Eleven and a half years ago, I was working as a school teacher in different district than the one I’m in now. I had 3 years of teaching as well as summer camp counselor experience under my belt when I decided that I needed a break from children over the summer (teacher burnout is a real thing). I was looking for a way to put my newly acquired graphic design certification to use as well as years of crafting experience. I went to AC Moore and picked up some yarn and hooks. My great-grandmother had patiently taught me to crochet when I was nine. And when I was in college, I picked up the craft again when I wanted to make my mom a blanket for Christmas. So re-teaching myself how to crochet was akin to learning to ride a bike. I was up to speed in no time.
Very quickly, I had several crochet patterns written out. I thought I could make some money selling them on eBay. This was where designers sold patterns to a larger market in the pre-Ravelry era times. Not long after that, I had worked up a store name, logo (thank you, husband!), design template, and a format in which to present everything. I was the first designer to create free, online videos for crochet and the first to include links to them in crochet patterns. And thinking back to those days, not everyone understood the technology and I spent some time fielding questions from people wanting to know how to access the videos from their printed pattern. Oh yes.
Fast forward a couple years later, I had a handful of designs for sale on my own site along with many crochet videos. I had been in a few books and magazines and I had even done a few episodes of a crafty tv show. It was all very fun and exciting. I met a lot of other designers online and at trade shows, too, some of whom I’m still in contact with today.
But along the way I discovered something I wasn’t expecting: I really enjoyed the graphics end of things even more so than the crochet. I have, for as long as I can remember, been very much a computer person. My 2nd grade teacher was the first in the county to get a computer in her classroom and I always wanted to be on it. I went to computer camp at the local college as an almost 6th grader to learn to code. And in 7th grade, my parents bought our first (and last!) computer (I bought the next one in high school and then I bought my parent’s computer years later). So when my previous school district sent me to get certified in graphic design, I was game.
Over time, I started getting gigs to do graphics for other crochet designers, some of whom I still work with today to put out their catalog and pattern line. I’ve helped others with stitch diagrams for personal pattern lines and even some books. It’s been fun getting to know people in this very different way, and in some cases, to help guide their vision of their own pattern line by having the freedom to make suggestions on branding, marketing, social media, etc., all of which I love equally because it taps into a side of my mind that I don’t get to exercise while at the Day Job.
And then Hurricane Sandy hit.
I had come across an article on CNN about a website in which teachers were making money selling lessons, activities, graphics, and more. I was intrigued. I made an account, created a freebie and a paid product, and then quickly forgot about it. I made a sale a few weeks later but by then the storm hit. My school was shut down for 3 weeks and I had lots of free time which I spent coming up with clipart products for sale. I found myself really enjoying it, especially as the sales started rolling in over the holiday season. I said to myself, “Let’s give this a year and see where I’m at.”
Two years later, I’ve been very successful with my clipart store due in part to getting in on scene before the bubble hit, the wave of new sellers that arrived as a result of a lot of marketing on behalf of Teachers Pay Teachers. Even still, when someone says, “glitter,” I’m who they’d think of. I’ve had the chance to use all the knowledge I gained from NexStitch, as well as all the mistakes, and roll it into a more successful brand that has the potential to command a salary worth leaving teaching for. This has been my dream all along. And while I still have a long way to go, the gap between my dream and reality is far less now than it was when I spent all my time working on NexStitch (sadly). I’m even at the point where I’ll be creating a second store with my husband which I hope will have equal success as my current one.
So, I’m signing off with the thought of “onward and upward” from here. Closing NexStitch, for me, is a positive move in the right direction. It represents a benchmark I’ve been trying to reach, so there are only happy tears here.
I’ll be closing my online site at the end of the year and will probably keep my Ravelry store opened for a little longer than that in case anyone wants to buy something before then.
Thank you so much for being faithful followers and in some cases, great friends.