (needs updating!)
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