The Handmaker’s Bag
Katherine DaSilva is the owner of the Handmaker’s bag. She lives on a 5 acre farm in rural Washington where she knits and sews project bags. Continue reading to learn more about Katherine and her business.
How did you get into your craft or hobby?
The first time I ever sewed was in my Home Economics class when I was 16. I fell in love with it, but I didn't start sewing again until after my daughter was born. I was at the store one day and decided to buy a sewing machine, pattern, and fabric on a total whim. I taught myself, and made my daughter some pants out of some black quilters cotton with little rainbow cats. I was so proud of myself even though they were so horrible. I look back on it now and can't believe I made her wear those. I kept with it and kept teaching myself, when she started school I sewed her entire wardrobe for school. She soon found out that all of her friends got their clothes from the store so that was the end of that, but I kept sewing and making things.
In 2012 I met a group of ladies who got me into knitting. When I started knitting more I needed something to put my projects in so I started making bags to hold all of my projects. Everyone in my knitting group started asking for them so I started listing them on Etsy and they sold. Now it's 3 years later and I'm doing this full time.
How did you make the move to full time?
I was working an office job in a really hostile environment, The first year I loved it and enjoyed the work that I was doing, the second years things started to change and by the 3rd year I was started getting sick at work, I didn't know what kind of environment I was going to walk into when I got to work. Around July of 2017 I came home and told my husband that I just couldn't keep working there, it was awful to be there. I told him I wanted to quit and do my sewing full time. I was doing pretty well with my sales, i also felt like our life would be better if I was home more. I was a stay at home mom until my kids went to high school. We looked over our budget and figured out how to make it work. My last day working was October 31st of 2017. It was really scary to leave the steady pay check and take that leap of faith. But it's been going really well
What advice do you have for other female makers?
I'm not saying quit your day job and dive in head first. But if you have an idea and you're passionate about it, figure out how to make it happen. Don't be afraid to start and don't keep putting it off. I used to get up at 4 am so I could get up and sew a little bit before work. My friends thought I was crazy but it was the only way I could do it. I felt so drawn to doing it so I was willing to get up and do that. You just have to figure out how to make it work in your situation.
“Just go for it. Just do it.”
The thing that has helped me a lot is really sticking to a routine. It's really easy when you work at home to just hang out in your PJs all day and just kind of passively work on things. You're the one who has to tell yourself what to get done and it's easy to tell yourself “oh I'll do it tomorrow” or “I'll do it later.” I get up and shower and get dressed and try to be in my studio by 11am. I also sit down at the end of every night and plan for the next day, I layout all my tasks, that way when I walk into my studio the next day I already know what I'm going to work on. I don't have to stop and make that decision.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Being able to make the move to doing it full time. It's not an easy thing to run your own business. There's no one telling you what to do and if you don't get up and get to work you don't make any money. It's been really nice to be able to do it and make money doing it.
Tell us something on your bucket list
I really want to go to Scotland, to the Edinburgh yarn festival. My daughter and I were supposed to go this past March. We were making our plans to go and then she ended up getting pregnant and was due when we were supposed to go. So I got a granddaughter instead of a trip to Scotland. It's still on my list to go!
What is the most frustrating thing about being a small business owner?
Having people not take me seriously. People don't necessarily get it, they don't think that you're actually working a real job. You get an idea that they think "oh she's just playing in her sewing room”, or “she's just making things for fun." When I tell people how much money I've made, they're surprised at how much money can be made making things and selling them online. People don't see all of the things that go on behind the scenes, tracking inventory, and photographing, and listing things on line. It's hard to get people to understand that what I'm doing in an actual real job.
Where do you get inspiration?
Usually from the fabric. There's a couple of online fabric stores that I love and I"ll just get on there and look around and see what jumps out at me. I also go to my local fabric store and just start pulling fabric off the shelf and she what ideas come to me. Sometimes I like a fabric so much that I'm afraid to cut into it. I went to a quilt show and found a fabric that I loved, it was yellow with little flowers on it and a border of tea cups. I held onto that fabric for a really long time and finally decided to make place mats for my kitchen. I cut into the fabric and then realized that it wasn't printed straight so the border was wonky on the place mat and I hated them. I ended up tossing them and was so disappointed.
You're on a deserted island, you get three items, what are they?
Chiaogoo circular knitting needles, a skein of Madeline Tosh merino light yarn, my little pugs to keep me company.