Welcome to Shop Stories! In this series of weekly blog posts Etsy Originals will be quizzing some of the most talented & famous small shop owners and Instagram super stars to find out exactly what makes them tick. Make sure you follow this blog to ensure you never miss out!
This week’s story comes from Emma, the artist behind Steel & Stitch. Emma has been a life long lover of all things stitch – and her talent really shows through! She has been making high quality, whimsical crochet and stitch items for a long time and has a lot to share with us – so read on below!
My name’s Emma, I’m a full-time, freelance crochet designer and author. I live in a little corner on the South Coast of England with my little family (two boys, one husband and a tail-less cat), and have been lucky enough to have been making my living from craft for the last couple of years.
Like most of us in Etsy world, I’ve been making things since I was tiny, keeping bits of wool, string, beads, sequins, you name it, in case I could find something to use them for. My Mum had taught me to knit when I was little, but I’ve always been horrible at it! It wasn’t until I was on maternity leave with my littlest, six years ago, browsing Pinterest, that I first saw some little amigurumi, crochet patterns and thought “why don’t I know how to do this?” So I hopped online, followed some basic tutorials, and got making.
Very quickly it became obvious that there weren’t many contemporary patterns around, and especially not fun stuff for small boys, so within two weeks of learning, I wrote my first pattern. I happily spent the next year making stuff up with wool and a hook. I’m not a fan of mass consumerism, I’d rather make something meaningful for someone I love than go and buy something for the sake of it. I’d also much rather my boys played with things made of natural materials than something made of plastic, so I started making them dress-up clothes; pirate beards and hats, super hero masks, all sorts of things, but I honestly never thought anyone else would want to make them too.
Five years ago, my husband talked me into writing up some of my patterns and putting them on Etsy, just to see if anyone else was interested. I was so dismissive of the whole thing, but listed 3 patterns, and soon found I was relisting them every week. It really gave me the confidence to think that what I making had a wider appeal than just me and my family, so I started writing up the rest, and it grew into a whole collection of dress up clothes and accessories. I created a little blog, and popped free patterns on there too, and was finding that some of them were being shared all over the place, and had crazy download figures in the hundreds of thousands.
It was around that time that a very beautiful human and photographer for CICO books, called Claire Richardson, saw some of my work and suggested I approach CICO about pulling it all together in to a book. It took me months to send that email. I still didn’t quite believe that anyone would want a whole book of very non-traditional, crochet patterns, but in the end I figured that the very worst that would happen, was nothing at all. So I emailed, they came straight back to me, we had a meeting, and I know that my Etsy sales and download rates is what gave them the confidence to trust me to write a whole book. ‘Crochet Dress-Up’ was my first book, and since then we’ve gone on to publish ‘Big Hook Crochet’ and ’35 Crocheted Bags’. All using crochet in modern and innovative and non-traditional ways.
Two years ago, while writing ‘Big Hook Crochet’, I decided to take the plunge, leave my very sensible job in Urban Planning and see if I could make crochet work, as a real, full time, proper job. It was terrifying. And isolating in a way I hadn’t anticipated. That was when I first discovered Instagram, and started connecting with crocheters all over the world. I’d had no idea there was such a gorgeous, enormous community out there, and without them, I would have been in such a different place! I got to grips with a bit of a minimalist photography style, and just started sharing pics of the things I was making. It was through IG that I hooked up with all sorts of incredible people, companies and organisations, and the reason that I’ve been all over the place, met some incredible people and had the opportunity to create some amazing things.
I now regularly contribute to all sorts of crafty and crochet magazines, have worked with a whole bunch of different yarn companies, created some amazing things for big and small organisations and have some super exciting, upcoming projects coming up over the rest of the year. I recently set up Mrs.Steel’s School, which I’m hoping to turn into a space where we share all sorts of wholesome, healthy and good-for-the-planet craft tutorials, but more importantly, give other makes a platform to share their talent through. It’s just finding the time amongst all the amazing, woolly work! But we’ll get there, it’s all one big, incredible, crafty journey, and it really did all start in a tiny corner of Etsy.
Come and find me at: