Meet Ellen, the creative mind behind The Chilly Dog. On her stand-alone website and her Etsy shop, Ellen sells beautifully handcrafted textile items, such as knitting needle cases, yarn bags and amazing, step-by-step tutorials so you can knit and crochet your own lovely bags, scarfs, blankets and more! In addition to her retail operation, Ellen is also active within the Etsy and blogging communities!
How did you become interested in knitting & crocheting?
I started crocheting as a girl because I always saw my mother and grandmother working on projects. It impressed me that they could create beautiful, usable items from a hooked stick and a ball of string. In high school I expanded my crafty skill set and taught myself how to knit, mainly from books. I love making practical items like afghans, socks, scarves and sweaters as well as whimsical items like my little Arizona snowman. I also appreciate the meditative aspect of yarn crafts. The repetitive stitch patterns can be very relaxing at the end of a stressful day.
Tell us about your experience opening an Etsy shop.
When I opened my Etsy shop in November 2011, I didn’t really have a plan for what I wanted to sell. I’m an ADD crafter that sews, beads, crochets, knits… I though my shop would give me the opportunity to sell a little bit of everything. Then I started visiting other Etsy shops and it quickly became apparent to me that the more successful shops had a niche. They didn’t carry a lot of different types of items (sweaters, cat toys, purses, garden art…), instead they had a cohesive product line that focused on one type of item, like jewelry, or one craft skill, like sewing. First, I focused on selling some of my knit and crochet items. Each item took hours or even days to create. When I sold an item I was barely making a profit. I gradually transitioned my shop and started selling handmade fabric cases for storing crochet hooks and knitting needles. The profit margin was higher, but my studio at the time was less than 100 square feet, so I didn’t have room to store much inventory. Finally, I started writing and selling knit and crochet patterns, which also led to requests for custom orders.
Today I have my own on-line shop, http://shop.thechillydog.com, where I sell handmade products “for your hooks and needles”, roll-up cases, project bags and patterns, as well as “from my hooks and needles”, the items I make when I design and test each pattern. I also welcome custom orders.
I love colors, textures and patterns. It is such a joy to start with a beautiful yarn and figure out the best stitch(es) to highlight the hues and weight of the material.
Who is your ideal customer?
I take great pride in my work and enjoy customers who appreciate the time and love that goes into every handmade item. I create my own designs and put a lot of care and effort into each project. It frustrates me when a customer wants a personalized item made with high quality materials for a big box store price. I finally have the confidence to turn down jobs when a customer is not willing to compensate me fairly.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own creative business?
When you aren’t knitting and crocheting, what are you doing?
If I don’t have a yarn project in my hand, chances are, you’ll find me at the computer writing a tutorial or pattern for my craft blog, http://www.thechillydog.com. I started my blog as a way to promote my Etsy shop and since then it has expanded and taken on a life of its own. Whenever our schedules allow, my husband and I enjoy traveling. It’s always nice to take a break from the routine to see new places, meet new people and eat new food. One of the perks of a freshly empty nest!
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