Bo Betsy

As I mentioned, I have a new obsession. Bo Betsy was one of my original inspiration artists in my last post, but I decided to ask her for an interview instead! Cath has quite the variety of work in her etsy shop, but my favorite by far are the marine/floral/abstract pieces in the most fantastic color combinations.

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I embroider because I can’t stop. I don’t know that there has ever been something I so loved to do that I didn’t want to put it down. Stitching is certainly like that for me. There’s something wonderful about hand stitching… each slow, purposeful stitch adds up to something lasting and beautiful.

What are some of your first memories of the craft?
I first learned to embroider in junior high home economics class. I loved it. My mom recently found an embroidery I did back then—of an easter egg. A sort of sampler with lots of different stitches and colors. Very similar to the colors and variation i use now! When the class ended, so did my embroidery until five years ago, when my baby daughter’s pink sweater with gorgeously bold hand embroidered flowers inspired me to pick it up again.

Tell us about your process—start to finish.
I have been using mainly new fabrics in colors I love for my hoops, which are my current obsession. I’ve also discovered the amazing stash of scrap pool table felt my dad has at the pool hall he has owned for nearly fifty years. It’s 80% wool, super dense, and i’ve got loads of it now in the most beautiful colors—I love the stuff!

Typically, my only “plan” is a color scheme (and maybe a new stitch I want to try out)… I’ll pick the fabric or felt and a few floss colors I love together. Often, i’ll start with a buttonhole stitch flower (I don’t know when I’ll tire of them—I know I will eventually, but for now I’m in love) then embellish it with unique stitches and colorful goodness.

Where do you work?
My happy place is generally on the couch next to the ott-light lamp in our cozy country bungalow. I just have to ignore the voices from the kitchen and laundry area, telling me things are piling up… I’m pretty good at that.

How has your work evolved?
My first beloved project was embroidering one of my son’s drawings onto a handkerchief for father’s day. I’ve stitched a ton of sublime stitching and Aunt Martha patterns and wonderful vintage patterns I’ve found online. I started doing monograms and words on handkerchiefs and pillowcases and have stitched up tons of custom wedding hankies. The amazing Sandy Mastroni, a Connecticut artist who is also on etsy, has allowed me to recreate some of her art in embroidery, which is a joy. I began doing custom portraits of children and babies—and even stitched the faces of three adult siblings onto a duvet cover for their parent’s 50th anniversary.

Something changed in me last spring, and I started going in a new direction. My etsy shop has been directed largely by requests from customers, and I suddenly craved creating and experimenting with stitches in new ways. Most of my work up until this point has been prettying up something functional – pillowcases, handkerchiefs, tea towels, underwear… My current hoops are just decoration. Dare i say “art”?

What is your greatest challenge?
Learning to smile and say thank you when someone compliments my work—instead of rolling my eyes.

What inspires you?
Mmmmm…. Color. I notice color combinations in movie scenes, magazines, fabrics, vintage children’s books—all around me—and incorporate them into my embroidery.

A few embroidery artists have also been hugely inspirational to me. I tend to be a perfectionist in my stitching, which has it’s place, but Aimee Ray’s book Doodle Stitching got me to realize that it’s the imperfect, organic sorts of designs and lines that are the most fun for me to look at. I remind myself of that, and try to stitch in some wonky-ness.

And Carla Madrigal’s amazing stitching… Who could not love it? The stitches, the colors—that is what is the art. Not some design or outline she stitches along. It is gorgeous and freeform and fantastic.

Tell us about your etsy business.
I first happened upon etsy at a crafty wonderland christmas show in Portland. Several of the business cards I collected took me to etsy shops. I’d never known there was a site like etsy out there—and it got the wheels turning. The next May (2008), I opened my etsy shop. I’ll have had bo betsy open for four years in May. It’s changed so much in that time—i’m excited to see what the coming years will bring!

What advice do you have for new etsians?
If your art/craft allows, I would suggest offering custom work. The custom work I’ve done was invaluable for building sales, relationships, and glowing feedback. Working with people to create what they want gives you the awesome chance to make people happy—and let your work and customer service really shine.
I also tell customers that I’d love to have their feedback in the shop after they receive their order… And I always leave feedback for them quickly after the sale, as opposed to waiting for them to leave feedback first.

Where can readers find your work?
A wonderful place called The Marketplace at Rain Dance Ranch, here in Newberg wine country, is carrying my embroidered hoops. And now, an amazing gallery called knack has my hoops. You can find knack nestled into the charming Multnomah Village of southwest Portland.

I should also say that my facebook page is a nifty way to keep in touch with the friends I’ve made through bo betsy. I’d love to see more people there!

An old soul

My sisters like to call me an old soul. I wouldn’t define my style as retro by any standards, but I do like old things: Bess, my press, old houses, repurposed furniture, and lately, heirloom crafts. In the last couple weeks, I’ve rediscovered my love for embroidery. I’m not going to lie to you—it’s putsy and incredibly slow, but there’s something lovely about single strands of glossy thread laying just right against a fabric. Plus, I’ve been trying to pare down the amount of stuff I own—and this is the perfect thing to create so as not to accumulate even more!

This morning I thought I’d share a few of the embroiderers who are inspiring me—enjoy, and look for new work from yours truly soon!

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I’m a typography nut. Typography-inspired embroidery has been my latest project… and while I’m still working out the kinks, I love it! Look for new work in the shop soon, otherwise I found the examples above on Pinterest!

I always admire artists who can create something truly abstract, as that’s something I struggle with. I beleive art has to be made with purpose in order to be art, so I have a difficult time just working with pattern or texture and no subject. I love this simple color progression from Sometimes I Swirl. I say simple because the design is clean and modern and the stitch is repetitive—but after my recent projects, I know this took a lot of work!

There’s something weird and wonderful about a technical drawing reproduced in thread—or any unexpected medium really. Why wouldn’t you want a 9 inch illustration of a Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion Car on your wall? I can’t think of a single reason.

Last but not least, something a little more traditional. I love simple and clean traditional motifs—they always look modern but can work in with any decor style. This miniature version in the form of a brooch by Skrynka is a great example. I told you I was an old soul!

And finally, my own embroidered wallhanging was included in several treasuries not too long ago. Thanks to Lotus and Janneke Hoekstra for the inclusions!

Ida Estelle

I’ve been doing a lot of shopping lately, and it seems every trendy store I walk into has these beaded leather wrap bracelets. At once earthy and glamorous, I’ve been coveting one for weeks! Instead of buying a piece shipped from who-knows-where, I decided to see what the sellers on etsy had to offer. Lo and behold, I found the very talented Allison Rennemo just a few states away in Denver, CO.

In her shop, Ida Estelle, Allison offers not only the classic brown/metallic combinations, but also green, red, purple, blue…. all in a variety of sizes and patterns. She’s been in business for a few years, sales are picking up and she generously shares her secrets to success! Enjoy.

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I grew up in a DIY family, so whether I was painting with my mom, working on some sewing project with my sister or assisting my dad with his latest contraption I was used to working with my hands. I love seeing the before and after, so for me, making these bracelets is instant gratification. I wonder what a certain color of leather will look like with a certain metal or gemstone, and voila, there it is!

How did you learn your craft? Tell us about your process—start to finish. How do you source your materials?
I learned to make these by trying a bunch of different processes…a lot of trial and A LOT of error! I had seen something similar a few years, studied it, bought some materials I thought would work at my local bead shop and went from there. Now that I have my methods down, I know what sort of beads and leathers will work for me. When I’m shopping for materials I don’t always know how I’m going to use them…I’m a little impulsive so I when I see stones or metals that spark a feeling of creativity in me, I buy it! Sometimes I’ll use those materials right away, sometimes it will take a few months for me to decide what to do with them.

Where do you work? What type of environment stimulates your creativity?
My dream is to have a room full of shelves, drawers and windows with a huge drafting table (at standing height) dedicated to all my projects and bracelets. I’m working on making this dream a reality but at the moment I work mainly at my dining room table which overlooks the Rockies. Nature is a big inspiration to me and always helps ignite my creativity, so if I can see outside, I’m good.

How has your work evolved?
When I first started making jewelry I was really concerned with what I thought other people would like and stuck to really basic pieces. Now, after making the same style bracelet for about two years, I have found that I need to make pieces that inspire me and reflect my lifestyle. If I don’t love a piece I made and wouldn’t wear it, I wont sell it.

What is your greatest challenge?
It’s challenging to put all the pieces together…sourcing materials, designing, hand making all the product, pricing, marketing, researching new ways to grow a business and keeping up with paperwork can be really overwhelming when you’re doing it by yourself. I love every second of it though!

What inspires you?
I’m inspired by everything. I literally have hundreds of notes written everywhere with ideas and thoughts I’ve had while being somewhere, doing something or meeting someone. I revise the previous question…my greatest challenge? Keeping all my notes of inspiration straight.

Tell us about your etsy business.
My sister introduced me to Etsy about three years ago when she opened her own vintage shop on the website called Extra Virgin Home. She opened her shop about the time I was first interested in making these “awesome new wrap bracelets” I had seen in a magazine. While I was helping my sister with her vintage shop I had been making my bracelets for friends and family. On a trip home about six months later my grandma asked me why I hadn’t started my own shop on Etsy…I thought, a shop for what? Oh, right, my bracelets! So, I made a profile on Etsy, photographed some of my bracelets and started my shop.

My beginner mistake was thinking that’s all you had to do, the “if you build it they will come” mentality. That was not the case. It took me about six months to really get on board with selling on Etsy…posting items everyday, visiting other shops and expanding my product line. I feel lucky that I’m in a place in my life that I can focus on growing Ida Estelle into a full fledged business. Whereas before it was more of a hobby, now it’s my full time job. This next year I’m focusing on expanding my online reach with tools like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

What advice do you have for new etsians?
I think my biggest piece of advice is to be your own biggest fan! For so long, I would down play my jewelry and I didn’t think what I was doing was that special or unique. Now, I’m 100% on board with what I’m doing and am looking forward to expanding my product line and getting my brand out there.

Where can readers find your work?
Currently, other than, I’m selling my items at a shop in Telluride, CO called Telluride Naturals. I have a few other things in the works, including selling my jewelry at an event called Family Circle Cup this Spring in South Carolina.

Other places you can find me:
Visit the official website
Buy Ida Estelle’s famous wraps on
Follow Ida Estelle’s adventure @ida_estelle
Like Ida Estelle


Over my Christmas print-stravaganza, I printed a verse that my mom had requested a couple years ago. I had light blue on the press and I thought it would look great, but after just one impression, I knew this verse would be better un-inked. Powerful words need nothing extra, and I hope this piece reminds you to have faith.

Have faith in others.

Have faith in yourself.

Have faith that it will all work out.

Have faith in your decisions.

Have faith that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Have faith that you’re the only one who knows what is right for you.