21 October, 2021

Designing Kits (and classes) behind the scenes

2021-10-21T12:46:10-05:00Classes & Teaching, Embroidery, Etsy, Sewing & Design|1 Comment

I LOVE making kits. I like designing small projects and sourcing beautiful materials. I even love the meditative afternoon of packaging things all up. It goes along with my love of teaching. For me, a kit is like a “class in a box” that you can jump into at any time. Instead of talking and demonstrating, I have the creative challenge of figuring out how to capture the important steps in photos and how to write the instructions to make them as simple and straightforward as possible. It’s a different kind of teaching, but for me it’s just as much fun.

This week has been all about cats. The cats design started as a request from students in a class that I taught with a bead embroidered dog. That dog is something I designed for a virtual class with the local county library, but then I loved it so much, I also turned it into a kit. Students in that class said “You should do cats!” and so I thought it would be fun to talk about how I designed those cats.

I always start with a sketch on paper and in this case since I already had the dog design, I wanted to make the two go together and share a similar style. So I started with my dog pattern pieces and sketched cat shapes over top of them.

My first version was too big, but I liked the shape. My next step is to re-draw the pattern pieces in Illustrator, so I made myself a note to reduce the size. That’s super easy to do once it’s in a digital format. I scanned the paper pieces and traced over them to create the pattern outlines. Then I printed out versions at a couple of different sizes so I could check it next to the dog and make sure I liked the way they worked together.

Next I started working on their faces and the embroidery. The first version, I tried to make curved eyebrows like the dog design has, but it made the cats look really angry. So I made another sample and decided to try and do tabby cat stripes instead. I liked this one a lot better. At this point in the design process, I make a lot of samples. Often if I can see they just aren’t right, I cut them apart and reuse pieces like the nose beads for the next version. I often use scrap felt so sometimes the colors are a little wacky. The beads I used here as a stand in for the nose were a little too big and square. My dog design used black sequins and black beads for the nose, but the cats looked wrong with the dark contrast. (My black and white version looked more like a skunk than a cat!)

So I swapped gold sequins for the black and found the perfect pinkish stone beads for noses. Next is choosing felt colors for the finished cats. I know that people love to make things that look like their own pet. I absolutely do. That’s why the dog kits have yellow, chocolate or black lab versions. So for the cats, I wanted three different colors too. These are loosely based on my sister’s three cats: a grey tabby, an orange tabby and a tuxedo (hers is all black). I get all of my felt from an Etsy seller because I love to support other small businesses with my small business whenever possible. So I have a color card with all of the colors of felt she carries and I spent a lot of time picking just the right colors for these. The orange tabby was definitely the hardest color choice to make. It is a darker color than the orange tabby I had when I was growing up, but it turns out that there aren’t a lot of shades of nice orange felt available. I like this combo.

Next I make up the “final” samples that I will use for the kits and then I make up one more where I photograph each step as I go so I can write the instructions.

I like to give lots of options for “what do I do with it” when creating kits. I originally thought of these as pins, but not everyone likes big pins on their jacket like I do, so I also show how to finish these with a keyring or to put a hanger on them and use them like an ornament (not pictured). I’ve seen people talk themselves out of making things that they really love because they “don’t know what to do with it” so I think the more ideas I can give, the better! (A class member also suggested making magnets, which I think is an awesome idea.)

I decided it would be fun to teach this one as a class before I launched it as a kit. So a week or so ago, I did a Zoom class and a group of us made these cats together. It was so much fun! When I was sending things out to the members of the class, we chatted about their cats, and I realized that being able to personalize your cat was really important, so I decided that every kit should have a little extra felt so you could make your felt cat look like *your* cat if you wanted to by adding extra stripes or patches. We also played around with a couple of different ways of adding whiskers.

When I got done with virtual class, I went back through my kit instructions really carefully and thought about all of the things we talked about in class and made sure I included those little details in the step-by-steps. I thought it was all done and ready to launch so I set up to take photos for the Etsy listing so I could post it later in the week.

It wasn’t until I was putting together a kit for a different class that I started thinking about these cats again and realized they weren’t quite finished. I attended a webinar by Spoonflower and Lilla Rogers this morning and we had a conversation about “pretty”. She talked a lot about that subjective “pretty” factor that makes designs really appealing and how that’s something she looks for. That’s exactly what these cats were missing: that little bit of something that took them from just a cute cat to “I have to make that”. So I went back to the drawing board.

When I was a kid, our cat Bob was an indoor/outdoor adventurer and he was a little too good at catching birds. So my mom got him a collar and put jingle bells on it so he couldn’t be quite as stealthy. So I grabbed some scraps of felt and made a collar with a jingle bell for my felt cats. Bingo! I LOVE these now. Whether it’s the nostalgia of thinking about my own favorite cat or the extra little detail that makes these a little more whimsical, I think the bell is exactly what they needed.

So you guessed it! More samples! I stitched three more samples, re-wrote a section of the instructions, and took a bunch more pictures and these became the finished cat designs. Yesterday I put together the first batch of kits for my Etsy shop. These kits are great for beginners and I hate how so often beginner (or kid-friendly) kits are made with low quality “cheap” materials. I love beautiful materials to work with anytime I am teaching, so these kits are made with my favorite materials: wool/rayon felt and perle cotton thread and stone and glass beads.

So now I have dogs, cats and sheep. What’s the next animal I should do in this series? I’d love to hear what you think!

23 September, 2019

Etsy Resources: A Virtual Handout with my top 10 articles to read first

2019-09-23T12:31:21-05:00Classes & Teaching, Etsy, Tutorials, UpcomingClasses|Comments Off on Etsy Resources: A Virtual Handout with my top 10 articles to read first

I’m teaching a class today about opening an Etsy shop and I wanted to create a quick reference handout that had clickable links. That’s hard to do with a paper handout. So I decided to create it as a blog post and even if you aren’t in my class, this reference might be helpful to you as well.

I always recommend that new potential Etsy sellers take some time to read the Etsy Seller Handbook, but it can be really overwhelming to get started. It has a lot of information. So here are my 10 favorite articles to help you make decisions as you are opening up your shop and trying to decide what features to use.

Getting Started.


Getting Found in Search.



31 July, 2017

Do you love postcards?

2017-07-31T13:04:53-05:00Etsy|Comments Off on Do you love postcards?

If you have been following along with my Sunday & Seurat posts, this black dog will look familiar. I decided to print him as a postcard too. These are mailable size, professionally printed on heavy weight card stock with a nice matte finish so they are easy to write on. They are available now in my Etsy shop as sets of 4 cards.

23 March, 2016

Three Ways to make a NEW Etsy Banner using PicMonkey (A tutorial)

2016-03-23T18:50:57-05:00Etsy, Everything Else, Tutorials|Comments Off on Three Ways to make a NEW Etsy Banner using PicMonkey (A tutorial)

Etsy is rolling out a whole new look for your shop in a couple of weeks. I will admit to some initial grumbling myself and thinking “now I have to redesign everything”, but I actually like the new design quite a bit.  I think it was time for a refresh and I think it will make it more appealing to buyers in the long run.  I know Etsy has put together some templates with Canva to help you create a new shop banner, but I have never used it and the idea of learning another new platform/software wasn’t really appealing.  I also, to be quite honest, hate something that makes you log in and give them information before you ever even see what it’s about.  Sorry, Canva.

So I thought I would put together a tutorial in PicMonkey, which I use here a lot, requires no logging in and I think is also really simple to use.  If you want just a single photo as a banner, you can upload it right to Etsy and reposition it live in the browser. For these three banner ideas, I have taken the photos and ideas just a little step further so you need to do a little design before you upload it.

Etsy Banner Version One: Just a Photo (with a little branding)

Go to PicMonkey.com and choose Design -> Custom from the menu at the top.


A set of boxes will pop up and ask you for the size.  The new Etsy banner has a minimum size of 1200 x 300 pixels.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.39.51 AM

Now you have a blank canvas that is the right size.

I started by adding a canvas color to this blank canvas. PicMonkey has sets of tools you can choose from that appear down the left side of the screen.  Choose the Basic Edits tool set (it’s the top one that looks like a crop box) and then choose Canvas Color just to the right.  Don’t forget to hit apply.


I chose one of the colors that is in my “brand” color palette. This banner is an opportunity for me to personalize my Etsy shop, so I want to tie it in to my branding.  I’m going to add a photograph on top of this, because I think that this new banner style really lends itself to photos.  To add a photo, choose the Overlays Tool Set from the left sidebar, which has an icon that looks like a butterfly.  And then pick Your Own from that dropdown menu at the very top.  I chose the photo I wanted and PicMonkey placed it on my canvas. I used the corner toggles on the photo to make it a little larger and the rotate tool (a knob on the top center of the photo) to turn it 45 degrees, which makes an interesting chevron shape against my background.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.52.30 AM

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.53.25 AM

I saved this file and uploaded it to my Etsy shop.  Here’s what that simple banner looks like in my new shop homepage.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.27.18 AM

Etsy Banner Version Two: Not a Photo

Maybe you don’t have a photo that you think really represents your shop very well and you would rather have something a little more graphic. Here’s an idea for that.  Start the same way by choosing Design -> Custom and sizing it to 1200 x 300.

Instead of adding a canvas color, we will add a textured background.  Choose the Textures Tool Set from the left sidebar.  The icon looks like a diagonal grid.  For this example, I picked the Boards textures from the list and added a chalkboard texture to my canvas.  Be sure to click Apply.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.02.25 AM

For this version, I thought I might want to add some text to this design that talks about what’s in my shop.  First I went to the Overlays Tool Set and picked an arrow from the Dashed & Lined options.  Then I added Text with the Text Tool (Tt icon) in the left sidebar.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.47.21 AM

Save and upload to Etsy and here’s what this version would look like.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.50.34 AM

Or a little bit silly version with just a few more overlays and text.  (I haven’t actually designed my own new banner and I am really liking the idea of this one.)

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 12.01.07 PM

Etsy Banner Version Three: A Collage

PicMonkey also has a really simple collage tool that would make a great banner.  Go back to the main PicMonkey menu and choose Collage.  It will immediately pop up a window asking you to choose some photos for the collage.  Find some photos and click open.  (You can add more later.)


Before you start adding photos to the design, choose a collage arrangement under the Layouts Tool set (the icon looks like a collection of rectangles).  The preset for a Facebook Cover works great for this, but you can choose any layout you like.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.17.30 AM

At the bottom of the screen there is a box which shows the dimensions of your collage.  Click the lock icon on the right to unlock it and then change it to 1200 x 300 pixels.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 12.09.24 PM

Now you can add your photos by clicking the Photos Tool Set (mountains icon) and dragging the thumbnails of the photos to the empty boxes in the collage. Clicking on a photo in the collage will bring up a tool to resize it.  Drag them to move them within the collage box.  You can also adjust the background color of the collage and the spacing of your boxes by using the Background Tool Set (icon looks like a paint palette).  PicMonkey has a great collage tutorial that shows you a few more things like how to add more boxes and resize them.

Here’s a collage style banner that has been uploaded to my shop.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 12.15.15 PM

I hope this has given you a great starting point and some ideas that might make this update little more fun and less of a chore.  I’d love to see what you come up with!  Share a screenshot with me on instagram or twitter @beckarahn.


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