The Swatchmaker | Featured Shop of the Week

After a week off due to the craziness of life - Featured Shop of the Week is back on the blog! Today we chat to Tara from The Swatchmaker.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I live in the suburbs of Sydney, with my husband, who I have known and loved since childhood and our sweet RSPCA rescue cat, Yoshi. I work full time (split between two part time jobs) as an Allied Health professional, in both private practice and in public health.

I grew up in a small country town in central NSW. My childhood home was a crafty, talented household where "making" was not a hobby or an art form, it was simply practical. Many things were not available in the country, or were not affordable so making your own just made sense.
When I was studying Podiatry, then working, I did virtually no craft at all: time, motivation and focus were all lacking. It's only in the past few years I have picked it up again and reconnected with everything my mother and my aunties taught me.
What made you want to start The Swatchmaker
There was a convergence of factors that made me want to open a shop, an Etsy shop specifically.
  • I had become a regular window shopper on Etsy, attracted by its format, unique items and easy interface for buyers
  • I had recently picked up knitting, and that opened the flood gates for all my forgotten crafty tendencies. I found I was frustrated at being unable to get exactly the right colourways I wanted for particular projects, so began to investigate fibre dying at home
  • My aunty passed away, and while sorting out her things, my uncle asked if I would like to have her stash as I was the only one in the family who was actively crafting at the time. I accepted without seeing it and oh my! There were mountains of cotton, piles and piles of old knitting patterns. 
  • So, the initial idea of opening my Etsy shop came from my desire to make and create, combined with the need to reduce my inherited stash! It seemed like a good way for my new hobbies to pay for themselves, at least in part.

Where did the idea for the name The Swatchmaker come from
Haha - I swatch for (virtually) every project I begin. It's a bit crazy but I really like to 'know' the yarn I am working with. I am developing a collection of swatches from past projects, and it has become an in-joke between myself and my husband.

I liked the idea of using 'swatch' in my shop name because it's my own little quirk, and also the matchmaker implications as my yarn dying came from me wanting to get the perfect colour match for my knitting.

Tell us about the products you sell and your processes
My main items, now that The Swatchmaker shop has been open for a few years, are my hand dyed yarns and my hand poured solid balms. I also stock cotton crocheted wash cloths, and I list vintage knitting patterns as they come to me (the universe seems to enjoy sending pre-loved knitting pattern my way via friends and colleagues).

My yarns are dyed in small batches in my kitchen, although I have plans to set up hotplates in my garage when my life allows me to dye more frequently. I source my yarns from a New Zealand mill, who are able to tell me where their fleeces are sourced, and who do their own scouring.
I developed the recipe for my hand balms originally just for my own use when I began spinning lessons last year. My hands can be rough from exposure to chemicals/medicaments in my day-to-day work and when you are spinning, you notice every little snag. I liked using the hand balms so much I decided to link it with the crafting aspect of my Shop and list them as well.

My crochet wash cloths came about again, for my own use. My husband and I wanted to reduce how much disposable paper products we used around the house. I made half a dozen small cotton cloths to use for washing dishes, wiping benches, make up removal etc. Disposable products are good as you aren't wiping germs around your kitchen but with these cloths, we have enough of them that they can be washed every day. They do a day's work and get thrown in the washing machine. No germs, fewer paper products into landfill!

A friend asked if I could make some cotton wash cloths as stocking filler gifts one Christmas, combined with a tin of my hand balm. They made great little gift packs, and I'll always have a few listings of each in my Shop.

What is the most useful piece of advice you have been given in regards to The Swatchmaker
Via Etsy, anyone can open a shop regardless of business acumen or experience. I signed up for Etsy Resolution because I would love to, one day, be able to work part time and have a larger focus on my crafting life.

I found all the lessons were valuable but the one that intrigued me most was Pricing. That lesson, and the subsequent discussions on Facebook, I found both confronting and ultimately liberating.
As Makers, what we do is of value. Our items have heart, quality control and personal involvement way above anything that a mass-produced product can give. And of course, our pricing must reflect our level of personal investment of time, energy, skill and focus.

The most valuable piece of advice is that we, as Makers, DESERVE to ask a fair price and to make profit on the things we offer in our Shops.

What do you love most about The Swatchmaker
The flexibility. I could not do this if it required a regular time commitment, or a regular work schedule from me. Etsy lets me fits my making career around my established professional career.

I do not currently offer custom orders (again, one day...) which means that what I am able to list, is what buyers are able to purchase.

My Shop can be as active, or as inactive as my life allows me to make it. And when I have time/energies to put into it, it is immediately able to reflect that. I find it is a wonderfully creative outlet for me, every sale is a total buzz for me and yet, I can sneak it all in around the corners of my "other" life.

Tell us where we can find out more about you and The Swatchmaker
You can find me here:
Instagram: @theswatchmaker (Most of my product updates, fibre love and Etsy browsing happens here.)
Twitter: @theswatchmaker
Ravelry: ravelry.com/people/theswatchmaker (I firmly believe you cannot have too many friends on Rav)


Previous Featured Shops

If you would like your shop to be featured on A Little Bit of Jess, flick me an email me at alittlebitofjess04@gmail.com and I will be in contact with you!

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