Interview with craft blogger Jane Skoch (on Etsy as MaidenJane)

CC thoughts, Interviews

Happy Friday!

I’m ending the workweek with a fun post about a new craft blogger I’ve found online. Jane, on Twitter and Etsy as MaidenJane, has already inspired me with a few of her projects.

I asked her to tell me a bit about how she got started.

Carolyn Crist: What sparked you to start your website, and what keeps you going?
Jane Skoch: I was inspired to start an Etsy business and a blog by various friends. I have loved creating things my entire life. My husband gave me a Singer sewing machine just after my first child was born. I had decided to retire from my engineering job and sewing provided a great deal of satisfaction to my during the years that my kids were growing up. Not only did I get to sew during their naptimes and evenings, but I made outfits, dresses, and coats for them. I was always reading, taking classes and trying new things.

When my four kids were in school I began substitute teaching and working for an online
fabric company. The owner was one of the early online fabric companies and I was
amazed that she had created a successful business and is still in business today: http:/
/www.contemporarycloth.com. She thought so highly of my sewing ability that she
encouraged me to open an Etsy shop. So I just dove in!

My first network of bloggers started on Ravelry, a site for knitters. We read each others’
blogs, commented and before you knew it, I had a circle of blog friends. Many have
stopped blogging and moved on to other activities. But my blog has evolved, too, so I’ve
discovered new friends in the process.

Carolyn: What interests you the most about blogging?

Jane: I love that I can share a bit about what inspires me and my creative process.

Carolyn: How do you continue to find intriguing content to post each day?

Jane: I didn’t post a lot initially. Perhaps two to three times a week. I would share my knitting and sewing creations. I challenged myself to create a tutorial and have developed a few. My most popular is for the oversized beach tote. Sometimes I would write about my family life. Recently, I decided that I am going to post five days a week based on a schedule. Monday is for Design Elements – this would be design ideas I use in my home or design ideas I find inspiring out in the blogosphere. Tuesday is Inspiration – interviews with interesting artists, shops or items that I love. Wednesday is for Sewing in which I might share tutorials, tips, things I’ve made. Thursday is for Thoughts on Life where I will share recipes, my family life, practical tips. And Friday is for sharing what’s new in my Etsy shop, Maiden Jane

Carolyn: Tell us about your crafts: When did you first become interested in crafts, how do you come up with ideas for new items, and how do you promote your items? Have you found Etsy to be successful?

Jane: As I mentioned, I loved creating as a child. No one sewed in my family, so I taught
myself to hand sew. My mom bought me all kinds of craft kits, from dolls to rug
hooking. My girlfriends grandma lived in the house behind me and we girls would go to
her house. She taught us to knit and crochet. We never finished anything! Years later,
when my son was born, I picked up those needlecrafts and haven’t stopped! I think back to the days of my youth and freely creating with whatever I could get my hands on with a
great fondness.

I come up with ideas for my shop based on what I like to make and what people ask
me to make. I have made T Shirt Quilts for years for my nieces and nephews as they
graduate high school. I’ve also made some lovely quilts as memory quilts for loved ones
who have died. People started asking me to make them so I have quite a word-of-mouth
business, locally, with that and a growing online presence, too. The oversized beach tote was a product my husband and I designed to help us carry all our stuff to the beach. With four kids in tow, we never had enough hands, so we felt if we made a big enough bag we could sling it on our shoulder. I still use it today!

Other inspiration hits me at odd times – usually the shower. One of my hobbies is
collecting beach glass. One day while sticking my finds in my pocket I was inspired
to come home and make a small mesh bag that clips onto my belt loop. A perfectly
practical bag!

Etsy is a very successful venue. It is populated by amazing artists! It seems like people
mainly find me because of my beach totes and T Shirt quilts, so I need to work on
directing traffic to my shop for some of my other items. My sales have steadily grown. I
am also working on my shop appearance and photos. Some of my items are bigger and
are challenging to photograph. A new camera is on my wishlist, too!

Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while blogging?

Jane: My blog was intended to support my Etsy shop. It has evolved into more than that for me. However, that is its primary purpose. It does not generate money for me other than that it drives traffic to my shop. I don’t have ads. Any ads you see are for my daughter’s shop and the shops of some of my friends who have, in turn, helped drive traffic to me.

I see some amazing blogs with high traffic and wonder if I will ever get to that point. I’m
not sure. Besides, I think the face of blogging is changing a bit. I have become so busy
that I don’t read my blogroll every day. However, I might be directed to a blog based
on a Facebook post or a Twitter post. So I think blogs are still a great place to assemble
information, but I think it is not enough to have content – you have to lead people to it.

Carolyn: Tell us a bit about marketing and promotion of your site.

Jane: It is not an exact science. I have learned a lot about SEO – how to describe your items so that they show up in Google searches. In fact, I found some of the keywords and then honed my product line based on those words. I have a Facebook page and it is
a fantastic tool. It can be hit or miss, but you can connect with the people who like your things. When I have a new product I put it on Facebook. The picture catches people’s eye. Twitter can be a bit more challenging. I felt like a Who in Whoville when I first started….like no one heard me. Then one day I tweeted about the cookies I was baking and before you knew it, I was in a fun discussion. That led to developing a relationship with some of those people…little chats about our work. Most importantly, the relationships lead to sharing. Many people share tweets so in addition to your followers seeing a tweet, now your friend’s followers are seeing it. Helping to promote other people on Facebook and Twitter is a win-win! If you are patient you can find the right balance between sharing new items, sharing inspiration, chatting, etc. I have a Pinterest account. I like that it is a visual way to keep track of things I like. I used to save sewing patterns in my bookmark folders…never to be seen again. Now I can go back to my boards and see right away what I liked! (Not to mention, all of my James McAvoy pins…)

Some people subscribe to my blog via email. I have been thinking about developing an
email list for my Etsy shop.

Thanks for the opportunity to share a “bit” about myself!

Thanks, Jane! Keep up the crafting. I can’t wait to make some T-shirt blankets.

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