T.E.S.T. interview: BLISSFULpatterns

We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 29th in our series with Shannon of BLISSFULsew and BLISSFULpatterns.

Tell me a little bit about yourself

I am a happily married mom of two boys; 4 years and 6 months. I turned 40 last week and am actually pretty pleased with where I am at in my life so I feel very lucky. I grew up mainly in a small town a couple of hours north of Toronto and in Toronto and have always loved city life but possibly because I have the benefit of getting away to the quiet of my parents home regularly which keeps me a bit sane.

When and Why did you start your business?

I have always loved fabric, bought too much fabric, and have all sorts of ideas of sewing fabric, putting fabric color combinations together, dreaming of sewing and cutting and making new things with fabric, ... get the idea? I LOVE fabric; mainly cottons. So I have always mended and fixed clothes and other things for my friends, neighbors etc and about 4 years ago I started making lots of custom shower gifts for my friends who were having babies and becoming moms. Then I discovered Etsy and it became a bit more formalized.

What prompted you to open an etsy shop?

My BFF told me about Etsy 2½ years ago and I remember staying up all night, surfing through these amazing shops, seeing gorgeous fabrics I had never seen before and drooling at all the wonderful things people had made. I could not believe there was such a place to make the things I wanted to make and possibly pay for my hobby. I've never really been super net savvy or screen happy so I am sure there were tons of other places I could have looked at before that but honestly it just did not really occur to me. So I ended up opening up my first etsy shop BlissfulSew and listed and started selling things I made. I have to admit, I have since kind of abandoned it as I have branched off in too many other directions.

Besides your Etsy shop, what other selling, websites or shows etc do you do?

I opened a second Etsy shop called BlissfulPatterns about 2 years ago where I make PDF sewing patterns for all the ideas swirling around in my head. My second shop makes me very happy as I get to create and improve on all these projects and then provide a pattern for someone else to do it also. I am constantly amazed when my customers send me photos of what they made with my patterns and I see these amazing creations that are now out in this huge world of ours and have started with a little idea in my head. I know it sounds silly but it really constantly blows me away. My patterns are listed on 3 wholesalers outside of Etsy in the US and Australia. I also go to craft and artisan shows with my sewing to try to make a little money. (to buy more fabric of course!)

What is your source for inspiration?

For my sewing, I am always trying to improve on the things I sew and use every day; particularly mommy and baby things as that has been my main life the past few years. For example, I put snaps on my bibs instead of scratchy velcro, add little details on my bags and organize things in my house into fabric baskets, new blinds and curtains, pillow cases, etc. Just like most crafters, I am always working on about 6 different projects at a time (usually half for us and half for friends and family which usually pays for my little personal projects. I am inspired everyday when I am out and about walking as so many things are made of fabric of some sort and I am constantly looking at everything with an eye as to how to make it. I bought an iphone two years ago and it changed my life because now I take photos all over the place of things I like that I want to make or usually make and change somehow. For example, my new Criss Cross Bag pattern stems from a bag hanging off the sun umbrella next to us in the Dominican in January on our family trip. Its a little weird how I look at things as I deconstruct them in my head to see how they were put together and which order the layers were sewn and the various steps it takes to finish something. Its kind of like engineer sewing I guess! That is what led to my patterns shop.

Do you have a bread and butter or day job?

Not anymore, I lost my job in a restructuring in the financial industry last year while I was pregnant with baby number 2. I was a sales associate for an investment firm and mainly did stock trading and I did not realize how stressful it was till I didn't do it every day. I still miss the stock market a lot, and the steady pay cheque of course but not the hectic pace. I absolutely love being at home with my boys.

What is your best marketing/selling/entrepreneurial tip for other craft artisans?

Ask everyone who does something similar to you about their best tips, shows, websites, materials, shops, and write it down. I have learned so much from so many other successful artisans at shows the past couple of years by just asking what they suggest. However, make sure you recognize that we all have different standards and make different things. I made the mistake of doing a couple of shows recommended by people doing something totally different to me, with a different target market. It was a total waste of my time and vendor fees.

Your pattern feedback is outstanding, do you have a creative process to put these together? How do you decide what instructions/tips/photographs to include?

Thank you for the kind words, I value my feedback and customers comments a lot, I feel like it does reflect on me personally as a business owner and on my products. I have a standard template that I created that I use for all of my patterns now and I try to incorporate as many photos as I can cram in as I am a visible person myself. I include the sewing tips and suggestions I have figured out over many years of sewing and I make myself available by email if someone has any problems. I have incorporated several suggestions from customers into my revised patterns. I also always offer a free pattern of their choice to the first 2-3 people who buy a brand new pattern if they will critique the new one and give any suggestions. After looking at them and proofing them for so long myself, I think another set of eyes is great.

You have both a pattern shop and a handmade shop - is one easier to maintain than the other?

The pattern shop takes more regular work as I renew and email out orders throughout the day, but its less time overall as I am not packaging and going to the post office. However, mainly its less work because I have been ignoring my handmade shop to get the pattern shop going. [Editor's note: While Shannon has been focused on her pattern shop, there are still handmade items available in her sewing shop, so be sure to have a look at both.]

You can find more of Shannon's work in her Etsy shops BLISSFULsew and BLISSFULpatterns, and you can 'like' her BLISSFULSew Facebook Page.

Interviewed by Steph of stuffbysteph77 in May, 2012.

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