How I Started Sewing & Opened an Etsy Shop

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Do you remember when you first saw someone sewing? Or when you first wanted to learn how to start sewing?

For me, it started when I was a little girl, although I didn’t know it at the time. And I definitely never thought it would lead to a business for me to make money.

My beautiful Mom and Me- age 5

My mother was a professional seamstress (among other things), and she made everything, from my clothes and matching doll clothes, to wedding dresses, to custom curtains and upholstery. She was (and still is) seriously AMAZING!

There were hours spent on the floor in her room, listening to the sewing machine humming away.  And, even though I loved seeing her finished projects (and getting new clothes!) I was regularly quite bored, always waiting. Kids don’t like to wait.

And this is why I never asked her to teach me. I thought that I never wanted to learn how to sew, that it looked too complicated, uninteresting, and kept people from doing things they should be doing…like taking me to get ice cream!

So I avoided her sewing room at all costs.

Losing a Job

Now, flash forward many years, and it’s the beginning of July 2011. The company I had been working at for 12 years, as a Marketing Manager, laid me off.

It was a complete shock. I seriously didn’t know what to do, and I felt lost, and scared and my anxiety started up again. I was kind of a mess.

While trying to figure out my next steps, I had all this free time. And after a few weeks of indulging in my own pity party, I knew I had to start being productive or else it would just get worse.

So, I started thinking of all kinds of things to do, like organize my closet! Yay! I know you’re thinking that sounds like an awful thing to do, but for someone who is also a tad OCD, it was very therapeutic.

That led to me starting to try to fix or repair my clothes. As a side note, I’m 5′ tall and I almost always had to get my pants hemmed.

And one day, after getting some back from the local tailor, I thought, “why don’t I learn to do this myself? Doesn’t seem like it would be THAT hard?” After all, now I was on a very fixed income.

So I went home, jumped on the YouTubes, and looked for any videos about hemming and sewing. And there were… SO. MANY. VIDEOS! (I wasn’t really a big YouTube watcher at that time, so I didn’t really know the extent of it.)

Then it dawned on me that I had been wasting all kinds of money by using the local tailor all these years. I thought that I could just as easily learn to fix them myself!

Starting Out

Once I started really thinking about this idea, I got super excited. It felt like I had just found my calling in life. I was going to follow in my mother’s footsteps, and finally learn how to sew!

I called her, so excited– only to have her tell me that she really wasn’t sewing anymore. What? How did I not know this? (She stopped doing it as she transitioned to painting, in which she is also phenomenally talented.)

And with her living in another state too, it would be hard for her to give me any tutorials. Plus, she didn’t have any idea what was up in the current sewing world now anyway.

So, I starting researching every possible thing I could find about it. I quickly realized that this was going to be huge– I mean, people go to school for this professionally!

How was I going to learn all of this on my own? But I had to remember that no one becomes a fashion designer overnight. There was seriously so much to figure out!

For instance, did you know there are a bazillion kinds of sewing machines out there to choose from? (Well, maybe not a bazillion, for reals, A LOT!)

I was a little overwhelmed at the time, and briefly thought about giving up and that I was going to be too in over my head.

But I shut that thought down real quick though, and researched for about a week, before I finally decided I’d get a super basic, simple, inexpensive one- the Brother Project Runway Edition. 

So I went right out to my local Walmart, and bought it– my very first sewing machine. I was absolutely ecstatic! You’d have thought that I got a new puppy to play with every day!

It was the day it all really started, and I’m so glad that I didn’t give into that momentary doubt– because as I said, I knew I was supposed to do this, and I was determined not to let anything stop me.

My Best Friend’s Bag

Once I had the sewing machine and some of the basic tools I would need, I set out to pick out the perfect pattern to start from.

And it was then that I first started making reversible hobo bags. (And later that somehow led to pillows, and after that it led to the baby & little girl dresses that I currently focus on.)

I had found a really simple pattern online for free. Then, I printed out all the pages, taped them together, cut them out and then cut out that first bit of fabric.

I was hooked right from the start! There was just something about the way lining up fabric and pattern and the sound of the scissors cutting- it all just mesmerized me. I felt like I’d been missing something, and now it was found.

Then, a month or so went by, and one day a good friend of mine saw one of my bags and said how much it looked like a bag she had just bought online for $50. She said, “You should sell yours online!” 

The first bag I sewed

When she said that, a rush came over me, and it was like the stars aligned, and my head and heart were united! (too dramatic?)

But really, I knew right then and there, that I was going to start my own sewing business.

If you’ve ever felt like that about a hobby or interest you’ll know what I mean.

So, what’s holding you back from getting started?

Becoming an Entrepreneur

That was about eight years ago now, when I started sewing and first opened my Etsy Shop, and it’s been quite an education!

Learning to sew, in and of itself, is kind of a big deal, but also starting your own business at same time? It was a huge challenge to undertake, but a great one, and it’s been incredibly fun and inspiring.

And it wasn’t as hard as you’d think! I highly recommend it if you have something that you can make by hand. You should consider selling on Etsy.

Although I do it part time, there are plenty of people who exclusively do all their business on Etsy, as their full time job. If you have a passion for it, you can be very successful in it too.

There are other options and ways to sell things online of course, like Ebay, Amazon Marketplace, and others. But I chose to go with Etsy for many reasons; first because it was and still is, I think, the easiest way for someone to start selling their own handmade products.

They have a fairly intuitive set-up, it’s not too expensive, and they have an instant audience. Plus their fees are lower than those others I mentioned.

Plus, I also like that they are constantly working to make updates and changes for the sellers, always striving to help you get more traffic and sell more.

| Related Content: What I’ve Learned From Selling on Etsy for 8 Years

So, once I got my shop up and running, I became pretty obsessed, both with sewing and working on improving my shop.

I watched countless videos for hours every day, started collecting sewing books and manuals, went to JoAnn’s and hung out there like it was my grandma’s house.

And to get better at all of it, I just practiced, practiced, practiced! 

I’m telling you though, sewing is not terribly hard to do, even if it seems scary at first. And it was the same with my Etsy shop. In the beginning I was kind of terrified.

I wasn’t sure if I would be a success or not, or if anyone would buy my products? But they did, and they still do!

If you think you might be ready to do it, here’s the next steps…

Setting Up Your Shop

Here’s the basic steps of just how easy it can be to open your shop!

Keep in mind, there’s SO much more that you CAN do, the following steps are just to give you a quick overview of how to start it logistically through their site:

  1. Go to Etsy.com and click in the upper right on “Sell on Etsy”, then sign up with your email address.
  2. Create Your Account- user name and password
  3. There will be a prompt that says “Open your Etsy shop”, next you’ll go through the prompts about your preferred language, Country, currency, and if you plan to sell full-time or part-time. (I recommend part-time to start, you can always change)
  4. Next they will want you to Name your shop– this is a pretty important step, so you will probably want to work on your name before you actually register! Read this post for help on choosing a name.
  5. “Stock Your Shop”- this is where you will put your photos of your product, all the details about each one, and enter in how much you’re selling it for, the shipping info, size, weight, etc. (They recommend 10 listings to get started, but you can start with just a few if you’d like.)
  6. How You’ll Get Paid- Next you’ll set up the information for where you will get your payments sent to you. I use direct deposit to my bank account. I have a separate account from my personal one, so I can keep track of my business money.
  7. Set Up Billing- this is the last “basic” step, but here is where you will put in your information that will indicate how you will plan to pay the fees to Etsy for your shop. (They get 3.5% of whatever you earn on each sale, plus there are $0.20 fees for every time you renew a listing, you will likely pay for the shipping from here too)
  8. Voila! Your shop is open and live!

Note that it doesn’t cost anything really to “set-up” your shop. All you need is an email address. It’s when you start posting products for sale that you have to begin paying anything.

So as I mentioned above, it’s only .20 per listing for 3 months of being active. So, if you only started with 4 products, you’d only pay .80 to open your business online! Pretty cheap right?

There are lots of other things you’ll want to consider as you progress, like info about your “Shop’s Brand” and your story. But you can add those in later if you’re not ready at first. (More on this below)

| Related Content: Why I Haven’t Bought Any New Clothes In a Year

Instruction Manual

I am definitely not the most talented, educated, or experienced sewist, I will absolutely admit. I know there are literally thousands of amazing people who sew out there, and I take inspiration from many of them.

BUT, I know when I started all this, that I really wanted a simple, easy way to know what to do, how to do it, and what kinds of products I would need to get started.

I also wanted to learn from someone who understood me, that as a beginner, I needed a LOT of explanation, very specific detailed directions and pictures and stuff.

It would have been much easier if I’d had an “Insider’s Guide” or something that would have helped me with not just the basic steps, but to understand all the intricacies of the initial process too.

For instance, I mentioned earlier that there’s bazillions of sewing machines out there to choose from, right? Which one did I need?

Which one was most cost effective for a beginner, but still functional enough that it would still be beneficial as I learned more and became more proficient?

What kind of thread would I need? How do I use a pattern and which ones are best? What fabric should I start out with? Should I buy a lot, or all different kinds? Should I take classes?

What things did I REALLY need and need to know?

I looked all over the internet, and there are of course, so many places to find tons of information about sewing. But what I really wanted was a free and simple way to find some good recommendations about the absolute basics.

I wanted someone to write so that I could understand the lingo. Or, just get some good suggestions for products at prices that I could afford as a newbie. I just couldn’t find this all in one place.

Sweet and Simple and to the Point

SO, that’s what this blog is here to do for you! I’m going to provide you with simple information about the basics, to help you get started sewing as soon as possible. I’ll be sharing what I’ve found to be the best prices, the best values, and the honest truth about what you need to begin.

| Related Content: See 7 Essential Tools for the Sewing Beginner.

I will also share tons of insights and help and tutorials on how to start and run an Etsy shop. Because once I really got into it, and started getting lots of products ready to sell, I found there was MUCH more to learn, that I wish I’d known before I started.

But don’t let that discourage you from trying to do it yourself! You can get help, and I want to help you.

I am currently in the middle of writing an e-book about all the specifics of what to do and how to prepare to create your own Etsy shop. It will be an in-depth tutorial of all the in’s and out’s of starting an Etsy store, A Great Big Beginner’s Guide.

Be sure to subscribe to my email list to get news on the launch of my E-Book, BECAUSE there will be a special offer exclusively for my Readers!

Subscribe & get notified when “The Total Etsy Shop Starter” launches!

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But, I do recommend that if you want to learn to sew– just try, you can do it! Don’t put it off any longer, just dive in and start learning today.

As is the theme of this blog, seize the day! If not today, when are you going to do it?

Learning to sew is a process, just like any new skill, it will take time. And the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be able to make whatever it is that your little heart desires. And the sooner you’ll be able to start selling those things and start making money for yourself!

Please leave me your comments below- what else do you want to learn about sewing or starting an Etsy shop? How can I help you get started? Can’t wait to hear from you!

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