Three years ago, Alicia Kachmar became chronically ill and had to quit her teaching job in New York City. Living what she called a "bed-ridden existence," Alicia taught herself to crochet as a way of passing the time, encouraged by her then live-in boyfriend to be creative. He told her about a new ebay-meets-Facebook site for crafts people, founded in Brooklyn, called Etsy. She tried her hand at selling her crochet items on the site. At first her creations literally carried a frown, to express how she felt about being sick, which actually won buyers' attention. As Etsy took off, Alicia took off with it, selling soaps, origami, stationary, and baked goods before sticking to crochet.

"It's easier to 'specialize' [on Etsy], for your own sanity and so that your shop looks organized and well-thought out," she says. Since joining in spring 2006, Alicia has sold 1307 items as EternalSunshine - the name of her shop and a big piece of her income pie.

Making your living from running your very own Etsy "shop" is possible, as this video profile of Etsy seller KnitKnit, Nguyen Le, attests.
Nguyen's advice mirrors Alicia's in that it's important to establish your own unique style. There are so many sellers now on Etsy, so it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. It's important to have something that stands out, that will attract enough people," says Alicia. Most of her spare time is spent crocheting - on the subway, in front of the TV, while talking on the phone. In the holiday rush of the first two weeks of December she sold 160 items. Posting an item costs twenty cents, and Etsy takes 3.5 percent of each sale.

As one of the fastest growing sites for crafts people and the people who love them, Etsy's a beacon of extra-income hope. The site's Quit Your Day Job blog draws in two million readers a month and overall has grown to 3.75 members, as the New York Times points out. The community itself is a wealth of artistic revelry, from a Flamenco dancer who creates chic childrens clothes and accessories as ManiMina to a young husband and wife team who create "Old English meets American prep" apparel for children and adults under CharlieandSarah.

The demand of growing your hobby into a money-maker is huge--from networking online and in markets, supporting your fellow sellers with good tips and leads, to juggling the packaging and custom jobs--but then again, so is the love.

"As an artist and a writer," says Alicia, "there's an urge to create that can't always be explained, but it's there. I grew up in a very creative household where we were always making things, whether that meant baking, sewing, laying concrete, knitting or building forts. But it's also about the people who visit my shop and buy that inspire me. I'll get the most detailed explanation of inside jokes or deeper meaning regarding why they're buying something. Or stories like the kid who took his crochet S'more to the Promenade to 'show it the Empire State Building.' The prospect of future stories and connections constantly keeps me excited about creating."

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