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I've created a line of wooden peg looms to make potholders and projects of other sizes. Read the story behind the looms and check out my etsy shop.

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Get Inspired: A Q&A With Crochet Book Author Alessandra Hayden (and a giveaway, too)!

This blog has led me to meet some truly inspiring people since my husband helped me launch CraftSanity in early 2006. And it still amazes me how one rather spontaneous decision to become a craft podcaster has so dramatically changed the trajectory of my life and enriched it so.

Alessandra Hayden is one of the amazing people I’ve met along the way. When she contacted me in 2008 she wasn’t looking for publicity or attention, she was simply looking to connect to a larger craft community. Little did I know how inspired I would be by Alessandra’s resilience and grace. After surviving the heartbreaking loss of her first child, Alessandra focused on the positive. She blogged under the title “Just Be Happy” and crocheted herself a successful home-based business.

Last summer Alessandra and I met for the first time in Washington state where she lives and we talked about our publishing dreams over lunch. Within six months she self-published a crochet pattern book, “Just Be Happy Crochet Hats for Babies and Toddlers.”

And the most beautiful part is that her 2-year-old son is her muse. She fought for joy and it came to her.

Please read on for my Q&A interview with one of the kindest crocheters I know, Alessandra Hayden.

Jen: At what point did you start selling your work? How challenging was it to establish your “Just Be Happy” brand? How much of a role did blogging play in establishing your business?

Alessandra: I took a break from crochet for most of my teenage years. When I was in high school I picked up the hook again and made some clothing pieces for myself, friends and family, but I really became a crochet addict when I was expecting my first son. Then unfortunately we lost him at 34 weeks. Not too long after that I decided to open my shop, so I could make things like mad and keep myself and my mind busy. I would like to add here that now I have a very healthy 2 year old boy. Blogging played a very important role in establishing my business, I’ve received input from my blog readers, also encouraging words when I needed them, as well as finding lots of talented people who are very inspiring.

Jen: For those who may not be familiar with your work, please describe your product line. What is your most popular design?

Alessandra: I used to be all over the place, selling things from crochet rugs to afghans until I found my niche. Now I specialize on hats. My most popular designs are my monster and doggy hats.

Jen: As the mother of a handsome little boy, it’s clear where you get some of your design inspiration. How has motherhood influenced your work? What else inspires your designs?

Alessandra: Motherhood is what made me be where I am at right now. I have lots of designs for little boys, because I make them for my son first. I am inspired by his fun personality, by his colorful toys, but I also like to work on customer requests. Customer comes to me with an idea, like my friend Rena. She sent me a picture of her dog Jazz and asked me to make her son a hat that resembled Jazz, so I came up with my doggy hat – one of my best sellers.

Jen: Your book contains a collection of super cute kids hats that appeal to beginning and experienced crafters. What made you decided to publish a collection of your hat designs? Tell us about the designs you included.

Alessandra: Publishing a  book was one of my bucket list items, I am a really stubborn person and once I decided I was going to do it and I told people about it, there was no going back. The book has 12 hat patterns (bee, blue bird, chicken, crab, lady bug, lion, lizard, monkey, mouse, penguin, pig and turtle), all of them originals. I don’t sell those hats in my shop because I want the people who buy my book to be able to sell them and I don’t  want to  compete with them.

Jen: Publishing a book is a big goal for many of us in the craft world. What made you decide to go for it and self-publish? How many copies did you print? Are you handling distribution yourself?

Alessandra: I wanted to retain all the rights over my book, but I didn’t know anything about self-publishing or for that matter, about writing a book! It took me a lot of time to do research and I am thankful for all the information available on the internet. I ordered 100 prints to sell on my etsy shop/website, but I bought a marketing/distributing package from the publishing company I ordered my books from, so my book is available on their website and within 4 weeks it will also be available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Jen: How does it feel to see your name on a book?

Alessandra: It still doesn’t feel real to me to have my name is a published author, it’s like a wonderful dream.

Jen: Your book is available in both print and PDF formats, what seems to be the most popular option for the crafters you’re marketing to?

Alessandra: To my surprise, I think print has been more popular.

Jen: What advice do you have for others thinking about self-publishing their work? What do you wish you would have known before you started?

Alessandra: It is hard and it’s time consuming – but it’s worth it! If you decide you really want to do it, here are some of my sugestions: first look for a publishing company (there are tons to choose from. In my case I went with lulu.com. Then start to  choose your designs, write the patterns and find pattern testers. My advice would be to pay a tester as you will be able to set a deadline that way. Then find a good photographer and people to model your items. Finally, you’ll need proof readers.

Jen: What’s next? Are you planning to publish another book soon? If so, what will it be about?

Alessandra: At the moment I am just enjoying this book, but if I were to write another one, I would write Fun Monster Hats!

Jen: I know I just hit you with a series of multiple-part questions, but I want to give you an opportunity to comment on something I didn’t ask if you have anything else to share. Any final thoughts before we wrap up this interview?

Alessandra: I think this is a very good opportunity to encourage other women to venture into something they have long been thinking of doing, wether it is writting a book, learning a new skill, going back to school or starting a new project. 

Jen: Oh, I have one more question for you… What should I ask blog readers for the book giveaway? I have an extra copy right here waiting for a lucky crochet enthusiast.

Alessandra: I’d like to know what they think of my work and what else they would like to see. I love receiving feedback and new ideas!

Jen: Again, congrats on realizing your dream. High five, sister!

Enter to win a copy of Alessandra’s book by posting a comment about her designs or a suggestion for a new hat design you’d like to see. A winner will be choosen at random Monday, March 28, 2011. Good luck!

Update: And the randomly selected winner is comment #14 left by Missie Bickel. Congrats, Missie! Please send me your address and I’ll get your prize to you. Thanks to all who took the time to comment below.

Comments

Comment from Hannah
Time: March 23, 2011, 10:27 pm

I love the lobster hat! they are all so cute!! Alessandr is so lcky to have the great oppotunity to write her own book, it looks fantastic. I reckon a little sheep hat would be cute =)

Comment from heather jackson
Time: March 23, 2011, 11:04 pm

I love the crab. What an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing!

Comment from Lauren
Time: March 23, 2011, 11:17 pm

I absolutely adore the penguin hat. It is so cute. The pompoms are awesome!

Comment from Leslie
Time: March 23, 2011, 11:53 pm

Alessandra is truly one of the sweetest people I have met in the etsy community! Everything she makes just embodies her “Just be Happy” motto! Congratulations on the book!

Comment from JJ
Time: March 24, 2011, 12:08 am

I just met Allessandra as a Mom joining our little co-op with her son next year. From what I have gathered from her, she is such a wonderful, full-hearted person. I am so grateful I will get the opportunity to know her more over the next 1-3 years!
I have to admit my first love is dogs, and I would love to see themed books from her. Dogs (pug please), monsters, sea creatures, birds, goofy faces…

Comment from Claire
Time: March 24, 2011, 1:45 am

I lovev your hats. I have two boys. I like to see designs that are unisex. I would like to see sports designs.

Comment from Sara
Time: March 24, 2011, 3:38 am

That penguin is adorable. I hope you will make a monsters book, love monsters, or maybe dinosaurs!

Comment from Bárbara
Time: March 24, 2011, 5:19 am

I would really like to see a girl hat, like a flower hat or so!

Thank you!

Comment from Ellyn
Time: March 24, 2011, 8:05 am

I think your hats are amazing! wish they had been around when my kiddos were little. What about fun hats for teens? maybe something sports related (baseballs? LOL)

Comment from Christa
Time: March 24, 2011, 8:06 am

I LOVE your hats!!! your work is beautiful..Love the crab hat, a walrus would be cute too!!

Comment from Diane
Time: March 24, 2011, 8:23 am

Thank you for sharing your inspirational story! Your son is a beautiful gift from God and so cute!!

The monster hats sound great, but flowery little-girl hats would be great too.

Comment from Laura Graham
Time: March 24, 2011, 9:05 am

Loved the hats. Hope her book is sold as an e-book so I can put it on my Kindle. Soo cute!! It’s great to see something so cute for little boys.

Comment from Pat Fernando
Time: March 24, 2011, 9:16 am

Just so sweet designs! Maybe a collection of bugs as ladybug would be so adorable too.

Congratulations to Alessandra for her beautifull work.

Comment from missie bickel
Time: March 24, 2011, 9:44 am

the little penguin hat is just yummy! the poms are a great addition and i can’t wait to add more of them to my creations. i’ve been truly inspired by this interview and i hope i win the book! if not, i will look for it!
smooth day,
missie

Comment from Marie Anne St. Jean
Time: March 24, 2011, 11:58 am

I’ve seen a lot of Allesandra’s work on Etsy and love it all! I wish I were half as creative.

Comment from kelli
Time: March 24, 2011, 12:16 pm

Ooh, that crab is so cute!

Comment from Pattie
Time: March 24, 2011, 1:27 pm

Love the hats….I also vote for sports themed hats as your next book idea! I am hoping to publish a book someday and both of you are such inspirations.

Comment from Michele
Time: March 24, 2011, 1:47 pm

So happy to see really cute hats made with crochet!

Comment from debbie procek
Time: March 24, 2011, 5:45 pm

I LOVE all of Alessandra’s work. She has the best hats and easiest patterns to follow. I would love to see character hats, like the cookie monster etc., the Chesire cat from Alice in Wonderland and other character hats.

Comment from Lady Dylana
Time: March 24, 2011, 10:38 pm

wow so inspiring, I have been doing my bus for 11 years and thought about publishing my patterns but never had the courage to do it. this is great to know.

Comment from Denise H
Time: March 24, 2011, 10:59 pm

I just LOVE all of Alessandra’s unique ideas. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

Comment from Chelsea Powers
Time: March 25, 2011, 1:29 am

I just love the crab hat! What a great book to put on my wish list. Thanks for the chance to win!

Comment from Julie
Time: March 25, 2011, 3:28 pm

What an amazing story. A true survivor and turning a tragedy into a blessing. I LOVE crochet and knitting and it has gotten me through some hard times too. See my website for details.

Comment from Holly Ernst
Time: March 27, 2011, 8:27 am

Alessandra-your work makes me want to learn to crochet…:D I love everything you do!!!! My favorite one you have done is of course the one you used my applique on!! I might be a bit partial!:D But I really do mean it…your hats are lovely. It was so nice to read a little bit about you!

Comment from Erin Springer
Time: March 27, 2011, 9:01 am

I love the dog hat and all the monster hats!! They are so cute I definately need to make a monster hat for my lil guy!! I would love to win a copy of your book!!! Keep up the good work.

Comment from Emily Lindberg
Time: March 27, 2011, 10:03 pm

What a talented woman! I love the animal hats most of all. Her ability to really focus on a subject matter (awesome crochet hats) and see it through in it’s many directions (monsters, animals, robots, etc) is an inspiration to me.

Comment from Heather
Time: March 28, 2011, 1:09 pm

I have one turtle crazed boy, but another who loves frogs and dragons. I think either would be great additions to your line!

Congratulations.

Comment from Maven
Time: March 28, 2011, 3:38 pm

Such creativity! Love the colors and the inspirations! And the lobster hat makes me hungry! Nommy! :) hehehe

Comment from Leslie
Time: March 28, 2011, 3:44 pm

Going to be a grandma for the first time in Aug. I used to live in Germany and the babies there always sported these pretty soft little scull cap type hats…..a super soft unisex new baby hat would be great!

Love all your stuff

Comment from Laurie
Time: March 28, 2011, 4:38 pm

Makes me, a knitter, want to learn to crochet! I love the lobster so much.

Comment from Jennifer Lucas
Time: March 28, 2011, 4:59 pm

Oh I hope I haven’t missed out! Great looking book. Great article.

Comment from brandi
Time: March 28, 2011, 5:16 pm

Jen look like you have so much fun, your page is so colorful and bubbly. This is the first time I’ve read your blog. I’ve added you to my google reader. I’ll be waiting for your next post.

Comment from ellen
Time: March 28, 2011, 7:04 pm

I need some happy hats in my life – knitting is too slow and winter is too long!

Comment from Diane F.
Time: March 28, 2011, 7:45 pm

What a lovely and inspiring story. I love all of the hats posted. They are adorable and I would love to win the book so I can make some for my grandchildren. I do crochet because I am a widow on Soc. Sec. so this way I am giving something of myself and the kids will love it. Keep up the good work. :)

Comment from Jane Reiter
Time: March 28, 2011, 7:52 pm

I like the doggie hat the best!! but they are all wonderful! thanks, jane

Comment from Kelly
Time: March 29, 2011, 12:05 am

What a wonderful book! How exciting that you accomplished an amazing goal. I love that lobster hat picture! Keep the designs for boys coming!!!

Comment from Rachee
Time: March 29, 2011, 8:21 am

I missed the deadline but these hats are darling! Love them and glad to have found out about this book. My daughter loves these animal hats!
-r

Comment from Tess
Time: March 29, 2011, 10:33 am

Quite the inspiration! I’m sure many of us crochetters have similar dreams. I know I do. Also taking the art of crochet taught by my grandmother at age 4 snd using it as an outlet at a very difficult time in my life… One of the most difficult. Publishing a book has been on my mind for a long time… You’ve helped me make the decision to move forward on this. Thank you. I’m leaving with a smile as I move forward. Take care. Best of luck.

Pingback from CraftSanity – A blog and podcast for those who love everything handmade » Listen To Your Mother: Sleep More, Work Less
Time: March 29, 2011, 11:59 pm

[...] and one more thing. I posted the winner of the “Just Be Happy Crochet” book here. Thanks to everyone who posted [...]

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