I learned to knit and crochet before I learned to read, so I don't remember much about life before I was armed with needles and hooks. I knitted doll blankets and crocheted doll clothes. Everything I made was influenced by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson because fairy tales were my preferred form of literature at the time. When I did learn to read, I was unstoppable. By age eight I outgrew the children's section of my local library and devised ways to sneak into the adult section so I could read more. All of this literature definitely influenced my fiber work which had expanded to include embroidery, tatting, weaving, sewing, quilting, and anything else that could be done with fabric
and fiber. I sewed my first skirt when I was eleven and knitted my first sweater when I was 15. It was soft orange wool and I still wear it sometimes.

If you look in my shop, you'll see the importance the past plays in my work. Many of my pieces connect to my favorite authors - Shakespeare, Flaubert, Jane Austen, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Somerset Maugham, Emily Dickinson, Chekhov, and George Elliot to name a few. You'll also see my love of nature, my reverence for painters – especially Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, Lautrec, Mary Cassatt, Munch, and too many more to list. Classical music - symphonies, chamber music, and opera have been influential as well, as has the ballet. Fantasy and Romance are big themes for me, but I always like to update my clothing with a modern sensibility, unusual and luxurious yarns, interesting textures, and an attention to detail. Knitting and crochet are forms of sculpture to me with the armature being the human body. This means that everything I make must pass two tests: 1) Is the garment beautiful and imaginative? and 2) Will it flatter the person who wears it?

I've been on Etsy since 2006 and it's been both a pleasure and a learning experience. When I became involved with Etsy, it was still fairly new and not terribly big. I have watched the site grow and become the premier craft selling place on the internet. While it has been wonderful to see this rapid growth, it has also changed Etsy a lot both for good and bad. There's much more competition, many more opportunities to network and learn, many more teams and forums, and a much larger administration. In general, I would say that the changes have improved the site although I'd be happy to see fewer commercial supplies, less copying of other sellers, and fewer mass marketed items.

When I first opened KnittingGuru, in addition to my adult knitwear and crochet, I included my baby knits and some household knitted and crocheted items. Within a few months, I separated my baby knitwear from my adult knitwear, opening http://burrybabies.etsy.com/ . (There were no Sections in shops at the time.)The change to two shops corresponded to my two websites -- http://knittingguru.com/ and http://burrybabies.com/ . I also dropped the household line. This made for a clear distinction between my two shops and has led to increased sales.

Based on this experience, my first piece of advice to new sellers is to focus your shop. It's important for shoppers to understand what your shop is all about. If you have too many different kinds of things for sale, buyers become confused. Think of your shop as a boutique, not a department store. Look at as many shops as you can and try to analyze what you like and don't like about them. What would you eliminate? How would you change the shop to make clearer categories? What would help customers? Is there enough information for buyers to understand the seller's policies? Has the seller told enough about themself -- or too much?

Another important consideration for people new to Etsy is promotion. How will you get people to see, and buy, your work? A good place to start is with the Etsy forums, especially the Promotions section. Try to be a presence there by posting often. From there, you might want to look into some social networking sites. My personal favorites are Twitter and Indiepublic. I also post just about everything I make on Flickr where there's often instant feedback from my contacts and members of the many Flickr groups I belong to. (Important –- Don’t advertise your work on Flickr. It’s against their rules and they may delete your account.) In addition, few things are as important as your blog for promoting your work. You don't have a blog? Get one! It's free, it's fun, and it's another way to let people know you're out there and what you have to show. Please take a look at my blog – http://knittinggurudesigns.blogspot.com/ . I wish I had more time to write there, but knitting and crocheting consume most of the hours in my days.

Take good care of your customers. Thank people for buying from you as soon as you see you've sold something. Wrap things atractively and securely. Contact your customers to let them know when you ship their order, and ship it quickly. Leave positive feedback for them as soon as the sale goes through. Thank them for the positive feedback they leave for you. I have many repeat buyers. Some of them have become friends. We write back and forth often. They send me pictures, especially the baby photographers. This goes way beyond selling and has become a source of great pleasure to me.

Finally, I think it's important to remember that your creativity should be uppermost. There are many easier ways to earn a living than being an artist --- the understatement of the year! While I do make a signature baby hat at BurryBabies because so many mothers and baby photographers ask for it, most of my work is one of a kind or limited edition, and everything I make is my own design. There are so many beautiful things on Etsy. There are also, unfortunately, a lot of plagiarized designs and even descriptions copied word for word. If you are tempted to do that, think twice. You may sell things, but what's the point? You will only compromise the unique advantages of Etsy -- one of the best creative outlets for artists and artisans. No longer do you have to schlep cartons and tables and artwork to show after show. No longer do you have to sell to stores that mark up your wares by 50 - 60%. I've done the shows and sold to stores and I have to say that selling online is infinitely superior and much more fun.

So... my last piece of advice to new sellers is to have fun with your shop, create the things you love, make some friends along the way, and eventually your sales will impove too.

I thank Tara for the opportunity to write for her blog and I wish each one of you the very best! Please feel free to convo me at Etsy if you have any questions, comments, or ideas to share.

Veena Burry (aka The KnittingGuru)


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. It was incredibly helpful info.

  2. Thanks for the great advice! And I really enjoyed hearing about your inspirations. I remember when I was 11 I read every sidney sheldon book out there (which was highly inappropriate but look at me! I turned out fine). You've got a great blog. Keep it up!

  3. This was a great article, as I've been contemplating on opening a second shop, very helpful to me as I look into etsy...thanks