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My Own Personal Sweat Shop

Hand Sewing Crocheted Squares Together For a Headband

Hand Sewing Crocheted Squares Together For a Headband

Being a craftsperson in the USA can be a real financial challenge which continues to worsen as the costs of raw materials, food and housing rise. To make matters worse, few of us have seen even a measly cost-of-living raise at our “day jobs” in years.

Sites like Etsy claim to support the small business artisan but after modifying their definition of “handmade” at the end of last year, mass produced items are springing up like weeds on the site that calls itself a “handmade marketplace”.  I’ve argued with artists who refuse to compete with inexpensive versions of what they create by hand, saying it’s a useless endeavor.

As of yet, I’ve been unable to reconcile my time and material costs with my prices.  I scour sale flyers and websites to get my materials at the lowest prices possible but where I usually hit a brick wall is with my hourly rate for labor.  If it takes me an hour to crochet one of my headbands, with costs subtracted out, I’d do better working as a…well…almost anything else.  Yet, I tread on, believing I will someday find the magic equation and actually be able to support myself doing what I love.  Is it really asking too much?  It’s actually asking a lot.

Putting it very simply, the average American can’t afford to buy goods that are manufactured or created in the United States.  This is nothing new globally as the same has been true of workers in China, India and other countries for hundreds of years but is unnerving in one of the most highly developed countries in the world.  The far majority of Americans buy clothing that’s made in another country.  The few who still work in the manufacturing industry probably can’t afford to buy the things they help manufacture.  I receive catalogs from “Fair Trade” companies who glossily advertise beautiful items that I couldn’t afford in my wildest dreams.  I want to buy fair trade, organic, natural, ecofriendly and items made in the USA but I just can’t afford to most of the time and have tried not to feel guilty about purchasing things that wear the dreaded “made in China” label.

When I was a child, my family went through some rough patches where money was pretty tight.  My stay-at-home mom made some of our clothing to save money.  Now, it’s hard to even find a fabric store.  After buying a pattern, fabric and notions for a garment you wish to sew, you could have bought three at Wal-Mart or Target, already made, for the same price.  There’s no reason to waste the time it takes to sew something by hand if it isn’t cost effective (for most of us anyway).

The global economy has been undergoing complex changes of which I understand at only the most rudimentary level, if at all.  I think most of us can see how these changes are affecting our daily lives as basic food prices rise while the containers in which they are sold shrink.  It’s really important that we are able to do what we love at some point during our lives even if it’s only for a couple hours a week and for those of us who are artists this may just have to be enough.

But still, I work towards my goal, even after my two other jobs and four year old, absorb most of my time.  After all, if you work hard enough and have faith in your dream, you can accomplish anything  – right?  A nice sentiment but not very realistic.


Rustic Jewelry Hanger Using Upcycled Wood

Recycled Wood Jewelry Hanger by Kristy
Recycled Wood Jewelry Hanger by Kristy

Summer is really over now, although it doesn’t feel like it here on Catalina Island.  Even today it’s in the mid seventies and there are only a few wispy clouds and a bright blue sky beyond.  

My newest project is a collaborative effort.  My Dad (a retired Carpenter/Contractor) is making the bases for my rustic recycled jewelry hangers from wood he’s saved and repurposed.  The branches, which act as hooks to hang necklace or bracelets, are left over when I prune shrubs in the garden.  I lightly sand the branches and base and seal them with non-toxic, water based, varnish. 

Recycled Wood Jewelry Hanger by Kristy
Recycled Wood Jewelry Hanger by Kristy

This example has a hemp cord tie to hang it by and a hole in the back for a small nail.  I don’t really like how it hangs so I’ll be keeping this one as a prototype.  I think I’ve solved the problem of hanging it, so my next attempt will hopefully be featured in my Etsy Shop, Catalina Inspired.  It’s fun working on a project with my Dad and especially using recycled materials.

Recycled Wood Jewelry Hanger by Kristy

Summer Time, and the Livin’ is…

Lover's Cove on Catalina Island

Lover’s Cove on Catalina Island

It’s really difficult to stay focused on anything when you live in a hotel on Catalina Island in the summer.  The smell of suntan lotion and the sight of my hotel guests parading by my door wearing bathing suits and sundresses really makes me want to drop what I’m doing and head outside. 

I’ve been crocheting quite a bit recently because it’s portable and takes very little concentration.  I think I cranked out about ten headbands this week.  I’m making mostly wool headbands now in anticipation of fall and the Catalina Festival of Art on September 21, 22 & 23. 

Here are some of the wool hairbands I just listed in my shop.  Don’t forget, if you want to create one of these great headbands yourself, check out my three-part post, starting with DIY – How to Make a Crochet Headband for step-by-step instructions.

Crochet Headband Wool & Acrylic Mix Yarn in Magenta, Purple and Rust Orange Boho Chick Hairband

Crochet Headband Wool & Acrylic Mix Yarn in Magenta, Purple and Rust Orange Boho Chic Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool, in Lavender & Gray Mix, Boho Chic Knit Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool, in Lavender & Gray Mix, Boho Chic Knit Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool in Soft Gray, Rust & Teal, Boho Chic Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool in Soft Gray, Rust & Teal, Boho Chic Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool in Soft Gray, Lavender & Teal, Boho Chic Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool in Soft Gray, Lavender & Teal, Boho Chic Hairband

Summer on Catalina Island

Sunrise View of Avalon Harbor From My Window

Sunrise View of Avalon Harbor From My Window

I love living on Catalina Island but I must admit it can be rather distracting in the Summer.  I’m so lucky to have an amazing view of  Avalon Harbor and the Pacific Ocean right out my living room window.  It provides endless inspiration and beauty and I never tire of seeing it.  However, frequently in the Summer, those waving palm trees beckon me to come out and play.  The coconuty smell of suntan lotion wafts up to my window and it’s all over.  It’s all I can do to keep my mind on whatever I should be doing such as hotel business or projects for my Esty Shop. 


My Daughter & I at Lover's Cove on Catalina Island

My Daughter & I at Lover’s Cove on Catalina Island

Yesterday my daughter and I dropped what we were doing and went out to enjoy the Southern California sun.  It’s a slow time of year in the shop which makes for a great excuse when you’re looking for one.  The only problem is that it only fuels the fire.  That warm, clear, sea water sure did feel great!