(All photos by Angela Avery)
This is my beautiful sister, Amanda McCarty, who is also known as the Knaptime Knitter from her blog, http://chroniclesofaknaptimeknitter.blogspot.com/.
She also is the amazingly creative momma behind the Etsy business, Crooked By Design, at www.crookedbydesign.etsy.com and www.facebook.com/crookedbydesign on Facebook.
She is so incredibly creative and adventurous with trying new things she's never made before. She knits, crochets, sews... she does it all! I know she's my sister and so I have to be a fan, but honestly, I would be even if not related to her. I'm totally her biggest fan. She does AWESOME work.
I knew you all would want to know more about her and her great work, so here's a feature on Miss Amanda (aka Min, that's what I named her when I was 3 and couldn't say her real name!).
She is fun and generous and kind, always trying to make a package and craft that someone is going to love. Her home and work are in New York. Below is her work station in her house.
How did you start your business? Why did you want your own Etsy business?
I had been knitting, crocheting, and had just began sewing, and realized I love it to the point where I was crafting constantly. I found myself with a lot of items made and my husband said, you need to sell your stuff. I was hesitant at first, because so many other people sell their crafts and there is a lot of competition, but he convinced me and pushed me to open my Etsy shop. It was the easiest place to launch Crooked By Design, because it's an online marketplace which is already set up and ready for you start up.
What does Crooked By Design mean? How did you come up with the title?
I wasn't sure what to call my shop. All my items are handmade by me, with the help of my sewing machine for fabric items.
I think there is something really special about handmade items, because so much time goes into making them, and they feel more personal than a store bought item.
The name was inspired by our house, which was built from the ground up by my husband's family in the 1800s. We all joke that because it was made with love, by working hands and generations, that it is "crooked by design" and filled with character.
And no, my items are not crooked! But they are made with love, and my first few projects were not perfect, but as I keep working harder and harder to learn new skills and perfect my craft, it has turned into something I can really be proud of.
What does your shop specialize in? What is your favorite item to make?
My shop mostly offers baby and toddler hats, because that's what the highest demand is for. I like to offer items for the whole family, and I also offer knit and crocheted items for women, kids (mostly upon request) and occasionally men's items. I have bags, as well, which are probably my favorite things to make. I make them free-hand without the use of a pattern, so each bag is truly one of a kind and made with love!
How do you get inspiration and ideas for items to make?
Most of the time ideas for items come from the customers.
I love this about my craft, because someone can show me a picture, and I have to challenge myself to either find an available pattern or write one myself if that fails.
I also go by what I like, and what I would buy on Etsy. I don't make items I wouldn't use myself, because if it doesn't sell, I like to know I'll use it.
How long does it take you to make items? When do you make your items mostly , what time of day? What do you do while knitting - TV on? music on?
The amount of time it takes to make an item depends greatly on what it is. A basic hat, about an hour. An embellished hat, a few hours. A scarf, couple of days. My bear cowls, a bestseller in the winter months, take a little over a week. This, of course, is with interruptions.
I get items done every chance I get, but I have a husband, toddler and two dogs, so finding time isn't always easy. At the end of the day, when my little man goes to bed, I'll sit down with a show and knit or crochet away, and throughout the day I get it done when I can. When I'm doing basic knit items, I can read while working, since I've knit for so long now, I can literally do basic stuff with my eyes closed.
Take me step by step through sending someone's package to them.. what speial things do you include in there ? How do you wrap them up? Why do you take care into wrapping them nicely? Do you get nervous when you send packages to people?
When I get an order, the first thing I do is tell my husband and get excited.
I recently reached the 200 sales mark in my shop, and I still get excited every time I see the notification that an item has sold. Even if I know it's about to happen. Then, I either make the item custom for the customer, or get it from my ready-made stash and wrap it in tissue paper, wrap it in yarn and add a hand stamped Crooked By Design business card to the package.
I like them to look like a present for the buyer, because it's exciting getting mail!
I always get nervous sending out the packages. Not because I don't stand by my work, because I double and triple check items before sending them, but because of that fear that it won't be what the customer is expecting.
I want it to be perfect, but I try and cut myself some slack that I am one person, and I make a lot of items (over 300 since I started the shop May 27, 2012, including craft fairs). Somewhere along the way I may have a slight imperfection, but it is my goal to make that never happen.
What is your success rate - of 200 orders, any complaints?
Of all my Etsy orders, I have only received positive feedback, which I am so grateful for. This is a learning process for me, and I'm sure that at some point I will make a mistake.
I have had only one unhappy customer. We resolved the issue, but it was frustrating and upsetting for me. I got over it pretty quick though, because like everything else, this was a learning experience for me and keeps me on my toes.
If no one complained, ever, I would fear they were just trying to avoid hurting my feelings. I want to know if something wasn't up to par, so I can fix it for the customer and keep them coming back.
Etsy is a really amazing thing. Here, we have all these people, providing items that they made, and you can talk to the store-owner directly, request something custom made just for you and enjoy the personalized experience of shopping the marketplace.
I love it, and I love knowing that with my purchase on Etsy, that person is getting the profits, not a store, giving them a percentage.
In my case, each time you buy an item, I am paying for college, or helping out on household bills. This is my job, and each order is appreciated more than buyers probably know.
What are your favorite Etsy shops you buy from?
I have many shops I have purchased from. Jenni from Signed n Sealed makes amazing banners. Star Crushed Minerals has awesome homemade mineral makeup for a steal. If ever I'm looking to buy something, I always check Etsy first, and usually, I'll find what I'm looking for.
How does your business allow you to be a great mother?
Having my Etsy shop has allowed me to be home with my 3 year old, while my husband works full time. I love our time together, and that I can work on sewing, and he helps me (mostly by standing next to me with his hand on my arm "sewing"). I can work around his schedule and not have to worry about work hours. I love making him hats, too, because he now gets really excited about them!
You also have a blog Knaptime Knitter ... what is your blog about? What types of posts do you specialize in ?
My blog, Chronicles of a Knaptime Knitter, is all about the DIY things I do as a mom. We live on a budget, and I like to save money anywhere I can and do as much as I can without the help of a store.
I started doing this, and thought, (again, with my husband's persistence) that I should blog about my experiences so others could do it, too.
I'm also gluten free, which is something people seem really interested in, so I like to add information and recipes too, to help anyone who is starting their journey of being gluten free.
What is your advice to any moms who want to make some money selling their items on Etsy? How was it getting started? What are your tips for successful selling on Etsy?
To anyone thinking about opening an Etsy shop, I say DO IT! It's a lot of work, but so worth it.
I get such a sense of pride knowing my handmade items are all over the country, and even as far as Ireland!
I would say to do some research before opening. I didn't know the ins and outs of Etsy when I started, and I realized that I could have been doing much better if I knew how to utilize tools. Ask questions, experiment, find your niche and don't be afraid of changing your mind. It's your shop, and your work! Also, be patient, it takes a little while to get established. I had little to no sales in the beginning, and now I have a constant flow of orders.
I went gluten free in 2007 after years of a bad tummy. I read an article about gluten, when it wasn't well known, talked to my doctor and gave the gluten free diet a try. I was amazed how much better I felt within a couple of weeks. I had all the classic symptoms (which you read all about on my blog!) and it was really hard to go gluten free, but also very rewarding. I had more energy, better skin, less stomach issues. It was all worth it.
Give me one of your favorite gluten free recipes. And speaking of cooking... let's talk about how you cook with random ingredients all the time... how do you do it? ! What is your advice for moms to make healthy meaels for their families, but on a strict budget?
Oh boy, favorite gluten free recipe....I don't know! Probably my gluten free French onion soup, which is something I missed so much. I played around with the recipe for awhile, and the final product is also on my blog.
I like to use what I have in the house when cooking, to avoid having to buy so many groceries. There are so many substitutions you can use, and since I'm already substituting by taking gluten out of my diet, it's easier to use something else in place of an item I don't have.
Like, Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, or ranch instead of mayo. If you are budgeting, I'd say meal planning definitely helps, couponing, and freezing leftovers.
I don't know how I juggle doing so much, but my husband is a big part of it. He works a lot, but when he's home, he is hands-on with our son, and the dogs. He gives me the time I need to do things I have to do, and still give me "me" time.
If I say that I need a good soak in the bubble bath, he is more than happy to take over parent duties. He never complains and he's amazing for this.
I just finished my Bachelors degree, after years of life getting in the way, and this is probably what I am most proud of. It was so hard to be a mom, student, wife, plan a do-it-yourself wedding, launch my blog and Etsy shop and balance every day life. But now that I am done, and I earned my first ever 4.0 (hoorayy!!!!) I am thrilled to pieces of my accomplishment.
I am also proud of how well my Etsy shop is doing. It was a slow start getting the hang of things, but now it is thriving and I am so appreciative and excited. If not for my shop, I wouldn't have been challenged by projects and learned new skills. I'm willing to bet life would have taken over and my craft would have been put on the back burner.
But since it is my business now, I take great pride in work and get the chance to do what I love, surrounded by the love of my life, my son, Atticus.
THANK YOU, Amanda, for sharing your awesome ideas about working from home, Etsy shopping and gluten-free eating! You are definitely an inspiration of mine, and I know so many moms in the Mommy Stories LOVE your hand-knit items. THANKS, THANKS :)
P.S. Anyone from the Mommy Stories group or reading this blog can take 10% off any purchase ANY time on Amanda's Etsy shop!!! Use code MOMMY for 10% off. ENJOY!