I am inspired by so many things, I decided that every Friday, I will highlight a favorite person, thing, or idea. Maybe you will be inspired too! See all past Friday Favorites here.
Today I am excited to have Betz White here on the blog. Betz has been a friend for years. Funny coincidence, but we figured out that she may have been working at a company during the time I did fabric presentations there, during our former lives in the apparel world (PB/pre-blog). Betz is creative, innovative, and clever. I have always loved her twist on the world of handmade and have wanted to interview her for ages. Enjoy!
Blair: Thanks so much joining us Betz! I have been a fan of your work for such long time. Dare I say that it was under your direction several years ago that I felted my first sweater on purpose! To make those adorable cupcake pincushions you once made (pictured below, on the cover of Warm Fuzzies). You've done so much since then, and I've always loved the way you've branched out into so many different creative outlets... writing books, teaching online, publishing patterns, designing fabric. You've done so much! For those who may not know, give us a little background into how you've landed where you are today.
Betz: My education and most of my career had been in apparel design. In 2005 I left my corporate job designing kids clothes to stay home with my kids and do freelance design work. Shortly afterward I discovered craft blogs and started my own blog to showcase some things I started making for indie craft fairs. I was experimenting with felted wool sweaters as you mentioned. This was really at the height of the DIY movement and I completely lucked into being at the right place at the right time. Just being present online I was able to attract the attention of the Martha Stewart Show and also a publisher, which lead to my first book on felting, Warm Fuzzies. The crafting world was pretty different back then. I knew no one that had written a craft book and really had to navigate through so many things by the seat of my pants! But it was a very exciting time for me.
Warm Fuzzies, Betz's first book
Betz and Martha making teacup pincushions.
My business grew out of all that craziness. I was busy making things to sell in my etsy shop and for wholesale orders, writing my second book on repurposing, Sewing Green, and blogging about DIY projects regularly. In 2010 I shifted my business from being entirely focused on making to more of a teaching focus. I launched my own sewing pattern line of accessories at the International Quilt Market trade show. I started teaching workshops in person and then later online. Betz teaches for both Creativebug and Craftsy. Along the way I was working on designing fabric as well to partner with my pattern line in branding and aesthetics. I’ve created both self-produced, print on demand fabrics as well as licensed my prints to a manufacturer.
Blair: What's your favorite part of what you do?
Betz: Designing! I love brainstorming, sketching and creative problem solving. Whether it’s a pattern concept or a different way to make something, I love the development stage of new ideas. I think that’s why repurposing appeals to me so much. I love to turn things upside down and look at them in a whole new way.
Betz's Jet Pack bag pattern.
Blair: Do you have a studio you work out of? Can you tell us about it and how it's set up?
Betz: My studio is in a spare upstairs bedroom in my home. It has a window overlooking the neighborhood park behind our house so it’s great for natural light and for keeping an eye on my boys playing outside. I have a standing workstation for my computer, a drafting table for sketching and cutting out fabric, and a sewing table for my machine. I also have 2 large closets full of fabric and materials plus access to a bit of attic space that is fully insulated with felted wool sweaters! Across the room is a futon couch full of pillows for a place to sketch and afternoon power naps. The boys often come in to read or hang out while I’m working.
Blair: I love the new videos you are adding to your blog! Can you tell us how you decided to do that and how you decided what type of subject matter to cover?
Betz: Making how-to videos has been on my to-do list for a very long time. After 8 years of blogging, I have more photo based tutorials in my archives than I can count! But video is such a great way to support other things that I do. For example, when I write instructions for my sewing patterns, I want to be able to offer extra help to the sewer by way of video. I only have 2 made so far but hope to build a video library by adding at least one a month.
At the moment I’m focusing on bag making tips. I want my customers to feel confident in their bag making and I think the videos will show them how easy it is to build their skills. I’ll probably add video tutorials for other non-bag sewing tips and techniques as well.
Betz designs incredible bag patterns (and other types of patterns too), and offers video tutorials on applying the hardware on her blog.
Blair: You seem to be very good at networking yourself, any tips for those of us who struggle with how to do that effectively?
Betz: In the beginning I said yes to everything that came my way. For the most part I was an early adopter of (some!) social media, like Twitter, which is a great way to be connected. Maybe it’s because of my fashion background and the need to stay on top of trends, but I like to keep my eyes peeled for anything emerging in the industry that I can get in on. I’ve been able to get an early jump on many things this way like teaching online classes, selling PDF patterns, printing fabrics on demand, etc. I never wait to be asked, I ask first. And if the answer is no (it often is!), I try to do it myself one way or another.
Blair: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in owning and operating your own creative business? What do you wish someone would have told you?
Betz: Tough question! I guess knowing and accepting that it will always be a hustle. No matter how many opportunities come your way, there is always work to be done, new ways to evolve and things to let go of. That’s part of what I love about having my own business but it’s important not to get burned out by pushing too hard all of the time. Periodically assessing your goals and making sure that what you’re working towards is really what you want to do and not what you feel like you should do. I’m constantly reminding myself of this lesson.
Blair: What does 2014 hold in store for you?
Betz: This year I’m working on growing my sewing pattern business, building engagement with my customers and trying some new things. In May I’ll be launching a new pattern club in collaboration with some of my favorite sewing pattern designers. I’m also licensing some of my sewing patterns with Simplicity. And in other exciting news, I have a third book coming out in the fall called Present Perfect: 25 Gifts to Sew and Bestow, published by Interweave. I’m hoping to organize a Sew-Along for the book so if anyone is interested in participating, please email me!
Present Perfect, Betz's newest book, available October 3, 2014
Blair: And most importantly, how do you relax?
Betz: I love to knit! In the car, on vacation, at the pool, visiting family, at night in front of the TV…whenever I can. I’ve always been a knitwear girl and yarn speaks to me. I love the way it occupies my hands and just enough of my brain that the other part of my brain can wander and dream. When I’m done I’ve made something useful and beautiful and maybe even come up with my next big idea!
Thank you Betz! You can find more about Betz on her site. There's lots to discover over there!
Happy Weekend everyone! Hope you make something fun!