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.