A Day in the Life of an Etsy Shop Owner… or “Why my stuff is so ‘Expensive'”

Shameless plug for my shop here, because, well, I can because it’s my blog. I own a shop on Etsy – Bitty and Bear Creations. I’m also on Facebook here and on Instagram as @bittyandbearcreations. I mainly sell headbands, girls’ clothes, bow ties, and sometimes chunky necklaces. As a “crafter” I pay a lot of attention to detail, I don’t slap things together, and I try to craft each item as though my own kids would wear it.

Crafting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc for the sake of the craft is a totally different animal than doing it to sell. I’m going to walk you through the process for one of my pillowcase dresses. They are “simple” dresses to make but regardless of their simplicity in style, they still require effort and time.

Step one: Buy fabric – This requires a trip to the store. Picking out fabric, deciding yardage, having it cut, etc. Buying required thread and any other notions needed – in this case, ribbon for the sash.

Step Two: Wash and Dry Fabric – Anything worn needs to be washed prior to sewing to remove any coatings that are put on teh fabric as well as to preshrink.

Step Three: Initial Pressing – I hate this part. Even if you pull a cotton fabric directly from the dryer it will still require time to press all the wrinkles out.

Step Four: Cutting pattern pieces

Step Five: Sewing, Pressing, Top stitching – My pillowcase dresses (and pinafores) have contrasting bottom trims which require extra steps in the sewing and pressing process. Basically each seam I sew, I press. Pressing is different than ironing, by the way. Here is a little look at the differences. And this process isn’t quick. Sew a seam, press it. Sew a seam, press it. Pin panels together, sew the seam, press it. Because I don’t own a serger (yet) I zig-zag EVERY exposed edge (and even some edges that get tucked under. So that adds another step to the process but finishes the edges so they do not unravel when washed and dried.

Step Six: Ribbon Sash (or Fabric Sash): Most of my pillowcase dresses have a ribbon sash. Currently one of them has a fabric sash because it just looks better on that style. I charge more for the fabric sash because it takes more time and materials to create.

Step Seven: Photographing Dress – I don’t use my phone for listing photos. I might take initial pictures for my FB or IG pages but for Etsy, I use my “big” camera and then process the photo to be as true to color as possible as well as crisp and in focus.

Step Eight: Listing – Listing is not quick. For those that have never listed on Etsy, you have to upload pictures, select categories, price the item, price the shipping, describe the item, add tags (to help your items get found), etc. There is a serious art form to tagging your stuff which I am still trying to learn. Describing your item is really important too. Some people want basics, some want more info, but it’s important to give potential buyers as much info as they might need to make their decision. If there isn’t enough info some buyers will just pass you by. Others will message you, which brings me to…

Step Nine: Conversations – As a shop owner you have to be able to answer requests, questions, and general conversations from buyers and potential buyers. The faster you are at responding, the better. Some of these conversations will result in a sale, some won’t.

Now, once the item is listed, the next steps differ depending if the item is RTS (ready to sell/ship) or MTO (made to order). If it’s made to order then basically the steps to get your listing item all repeat themselves to get the product that will be sent to the customer.

Packaging and shipping is next. I ship with Etsy which is great because it automatically sends the buyer an email letting them know when their item shipping plus tracking info. I hand write a thank you note for all items I ship out because I want the people who buy my items to know I appreciate the sale. I don’t just shove stuff in an envelope – I take the time to package it so that it is protected and looks worthy of the work I do when they receive it. Again, this is something that is constantly evolving as I and trying out different packaging options and such. But it does add time to the process as a whole.

Now multiply all these steps for every dress that is listed/sold. The steps for my other items all vary, but the idea is the same. On top of the Etsy side, I also try to keep up with my Facebook page (although, admittedly, not as much because FB has changed its settings so my followers don’t often see as much as they should) and actively post on Instagram for advertising and increasing customer base. The price of an item isn’t just material costs. It’s equipment costs and upkeep, mileage, electricity, and time. My time is valuable, just like yours. I have to advertise, just like a big store. I have to pay for equipment and upkeep, just like a store. Buying handmade is paying for someone’s expertise and care. Their TIME and effort. You are paying them a wage so that they can meet expenses and beyond. You would not work for free or for minimum wage when you have a skill set everyone does not. For me this is not a hobby, this is a business. My goal is one day to be able to stay home full time with my kids and put away money for vacations and extras on top of paying bills. I am doing a job and selling a product that is made by hand right here in the USA. You are supporting a person and her family instead of a company that buys merchandise mass produced in China and is resold.

I enjoy this, for the most part. There are some days my creative juices run out and I feel like I will never again craft a respectable headband. Some days I feel defeated thinking it’s all for naught. Then I get a sale and am able to send off a piece made specifically for someone and I feel like it’s all worth it.

This is just food for thought, y’all. No disrespect, no calling anyone cheap. I simply wanted to give a little more insight into the world that is Handmade Goods. But I hope the next time you see something handmade and think “Wow, they think a lot of themselves,” just know that what you are seeing in front of you is so much more than one item. You are seeing the work of an artisan, someone who has worked on their skill and product and has put themselves and their time into it. Someone who loves what they do and enjoys when people buy their products not just for the money but for the knowledge that they personally are brightening the wardrobe, home, etc of someone else.

Week 8

Weight Lost: 3.2lbs

Boom! That’s what I’m talking about. Or for you Despicable Me fans “That’s what I’m talkin’ bout!” You have to read that in Gru’s voice and inflection, though, or it just doesn’t make sense. Or just watch this if you are unfamiliar.

Anyway, that helped a lot. I’m not totally sure what happened or why I dropped that much in a week except I know that sometimes what you weigh one morning isn’t necessarily a good indicator of your current weight due to water weight and other things. I actually weighed on Wednesday instead of Monday this week too due to it being Fit Test day for #BBMC4 (main reason my post is late). Most of my measurements also went down a bit even though I STILL haven’t been counting points and I know I ate too much junk last week again. It’s hard when someone else is staying with you and you have party food leftovers and dinners/lunches out, etc.

I drank a LOT of fruit-infused water last week. I’m honestly wondering if that helped too. Either something about the fruit or just upping my water intake.

Not much else to report. I didn’t end up making up the days I missed from #BBMC4 from the previous week but I did do all my workouts last week even when I REALLY didn’t want to which I’m proud of.

Water and fruit and fun colors, oh my! A Cool Gear Review

One of the problems I have regarding weight loss is getting enough to drink. Water gets boring after a certain point when you are trying to drink half your weight in ounces. Which, for me is anywhere between 50 and 100 ounces. You thought I was going to tell you how much I weigh, didn’t you. Silly.

I don’t drink soda anymore (apparently one IBC root beer has 5 points and when you are only allowed 26 that seems like a lot) so I end up making unsweet tea a lot and turning to that instead of water. So I decided to reach out and see about reviewing a water infuser to see if that would help with my water intake.

Cool Gear was sweet enough to send me not just the water infuser I requested but another water bottle as well. These were the two I received: a 32 oz Rigid water bottle in a sassy hot pink (oh how did they know??) and a 23 oz double walled Infuser Chiller in a gorgeous blue.

We’ll start with the Rigid.

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It has a removeable ice core that you can freeze to help keep your drink cold. Seeing that I am trying to up my water intake I filled my Rigid with water, put it in the fridge overnight, and put the ice core in the freezer. The next day I took it out before workout time and spent several minutes struggling to put the ice core in. It takes quite a bit of force to lock it in place, assuming I was doing it correctly. I actually spent several minutes searching for the tag that I had thrown away to see if it gave me more instructions but it basically just said the core locks in place.

The spout on the Rigid is wide with a divider down the middle of it – I assume to keep you from choking on ice chunks. I’m not used to this style spout so it has taken some getting used to. But it’s nice to not have to struggle to get enough liquid out. The closure seems nice and tight but opens easily enough. The handle of the bottle is angled and has a spring opening so you can hang it from something, which is a nice touch. And, of course, I love the hot pink pattern and the fact that it is dishwasher safe.

As far as the ice core’s abilities to keep my water cold, well, I think I’d be just as good sticking with ice, but I did only use the core with fridge cold water – no extra ice added. It is not double walled or insulated so it does sweat and is going to be susceptible to whatever the outside temperature is more than an insulated bottle. I did not test the bottle’s ability to cool water that wasn’t already fridge cold but I don’t see myself using it that way. Tonight I filled it with ice and water and put the core back in the freezer to see how it does with the water being ice cold to start. Don’t get me wrong, it did help my water stay cool, just not as cold as I like it to be.

My overall rating is a 3.5 out of 5 stars. **Upon further research, this particular bottle isn’t available anymore but this (slightly smaller) version is.

Next up is the Infuser Chiller.

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Guys, I love this thing. I think my only complaint is it’s not big enough and that could be easily fixed by getting the next size up that Cool Gear offers. It’s a double walled cup with a screw-on lid, integrated (but removeable) straw, a removeable “basket” for adding in fruit (or whatever else you want to infuse your drink with), and a soft cover that goes over that so you can add fruit or water without removing the whole lid. Pretty awesome.

My first attempt at infused water was lemons and strawberries. I’m a bit anal so I rearranged my fruits a few times before I got them to fit in the basket just how I wanted. Don’t judge – I wanted maximum flavor infusing! I filled the cup through the hole in the lid and then popped the cap back on and put the whole cup in the fridge. I wanted to give it lots of time to soak up the fruit flavors. In the morning I pulled it out and took a big gulp and was pleasantly surprised at how much flavor my water had. It was a bit tart due to the amount of lemon but was still pretty good. I sucked a bunch down then popped the top cap off, filled it back up, and back into the fridge it went. I think I ended up filling it up 3 times total which I figure after taking out the fruit volume and what my kids drank was roughly 50 ounces. And it didn’t feel hard to do.

I do think that infusing the water overnight gives the best results. I’ve had some in the fridge for the last few hours tonight and it’s not quite strong enough yet. I layered my fruit this time and I think mixing it up in the basket would probably give better flavor. The only issue I really have with it is more of a user error and I have trouble getting the lid screwed on properly. I think there is a specific spot the lid needs to be lined up into to screw it on smoothly but I haven’t fully investigated that yet. I’ve managed to get it back on each time I needed to; it just took me a few tries.

Overal rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Seriously, this thing is great. I might end up upgrading to a pitcher.

Check out Cool Gear and see what they have. Their prices are reasonable and they have a TON of products and not all are beverage holders. Get yourself something to help keep your water intake up – I swear you’ll feel better for it. And if you’re feeling generous, get me one of these. ;)

**I received these products for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All opinions and experiences are my own.**

Week 7

Weight Lost: .2lbs

So last week I had a GIANT derailment. Giantly giant. My mom came in Tuesday so we went to lunch. Friday night we ordered pizza (was not delicious) and then Saturday and Sunday I gorged myself on party food. Eek. No wonder that number up there doesn’t look so pretty. I really really just ate to excess over the weekend. Not my finest moments. And, considering it was a party I planned, I’m to blame for all the junk I ate. It was delicious but not even remotely good for me.

Another derailment came in the form of missing workouts 4 days of the week. Wednesday I wasn’t feeling up to it physically. I had started to get laryngitis again (for the 3rd time in 6 months) on Tuesday so by Wednesday it was really hard to talk and the effort of it kept me dizzy and lightheaded. I thought it would be best to skip the workout that day. Thursday Bear and I had dentist appointments (he did amazingly!) and then we had party stuff to work on plus a house to clean so I just reconciled myself to missing workouts for the rest of the week. I REALLY should have done at least one on Sunday to start catching up but I was SO worn out from party shenanigans that everything hurt and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So this week I have to double up 4 days. Barf. But I don’t want to slack on them especially since I ate my weight in brownie bites and thumbprint cookies last week.

The party, by the way, was great! Once I get some time to process the 14 billion pictures we took I’ll post some for you to see. I tend to slightly overdo stuff and this party was no exception. Now I still have the daunting process of putting the house back to pre-party standards and I’m not looking forward to it. Cleanup is not the best part.

Another fun thing coming is a product review for some new water bottles that were sent for me to try. I’m super excited to test them out as I am TERRIBLE at getting in my water intake for the day. I don’t drink soda much but I’m addicted to unsweetened tea with Splenda and that’s just not the same as water. So I will test those out soon and hopefully let y’all know what I think later on this week. I’m hoping to get some more products to test out that will help me (and hopefully some of y’all) on my journey to fitting into my “skinny” clothes.

Hoping for better results next week! Also, I might be in a body cast after doubling up on workouts all week.

Week 6

Weight Lost: .6lbs

Well… still lost weight. I still haven’t consistantly counted points beyond the first two weeks of WW. Not impressive. I’m trying to make similar choices but something (cake) keeps derailing me from eating right. This past week it was (another) carrot cake and eating out (again). This week it will be my mom coming and prepping for the baby’s birthday party. Then there will be leftovers from party food, etc… I REALLY need to get back on the ball.

Workouts are going well. I have exercised every day and even though I’ve come up with a zillion excuses not to I have done it anyway.

There really isn’t much to report from week 6 – I did a lot of working on party stuff and hanging out with my in-laws that were in town. I blame the carrot cake on them.

Week 5

Weight Lost: 0.6lbs

Baaaaaahhhhhhh. Terrible. Yes, I understand it’s still a loss and a win is a win but it’s such a TINY win. And it’s my fault because I officially haven’t counted points in 2 weeks. Hence the crappy numbers. Did a little better today except I still didn’t count points and probably went over my daily allowance. I HAVE to get back to eating right. Nothing fits and I refuse to buy new clothes until I lose more weight.

Three weeks of Bikini Body Mommy 4.0 down! The only days I’ve missed were the 2 at the beginning because I didn’t start on time. I’m ok with that. There are moments when I REALLY REALLY don’t like Briana and her torture routines but I am not going to give up. I already notice that I’m recovering faster from workouts. Most days I can even climb the stairs without my legs feeling as though they will give way beneath me.

I got new workout clothes! I know it sounds silly but it makes me more interested in working out. Maybe because before the stuff I was wearing didn’t fit very well… And I know it’s just in my house and no one sees me working out but wearing workout gear that fits (novel idea, huh?) and feels comfortable and doesn’t require adjusting everytime you move makes a big difference in the experience. Target had their C9 gear on the Cartwheel app (if you don’t have that and you live in the USA – because apparently Target isn’t in Canada anymore – download it now!) 20% off so I grabbed 2 of these shirts, 1 of this shirt, and 2 of these sports bras. I love the shirts and the sports bras are a GIANT improvement over the ones I had been wearing which were approximately 2-3 sizes too small.

We did WAY too much eating out this week. With not the greatest choices during those times. But I really really like fried okra and nachos. Not at the same time though. That would be weird.

Week 4

Weight lost: .8lbs  Hey! That’s better than last week!

Wow. Can’t believe I’ve been doing this for almost a month. I should have kept track of how many pineapples, bell peppers, and quarts of strawberries I’ve gone through.

Making brownies while working out isn’t necessarily the best choice. Even if those brownies are earmarked for the local police station in honor of National Police Week. Especially if those brownies are the best fudgey gooey brownies I’ve ever had. I mean, I had to taste one a few. Just the broken ones, of course. Couldn’t give those to anyone. Unfortunately (for you) I can’t share this recipe as it was given to me under threat of death if I were share it further. And even though I probably have described these brownies as “to die for” I’m not quite willing to back that statement up. So if you want some… well… you’ll have to come over.

I slipped on the stairs one morning this week and pulled something in my quad muscle. The whole thing didn’t hurt but a localized spot in the center felt like someone was stabbing me with a hot poker. So, needless to say, I skipped my workout that day but I made it up the next day! Pretty proud of myself that I haven’t skipped a day since I started working out except for the one, but I made that up. I haven’t always done wonderfully with my food choices but at least I’m working out!

I literally haven’t counted points at all this week. I have NO idea how that’s going to work out for me. I’ve tried still eating well but with all the leftovers from Mother’s Day it was really hard to count. And I don’t even want to know what the point count is for Fresh Strawberry Pie. Because it’s SOOOOOO good. That was my Mother’s Day present to me.