Stitch Craft Blog – An Entrepreneurial Profile
Lynsey McLean turned her love of cross-stitch into a business – and it’s all thanks to Judge Judy
We often find inspiration for our ideas from the most peculiar of sources.
When a budding entrepreneur decides to dip their toes in the shallow end of the vast business ocean, they may feel compelled to go against the tide and navigate numerous exhaustive ideas for their start-up. Those plans will either bear fruit or wither on the vine, but sometimes – often without forecast – there comes that unexpected “Eureka!” moment.
Isaac Newton is often said to have developed his concept of gravity after an apple fell from a garden tree. While on a delayed train between Manchester and London King’s Cross, a young JK Rowling began to dream of the Harry Potter universe. Alexander Fleming, known for his sloppiness in the laboratory, discovered penicillin from a humble, yet particularly filthy, petri dish.
And Lynsey McLean, owner of Stitch Craft Blog, could never have anticipated that a sharp-tongued TV judge would lead her into a new hobby – let alone a business.
“I started cross-stitching when I started watching Judge Judy,” she says. “After discovering her, I stumbled onto an online article that highlighted products for people that love Judy, and one of these was a DIY cross-stitch kit.”
McLean decided to try it. She bought a cross-stitch magazine and spent a week making a tiny owl keyring. “It was a mess, and took me ages,” she says, “but learning myself was really empowering.” She subscribed to the magazine and attempted each weekly gift for the next few months. But her hobby didn’t start to transform into something more until she bought a book dedicated to cross-stitching.
“I realised I was hooked, and started making gifts for friends and family,” she says. “Once I started making phrases for friends on random fabric quarters, I realised that I could start an Etsy shop with my newfound craft love.”
McLean and I first met almost a decade ago, having studied together at Edinburgh Napier University. Sharing a similar narrative to a considerable proportion of young graduates, she was unable to find employment in a field that matched the degree she’d spent four years trying to earn. She launched Stitch Craft Blog in 2015, an online buying and selling community that specialises in hand-crafted and vintage products.
“After my undergraduate degree, I worked for a few years, then went to do a Masters in Forensic Psychology,” she says. “I ended up not getting the full masters for several reasons – including a house fire), so right now I’m working full-time as an advocacy worker and I cross-stitch whenever I can around Lanarkshire.”
Her rationale for launching Stitch Craft Blog stemmed from a love of the craft, rather than an innate desire to make money. To learn more about launching and operating a dedicated small business, I spoke with McLean about Stitch Craft Blog, social media’s impact on advertising, and finding the right balance between work and motherhood.
The New Normal: What is it about your products that make them identifiable?
Lynsey McLean: I like to think my products are unique, because I like to mix fabrics and colours that some people might not think go together initially, but look good in the finished product! I also try and do things that I don’t see other people doing. That’s not always possible, as sometimes you think of a great idea, see it’s already out there, but do it anyway. I hadn’t seen anyone doing the cross-stitch initial necklaces when I first started them, so that’s given me a sense of pride.
TNN: Do you have a specific audience that buys your products?
McLean: My target audience is probably female, 25-45, and someone who enjoys floral or vintage feel fabrics. And, above all else, appreciates the time handmade crafts take.
For me, the ideal customer would be someone who provided feedback, even taking photos and tagging me in social media.
TNN: How has social media impacted your ability to advertise your business?
McLean: I try to update the social media accounts as much as possible. I enjoy Instagram the most, because I love editing the photos and looking through other people’s photos. I love that you can give a snap shot of your life and a peek “behind the scenes”. Since they changed the algorithm, it’s a bit more difficult to be found, so you need to make sure your posts are engaging.
It’s tough for small businesses when all you see in your feed are huge companies and brands. I wish they would go back to chronological order. Keeping on top of social media is a huge task, so you really need to be on the ball. Having a smartphone is great, but your content needs to be interesting. Taking a photo of your lunch doesn’t really cut it anymore, and nobody wants to see 10 photos in a row of your cat or baby. You need to think outside the box now.
TNN: What else do you do to help people find Stitch Craft Blog?
McLean: Whenever I sell an item on Etsy, I pop a business card into the order. The only exception is my website – I designed it on , which is a great system for people like me who don’t have any web design skills.
TNN: Since launching in 2015, you’ve become a mother. How has that impacted your cross-stitching?
McLean: My shop has been on a little break recently, as me and my husband welcomed a baby boy, Harris, in February, and he has been running my life since then! I reopened the shop after taking just over 2 months break and got a sale that day, so that was great validation that I was missed.
Motherhood has changed everything for me – from the time needed to stitch, to having the money to invest in materials and the freedom to try new things. I have had my shop on holiday and haven’t touched a needle in almost 3 months.
My time for cross-stitching used to be allocated after work in the evening, whilst watching TV, during my lunch break at work, in the car if I organise my threads in advance, on the train to work, and any other spare minute! Now that there’s a baby in the mix, it will be hard fitting cross-stitch in, so 2017 will be a slower year for me. The profit with cross-stitch is really based on how much you value your time.
TNN: How do you decide pricing in order to maximise profit?
McLean: You can find a lot of different craft pricing calculators online and in books, but when it comes down to it, and you’re at a craft fair, people will either buy the product or not. I think everyone needs to decide for themselves what the right price is and this is a mix of customer feedback, calculations of time and products, and gut feeling.
The most expensive resource I find is probably the boxes I present my work in, purely because I absorb the cost into the item and it really isn’t a necessity. It all goes to the look of the item though and what you want to convey to the customer. It also reduces the risk of damage in the post, so there are positives!
TNN: Have you established relationships with any suppliers to help your costs?
McLean: I get most of my material from Remnant Kings, and there’s an amazing website called Spoonflower that makes really interesting and different fabrics, but they tend to be quite a bit more expensive – so just for special pieces really.
The only stockist I would say that I have an established business relationship with is a woman in Australia, who provides reliable, quality materials. Her name is Sonia and her business Dandeylene showcases her excellent content and work on social media!
TNN: Did you have a specific strategy when you launched Stitch Craft Blog?
McLean: I think my strategy has always been to do it because I enjoy it, and to be a part of the Etsy and crafting community in Glasgow. I also want to make a profit, but that’s not the sole reasoning for me. As I have a full-time job, I’m lucky that I don’t rely on it to pay my mortgage and bills. Maybe one day it will be my sole income, but I’m a long way off that.
TNN: How do you fund the business?
McLean: Solely from my wages from my full-time advocacy job. When I return after maternity leave, I will be on four days a week, plus we’ll have childcare, so business growth will be slightly smaller. I’m hoping with enough promotion and online presence that I can make enough profit to grow my product line.
As cross-stitch is so hard to price, I tend to go with my own method, but for cards I research how much other handmade cards go for. It’s a very saturated market but I think the customised nature of my cards really pleases people, and I do see repeat custom, so the quality is obviously up to scratch. I did up my prices a touch last year and saw an immediate drop in sales, so sometimes it is trial and error.
TNN: What are your thoughts for the future of Stitch Craft Blog?
McLean: My main concern is coming up with my own designs. I’ve so many ideas, but it takes a long, long time to make a basic design. I hope I can get some of my ideas onto paper soon and get creating.
I don’t think the market will ever be saturated with cross-stitch because it’s so time consuming, a lot of people don’t consider attempting it. Last year, I made some prints of my favourite cross-stitch pieces to establish whether it would be worth getting printed goods that can be recreated, and at a lower price point. My Christmas cards were well-received, so I need to make a timetable and get more printed for this year with new designs. Watch this space!
You can find Lynsey’s business here, at Stitch Craft Blog