Kamila Leroy is the Etsy seller behind Knits'n'Hook creating beautiful headbands and scarves for buyers at fairs in New York. During the day, she is a third grade teacher at Lefferts Gardens Charter School and if that wasn’t enough, she also finds time to go to school toward completing a certificate in interior design at Parsons. I got the chance to interview Kamila about her handmade goods, the intention she sets for each piece for her customers, and advice for anyone starting to sell on Etsy.
Kamila, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. How long have you been knitting/crocheting?
I started when I was seven-years-old in Poland and I learned from my Grandma on the weekends when we would visit her. It’s nice because it’s a way of keeping up the tradition—passing from one generation to the next. My Grandma knitted, my Mom knits and so I wanted to keep the tradition going.
When I was eleven I learned how to crochet, but I only learned one stitch, so when I started crocheting again years later, I taught myself through YouTube videos.
In high school, knitting unique scarves was a way of expressing myself.
And do you still see knitting and crocheting as a way of expressing yourself?
Yes, it’s meditative. It calms my mind. The repetitive motion and the touch of the yarn on your fingers are relaxing. For me, knitting is my creative outlet. It is where my passion comes out as well.
I used to just knit as a hobby, but now it’s like a retreat for me.
As I am knitting, I set an intention for the person I am knitting for, sending positive intentions, happy thoughts and energy. I believe my work is an extension of energy and I want to share positive energy with my customers.
What do you make?
Headbands and scarves. Originality is very important to me in my work and so when attending fairs, I didn’t see any headbands being made this way, so I thought this would be an interesting, different way to make them.
What are your pieces like?
I use wool blends so they are not itchy and each piece is a one of a kind. Not one thing is the same. I just start knitting and see where the creative process takes me. The process is organic, which has both its good and bad points: good points being that each piece is unique, bad points being that I don’t have duplicates if someone wants multiples of the same design.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I am always inspired by my travels. If I see something interesting, whether abroad or in the city, I think of how I can translate it into knitting.
When I was in Peru, the different patterns, combinations, and colors inspired me. Their weaving techniques were amazing. At the market, I saw mothers teaching their daughters how to weave and again, the sense of tradition, passing weaving from one generation to the next, was there. I also saw a 10 year-old-girl whose level of craftsmanship was incredible and inspiring.
While in Peru, I bought beautiful Alpaca yarn in Peru and I am saving it for a special collection.
How do you come through your work?
The colors. I was walking in Prospect Park and saw these beautiful fall colors in the trees and decided to use those same colors in my knitting. My retro collection came to me after I attended a party at The Paper Box; it a lot of fun. People were wearing their pajamas in a warehouse with three rooms and three types of music. It was crazy. It was great.
So the next time I was in Smiley’s Outlet [a yarn shop in Queens], the colors really spoke to me. I was standing in front of an entire wall of yarn in all-different colors, and the connections for both collections just came to me.
How did you find Etsy?
My boyfriend recommended that I take Etsy’s workshop at Workforce1. I applied and was accepted, which was a boost of confidence because they only took 40 out of the 100 applicants. The workshop was about how to create a page on Etsy, how to post, help with posting pictures, pricing—the essentials of selling on Etsy. They also provide you with overall feedback and suggestions.
The instructor recommended that we join EtsyNY because you get notices of fairs, special discounts, and support; it’s a huge community and offers a lot of support. My first fair was at Hester Street and before I went I was nervous, so I emailed the EtsyNY list some questions and Kate of Little Llama Shop responded with great tips. She and I have become friends and have attended some of the fairs together, which is great.
When did you start your Etsy store?
I started my store in June and I’ve done the Hester Street Fair a couple of times and the YMCA Greenpoint Fair, too. It costs $70.00 to do the Hester Street Fair, so I haven’t been as much as I like, but as I have to remind myself that I have only been doing this since June, so it makes sense that I am not making a profit just yet.
But for me, the point is not the profit. The point is honestly creating a piece that a customer will always want to wear and love.
How did you come up with the name Knits'n'Hook?
It was part of the Etsy workshop, they had you come up with 10 names and I didn’t want to have anything that sounded corny or generic. So my boyfriend, who was a marketing major, and I went back and forth on names for a while. Eventually, we came up with Knits'n'Hook because I really like the way Rock'n'Roll looks and sounds, so Knits'n'Hook is a play on that.
What’s your favorite part of being a seller on Etsy?
The connection with my customers. I’ve gotten really great feedback from them. One woman bought herself a headband at the Hester Street Fair and then a few days later, she came back through the Etsy store to buy more. To me, that is the highest compliment possible.
What advice would you give to Etsy sellers just starting out?
Don’t get discouraged. You’ll have to put in some money before you start to see a return, but keep going. I also think by setting realistic goals for yourself with small steps you can achieve is important. For instance, I know my work is seasonal, so I will sell more scarves and headbands in the fall and winter than I will in the summer months.
Also, use Etsy’s forums. They have a ton of great information there; everyone is sharing what they’ve learned and they’re always putting up fairs and workshop information.